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Trump’s nominee becomes World Bank new President

By News desk

The United State President, Donald Trump’s pick for World Bank president, David Malpass, has officially been approved for the role on Friday.

Malpass, a Trump loyalist, was a senior economic adviser to the US president during his 2016 election campaign.

His appointment has stirred debate, as some worry that Malpass, a critic of the bank, will seek to reduce its role globally.

It would be recalled that two months ago, White House officials said Malpass, a long-time Republican, would be a “pro-growth reformer”.

Reacting over his nomination, Malpass described it as a honoured, saying, our twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and achieving shared prosperity are more relevant than ever.

The former Bear Sterns economist has criticised the World Bank in the past, along with other multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for being “intrusive” and “entrenched”.

To become World Bank president Mr Malpass won unanimous approval from the institution’s executive board, which has 25 members.

The US holds a 16% share of board voting power and has traditionally chosen the World Bank’s leader.

China is the World Bank’s third-largest shareholder after Japan, with about a 4.5% share of voting power.

Professor Christopher Kilby, an expert on the economics of foreign aid at Villanova University near Philadelphia, said it is likely that China and other shareholders did not push back on Mr Malpass’ appointment as they “recognise that they are unlikely to succeed in derailing the US nominee.”

“Since they have seen President Trump punish those who stand up to him, they are not willing to fight the US,” Prof Kilby said.

In the past China has also not sought more power within the World Bank as some of its aims, including promoting the rights of indigenous peoples, do not align with Chinese domestic and foreign policy, Prof Kilby said.

Ethiopian Airlines receives investors, travelers assurance after crash

By News desk

Financiers, passengers and industry partners are, for now, still backing Ethiopian Airlines’ quest to become Africa’s dominant carrier, despite a March 10 crash that killed 157 people.

The causes of the Flight 302 tragedy will likely take months to establish. While much of the international focus has been on U.S. planemaker Boeing and its 737 MAX 8 jet, the airline’s reputation could also hinge on the results of the investigation.

Although crash inquiries focus on preventing future accidents rather than attributing liability, any findings that the carrier fell short in plane maintenance or piloting could be damaging.

For the present, however, passenger confidence in Ethiopian Airlines, long regarded as one of the most reliable in Africa, has remained steady, according to the company. Cancellation and booking rates are unchanged since the crash, said spokesman Asrat Begashaw.

“We are operating as normal. Our brand is keeping its level, and we are okay,” he added.

Two banking sources with knowledge of the matter said that, barring a major new twist in the investigation with long-term fallout, banks were still comfortable lending to Ethiopian Airlines.

“Ethiopian is a solid company,” said one, an official from an international bank that helped finance the acquisition of some Ethiopian Airlines planes. “No reason to change the way the bank sees its credit risk at this point.”

A vote of confidence from lenders is important for the airline because its years of rapid expansion have largely been financed by international borrowing.

The second source, a top European aviation banker, said Ethiopian Airlines was “a good airline, with a good reputation”.

 “So unless it (the crash) is a major problem of piloting or maintenance – and it is far too early to talk about that – they will still have access to financing,” the source added.

Ethiopian Airlines has borrowed from foreign banks including JP Morgan, ING Capital and Societe Generale over the past decade. It also has outstanding bonds worth $540 million, though none due until 2024, Refinitiv data shows.

The borrowing helped finance the acquisition of stakes in or establish partnerships with at least four African carriers, establishing hubs to feed traffic into Addis Ababa. Last year, the Ethiopian capital overtook Dubai as the main gateway for long-haul passengers into Africa.

The airline’s fleet grew from 35 planes in 2007 to 111 in 2019. It now flies to more than 119 international destinations, up from 52 a decade ago.

The expansion has made the state-owned carrier, founded in 1945, the most profitable major airline on the continent. Ethiopian’s net profit in the 2017/18 financial year rose to $233 million from $229 million the previous year; operating revenue jumped 43 percent to $3.7 billion.

Last year, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced plans to sell a minority stake in the airline as part of a broad strategy to open up the country to foreign investors.

