The last has not been heard of the questionable acquisition of Enterprise Bank Limited by Heritage Banking Company Limited trading under the name of Heritage Bank.
It is a known fact that as at the time of its acquisition, Enterprise Bank Limited by all standards was more successful and vibrant than Heritage Bank, which acquired it.
One basic pointer to this fact remains that while Enterprise Bank Limited with 156 branches declared a profit of three billion in 2014, Heritage Bank with less than 10 operational branches has never declared its account in its years of doing business in Nigeria. As the puzzle begins to be unraveled, more questions than answers are emerging.
Latest developments and reactions from industry watchers are indicating that Heritage Bank might have played a fast one on the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), in the deal to acquire Enterprise Bank Limited especially with a Joint Petition to Sanction Scheme of Merger published in The Punch of Thursday, August 26 (pages 27 and 28).
Industry watchers are saying that the impression that has been created by the move gives the feeling that Heritage Bank from the start wanted to cause a big confusion when it made its bid for Enterprise Bank Limited. Many are of the opinion that Heritage Bank has a lot to hide hence it didn’t bid using its name, but a Special All-Purpose Vehicle (SPV), Heritage Investment Services Limited (HISL).
The question of why Heritage Bank didn’t follow the path of less confusion like Fidelity Bank which was a co-bidder for Enterprise Bank Limited and Skye Bank who bided for Mainstreet Bank using its name comes to play.
The position of a dubious acquisition process became more concrete with the petition published on Thursday, August 26 as the affidavit swore to bring a new company named Heritage Bank Limited to the picture causing more puzzle and furrowed eyebrows.
In the petition, Heritage Banking Company Limited (HBCL), among other things asked the court to transfer itself, its acquired financial institution (Enterprise Bank Limited) to an unknown company, a company without a known office or headquarters, one which nobody knows when it was setup, a firm which has never been known for the promotion of any bank, a company with no banking antecedent, and whose owner are not known to anyone, Heritage Bank Limited.
This singular act raises question, as Heritage Bank Limited (HBL), was never mentioned in the deal to acquire Enterprise Bank Limited. In fact, Enterprise Bank Limited was acquired by HISL, and for industry watchers, this amounts to a big fraud.
According to industry watchers, the fraud becomes more glaring when you consider the fact that on Monday, September 22, 2014, the Managing Director of Heritage Bank, Mr. Ifie Sekibo was quoted at a media parley which held at “The Refinery” Heritage Bank’s Training School enlightening journalists at the event that “Enterprise Bank Limited wasn’t acquired by Heritage Bank, but by HISL, even going further to introduce the Managing Director of the company, as Mr. Segun Akanji. In fact, the introduction was made when Mr. Sekibo broke the news that they had paid the initial 20 percent of the N 56 billion total bid needed for acquiring Enterprise Bank Limited.
This new situation has left industry watchers asking that at what point did Heritage Bank Limited come into the picture?
Heritage Bank’s case has also not been helped by the fact that Mr. Sekibo has been quoted as saying that Enterprise Bank Limited would be managed and made a better bank and within a year investors would be grateful they invested in the bank.
At no point did he ever said that the bank would be transferred less to an unknown company which has never done business before.
While the reason for the transfer of Enterprise Bank Limited to a new company is unknown industry watchers have speculated that it might just be in a bid to distance Heritage Bank Company Limited from its original owners who have been alleged to include the Saraki family.
According to some industry watchers, the 4th order asked for from the court by Heritage Bank Company Limited (HBCL), “AN ORDER: that each of the 1st and 2nd Petitioners (HBCL and Enterprise Bank Limited) be dissolved without winding-up” might just be the confirmation of a mega plan to hide some controversial issues from preying eyes.
Some of the questions being asked by industry watchers presently include:
1) Why did Heritage Bank run to the court to sanction the merger if indeed the bid was transparent and there was nothing to worry about?
2) Was the sanctioning by the court necessary because of the fear of a reversal by the no-nonsense and anti-corruption driven government of President Muhammadu Buhari?
3) Why is it that despite Sekibo’s assuring statement they have made a reverse and transferred Enterprise Bank Limited to an unknown company, was it all a scheme?
4) Doesn’t this give the impression that Mr. Sekibo is just a figurehead at the bank, while receiving orders from the real owner of the bank?
5) Where is the office or headquarters of Heritage Bank Limited and when was it setup?
6) What bank has Heritage Bank Limited ever promoted and what are its banking antecedents?
7) Who are the true owners of Heritage Bank Limited?
8) Most importantly what is the future of Enterprise Bank Limited and the fate of its legacy shareholders?
Reacting to the story, Group Head Corporate Affairs Heritage Bank said “Honestly, again there isn’t any basis or truth to this; if you follow the dynamics of this transaction which involved the CBN, SEC, AMCON, etc you will agree with me that all guidelines were followed to the letter. Heritage Banking Company ltd and Enterprise bank had court ordered meetings AS DIRECTED BY SEC! And in accordance with the transaction, directed that subsequent to CBN’s final approval (to allow both banks MERGE under the name – HERITAGE BANK LTD) that it (the approval) BE SANCTIONED BY THE COURTS and published in 2 national dailies there after (next working day to be precise)!.”
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