Business News of 2014-05-14

Republic Bank to transform mortgage financing

Republic Bank, which holds 40 per cent stake in HFC Bank, is set to introduce a major transformational change into mortgage financing in the country, carving out products to suit various income levels in the country.

This means the lower income bracket which has been denied access to mortgages over the years by current players in the industry will be exposed to a package to enable them to access funds to acquire their own homes.

Most of the people within the lower income bracket are the civil and public servants whose income is low.

Group General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Republic Bank, Ms Jacqueline Quarmina, said the largest commercial bank in the Caribbean plans to introduce a three-tier mortgage financing plan, to make way for lower to middle and upper class income earners in the country.

HFC Bank, which pioneered mortgage financing in the country, used to help average workers to finance the cost of their homes. However, the type of houses being financed, not only by HFC but also other mortgage products on the market, tend to favour luxury homes, with little intervention on affordable houses.

But Ms Quarmina, in an exclusive interview with the graphic business, said “Republic Bank has the experience and deeper pocket to change the face of mortgage financing in the country because we have done it and continue to do it in all our networks spread within the Caribbean.”

The bank has over US$350 million portfolio in mortgage financing across its operational areas and wants to add Ghana to its growing list of markets where mortgage financing has not been made easy, particularly for those within the lower income bracket.

Acquisition Timeline

Officials of Republic Bank Limited (RBL) are hopeful of completing the final takeover of HFC Bank by September this year after meeting all requirements set by the financial regulators.

The Caribbean bank is currently baiting shareholders with an offer of GH¢1.60 per share up from the initial indicative offer of GH¢1.30 pesewas.

The revised offer represents a 65 per cent premium over the mandatory price and 28 per cent above the current price of HFC that is trading at 1 cedi 25 pesewas on the Ghana Stock Exchange, all in a bid to entice shareholders to sell their shares.

Group General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of Republic Bank, Ms Jacqueline Quarmina, who ruled out any immediate plans to re-brand HFC after the successful takeover, said the acquisition of HFC emphasised their philosophy of maintaining strong local participation in all of its overseas investments.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) code on takeovers and mergers requires a shareholder in a listed company whose shareholding reaches over 30 per cent to make an offer to remaining shareholders.

The Trinidad and Tobago bank applied for a waiver from the SEC for an exemption from the requirement to make a mandatory takeover offer for the remaining shares in HFC Bank to study the Ghana banking terrain. The application for the waiver was however rejected.

In line with that, RBL announced on April 17, that it would make an offer to all shareholders of HFC Bank to increase its investment in the bank.

“We at RBL remained committed to adding value to HFC Bank, including the provision of opportunities, continued professional development of staff and growth and expansion of its products and service offerings,” Ms Quarmina said.

How Republic Bank bought HFC

Republic Bank first purchased 8.79 per cent shares in HFC Bank Ghana for an amount of US$8 million in December 2012, after invitations from the commercial arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

The bank bought the stake when HFC floated 112,420,246 ordinary shares under a private placement.

Republic's stake further increased to 32.02 per cent after buying 23.23 per cent additional shares which was previously held by Aureos Africa Fund LLC.

On Friday, June 7, 2013 Republic Bank acquired 68,854,703 ordinary shares of no par value in HFC Bank Ghana Limited from Aureos Africa Fund LLC at a price of GH¢0.56 per share.

It further acquired 7.98 per cent additional shares in 2013 from Union Bank of Nigeria which increased its shareholding in the bank to the current 40 per cent.

The Trinidad-based bank purchased 23,638,340 ordinary shares at a price of GH¢0.67 (US$0.31) per share, making it the single largest shareholder in HFC Bank Ghana.

About Republic Bank

Republic Bank Limited is one of the largest and most successful independent commercial banks in the English-speaking Caribbean. Republic Bank has served retail-banking customers, corporate clients and governments throughout the region for 176 years.

Today, the Republic Bank Group has a staff complement across the Caribbean region of 4,098. Republic Bank Limited has considerable experience in retail banking particularly in the area of mortgages and credit cards.

It also has extensive knowledge of financing of the oil and gas sectors in Trinidad and Tobago. As of September 2013, the assets of Republic Bank Limited stood at US$9.1 billion, with equity at US$1.3 billion and profits attributable to shareholders for the year ended September 2013 of US$182.2 million.