Industry analysts said it was too early to evaluate the impact of the crash on the airline’s long-term plans but said, for now, its reputation remained largely intact.

“It’s a very strong management team, with good vision. We’ve got to look at the strength of the airline as a whole, not just this one incident,” an author and professor at Ohio State University’s Center for Aviation Studies, Nawal Taneja.

Those who want to travel across Africa have few options other than flying. Conflict, poor roads, and limited cross-border train transport often make travel by land difficult.

Analysts said the crash was unlikely to damage Ethiopian’s partnerships with African carriers, key to a strategy that helped increase passenger numbers from 2.5 million a decade ago to 10.6 million last year, or with other industry players.

One such partner is ASKY, a Togo-based carrier which Ethiopian Airlines helped launch in 2010.

The airline’s head of public relations, Lionel Tsoto, said: “Ethiopian’s accident has not affected our partnership in any way. We continue just as before.”

Global aviation leasing firm GECAS said the airline was a “close and valued partner who we look forward to working with in the future”.

The crash, which saw the Nairobi-bound flight go down minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa, triggered a global grounding of 737 MAX planes, wiping about 10 percent off Boeing’s share price.

Investigators have noted similarities with another deadly crash in Indonesia five months ago involving a plane of the same type owned by Lion Air, but safety officials stress the investigation is at an early stage.

Ethiopian Airlines, which grounded its handful of remaining 737 MAX planes, said it would decide whether to cancel orders for 29 others after a preliminary investigation.

Analysts said it was unlikely that the carrier would cancel the orders, worth $3.5 billion at the current list price, because Boeing would have to fix any problems before regulators permit the jet to fly again.

Boeing will be keen to retain the airline as a customer; more than half of Ethiopian’s fleet are Boeing jets.

“Ethiopian have been very loyal to Boeing in the past,” said Phil Seymour, chief executive of the IBA Group, a Surrey-based aviation consultancy.

“They will be in control of the conversation with Boeing now,” he added. “I would suspect that the business decision is to stick with the order.”

Egypt, Nissan sign 100,000 cars annual production agreement

By News desk

Egyptian state-owned carmaker El Nasr Automotive Manufacturing and Japan’s Nissan have reached an initial agreement to produce 100,000 cars a year in Egypt, the minister for public enterprises said on Tuesday.

The agreement is part of efforts to boost the proportion of locally made auto components in cars assembled in Egypt with a view to exporting the majority of the vehicles, Hesham Tawfik said.

A final contract is expected to be signed within three months, according to a ministry statement, which did not give a target date for the production of 100,000 cars a year.

There have been reports of government plans to revive Nasr Automotive, which specialised in making local versions of Fiat cars before it ceased production shortly before Egypt’s 2011 uprising, according to state media.

Its revenue rose to 5 million Egyptian pounds ($289,185) on assets of 350 million EGP in the 2016-17 financial year, from zero the previous year, according to an Egyptian finance ministry report.

N15bn Access Bank Bond fully subscribed — GMD

By News desk

Access Bank Plc. said on Monday that a five-year Fixed Rate Senior Unsecured N15 billion Green Bond, the first climate bond to be issued in Africa, had been fully subscribed.

Green bond is a bond specifically earmarked to be used for climate and environmental projects. It is typically asset-linked and backed by the issuer’s balance sheet, and are also referred to as climate bonds

The bank’s Group Managing Director, Herbert Wigwe, stated this at the bond-signing ceremony in Lagos.

Wigwe said that the Green Bond offer was achieved by way of Book Building, a systematic process of generating, capturing, and recording investor demand for shares during an initial public offering (IPO), or other securities during their issuance process.

According to him, this is in order to support efficient price discovery.

He said that the bond, priced at a coupon of 15.5 per cent, had participation from a wide range of asset managers and pension fund administrators.

Wigwe noted that the bank supported the global climate change mitigation and adaptation agenda and was seeking to promote responsible green lending globally.

According to him, the Green Bond issuance demonstrates the bank’s commitment to sustainable operational practices, being a pioneer operator both in domestic and international capital markets.

