When Tony Elumelu succumbed to Sanusi’s tenure deal with bankers, many knew that a lot would be unfolding. The reason was that Elumelu was forced out when the time was getting ripe for him to play the real game of banking. Five years after causing the biggest excitement in merger and acquisition in the country, he was believed to have been spoiling for more big games that would create an edge for his bank.
The movement to so many countries in Africa by the bank was part of the big moves which were expected to provide the platform for the bigger dream he had. His return from the wings of Heirs Holdings recreates his days in Standard Trust Bank when he changed all banking rules and processes. At least, this approach offers the local investment firms the pride of place. There is no doubt that Heirs Holding could hold its own in the equities market just like African Capital Alliance, Actis and other foreign firms that have taken over the Nigerian financial market.
Playing Big in the M&A stable is one action that Elumelu seems to have fallen in love with. His financial sector sojourn is full of such efforts that tended to create some upset or make big differences that offer growth propensity to the economy. The way Standard Trust Bank came into being from the ashes of the fallen Crystal Bank, where Elumelu began experiencing boardroom politics, was not different from his seamless absorption of Continental Trust Bank. But the height of his entire M&A interplay was the way he rounded up all the issues and powers in UBA and made the greatest mark in the post consolidation realignment . It was the most confidential M&A plot ever known in Nigerian economic history which result has been one point that has continued to offer confidence to investors in the banking sector.
Although UBA has not really leveraged that powerful coalition of great players but it is still a fact that the size of the bank remains a major source of concern to strategic planners who would be very conscious of income and expenditure. Such issues do not remove the ingenuity in the act, but remain a pointer to the way forward for operators.
One failed bid that could be associated with him was the purchase of Savannah Bank which he had concluded plot to take over through his subsidiary before Jim Nwobodo posted a big bid but still had to come to the subsidiary to buy over all that it had mopped up from the floor of the exchange so as to have a control. In that process, Elumelu made a killing as Jim Nwobodo had to pay as much as N4 instead of N1 per share already held by the subsidiary .
While the subsidiary was still grumbling over its failure to win Elumelu’s mandate on Savannah Bank acquisition, it equally raked in billions from that transaction. At a point in time, Elumelu was the only Nigerian that owned two banks; one commercial and the other a merchant bank in his bid to remain largely influential and responsive to the Nigerian financial market. With the introduction of universal banking, he merged the two banks and presented to Nigerians the biggest domestic bank. If the Savannah adventure was successful, Elumelu may not have had the need for UBA or if he still needed UBA, that may have been as a way of fast-forwarding his African regional banking dream.
Watching his lips at the inaugural lecture during the presentation of his foundation, I was very sure that he has not reached where he was going and must be conscious of some new grounds that could create the new way. Obviously, he may be running away from the banking industry because his footprints are already there, but may be seeking entry through some areas where he may need to replay the expertise which many have associated him with.
Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc is one company that has huge potentials but many are scared of it because of its relationship with NITEL which has been considered as a sour side of our economy. Transcorp exhibited great hope and followership when it came up based on the powerful linkage it had with what was then known as Corporate Nigeria. When the company started losing grip, many of its frontiers abandoned it until when it finally met its waterloo, as its share price crashed to an abysmally very poor mark of 30 kobo. But still, looking at the rudiments of the company many saw the future of the company as good.
But Transcorp needed the strange courage and confidence of people like Elumelu to move on. Now that HH has come, I expect the kind of magic Actis did in UAC, when it entered UAC at N6 per share and grew the equity to more than N30 per share before deciding to exit at the wee hours of the meltdown. Now that Transcorp is virtually at its lowest ebb, one thing that HH ‘s entry must be seen to be suggesting is that the company can be valuable and investors can live on its value over time.
Ten per cent in any thing is a lot. This core investment figure offers HH the opportunity to match its capacity with those of others who have been here for some time now and who had always operated in consonance with the dictates of their foreign partners. There is no gainsaying the fact that shareholders of Transcorp will welcome this development because it is courageous and unusual.
Under normal conditions, Elumelu and his Heirs Holdings would want to take this kind of money to import cement or rice and make huge profits but that would not add much value to the economy. Nigerians should stand up to greet this courage as more of such would be the elixir for the dilapidating development structures that tend to torment the future of our economy. It is wise at this time for both the board and management of Transcorp to truly identify with this novel development so as to create ample opportunities for the investor to realise the kind of future they have for Nigerians.
Many would want to see HH become the African voice in new investments and the expansion of existing ones. Looking at his antecedents, Elumelu can propel a team that can achieve this. At least, this could be another way of telling Lamido Sanusi that he has not finished. His ambition can be very fulfilling: from a mega bank to a conglomerate. That is the best way to move on!