Clarification About The Real Owners Of Heritage Bank

Heritage bank is a bank that has passed through many challenges but always emerged stronger. The ownership of the bank has always been a subject which some reports do claim Saraki and family hold ownership of Heritage bank. Is this really true?

Well, it is not a secret that the defunct Societe Generale Bank (SGBN) which was later transformed to Heritage bank was owned by the Saraki Family.  SGBN was mismanaged, became unhealthy and later financially dead.

After years, a group of investors out-rightly bought the bank with a new vision emerging as Heritage bank. In further to de-market Heritage bank, some reports also claimed that Tunde Ayeni, former Chairman of Skye bank and Saraki co-owned Heritage bank.

It is a truth that Tunde Ayeni has shares in Heritage bank but less than one percent which makes it very marginal. Tunde Ayeni also has marginal shares in other banks in Nigeria. Does it make him owner or controller of those banks? Absolute no.

Heritage bank

To further debunk mischievous claims about the real owners of the bank, Mr. Ifie Sekibo, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Bank Plc, in an interviewed with This Day Newspaper corrects the wrong notions that Saraki own the bank.

Here is an excerpt below:

Another issue that keeps reoccurring is the relationship of your bank with the Senate President. What is Senator Bukola Saraki’s stake in Heritage Bank?

Yes, from the very first day we opened Heritage Bank and the press wanted clarity of this, I took out time to explain our relationship. A group of us, young men and investors, put money together and approached the owners of Societe Generale Bank (SGBN). We held a meeting between SGBN, the new investors and the CBN. And a decision was made to say we the new investors should buy 80 per cent of the bank. Eleven per cent of the bank was given to depositors who had indicated their interest to convert their deposits to shares and the former holders which included Saraki; but it is important to note that Saraki was not the only owner of that bank.

They were 19 other shareholders. Those old shareholders (Saraki inclusive) were given 9 per cent of the bank. My group that came in as new investors, bought 80 per cent with N10.2 billion cash, not N11 billion or N12 billion. That is why when they say I laundered N12 billion, I was just laughing at them. We paid N10.2 billion for a regional bank. The depositors who had their monies in the former SGBN wrote to the CBN that they want to convert their monies to shares and were allotted 11 per cent of the bank. The 9 per cent was allotted to the former shareholders. Thereafter, we raised new capital through a private placement that was publicly subscribed to, in which case we had about 56 new shareholders and the Saraki group did not subscribe to even one new share.

So, they got diluted down to about 4 per cent. When we now got into Enterprise Bank, in order to acquire the bank, we went to the capital market again and raised N11 billion from the market. That N11 billion was over 100 shareholders. Again, I repeat, the Saraki group did not subscribe to any new shares. They got diluted to less than 1 per cent of the bank. And we bought Enterprise Bank. If you look at the shareholding structure of Heritage bank as at today, because they did not subscribe to new shares in the two rounds of capital raising, they now have less than one per cent of the bank.

But whenever people go out there, they would say it is Saraki’s bank. I have said anybody can go to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), you can come to our office to ask for the register of shareholders. We have an annual general meeting in which the register was made public. See, whether there is a pseudo or anything whatsoever, you can trace. You can take each of the shareholders and trace them. Saraki is also alive, you can ask him if he has at any point in time added to his shares at Heritage Bank.

But would I deny that they were the owners of the bank before we bought it? It is true! I was a secondary school boy if not less, when SGBN was running. I wasn’t part of it, I am just an investor. Many investors had tried to buy SGBN over the years, but we succeeded. If anything, I think we deserve commendation. Rather than crucify us, we should be given national awards for bringing a dead bank back to life. I dare people to go do a research of the whole world, whether a bank had gone down and come back to life. We have done it. If nothing, as a Nigerian, I am proud of myself. Every press that tries to run us down tries to call a Saraki into it. The good news is that we turned SGBN around and people got their monies and are able to transact their businesses.