Leading first-tier banks are expected to announce dividends and audited report and accounts for the 2018 business year in the next few days, kick-starting the much-awaited earnings season for more than 95 per cent of companies quoted at the stock market.

Regulatory filings and traditional practices at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) indicated that Nigeria’s two largest banks- Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) Plc and Zenith Bank International Plc and two other leading banks- United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc and Access Bank Plc are set to announce their final dividends and full-year earnings for the 2018 business year.

The boards of directors of the four leading commercial banks had met and approved the audited reports and accounts for the year ended December 31, 2018. The board also deliberated and approved final dividend recommendations.

Under the three-step final process for the release of dividend recommendations and audited reports, the board of directors meets to consider and approve the audited financial statements as well as dividend recommendation, then authorises the transmission of the signed reports to the primary regulator, in the case of financial institutions and other regulated entities and with the receipt of the approval of the primary regulator, transmits the dividend recommendation and audited report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) for announcement to the investing public.

The Nation’s check at the weekend indicated that the four banks have completed the first two steps and are currently awaiting the final approvals of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to transmit the results and dividend recommendations to the NSE. The boards of Access Bank and UBA met last week while the boards of GTB and Zenith Bank had met earlier in the month.

Sources in the know of the approval processes said the four banks might have a smooth sail at the apex bank as the apex bank had earlier approved their half-year audited reports. While quarterly audit is not a requirement at the stock market, the four banks traditionally audit their half-year accounts and pay interim dividend on the six-month report.

Afrinvest (West Africa) said the release of dividends and full-year earnings might moderate the negative trend at the equities market. Nigerian equities had lost N326 billion in January 2019.

GTI Capital Limited Chief Operating Officer  Mr Kehinde Hassan, said the banks may set the trend for the earnings as investors look up to the large companies to determine the outlook for the earnings period.

The first-tier banks are expected to be among early filers of dividends and results at the Exchange. Non-bank early filers in the immediate past year included Nigerian Breweries, Transcorp Hotels Plc, Total Nigeria Plc, Africa Prudential Plc, United Capital Plc and Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc.

<<The Nation>>