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First Bank Nigeria Says 6-Month Profit More Than Doubled

First Bank of Nigeria Plc, the country’s third-biggest lender by market value, said profit for the six months through June more than doubled.

Net income surged to 46 billion naira ($285.9 million) from 20.5 billion naira a year earlier, the Lagos-based lender said today in an e-mailed statement. Revenue rose to 182.3 billion naira from 145.1 billion naira, while net interest income increased to 108.9 billion naira from 96.2 billion naira.

The period was made difficult by an uncertain global economic outlook and declining oil prices for Africa’s top producer amid tight liquidity and high interest rates, Chief Executive Officer Bisi Onasanya said in the statement. “Notwithstanding these headwinds, we were able to moderate the impact on our cost of funds,” he said.

First Bank is seeing increased earnings after Nigerian regulatory reforms following a debt crisis in 2008 and 2009. Loans to speculators in the local capital market and the oil industry brought the West African nation’s financial system to the verge of collapse. The central bank bailed out eight banks and set up the Asset Management Corp. of Nigeria to buy bad debts from all lenders.

The bank’s annualized return on equity is 25 percent, “and we believe we can sustain this by December,” Bayo Adelabu, the Chief Financial Officer, said by phone from Lagos today. First Bank also hopes to achieve a loan growth rate of 15 percent by the end of the year, he said.

First Bank shares rose 0.5 percent to 11.86 naira by the close. The stock has risen 33 percent this year, compared with 11.8 percent in the Nigerian Stock Exchange All-Share Index.

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