Posted: Thursday 24th April 2014 at 9:06 am

Top banks fight for supremacy


The financial statements released by Ghana’s universal banks in March this year, covering  their respective financial performances for 2013 have revealed that even as the biggest three banks — Ecobank, Ghana Commercial Bank and Standard Chartered Bank — have retained their positions in that order, adjudged by total assets, there have also been some major changes at the upper end of the banking industry’s hierarchy.

Stanbic Bank which broke into the rarefied atmosphere of the top five banks in 2012, has climbed higher still and by the end of 2013 ranks fourth, ahead of Barclays Bank which has fallen to fifth, its lowest ranking yet.

Instructively however, Barclays remains fourth, ahead of Stanbic by the other measure of size of shareholder funds.

But there are even bigger changes at the top of the banking industry’s ladder, when adjudged by total assets. Two banks that were part of the biggest 10 as at the end of 2012 have dropped out of this elite grouping. These are Societe Generale and UT Bank which ranked 9th and 10th respectively by the end of 2012. They have been replaced a year later by Zenith Bank and UBA. While UBA has edged in at 10th, Zenith Bank has literally stormed in at 6th.

Even as Ghana’s universal banks prepare for another round of recapitalization as dictated by the Bank of Ghana and at the same time struggle to expand down market into the turf currently held by savings and loans as well as micro-finance institutions, the fight for supremacy among themselves has become more intense than ever.

Ghana’s banks are often suspected of collusive, oligopolistic pricing, with regards to both deposit and lending rates, but this takes nothing away from the sheer intensity of the competition for supremacy with regards to size and profitability in the industry.

This goes far beyond the yearning for bragging rights. Much more importantly, being rated among the biggest and most financially strong banks is a veritable tool in attracting depositors and high quality borrowers.

Indeed the impending next round of recapitalization in the industry is dictated primarily by the need for the banks to get bigger so they can handle bigger ticket loan transactions. It is instructive that this is the BoG’s reaction to the increasing frequency with which banks ask for special dispensation to exceed the lending limits placed on them in relation to their own capital and their deposits.

The top 10 banks adjudged by total assets are not necessarily the same as the top 10 ranked by the other major measures of size- shareholders funds, loans and advances and deposits. However six of the top 10 ranked by total assets also make the grade by all the other aforementioned parameters

Standard Chartered, Stanbic, Barclays and Agricultural Development Bank. Instructively the first five of these aforementioned banks are also the biggest five adjudged by total assets. ADB on its own part fell from 6th in 2012 to 8th in 2013 in the ranking by total assets.

The importance of the biggest 10 banks in Ghana’s banking industry should not be underestimated. As at the end of 2013 the biggest 10, adjudged by assets accounted for 69.74%of the entire industry’s total assets. This statistic though is not entirely accurate since it does not take into account the assets of four banks which did not meet the BoG’s end of March 2014 dead-line for publishing their 2013 financial year results.

These are Merchant Bank, Bank of Baroda, Sahel Sahara Bank [BSIC], and First Capital Plus Bank. However apart from the financially troubled Merchant Bank, the others are the smallest banks in Ghana and their cumulative assets do not amount to much when compared with those held by the rest of the industry.

Importantly though, even without taking those four banks assets into consideration the market share of the biggest 10 banks by assets fell marginally from 69.93% as at the end of 2012.

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