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Battle for Controlling Interest in First Bank Set to Intensify at Stock Market

As the battle for controlling interest in FBN Holdings Plc deepens, all eyes will be on the company’s share price movement on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX), as the major

As the battle for controlling interest in FBN Holdings Plc deepens, all eyes will be on the company’s share price movement on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX), as the major contenders move to consolidate their hold on the financial institution.

Currently, the majority shareholders are Chairman of Geregu Energy Group, Mr. Femi Otedola; Chairman of Globacom, Chief Mike Adenuga; current Chairman of FBNH, Mr. Tunde Hassan-Odukale, and Chairman of Honeywell Group, Oba Otudeko.

Some of the major contenders would in the coming days seek to mop up more shares so as to increase their stake in the bank

By his acquisition of 1,818,551,625 units of shares of First Bank Holdings Plc (FBNH), amounting to a 5.07 per cent of its total issued capital, Otedola, last week formally became one of the majority shareholders in the bank.

The newest investor in the bank, going by his antecedents with the then Forte Oil, does not give up easily and he is an aggressive investor who would stop at nothing to get what he wants. This, according to an industry analyst, means the other majority investors need to prepare for the battle ahead.

A statement signed by Company Secretary of the holding company, Mr. Seye Kosoko, dated October 23, 2021, and titled, “Notification of Acquisition of Substantial Shareholdings in FBN Holdings Plc,” informed the bank’s stakeholders about Otedola’s investment in the bank.

The statement said, “We refer to our communication to the market dated October 22, 2021, on the above subject wherein we stated that we would inform the public of any substantial acquisition, upon receipt of notification from the shareholder.

“This morning, October 23, 2021, FBN Holdings Plc received a notification from APT Securities and Funds Limited, that their client, Mr. Otedola Olufemi Peter, and his nominee, Calvados Global Services Limited, have acquired a total of 1,818,551,625 units of shares from the company’s issued share capital of 35,895,292,791. Based on the foregoing, the equity stake of Mr. Otedola Olufemi Peter and his nominee in the company is now 5.07 per cent.”

As at March this year, Otudeko was also said to be holding a total of five per cent of the holdco’s total issued share capital. However, inside sources disclosed that Otudeko was currently in negotiation with Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc to sell Honeywell Flour, to partly pay off his loans at FBN Holdings.

On his part, Adenuga is said to have been buying more shares and his shareholding was said to be between five and seven per cent.

Indications emerged yesterday that Hassan-Odukale and related parties owned about 5.36 per cent stake in FBN Holdings. The companies include Leadway Assurance Company Ltd, ZPC/Leadway Assurance Prem & Investment Coll Acct, Haskai Holdings Ltd, Leadway Capital & Trust Ltd and LAC Investments Ltd. Others are Leadway Properties &Investment Ltd, Leadway Holdings, OHO Investment/Oye Hassan-Odukale, and Leadway Pensure PFA.

But speaking with THISDAY, a leading industry analyst, who pleaded to remain anonymous, said, “The majority shareholders that were there before Otedola came on board were so comfortable; that was why they were not bothered about raising their stakes in the bank. But now that their ranks have been broken, everybody would intensify efforts to remain dominant shareholders.

“Clearly, what the majority shareholders would do in the coming days is to pull shares together from other minority investors with a view that they would represent the interest of these minority shareholders on the board.

“So, the question now is, who can pull investors together to be on their bloc? Because the truth is that if they decide to be buying shares from the stock market directly, none of them would be able to have controlling interest in the short term. So, the battle now is on who can galvanise investors to form a bloc.”

The source, however, pointed out that in every organisation, there was always going to be one person or a group of people that would exercise control over the management, without which, things won’t be properly defined in the organisation.

The expert continued, “That was the problem we saw in UACN Plc for some years until the emergence of the present majority shareholders. What it does is that it gives stability and that is how it has always been all over the world. So, over the years, at First Bank, there have always a group that has significant control, until the recent intervention by the CBN, which created a lacuna.

“So, today Otedola has put himself up to become one of the kingmakers in the bank and now he would have a board position. But if he can galvanise other shareholders and if he is able to mop up substantial shares in the coming days, he might have enough to see him becoming the chairman of the bank.”

Notwithstanding, all these would require the approval of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered from a reliable source that going by recent developments in the bank, Group Chief Executive Officer of FBN Holdings, Mr. UK Ekeh, might be preparing to step down from his position next month. It was learnt that Ekeh had indicated his decision not to continue as Group CEO, and had informed insiders that he had done five years as Executive Director of the defunct Diamond Bank Plc, five years as Executive Director of First Bank, and six years as Group CEO of FBN Holdco.

The CBN had in April reinstated the Chief Executive Officer of First Bank Nigeria Limited, Mr. Adesola Adeduntan, who was summarily retired by the then Otudeko-led board. Also, the central bank had retained Eke as CEO of FBN Holdings.

Obinna Chima