He added that the bank viewed the global drive for responsible and sustainable green financing as an opportunity to raise capital for the creation of assets through climate change financing.

Wigwe maintained that the bank had a strong track record of deploying environmental and social risk management tools as well as working closely with local and international agencies to deliver a greener outcome from investing activities.

“With our pace-setting experience in the mainstreaming of sustainability in our business operations.

“We are confident that this issue with further help in supporting environmentally friendly investors to meet their investment objectives whilst simultaneously supporting the bank’s customer towards realising growth opportunities in fast-developing low carbon economy,” Wigwe said.

He noted that the new funding would be directed toward financing new loans and refinancing existing loans in accordance with the bank’s Green Bond Framework, and support projects directed at flood defense, solar generation facilities, and agriculture.

Court orders First Bank to pay 2015 retirees’ entitlement

By News desk

The National Industrial Court, Abuja, has ordered First Bank of Nigeria Plc to pay its 2015 retirees their entitlements.

Justice Sanusi Kado, delivering  judgment on behalf  of  Justices Benedict Kanyip and Rakiya Haastrup.

Justice Kado in the judgment declared that the dispute between the parties was a Trade Dispute and the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP), had the jurisdiction to have listened to the matter.

The judge further declared that the respondents had authorization to sue in representative capacity.

He also affirmed the IAP’s award of 100 per cent payment of entitlement, he however limited it to only four of the retirees who were able to prove their unpaid entitlements.

The judge further affirmed the payment of 30 per cent annual basic salary as repatriation allowance as granted by IAP.

In addition, the respondents were granted payment of three months salary in lieu of notice.

The court also affirmed the decision of the IAP for relief of waiver of up-front payment to the retirees.

However, the court has set aside the award of payment of deferred pension scheme, gratuity and payment of performance and profit for 2014 financial year as earlier granted by IAP.

The judges in their judgment also set aside the payment of 21 per cent interest rate of the entitlements from March, 2015 till date and N5 billion request as damages was also denied.

First Bank Plc, the appellant had approached the court to seek redress when IAP on March 18,2018 entered an award in favour of the retirees (respondents).

Obi Chukwuma, the respondents’ counsel averred that the bank in Feb.2015 called for voluntary retirement with incentive to interested staff.

Chukwuma further submitted that the appellant then turned around and refused the respondents their incentive retirement entitlements as earlier promised after they retired.

The appellant counsel, Godswill Nwani, in his argument said the IAP lacked jurisdiction to entertain dispute between the bank and the retirees.

Nwani also said the commencement of the action by the respondents in a representative capacity at the IAP made the action incompetent.

Joined as a co- respondent in the suit was the Association of Senior Staff of Bank, Insurance and Financial Institutions.

MTN earns N453bn profit in 2018

By News desk

Telecommunication giant, MTN Nigeria recorded N453.1 billion Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) in 2018.

The communications company also attracted additional six million subscribers to its network in the year.

The company made the disclosure in its annual report released on Thursday in Lagos.

It said that the six million subscribers brought the total number of subscribers in its network to 58 million, adding that the 2018 EBITDA represented 30.8 per cent profit growth.

MTN Nigeria also disclosed its intention to list by introduction on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in the first half of 2019.

The report showed a service revenue increase by 17.2 per cent, data revenue increase by 39.3 per cent, digital revenue decrease by 58.1 per cent and Fintech revenue increase by 32.7 per cent.

It also showed an EBITDA margin increase by 4.5 per cent to a total 43.6 per cent (excl CBN payment).

Commenting on the results, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, Ferdi Moolman, said: “This growth was built on our sustained focus on customer centric delivery – ensuring that customers get much more value for their money.

“This included deployment of proactive interventions to improve customer experience, together with enhancement of network quality and coverage, and optimisation of our services portfolio.

“We also enabled an additional eight million people to access the possibilities that the internet provides, bringing our total data subscriber base to 44 million, of which 18.7 million use more than five megabytes per month.

“We are now even better positioned to ensure that everyone can access the benefits of a modern connected life.”

