Atlas Mara Limited (“Atlas Mara” or the “Company” including its subsidiaries, the “Group”), the sub-Saharan African financial services group, releases its consolidated audited financial results for the year ended 31 December 2019. The results represent an extract from the audited summarised financial statements.
- Adjusted net profit of $5.8 million (2018: $26.4 million), excluding the impact of the previously reported impairment loss on IFRS 5 remeasurement of subsidiaries held for sale and other transaction and restructuring-related expenses.
- In February 2019, the Company announced that the Board was undertaking a review of strategic options to determine the key priorities and actions for 2019 and beyond to drive shareholder value. The Company continued to focus on these strategic priorities in 2019 and made progress on each.
- This strategic review led to a decision of the Board to assess indications of interest with respect to Atlas Mara’s investments in banking interests in four countries: Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia. Consistent with this decision, the Group announced a binding term sheet with Equity Group Holdings (“EGH”) on 30 April 2019. As previously announced in January 2020, while there have been delays in closing a transaction, the Group continues to actively pursue a strategic transaction for these subsidiaries.
- The Group increased its shareholding in UBN to 49.97% in 2019 and UBN declared a dividend to shareholders for the first time in over a decade. The Company has continued to support UBN management as they deliver shareholder value, including by facilitating access to significant long-term funding and assisting in the sale of its UK subsidiary.
- The Group has continued to make progress in streamlining the holding company to remove centralized cost structures and to focus on avenues for value creation in the operating banks under a more decentralized structure. The completion of a strategic transaction is expected to enable an acceleration of these processes.
- The Group completed the repositioning of the Markets and Treasury business model to onshore, moving closer to relevant business opportunities and accelerating revenue growth. Markets and Treasury continued to contribute to profitability in the core markets, with a strong year in Zimbabwe, and a positive second-half performance in Botswana after a new team was onboarded during the year.
- The Group continues to prioritize investments in high-impact digital channels and transactional platforms to drive substantially lower cost of funds, enhancing core banking systems, and developing technology-enabled products to retain and grow the customer base.
- In part due to the above strategic review, the reported net loss to equity holders was $143.2 million (2018: profit of $39.7 million); this included a loss from discontinued operations of $134.7 million (2018: loss of $11.0 million), due primarily to the impairment loss of $105.5 million related to IFRS 5 remeasurement, and a loss from continuing operations of $8.5 million (2018: profit of $50.7 million).
- Dividends declared and/or paid in two countries (Nigeria and Botswana), for the first time under Atlas Mara’s ownership.
- Union Bank of Nigeria (“UBN”) contributed associate income of $31.2 million for the period (2018: $56.3 million). The associate income reported in 2018 reflected the Company’s share of income on an equity accounted basis of $27.8 million, as well as the impact of the gain on the additional shares of UBN acquired during 2018 of $28.5 million.
- Results of operating banking components include outperformance versus 2018 in Nigeria and Zimbabwe (inflation-adjusted local currency basis), in-line performance in Botswana and Rwanda, and underperformance in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia.
- Loss per share of 84 cents compared to earnings per share of 23 cents in 2018.
- Both the statements of financial position and of profit or loss of the Group were adversely impacted by IFRS 5 impairment loss of $105.5 million recognized in the year, and by the impact of hyperinflation accounting in Zimbabwe.
- All operating banks maintained adequate capital adequacy ratios, reflecting stable balance sheets.
- Continued focus on deposit growth, loan book quality, and growth in business lines:
- Digital channels’ volumes and revenues increased month-on month across all channels, especially in mobile banking (all countries), transactional banking platforms (Botswana), mobile push/pull (Zimbabwe) and POS (Mozambique and Zimbabwe).
- Launched a deposit drive across Retail, Corporate and Institutional segments through innovative campaigns to lower cost of funds and generate sustainable funding for balance sheet growth.
- Markets and Treasury pivoted to an onshore model more aligned to client demand, and continued expansion of the product catalogue and development of new clients.
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Commenting on the results, Michael Wilkerson, Executive Chairman, said, “We are pleased to report a strong performance from our largest investment, UBN, and a profitable year in each of our other two core markets, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Financial performance in our other banks was mixed, due in substantial part to acute macroeconomic and industry challenges. While we achieved an improvement in overall operating expenses, there is more to do in our critical efforts to streamline the platform, and overall our growth remains below where we aspire to. Notably, the Company’s reported net loss for 2019 was driven largely by a remeasurement of the assets classified as held for sale as part of a potential strategic transaction – an initiative that remains important to our plans in 2020.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our priority remains the health and safety of our employees, customers, and communities. It is too early to know the full impact of the crisis on our business, but we are already seeing effects on both our customers and the regulatory environments in which we operate, and we expect a near-term negative impact on our performance. During this time of crisis, we are focused on liquidity and capital preservation while continuing to serve our communities. Our banks are following government guidance and have responded to this crisis with innovation. On behalf of the Board, I want to thank all of our team members for their dedication during this unprecedented time.”
Events after the reporting date
- UBN currency devaluation
Following the recent global economic and health crisis, the Central Bank of Nigeria (“CBN”) adjusted the official exchange rate from NGN306.5/$1 to NGN361/$1 in March 2020. The policy change has prompted the Group to reassess the use of the official exchange rate for translating the investment in UBN. Based on this post-period development, the Board decided to change the Group’s accounting policy for translating its investment in UBN from the CBN official exchange rate to the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Fixing (“NAFEX”) rate, effective1 March 2020, to reflect a more accurate picture of USD value.
