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Nigerian banks: UBA – down but not out

UBA’s CEO, Phillips Oduoza
UBA’s CEO, Phillips Oduoza

Along with First Bank, UBA is the other of the big five that is a descendant of a colonial-era bank: in this case, British and French Bank, which was converted to United Bank for Africa after independence in 1961. Former CEO Tony Elumelu’s Standard Trust Bank then acquired UBA in 2005. That heritage gives an important advantage: like First Bank, UBA’s branch network is one of the biggest in the country. Even if (like First Bank) some of these are legacy branches in less profitable rural areas, the network still gives UBA an outstanding base for cheap funding.

On the down side, Phillips Oduoza, who took over as UBA’s CEO in 2010, concedes that a rapid continental expansion between 2008 and 2011 – bringing UBA’s Africa banking licences from two to 19 – was a temporary distraction from the Nigeria business. "We’ve been in investment mode in the rest of Africa," he says.

After the grounding of Air Nigeria last year, UBA’s bad-debt ratio was one of the country’s worst, 6.8%.

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