By Goddy Egene
Shareholders of Zenith Bank Plc yesterday approved the payment of proposed N94.19 billion dividend for the year ended December 31, 2020.
The shareholders commended the board and management of the bank for the improved financial results and dividend payment, which translated to N3.00 per share. An interim dividend of N0.30 was paid last year while a final dividend of N2.70 was recommended and would be paid after the approval by the shareholders.
The shareholders were excited that despite a challenging macroeconomic environment exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Zenith Bank Plc posted gross earnings of N696.5 billion, which showed an increase of 5 per cent from N662.3 billion reported in the previous year.
Non-interest income grew by 8 per cent from N232.1 billion in 2019 to N251.7 billion in 2020 and while non-interest income rose from N415.6 billion in 2019 to N420.8 billion in 2020.
Similarly, profit before tax (PBT) increased by 5.0 per cent, growing from N243.3 billion to N255.9 billion in 2020 as a result of a blend of growth in the top line and a significant reduction in interest expense. Interest expense reduced from N148.5 billion in 2019 to N121.1 billion in 2020, significantly increasing the net interest income from N267.0 billion in 2019 to N299.7 billion in 2020.
The group’s increased retail activities translated to a corresponding increase in retail deposits and loans. Thus, retail deposits grew by N612.7 billion from N1.11 trillion to N1.72 trillion, while savings balances grew by 88 per cent to close at N1.16 trillion.
According to the bank, this retail drive, coupled with the low-interest yield environment helped reduce the cost of funding from 3 per cent to 2.1 per cent and reduced interest expense.
Although returns on equity and assets also reduced from 23.8 per cent to 22.4 per cent and from 3.4 per cent to 3.1 per cent, respectively, Zenith Bank still delivered improved earnings per share (EPS), which grew 10 per cent from N6.65 to N7.34 in 2020.
A further breakdown of the performance showed that the group also increased corporate customer deposits, which alongside the growth in retail deposits, delivered total deposit growth of 25 per cent to close at N5.34 trillion, and drove growth in market share.
Total assets also increased by 34 per cent, from N6.35 trillion to N8.48 trillion. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated challenges, the group created new viable risk assets as gross loans grew by 19 per cent from N2.46 trillion to N2.92 trillion. This was achieved while maintaining a stable and low overall NPL ratio of 4.29 per cent compared with 4.3 per cent in 2019 across the entire portfolio and an increase in the cost of risk from 1.1 per cent to 1.5 per cent, reflecting the elevated risk environment in 2020.
The group recorded liquidity and capital adequacy ratios of 66.2 per cent and 23 per cent and remained above regulatory thresholds of 30 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively.
Consistent with this superlative performance and in recognition of its track record of excellent performance, Zenith Bank was voted as Bank of the Year (Nigeria) in The Banker’s Bank of the Year Awards 2020, Best Bank in Nigeria in the Global Finance World’s Best Banks Awards 2020 and Best Corporate Governance ‘Financial Services’ Africa 2020 by the Ethical Boardroom.
Also, the bank emerged as the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria, for the fourth consecutive year, in the Banker Magazine “Top 500 Banking Brands 2021” and Number One Bank in Nigeria by Tier-1 Capital in the “2020 Top 1000 World Banks” Ranking published by The Banker Magazine. Similarly, the bank was recognised as Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the THISDAY Awards 2020, Retail Bank of the year at 2020 BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BOFI) Awards, and Best Company in Promotion of Good Health and Well-Being as well as Best Company in Promotion of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment at the Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility (SERAS) Awards 2020.