How much longer can Uzoma Dozie hold out?

By Akpo Ometan

 

A flurry of high-wire intrigues went on underground before the formal announcement Friday that the Nigeria-originating lender, Diamond Bank was swapping its international operational banking licence for a national one, The Difference has learnt.

Before the development, there had been a series of reports about the challenges that the bank had lately been embroiled in, with both Access Bank and FCMB being mentioned as possible interested parties in a speculated acquisition scheme.

The move from international to national banker is however not taking pan-African financial services sector watchers by surprise following the bank’s earlier sale and divestment of its pan-African banking portfolio and assets after some 18 years of playing on the pan-African financial services stage.

While the expressed official reason given for that move, (and which has again been repeated in this one)  was the need to focus more on tapping opportunities within the Nigerian market, market watchers say that the sales of those asset and a related move to equally dispose of the UK branch, were motivated more by the need to plug holes in the bank’s books and thus enable it to continue to conform with the prudential guidelines demands of the Central bank of Nigeria.

Among the pan-African entities affected in the divestment programme were the bank’s national operations in the Republic of Benin, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal. They were reportedly sold in 2017 to sold to Messers Manzi Finances S.A, a Cote d’Ivoire financial services holding company.

The lender closed trading at the Nigerian Stock Exchange on Friday at 66 kobo after the new move which effectively takes it off the ranking of the nation’s ‘systemically important and too-big-to-fail tier one banks’ and puts it in the category of tier two banks.

One of the immediate positive fall-outs of the move for the embattled management team at Diamond Bank, analysts say, is that the new status also comes with a basic easing of pressure on the financial services player to quickly raise its threshold minimum share capital relative to its other trading and value indicators. Another possible win, they say is that the bank has bought some more time in its bid to assure its strategic investor, the Caryle Group, that it is still well able to weather the storms and fend off the sharks. But whether enough has been done across the long term would be seen in the trading indicators of the next few weeks as well as further developments on the boardroom circuit.

Sources say that the developments at the bank which had been founded by the incumbent Managing Director’s father, Paschal Dozie, are really putting immense pressure, if not casting doubts on the ability of the younger Dozie to weather the storm and continue to hold on to his position as Chief Executive at the bank.

A few weeks back for example, several directors had thrown in the towel, after reportedly insisting that they could no longer work at the bank in its current shape and framework, and particularly under the leadership of Uzoma Dozie. However some other reports suggested that they may have been forced to throw in the towel ahead of anticipated fresh investments into the bank from other investors.

It is yet to be ascertained how the ongoing situation would impact on the bank and its operations going forward but the Central Bank of Nigeria has already confirmed its approval that the bank now operate as a national bank.

Another bank that had earlier adjusted its operational scope is WEMA which presently operates as a national bank, after having earlier functioned as a regional bank.

 

MD, Diamond Bank, Mr. Uzoma Dozie

 

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