Home » Nigeria’s richest banker Jim Ovia’s Zenith Bank announces expansion into France

Nigeria’s richest banker Jim Ovia’s Zenith Bank announces expansion into France

Zenith Bank's strategic leap: Entering the French market alongside Nigerian financial giants

by Omokolade Ajayi
Jim Ovia

Zenith Bank, a Lagos-based financial services group founded and partly owned by Nigeria’s richest banker Jim Ovia, is set to broaden its global presence with an ambitious expansion into France.

The move, which signals Zenith Bank’s commitment to diversification beyond the African continent, was revealed by Managing Director Ebenezer Onyeagwu, during the Chartered Institute of Bankers annual dinner on Fri., Nov. 24.

Onyeagwu announced, “This afternoon, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of France to signal the commencement of the issuance of a banking license to Zenith to commence operations in France.”

While specific details regarding regulatory approvals and the timeline for the French subsidiary were not disclosed, the strategic move aligns with Zenith Bank’s broader goal of fortifying its financial position and expanding its influence within the global financial services landscape.

Zenith Bank’s remarkable financial performance: Profits skyrocket to $543.04 million in 9M 2023

Founded in 1990 by Ovia — who ranks as Nigeria’s richest banker — Zenith Bank has become a leading lender not only in Nigeria but across anglophone West Africa. With a robust operation spanning the Gambia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, the United Kingdom, UAE, and China, the bank under the leadership of Ovia continues to return impressive value to its shareholders.

Ovia, with a 16.2-percent stake in Zenith Bank, is not only a key figure in Nigeria’s banking industry but also a pioneer in the sector’s digital transformation—his leadership have been instrumental in Zenith Bank’s ascent as the largest listed financial services group on the Nigerian Exchange.

The bank, which ranks as Nigeria’s most profitable bank, recently reported a surge in its profits, from N174.33 billion ($218.04 million) in the first nine months of 2022 to N434.17 billion ($543.04 million) during the same period in 2023—this financial performance underscores Zenith Bank’s resilience in a dynamic economic landscape.

Zenith Bank’s total assets have expanded from N12.28 trillion ($15.36 billion) at the start of the year to N18.16 trillion ($22.72 billion) as of Sept. 30, 2023. In a similar vein, the bank’s retained earnings surged from N625 billion ($781.8 million) to an impressive N893.9 billion ($1.12 billion).

Zenith Bank’s strategic leap: Entering the French market alongside Nigerian financial giants

The decision to venture into the French market positions Zenith Bank in league with other Nigerian financial giants — such as First Bank, UBA, and Access Holdings — all of whom are actively pursuing expansion strategies beyond the African continent. 

Access Holdings, led by Herbert Wigwe, unveiled plans earlier this year to launch its French unit, setting the stage for potential competition in the French banking industry between these formidable African financial institutions.

As Zenith Bank sets its sights on the French market, industry analysts will be closely watching how this strategic move unfolds, as it not only enhances the bank’s global footprint but also solidifies its standing as a formidable force in the international financial services arena.

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