Union Bank to divest non-banking units

Union Bank will divest its non-banking subsidiaries within the next 18 months in order to comply with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s regulations separating business and retail banking, the company has said, according to a Reuters report.

The CBN, three years ago, stopped issuing universal banking licences and enforced new minimum capital requirements for banks in a bid to avoid a repeat of the 2009 near collapse of several lenders, including Union Bank.

Union Bank scaled a recapitalisation hurdle after the central bank propped it up and it got a $750m cash injection by a group of investors to keep it afloat.

Reuters quoted the Chief Executive Officer of the bank, Mr. Emeka Emuwa, as saying, “Following the (central bank) approval, Union Bank will proceed to divest its interests in its non-banking and portfolio companies… and operate as an international commercial bank.”

Emuwa said the bank had 18 months to implement the divestment, noting that owning non-banking units had become less important with the growth in its core business and its ability to partner with other firms to cross-sell products.

The CBN governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, inaugurated a historic $4bn bailout of nine banks shortly after taking office in 2009, pledging to reform the industry and get credit flowing to the productive real sector and small businesses.

The new banking model requires lenders to sell all non-core businesses and form a holding company if they intend to carry out insurance, asset management and capital market activities.

Sanusi has said his primary objective is to ensure banks are effectively supervised and to ensure the safety of depositors’ funds by prohibiting them from speculative capital market activities.

“The post-divestment structure will reduce the overall risk profile of the bank, while increasing the protection of depositors’ funds,” Union’s Chief Risk Officer, Kandolo Kasongo, said, adding that the sale proceeds will be used to boost its balance sheet.

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