This change is expected to result in a $104 million, or $0.61 per share, reduction in the carrying value of the investment in UBN as of 31 March 2020, recognized directly in equity as currency translation losses.
In Q1 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began to directly impact our markets of operation, alongsidemyriad negative impacts to global economic activity. The initial impact on African markets has been worse than elsewhere, with public equities, sovereign debt yields, and local currencies showing dramatic deteriorations in a short period of time. Governments in our markets, like those around the world, have responded in a variety of ways including measures like direct economic stimulus and loosened regulations – but also with the impetus for banks to facilitate relief for customers. It is too soon to gauge the impact on our business, but each of our banks has activated business continuity plans and conducted stress tests, the results of which are available in our annual report.
Additional financial highlights during the period:
- BancABC Botswana declared and paid its first dividend under Atlas Mara ownership.
- Financial highlights from UBN compared to 2018 included:
- Profit after tax increased by 9.8% from NGN18.1 billion to NGN19.9 billion;
- Return on equity increased from 6.2% to 10.2%;
- NPL ratio declined from 8.7% to 5.8% driven by an aggressive focus on recoveries;
- Total expenses decreased by 0.5%, driven by a cost optimisation program;
- Gross loans increased by 9.7%, in line with a drive to create quality risk assets across key economic segments of opportunity;
- Deposits increased by 3.3%, reflecting the strength of the brand in a very competitive environment for deposits; and
- BVPS increased by 11.5% from NGN7.75 in 2018 to NGN8.64 in 2019, resulting primarily from the strong earnings in the year.
- Group credit impairments increased from $0.2 million to $11.4 million, driven by a significant increase in credit risk in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Zambia.
- Total revenue decreased by 18.0%, attributable to a 35.0% decline in net interest income, as a result of contraction of the loan book, lower margins, and tight market liquidity, partially offset by a 4.9% increase in non-interest income.
- Operating expenses decreased by 4.1%, driven by the effects of currency devaluation in Zimbabwe, as well as the strategic cost management initiatives across the Group.
- Recoveries totaled $4.4 million (2018: $6.0 million), reflecting continued focus on managing the asset portfolio.
Key operational highlights during the period:
The Group has delivered revamped digital platforms, becoming more competitive within each market. This has enhanced the banks’ value propositions and is contributing positively to customer acquisition and transaction volumes.
- Successfully concluded management’s share capital reconstruction exercise, positioning the bank to declare a meaningful dividend for the first time in over a decade.
- Capital adequacy ratio reached 19.7% at year-end versus the minimum requirement of 15% for banks an international banking licence.
- UBN signed a $200 million ten-year senior debt facility from the US International Development Finance Corporation, the development finance institution of the US government. This landmark financing will accelerate growth in a number of UBN’s key customer segments, including SMEs, women’s banking, and digital channels.
- Increased customer count from 4.5 million to 5.8 million.
- Continued adoption of alternative service channels, with mobile banking customers growing to 2.1 million (December 2018: 1.4 million) and online banking customers growing to 1.3 million (December 2018: 910k), illustrating improved scalability and cost optimisation potential.
- Risk management, a key focus among the bank’s core competencies, continues to improve (evidenced by the NPL ratio decreasing substantially from 8.7% at December 2018 to 5.8% at the end of the current period, and oil and gas sector loan book concentration decreasing from 36% in December 2018 to 29% at the end of the current period).
- BancABC Botswana declared and paid its first dividend under Atlas Mara’s ownership.
- Revamped card and ATM infrastructure as part of wholesale repositioning for digital business.
- Reduced interest expense in H2 2019 by 9% versus H1 2019.
- Opened four new Sales and Service Centres to double the footprint outside of Gaborone, with performance better than expected.
- Hired new, experienced leadership in Corporate & Investment Banking and in Operations, to drive growth in Corporate & GMT divisions and to support the bank’s transformation agenda.
- Completed and launched a new credit card product.
- Signed five new lending schemes as part of the push to diversify the loan book.
- Launched a state-of the art corporate banking platform.
- Challenging conditions in Markets and Treasury affected results in H1 2019, but a new Markets and Treasury team was put in place mid-year and oversaw improved financial results in H2 2019.
- Subsequent to period end, signed a $10 million Tier II financing facility with PROPARCO, a French development finance institution, to support growth in targeted areas including lending to SMEs. This facility was funded in May 2020.
- BancABC Zimbabwe reclaimed its position as one of the top financial institutions in the country with the second-best 2019 net profit in the market, in line with the Group’s strategic goal of achieving top-five market position in every market.
- Onboarded new CEO, Lance Mambondiani, the former CEO of Steward Bank, in July following the retirement of his predecessor.
- Markets and Treasury team continued to deliver strong revenues despite unprecedented economic challenges.
- Implemented an aggressive Digital Transformation Agenda, launching a number of innovative products, including WhatsApp banking and enhanced mobile and internet banking platforms for both Retail and Corporate customers. As a result, the bank saw 87% growth in total customers and 79% growth in volume on its digital platforms, making it one of the fastest-growing banks in the country. Digital efforts also led to winning the “Best Innovation Award” from the CEOs Roundtable in 2019.
- Completed core banking system upgrade, supporting system stability, including for robust new digital channels.
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