Moolman thanked MTN Nigeria partners and regulators for their contributions.

He said that the company understood how access to  opportunities enabled by the internet could open up new industries even in the remotest areas.

The chief executive officer said that there was the need to continue to focus on delivering social innovations such as mobile electricity and financial services for all.

He said that the company would leverage on its technology to enable high-impact mobile solutions in education, health and agriculture in communities.

“MTN plans to list by introduction on the Nigerian Stock Exchange during the first half of 2019, and is looking to simplify the capital structure ahead of this listing.

“The company’s listing on the exchange will create a new telecoms asset class for investors and provide an opportunity for a wider group of Nigerians to participate in our investment story,” he added.

China’s trade surplus with U.S shrinks

By News desk

China’s trade surplus with the United States narrowed to 14.72 billion dollars in February, from 27.3 billion dollars in January, customs data showed on Friday.

For January-February combined, China’s trade surplus with the U.S. stood at 42.1 billion dollars.

China’s large trade surplus with the United States has long been a sore point with Washington, and is at the center of a bitter dispute between the two countries.

In 2018, the two governments imposed tit-for-tariffs on goods worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

While seasonal factors may have been at play, the shockingly weak readings from the world’s largest trading nation added to worries about a global slowdown, a day after the European Central Bank slashed growth forecasts for the region.

Asian stock markets and U.S. futures extended early losses after the data. Chinese stocks sank over 3 per cent.

Global investors and China’s major trading partners are closely watching Beijing’s policy reactions as economic growth cools from last year’s 28-year low.

February exports fell 20.7 per cent from a year earlier, the largest decline since February 2016, customs data showed.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 4.8 per cent drop after January’s unexpected 9.1 per cent jump.

“Today’s trade figures reinforce our view that China’s trade recession has started to emerge,” Raymond Yeung, Greater China chief economist at ANZ, wrote in a note.

“Chinese exports already registered negative growth in December. The strong figures in January were not reliable due to distortions from the Lunar New Year holiday period.”

Imports fell 5.2 per cent from a year earlier, worse than analysts’ forecasts for a 1.4 per cent fall and widening from January’s 1.5 per cent drop.

Imports of major commodities fell across the board.

That left the country with a trade surplus of 4.12 billion dollars for the month, much smaller than forecasts of 26.38 billion dollars.

Analysts warn that data from China in the first two months of the year should be read with caution due to business disruptions caused by the long Lunar New Year holidays, which came in mid-February in 2018 but started on Feb. 4 this year.

But many China watchers had expected a weak start to the year as factory surveys showed dwindling domestic and export orders and the Sino-U.S. trade war dragged on.

The poor China data comes amid months of intense negotiations between Washington and Beijing aimed at ending their trade dispute.

On Wednesday, the U.S. reported its goods trade deficit with China surged to an all-time high last year, underlining one of the key sticking points in the talks.

China’s data on Friday showed its surplus with the United States narrowed to 14.72 billion dollars in February from 27.3 billion dollars in January, and it has promised to buy more U.S. goods such as agricultural products as part of the trade discussions.

U.S President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that trade talks were moving along well and predicted either a “good deal” or no deal between the world’s two largest economies.

Trump postponed a sharp U.S. tariff hike slated for early March as the talks progressed, but both Washington and Beijing have kept previous duties in place.

At the same time, global demand has been weakening, particularly in Europe. China’s exports to all of its major markets fell across the board last month.

The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said on Friday that trade talks had made substantive progress, and that the two countries’ relations should not descend into confrontation.

China’s economy was already slowing last year before trade tensions escalated, due in part to a regulatory clampdown on riskier lending that starved smaller, private companies of financing and stifled investment.

The government is targeting economic growth of 6.0 to 6.5 per cent in 2019, Premier Li Keqiang said at Tuesday’s opening of the annual meeting of China’s parliament, a lower target than set for 2018.

Actual growth last year slowed to 6.6 per cent, and is expected to cool further to 6.2 per cent this year.

Many analysts expect a rocky first half before a flurry of stimulus measures start to stabilize activity around mid-year.

