HFC Bank eyes oil and gas industry

HFC Bank Limited is to participate in the oil and gas business despite establishing itself as a small and medium enterprise (SME) and retail bank of high repute. 

The Managing Director of the bank, Mr Asare Akuffo, said at its annual general meeting in Accra that the bank would  look to lend to players in the nascent oil and gas industry in 2013 but added that it would maintain its grip on retail banking and financing to SMEs.

“We are first an SME and retail bank but we also know that there are bigger deals out there which we need to take advantage of,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

“Oil and gas will not be our primary area; It’s just a new and important field that we are going to participate in,” Mr Akuffo added.

HFC Bank has since its establishment carved a niche for itslef as a retail bank and lender of last resort to SMEs. It also has deep foot prints in mortgage financing, having helped thousands of Ghanaians to own houses of their choice throughout the country.

The bank is currently the only financial institution in the country to be a member of  the World Savings Banks Institute (WSBI), a global body of savings and retail lenders. 

HFC’s MD admitted in the interview that the decision to move into the oil and gas sector was influenced by its new partner – the Republic Bank of Trinidad – but dismissed concerns that it was gradually losing its roots.

“Ghana is an SME country and we will remain as an SME bank,” he said.

The Republic Bank of Trinidad, the largest financial institution in the Caribean Region, holds about 8.8 per cent stake in thebank following a private placement undertaken last year.

HFC’s MD also dismissed concerns that it was gradually losing its indigenous status, explaining that until a time when local investor appetite in HFC begins to dwindle, the bank will continue to have majority of its shares in the hands of locals.

“When that happens (local investor appetite in HFC declines), then of course the foreigners can come but I don’t even foresee that time soon,” he added.

Meanwhile, HFC’s net interest income rose from GH¢39.74 million in 2011 to GH¢45.46 million. Its net profit also rose by 42.1 per cent – from GH¢9.9 million in 2011 to GH¢15.4 million last year.

The board recommended a dividend of about three pesewas per share for the year under review.

Story: Maxwell Adombila Akalaare/Graphic Business

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