Fitch Ratings: Ecobank Nigeria Gets High Scores On Stable Outlook, Quality Management

Global rating firm, Fitch, has given Ecobank Nigeria Limited (ENG) a Long-Term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) of ‘B-‘ with a Stable Outlook, Viability Rating (VR) of ‘b-‘ and National Long-Term Rating of ‘BBB (nga)’.

In a report, released on Thursday, Fitch noted that Ecobank Nigeria IDRs are driven by its standalone creditworthiness, as expressed by its Viability Rating (VR).

The VR reflects the constraint of Nigeria’s challenging operating environment and modest core capital buffers amongst others. This is balanced by company profile strengths as well as a solid funding profile and good foreign-currency liquidity, which is enhanced by prudent liquidity management by the Ecobank group.

MD/CEO Ecobank Nigeria Limited, Patrick Akinwuntan

According to Fitch, “the Stable Outlook on ENG’s Long-Term IDR reflects our view that the bank has sufficient headroom at its current rating to absorb moderate shocks from sustained downside risks to the operating environment, the heightened level of risk in doing banking business in Nigeria and the ensuing risks to its financial performance (particularly asset quality) over the next 12-18 months. The Stable Outlook also reflects our expectations that capitalisation will remain resilient over this period with the bank maintaining adequate buffers over the minimum regulatory requirements”.

Fitch Rating reported that the VR benefits from ENG’s company profile strengths of being part of the leading pan-African Ecobank group. ENG is a 100% owned subsidiary of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI; B-/Stable), a regional bank holding company with fully-fledged banking subsidiaries in 33 African countries.

The group also has a banking license in France and representative offices in AddisAbaba, Johannesburg, Beijing, London, and Dubai. The group’s operations are highly integrated, with all entities connected to a common operating platform and risk management framework, and common branding.

Ecobank Transnational Incorporated

ETI continues to implement a turnaround strategy at Ecobank Nigeria, having deleveraged and de-risked the bank in recent years, although it returned to growth in 2020 and plans above-sector-average loan growth in the medium term. Fitch noted that ENG’s management quality is a relative strength, with ETI appointing experienced bankers to Ecobank Nigeria’s senior team.

“ENG has a solid funding profile, with low-cost current and savings accounts reaching 58% of total deposits at end-9M20 helping the bank to reduce its cost of funding. It has achieved good deposit growth through the expansion of digital channels and its financial inclusion initiatives. Retail and SME deposits to account for 58% of total customer deposits at end-9M20, which results in reasonable deposit concentration, with the top 20 customer deposits representing 29% of the total”. The report stated.

Fitch Ratings also views ENG’s liquidity management as prudent with contingency plans in place. Local-currency liquidity is underpinned by a high share of liquid assets (cash, inter-bank placements and sovereign securities) representing more than 50% of total assets at end of review period and ENG’s foreign-currency funding benefits from sizable inter-bank deposits, representing about 15% of total funding at same period.

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