By Goddy Egene

Renewed demand for the shares of Diamond Bank Plc last week bolstered its price by 56.92 per cent, from a low of N0.65 to N1.02. The lender, which got approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to operate as a national bank, had suffered serious value erosion following speculations of its likely acquisition by one of its peers in the industry.

However, the speculations were denied by the financial institution, a development that was followed by the approval its application by CBN to convert from an international bank to a national bank.

And in apparent positive reaction to these developments, some investors increased their demand for the shares of Diamond Bank Plc. Consequently, the stock recovered by 56.92 per cent to lead other price gainers’ chart for the week.

The bank had said in a statement that its  re-licencing as a national bank, “supports Diamond’s objective of streamlining its operations to focus resources on the significant opportunities in the Nigerian retail banking market, and economy as a whole.”

According to the bank, the move follows its  decision to sell its international operations, which included the disposal of its West African Subsidiary in 2017 and Diamond Bank UK, the sale of which is currently in its final stages.

“The change to national bank status also enables the bank to maintain a lower minimum capital requirement of 10 per cent as against 15 per cent required for international banks. This creates room for the bank to deploy more capital for stronger growth in the quarters ahead through additional investment in technology platforms, customer acquisition and expansion of loans to the critical sectors of the economy.”

Commenting   the  Chief Executive, Diamond  Bank Plc, Mr. Uzoma Dozie, said: “The move to a national banking license marks a continuation of our strategy to focus on Nigeria’s significant fundamental trends, including a large underbanked population and Africa’s biggest economy.

By focusing and optimising our resources towards Nigeria and the priority area of retail banking, we will be better positioned for longer term growth and greater profitability.

“The reduction in minimum capital requirement also increases our capacity to expand the quantum of business and product services we can offer consumers, as well as representing a key step in strengthening our financial position.

“This development does not affect the bank’s ability to offer services to its clients in international locations; Rather, with focus on its domestic business being priority, the bank also intends to pay down in full, the Eurobond loan of $200 million at maturity in May 2019.

“There will be no refinancing of the loan as the intent to pay down with foreign exchange generated from its internal operations, a reflection of the solidity of its operations and funds flow in the last few years.”