Standard & Poor’s (S&P) said it has revised its outlook on Ecobank Nigeria Limited to ‘stable,’ from ‘negative’ and affirmed the bank’s ‘B/B’ long and short-term counterparty credit ratings.

According to the agency, Ecobank Nigeria was considered to be a core subsidiary within the Ecobank Group, adding that as a result, its ratings on the lender reflect the wider group credit profile.

It further stated that the outlook revision reflected its view, adding that “Ecobank Group’s management has addressed the significant liquidity risks and is improving the capitalisation and asset quality of the Nigerian business, while implementing a wider strategy of improving asset quality and financial performance around the group.”

According to S&P, “Ecobank Nigeria is considered to be a core subsidiary within the Ecobank Group. As a result, our ratings on Ecobank Nigeria reflect the wider group credit profile. On Dec. 31, 2016, Ecobank Nigeria accounted for approximately 30 per cent of total assets and loans and 46 per cent of total adjusted capital (TAC) of the group. Furthermore, a large percentage of the group’s asset quality issues emanated from Nigeria because of ENG’s legacy problem loans and its concentrated lending in U.S. dollars to the oil and gas sector.”

The agency also stated that the financial year ending December 2016, was difficult for the group in terms of asset quality, profitability, and ultimately capitalisation, adding that risk costs were significantly higher than it (S&P) expected at year-end 2016, when loan-loss provisions reached 7.95 per cent of average customer loans, up from 4.33per cent a year earlier.

The global rating agency added: “We consider that the forex translation losses, combined with the reshaping of the business by the new management team and institutional shareholders, reflect the difficult macroeconomic and legacy issues in the group’s key markets, especially Nigeria. Positively, going into the first half of 2017, the group gained some momentum on strengthening control of risk and operating costs. Ultimately, this will improve the group’s bottom line.”