Nigeria’s credit Rating Agency and a pan African leader in credit reports, Agusto & Co. limited whose strong credibility presence and ratings are globally accepted in Nigeria and across the globe has just assigned an a “Aa-” rating to Access Bank Plc
The rating assigned to Access Bank Plc (‘Access Bank’ or ‘the Bank’) reflects the Bank’s good profitability & liquidity, as well as an experienced and stable management team. This is in addition to a good brand franchise, buoyed by strong market share following the 2019 merger with Diamond Bank Plc, which lifted its industry position within the Tier I bank category. Access Bank Plc’s performance over the years has been reflective of a dedicated strategy to expand its scope of offerings and become a global payments gateway, facilitating transactions not just within Nigeria and across Africa, but between Africa and the rest of the world. This appetite for expansion has spurred internal initiatives to grow the Bank’s business both organically and through mergers & acquisitions.
The challenges faced by Access Bank have however largely bordered on funding costs and operating expenses – both elevated, thus constraining margins vis a vis industry peers. Having acquired scale, Access Bank needs to demonstrate efficiency, particularly in view of its stronger pool of low-cost retail deposits. In addition, asset quality challenges following the merger with Diamond Bank Plc, alongside the adoption of IFRS 9 principles have also put some pressure on capitalisation.
Despite the harsh operating terrain, Nigerian banks have nonetheless been resilient in a highly competitive environment. In terms of liability generation, the race to mobilise cheaper retail deposits particularly with the deployment of a variety of technology driven service offerings, has intensified, whilst banks continue to leverage on multiple cycle short-dated transactions in terms of asset creation. This is alongside continued pronounced reliance on government security yields. Consequently, the Industry remains attractive with an estimated pre-tax return on equity north of 20%.