As the squabble for the soul of FBN Holdings Plc, the oldest bank in the country, continues, the regulator of the Pension industry, the National Pension Commission (“PenCom”) has knocked off the claim of Mr. Tunde Hassan-Odukale as being the purported owner of 375,194,599 units or 1.05 percent equity stake of Leadway Pensure in FBN Holdings Plc. While Mr. Odukale may have made the claim as the Chairman of Leadway Pensure Limited, with influence on the Board and the company, the Pension regulator clarified that the investments of Leadway Pensure in FirstBank are for the ultimate beneficial owners of the Fund, being pension contributors, hence Odukale cannot lay claim to such asset, even so, he is the Chairman of the pension company.
According to PenCom, “The equity investments in FBN Holdings made by Leadway Pensure Ltd on behalf of the pension funds under its management are in the name of the pension fund and belong to the RSA holders. Therefore, the equity investments in FBN Holdings Plc cannot be appropriated or classified as shareholdings of any related party to the PFA.”
With this assertion by PenCom, Hassan Odukale’s disclosed interest in FBN Holdings Plc would be down to 4.31 percent, which ranks him below the 5.0 percent threshold for significant shareholders and of course vindicates Mr. Femi Otedola’s claim as the single largest shareholder of the 127-year-old institution, with 5.04 percent disclosed and unopposed interest.
Analysts suggest that the insurance regulator, National Insurance Commission (“NAICOM”) perhaps would also seek to clarify the investments of Leadway Assurance Company Limited and Leadway Assurance Premium & Investment Collection Account as belonging to the company and not those of Mr. Tunde Hassan Odukale, as the assets form a part of the capital of the insurance company, operating under the regulation of NAICOM.
Notably, Mr. Odukale has notified FBN Holdings of his indirect ownership of 2.11 percent 1.36 percent equity interest through the two vehicles, respectively. Even so, the investments represent assets backing the liabilities of the company and providing an adequate buffer for its solvency. Hence, the question on the street is whether or not the claim of Mr. Odukale fits the provisions of NAICOM.
While some minority shareholders in the bank believe that both Mr. Hassan Odukale and Mr. Femi Otedola have been accumulating more shares in a seeming wrestle for the governance control of FBN Holdings, the PenCom statement may have set back Mr. Odukale by one step. As opined by a capital market veteran, Mr. Yadinma Onwu; “FBN’s Annual General Meeting should be interesting, as it should provide clarity on who gains control. Ahead of the general meeting, either side and their supporters are likely to continue to buy the shares of FBN Holdings to consolidate their positions and gain relevant voting rights to call for a poll for influence resolutions at the forthcoming general meeting”.
Interestingly, the shares of FBN Holdings rallied further on Monday, 22 November, gaining 6.49 percent to close at N12.30 per share after 88.7 million units worth N1.08 billion were traded on the Nigerian Exchange (NGX).