China’s slowdown and the trade war are having an increasing impact on other trade-reliant countries and businesses worldwide.

Japan’s exports in January fell the most in more than two years as China-bound shipments tumbled.

On Thursday, automotive chipmaker Renesas Electronics Corp said it plans to halt production at six plants in Japan for up to two months this year as it braces for a further slowdown in Chinese demand.

PDP must explain how $592bn Oil wealth was spent-Buhari

By News desk

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) still owes Nigerians explanation on how it expended the humongous resources that accrued to the country from oil sales between 1999 and 2014, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.

An estimate by NEITI put the total amount earned during the period at $592 billion, with nothing to show for it.

Buhari raised the issue at a meeting with the leadership of organised labour in Abuja on Thursday when they came to felicitate with him on his victory at the poll.

The President said his administration met a country with dilapidated infrastructure all round in 2015, and it calls to serious question what the party that was in power for 16 years did with the country’s earnings from oil, which reached a peak during the period.

According to Buhari, PDP has not successfully explained to the country what they did with the money.

“There were no roads, no rail, no power. They said they spent $16 billion on power, but where is the power? The irresponsible expenditure of that period has not been explained, and Nigerians deserve an answer on that terrible mismanagement of the country.”

The President thanked organized labour “for the support and patriotism you have shown during the presidential election, especially after the unexpected postponement. You and your members stepped in to support willing Nigerians to exercise their civic and patriotic rights to vote. You intervened as patriots, and not for political, religious or tribal purposes. You simply did the right thing during a difficult period for many of us.”

On what Nigerians can look forward to in the next lap of the journey, President Buhari said he would continue pushing the Change Agenda, “and remain focused on our core pillars of security, economy, and fight against corruption.”

He urged organized labour to partner with the government to make the country peaceful, prosperous, and corruption free.

In his remarks, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, lauded the President for being worker-friendly, as exemplified in the granting of bailout funds to state governments to pay backlog of salaries and pensions.

“We all remember the special bailout and budget support you introduced to support state governments during the recession. Your directive during this intervention was that state governments must offset accumulated arrears of salaries and pension liabilities. I remember you publicly asked state governors, ‘how do you manage to sleep at night when the salaries of workers in your state are not paid?’

“For us, that was one of the finest moments we have had with any President in this country…I can stand here today and say your intervention was the difference between life and death for many workers.”

The labour leader appealed to the National Assembly to earnestly pass the National Minimum Wage Act, while also asking the President to thereafter sign it into law within the shortest possible time.

Organized labour pledged to remain “veritable partner in progress with government,” counseling the President to continue to “make the Nigerian people, especially the poor, the centre-piece of your policy initiatives and actions.”

First Bank marks 125th anniversary, discloses new plans for Nigeria customers

By News Desk

First Bank of Nigeria Limited has assured customers that it would remain committed to the development and growth of Nigeria as well as the financial industry through enhanced service delivery.

Dr Adesola Adeduntan, the bank’s Chief Executive Officer, said this at its 125 years anniversary flag hoisting in Lagos yesterday.

Adeduntan said that the bank, a long-standing institution, had impacted the nation and the world through various financial products and services.

“From that very modest beginning in 1894, First Bank has traversed an incredible journey of delivering impeccable financial services to its customers and supporting the building of the modern-day Nigeria and indeed, West Africa, including our early pivotal role as the monetary and fiscal policy regulator for the entire West African region,” he said.

He said the bank had provided topclass financial services to the country and citizenry and had supported in the past 125 years and would continue in that direction in the future.

“As a long-standing institution, which even predates Nigeria as a unified entity, FirstBank is entrenched in the nation’s development; woven into the very fabric of society, with our involvement in every stage of national growth and development.

“At the amalgamation, independence and through the seasons ever after, we have been here marching hand-in-hand with you and our dear nation. We have enabled financial, technological, industrial and societal advancements, achieving very many firsts over time,” Adeduntan said.

He noted that the institution was celebrating 125 years of unbroken business operations in Nigeria; 125 years of supporting and enabling dreams; 125 years of resilience and relevance.

