Stake­holder De­nies Togo’s Ecobank Un­der Probe

THISDAY - - BUSINESS WORLD -

Ecobank is not un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Nige­ria, the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of South Africa’s Ned­bank, which owns 21 per­cent of the Togo-baed len­der has said.

A news­pa­per had re­ported that Ned­bank’s West African as­so­ciate was sub­ject to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Nige­ria’s ac­coun­tancy reg­u­la­tor spooked in­vestors sen­si­tive to any prospect of costly fines in the coun­try, driv­ing down Ned­bank’s share price by more than four per cent on Fri­day.

At the time of the re­port last month, both Ecobank and Ned­bank said they had not been no­ti­fied of any in­quiry. On Fri­day Ned­bank COO Mfundo Nkuhlu said Ecobank’s dis­cus­sions with the reg­u­la­tor since then sug­gested there is no in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Ecobank Transna­tional In­cor­po­rated] man­age­ment have ad­vised, based on their in­ter­ac­tion with the Fi­nan­cial Re­port­ing Coun­cil of Nige­ria, there is no in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­der way into the pre­vi­ous re­port­ing of ETI’s an­nual fi­nan­cial state­ments,” Reuters quoted him to have said in an emailed state­ment. The news­pa­per re­port had said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­lated to al­le­ga­tions that Ecobank had over­stated its bal­ance sheet and in­come state­ment by ap­ply­ing in­cor­rect ex­change rates.

Ned­bank’s re­la­tion­ship with Ecobank is only now start­ing to pay off af­ter a slide in com­mod­ity prices and un­favourable cur­rency swings in Nige­ria drove Ecobank to a $131.3 mil­lion pre­tax loss in 2016.

The mar­ket is par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive to news of Nige­rian cor­po­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tions af­ter the MTN saga, in which the South African tele­coms gi­ant had been threat­ened with a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar fine by Nige­rian reg­u­la­tors.

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