…Shareholder groups challenge regulator
By Chinenye Anuforo and Chinwendu Obienyi
About 35 quoted companies have been fined N296 million by the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) over their failure to file financial statements with the NSE as slated in their listing requirement.
A cursory look at the affected entities show that majority of them are in the insurance subsector, where most quoted securities have turned penny stocks due to low demand arising from Nigeria’s economic recession. The companies include African Alliance Plc, Equity Assurance Plc, Guinea Insurance Plc, Sovereign Trust Insurance Plc, Great Nigeria Insurance Plc, Niger Insurance Plc, Royal Insurance Plc and Standard Alliance Insurance Plc.
Others are AG Leventis Plc, Afromedia Plc, Austin Laz & Co. Plc, Capital Hotel Plc, Conoil Plc, CWG Plc, Daar Communications Plc, Dangote Flour Mills Plc, Diamond Bank Plc, Fidelity Bank Plc, Fortis Microfinance Bank Plc, Newrest ASL Plc, Nigerian Enamelware Plc, Pharma-Deko Plc, Premier Paints Plc, Presco Plc, Staco Plc, Standard Alliance Insurance Plc, Thomas Wyatt Plc, Union Diagnostic & Clinical Services Plc and Unity Bank Plc.
By its listing regulation, companies listed on the NSE are expected to file yearly and quarterly financial reports, 30 days after the end of each quarter. Usually, companies that fall short of this rule are tagged MRF (Missed Regulatory Filing) and the omission often attracts financial sanction.
A breakdown of X-Compliance report on the stock exchange website showed that for failing to file its first, second and third quarter 2016, Guinea Insurance Plc was fined N6.9 million, N11.6 million for failing to file 2016 audited report, while it was fined N3.8 million for failing to file its audited 2015 financial report on time.
Similarly, Great Nigeria Insurance was fined N5.3 million for defaulting in filing its 2015 financial report on time and N24.8 million for defaulting in filing 2016 audited result and 2017 first quarter result, while African Alliance Insurance was fined N46 million between December 2014 and first quarter 2017 for the same default. Equity Assurance got N11 million fine for default filing of its 2016 audited result. Fortis Microfinance Bank, on other hand, got N19.8 million fine for failing to file its 2016 financial report as at when due.
Other defaulting companies include AG Leventis, N2.9 million; Afromedia, N200,000; Austin Laz & Co. Plc, N5.4 million; Capital Hotel, N2.1 million; Capital Oil will pay N1.1 million; Conoil, N13.5 million; CWG, N2.1 million; Daar Communications, N18.3 million; Dangote Flour Mills, N500,000; Diamond Bank, N2.4 million; Fidelity Bank, N700,000; Newrest ASL, N2.5 million; Nigerian Enamelware, N900,000; Pharma-Deko, N1.6 million; Premier Paints, N11.2 million; Presco, N1.5 million; Staco, N7.5 million; Standard Alliance Insurance, N8.2 million; Royal Exchange, N7.3 million; Thomas Wyatt, N46.8 million; Union Diagnostic & Clinical Services, N3.9 million; and Unity Bank, N500,000.
Commenting on the sanction which some observers described as punitive in a time of recession, Boniface Okezie, a shareholder activist, said that violating listing rules should not be encouraged because the stock market is information driven. He, however, said the NSE as a self-regulatory body must find out why the affected companies did not meet the submission of their results as at when due.
“The penalty may not solve the problem but could also help to ginger them not to default again. The penalty fees are so ridiculous. Even if you want to fine companies for defaulting, the NSE should try to reduce such staggering amount as these companies may have encountered one problem or the other that prevented them from meeting the deadline. So, why compound the problems by giving them high bills to pay at the end of the day? Yes, you must put the penalty to serve as deterrent to others who might fall into this category but don’t kill the companies by imposing fines amounting to hundreds of millions of naira. It is totally unacceptable,” Okezie warned.
Meanwhile, the Founder, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Mr. Sunny Nwosu, argued that the sanction by NSE was too alarming as most of these companies don’t pay dividends because the little profit they have made is being used to pay the penalty fees imposed on them due to their inability to submit their audited financial results.
“I also believe that stiff penalty fee is not the solution to the issue of not meeting up with submission of annual returns to the NSE. Again, this can force some of these companies to delist from the exchange and once they delist from the exchange, some history and antecedent has not seen stock exchange helping us recover our investment in these companies when they delist.”
The issue again, Nwosu continued, “is that some of us invested in these companies because they are listed on the stock exchange, which serves as a monitor for movement and appreciation of our shares. How much is the capital base of some of these companies that are being fined for about N41 million and hundreds of millions,” he asked.