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Otedola acquires additional stake in First Bank Holdings to become undisputed largest shareholder

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First Bank
First Bank

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Nigeria’s billionaire magnate and chair of Geregu Power Plc Femi Otedola has acquired a further interest in FBN Holdings Plc, the parent company of Nigeria’s oldest lender First Bank, an affirmation that the heated battle for the soul of the financial services group among its principal shareholders is not yet over.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the matter told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Otedola acquired at least 2.5 per cent additional interest in the company, bringing his total stake to 7.57 per cent. Mr Otedola previously made piecemeal acquisitions summing up to 5.07 per cent.

A disclosure of the latest development to the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) is expected on Friday, PREMIUM TIMES learned.

The purchase will formally consolidate his position as the single biggest shareholder of FBN Holdings, placing him well ahead of his closest rival Tunde Hassan-Odukale, FirstBank’s chairman, whom he has come in contention with since the news of his share acquisitions broke into the open late October.

Tunde Hassan-Odukale, chairman FirstBank
Tunde Hassan-Odukale, chairman FirstBank

Mr Otedola’s earlier move spurred Mr Hassan-Odukale to swiftly lay claim to 5.36 per cent shareholding in the holdco in what he called “cumulative equity stake” drawn from a combination of his direct, indirect and related party shareholding in the group.
Days after, the board of FBN Holdings issued a letter seen by PREMIUM TIMES to the Corporate Affairs Commission, notifying Hassan-Odukale’s “5.36 per cent” cumulative stake and other related details. A spokesperson of the commission told PREMIUM TIMES that the letter was not delivered to it.

But the controversial aspect of his declaration, particularly his claim to 1.05 per cent stake held by Leadway Pensure PFA, a company owned by Mr Hassan-Odukale, attracted disapproval from the NGX and the National Pension Commission.

The wrangle around the claim lies in how an equity investment from a pool of employees’ pension contributions could qualify as a single individual’s investment.

FirstBank's iconic headquarters building in Marina, Lagos
FirstBank’s iconic headquarters building in Marina, Lagos

While the NGX queried FBN Holdings in October, asking it to explain what it meant by “cumulative equity stake” and Mr Hassan-Odukale’s claim to investment by Leadway Pensure PFA, the pension office late affirmed that shares of FBN Holdings Plc belong to Retirement Savings Account holders, and not a third party as FBN Holdings had claimed.

That technically puts Hassan-Odukale’s interest in the entity at 4.31 per cent after deducting the controversial stake.

On Tuesday, Lagos-based FBN Holdings issued its earnings report for the first nine months of this year, showing profit slumped by 40 per cent.

Although issues around who takes the top spot on the lender’s shareholding ladder seems to have lost steam in recent times, data on the daily transactions in FBN Holdings shares in the last 10 trading days show 1.444 billion units of the group’s shares were traded, making it the most active of the 156 stocks listed on the NGX.

The unusually large volume of traded shares is an indication that the two major shareholders could still be acquiring the lender’s shares without the public knowing.

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