Nigeria Approves International Licenses for Nine Banks

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Nigeria’s central bank gave approval
in principle to nine lenders’ applications for international
operating licenses, Deputy Governor Kingsley Moghalu said.

The lenders that won approval for international licenses
are Access Bank Plc (ACCESS), Diamond Bank Plc (DIAMONDB), Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GUARANTY),
Fidelity Bank Plc (FIDELITY), First City Monument Bank Plc (FCMB), First Bank of
Nigeria Plc (FIRSTBAN)
, Skye Bank Plc (SKYEBANK), United Bank for Africa Plc (UBA) and
Zenith Bank Plc (ZENITHBA), Moghalu told reporters today in the capital,
Abuja. Six banks were granted national licenses while another
two were given regional licenses.

“We want to focus banking now on a narrow basis so that it
will enhance the stability of the banks and will enable much
closer monitoring of Nigeria’s banks in terms of supervision and
regulation,” he said.

Lenders operating in Nigeria were forced to reapply for
licenses after the central bank scrapped the existing
universal-banking system, allowing them to offer multiple
services, last year as part of an overhaul of the industry.

Citibank Nigeria, Ecobank Nigeria Plc, Standard Chartered
Plc (STAN)
’s Nigeria unit, Sterling Bank (STERLNBA) Plc, Unity Bank Plc (UNITYBNK) and
Stanbic IBTC Plc will operate under a national license, while
Equatorial Trust Bank Plc and Wema Bank Plc were granted
regional licenses.

Holding Companies

Four lenders — First Bank, Stanbic IBTC, First City Bank
and United Bank for Africa — will be allowed to operate as
holding companies, while banks seeking “mono-line banking
licenses” have been given a May 2012 deadline to divest all
non-banking related enterprises, Moghalu said.

Lenders that the central bank bailed out in 2009 have until
Sept. 30 to finalize recapitalization or merger plans, he said.

“Where a bank has not completed that process by this date,
and especially where the reason is because vested interests are
stalling the process, the central bank will be quite free to
exercise the option of liquidation,” Moghalu said.

The bank fired the chief executive officers of eight of
Nigeria’s 24 lenders in 2009 after a debt crisis threatened the
industry with collapse and provided a 620 billion-naira ($4
billion) bailout.

The central bank also set up Asset Management Corp. of
Nigeria, or Amcon, to buy bad debts from the nation’s lenders
and recapitalize the rescued banks before matching them with
potential buyers.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Elisha Bala-Gbogbo in Abuja at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at

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