‘Nigeria’s government is hurting the private sector’: Herbert Wigwe, chief executive officer of Access Bank
What are the hindrances to lending to the private sector?
Two things. Number one, people are going to be extremely careful with these currency issues with respect to companies that have imported raw materials. Secondly, the conversion cycles for most companies is a lot longer […]. But I guess the most significant is the fact that if the government is issuing treasury bills at 18% or 19%, by definition the after-tax yield on all of those things is already in the 20s — about 24% or 23%. Now why do I want to start exposing myself to companies and take the risk and take the liquidity risk as well when the after-tax yield is returning at the same level? That is really the issue. The government is also issuing treasury certificates and therefore making people, even at the retail level, want to invest in those treasury certificates. And by wanting to invest in those treasury certificates, technically you are crowding out the private sector from lending.
Where will the bank end up on key numbers at the end of 2017? And looking at the currency, some analysts are forecasting further devaluation.
I don’t know what you mean by further devaluation. I think where we are on the outward limit — which is between N350 and N370 — by any measure you use to determine the value of the naira we would fall well within that range. The critical thing is confidence, and we are getting more and more confident that the central bank will be able to deliver. But if you ask me, once we can converge the rates, whether it is downwards or whatever, we will be fine and I don’t think it will be far away from where we are right now. Confidence is being restored. Yes, government needs to do a couple of things on the fiscal side, but it will take a bit more time. There will be some changes in monetary policy I think, but 2018 will be a bit more stable, and definitely we should be coming out of the recession. For the bank, you know, when you are coming out of a recession, different things hit you […]. We must have the best asset-quality ratios in the industry. Definitely! But I think quite frankly we will remain within the guidance levels we’ve been given. For nonperforming loan ratios — well, well within 5%.
From the September2017 print edition