By Obinna Chima
International rating agency- Fitch Ratings at the weekend upgraded Access Bank Plc's (Access) long-term issuer default rating (IDR) to 'B' from 'B-'.
The ratings upgrade, according to Fitch, was partly influenced by the commercial bank’s successful acquisition of the then rescued bank –Intercontinental Bank.
The international agency also said that the upgrade was as a result of Access Bank's “support rating to '4' from '5' and the revision of the bank's support rating floor to 'B' from 'NF'.
Fitch explained further: “At the same time, the bank's national long-term rating was upgraded to 'A-(nga)' from 'BBB-(nga)' and its national short-term rating to 'F2(nga)' from 'F3(nga)'. The ratings upgrades reflect Fitch's view of an increased likelihood of support for Access from the Nigerian authorities if needed.
“This is driven by Access's perceived increased systemic importance and enhanced franchise following its absorption of the acquired rescued bank, Intercontinental Bank Plc. The combined entity, which was consolidated at end-2011, controls about 8.5 per cent of system assets.”
Access Bank Plc - one of Africa’s largest financial services groups - recently disclosed its intention of becoming the “most respected Bank in Africa”.
At the end of its business combination with Intercontinental Bank, the commercial bank’s assets base grew to N2.018 trillion while its customer base rose to 5.7 million.
The bank’s branch network also increased significantly to a total of 309, just as its Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) rose to 18.55 per cent, far above the industry average of 10 per cent.
Its full year 2011 results had shown gross earnings of N138.949 billion, up from N91.142 billion recorded in 2010. Its profit after tax rose also by 50 per cent per cent from N11.068 billion in 2010 to N16.708 billion in 2011.
“Prior to its present position in Nigeria and the African financial landscape, the management of the Bank had sought to transform Access Bank into a world-class financial services provider.
"This was the vision that propelled Access Bank Plc from a low industry ranking in 2002 to its current position of significance in Nigeria and on the African continent,” the bank had said.
Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Access Bank, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, had also said: “It has become necessary for us to revise our vision in line with current realities and aspirations within the context of the global economy. We intend to drive profitable, ethical economic growth that is also environmentally responsible and socially relevant.”