Adeduntan added that it was celebrating 125 years of trust, safety and security as well as 125 years of long term value to all stakeholders.

He said that the bank was now building for the next 125 years and beyond and would continue to maintain its leadership position.

The chief executive officer said that hoisting of the flag symbolises the identity, impact, permanence and reverence of an institution.

He said that the bank was among the few companies in the world that survived over 100 years of existence.

Also speaking, Adebisi Shonubi, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, lauded the bank for its achievement in the development of the financial sector and Nigeria as a whole.

Shonubi said that integrity was very important in the banking industry, adding that First Bank had remained a major player both in human capital development and financial service delivery.

Telephone subscribers hits 174m in Nigeria

By News Desk

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), says there was 174,012,136 active subscribers on the telecommunication networks in January 2019, as against 172,871,094 recorded in December 2018.

The telecommunications regulator disclosed this in its Monthly Subscriber and Operator Data made available on its website on Friday.

It was gathered that the active subscribers increased by 1,141,042 during the period under review.

According to the data, 173,625,306 of the 174,012,136 active numbers subscribe to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network services.

The GSM operators’ active customers’ figure increased by 1,139,501 in January, after the 172,485,805 subscribers recorded in December 2018.

The reports stated that out of the GSM operators, MTN had 66,665,378 users in January, showing a decrease of 467,631 from the 67,133,009 it recorded in December 2018.

Globacom’s figure increased in January by 348,341 with 45,603,638 customers, as against 45,255,297 in December 2018.

Airtel had 44,970,973 subscribers in the month under review, which showed an increase of 790,489 users, from the 44,180,484 recorded in December 2018.

9mobile recorded 16,385,317 customers in January, having an increase of 468,302 subscribers, against 15,917,015 in December 2018.

The Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators recorded 124,257 subscribers in the month under review, indicating a decrease of 165, from 124,092 users in December 2018.

Visafone, which is one of the two surviving CDMA operators had 119,797 customers in January 2019, showing an increase of 165 from the 119,632 recorded in December 2018.

On the other hand, Multi-Links had 4,460 in the month under review, same with the record of December 2018.

The monthly subscriber/operator data showed that the Fixed Wireless Network (landline) consumers remained at 26,865 in January 2019.

One of the two landline networks, Visafone had 26,437 subscribers, while Multi-Links maintained its record of 428 customers in the month under review.

It also revealed that the Fixed Wired operators (landline) subscriber base decreased by 5,677; reducing to 107,949 users in January, as against 113,626 recorded in December 2018.

In the Fixed Wired arena, MTN Fixed moved from 5,450 users in December 2018 to 5,480 users in January 2019, thereby increasing by 30 customers.

Glo Fixed had 2,896 users in January, increasing by 17 customers from the December 2018 record of 2,879.

IpNX network moved from 2,281 subscriber base in December 2018 to 2,248 in January 2019, hence, its customers decreased by 33.

It said that 21st Century Network had 97,325 customers in January, recording a decrease of 5,691 users from its December 2018 record of 103,016 subscribers.

The report also showed that the two Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) networks had 127,759 active users in January, as their customers increased by 7,053, from their December 2018 subscriber base of 120,706.

Of the VOIP networks, Smile Communication had 121,261 customers, giving an increase of 8,060 users to its December result of 113,201.

Ntel had 6,498 consumers subscribing to its products and services in January, showing a decrease of 1,007 users to the December 2018 record of 7,505.

The regulatory body said that Section 89, Subsection 3(c) of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003 mandated it to monitor and report the state of the telecommunications industry.

“The commission is mandated to provide statistical analyses and identify industry trends with regard to: services, tariffs, operators, technology, subscribers, issues of competition and dominance.

“This is to identify areas where regulatory intervention will be needed.

“The commission regularly conducts studies, surveys and produces reports on the telecommunications industry.

“Therefore, telecommunications operators are obligated, under the terms of their licenses, to provide NCC with such data on a regular basis for analytical review and publishing,” NCC said.