Why UBA is a good stock to “Buy” now

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By Anthony Osae-Brown

Not surprisingly, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc has been on the buy list of a lot of financial analysts in the last 12 months.

Despite the challenging economic environment globally, the pan-African financial services group has shown significant resilience in its 2015 financial performance beating the already positive forecasts of many financial analysts.

The bank’s full year  2015 financial results shows earnings rose 10% to a new high of N315 billion from N287 billion in the corresponding period of 2014. The bank’s net operating income also rose by a 10% to a new high of N205 billion in December 2015 from N186 billion in December 2014.

Phillips Oduoza, the Group Managing Director and CEO of UBA Plc, explained how the results have been achieved notwithstanding the challenging business environment.

He said that it is due to the bank’s resilient business model, geographic diversification, proactive strategies and strong governance that gave the bank performance edge in 2015. He assured that the bank will continue to invest in for the future whilst managing cost tightly to generate strong returns to shareholders.

But breaking down the bank’s performance Oduoza noted that UBA “recorded a decent 10% year-on-year growth in gross earnings, driven primarily by balance sheet optimization. With a disciplined approach to cost management, we achieved a tighter cost-to-income ratio of 67% and preserved earnings growth for our shareholders. Overall, we grew profit before tax by 22% to an historic record of N68.5 billion. More importantly, we closed the year with a 25% year-on-year growth in profit after tax to N59.7 billion; impressive performance which translates to 20% return on average equity.”

Following the impressive performance, the board of UBA proposed that a dividend of 40 kobo per share be paid to shareholders which brought total dividend paid for the 2015 financial year to 60 kobo per share. UBA had earlier paid an interim dividend of 20 kobo per share.

“Our 2015 profit is a new record and I am pleased that our performance is beginning to reflect the hard work and discipline of our Board, Management and Staff in creating superior value for our stakeholders. We remain committed to growing in a responsible manner that aligns with our vision of building an enduring institution” said Oduoza.

Oduoza who retires as Group Managing Director and CEO of UBA Plc on July 31, 2016 is leaving the bank on a strong financial footing.  

Explaining the significant improvement in the bank’s performance, the Group Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Ugo Nwaghodoh said the bank leveraged efficiency gains in business development and operations to grow earnings.

“We improved on our balance sheet management and pricing, thus ensuring a strong 19% growth in interest income as well as anenhanced net interest margin of 6.3%. Our improved service delivery and customized offerings helped in growing transaction banking volume, with attendant fee income” Nwaghodoh said.

But what may interest future investors more is the increasing contribution of the bank’s African subsidiaries to the banks earnings.   

“I am particularly excited by the performance of our business in Africa (ex-Nigeria), as we further our synergy extraction and pursuit of scale economics to achieve market share and earnings targets. Precisely, UBA Africa contributed 24% of our Group’s profit before tax in the 2015, despite the impact of cross-currency depreciation in some of our markets.”

Nwaghodoh also disclosed that management’s “prudence and discipline in risk asset creation over the past half-decade sustained the quality of our loan portfolio; NPL ratio stabilized at 1.7% with full provisions coverage.”

The bank closed the 2015 financial year with a total assets base of N2.75 trillion, deposits of N2.08 trillion, a loan book of N1.04 trillion and Shareholders funds of N333 billion which was 25% higher when compared with N264 billion in 2014.

Recently, financial analysts at Nigeria’s top securities firm, Afrinvest  recommended UBA as one of the top stocks to buy in 2016 citing its “rich return on equity, lower cost profile and relatively healthier balance sheet, as positive driver of earnings and sentiment”.

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