For the greater part of 2021, there was a growing sense of cautious optimism that finally the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was behind us. However, towards the end of the year, our resilience was put to the test once more as the spread of new variants necessitated the reintroduction of various restrictions. That presented challenges to businesses emanating from a slowdown in the global economy and supply chain disruptions. Despite these factors, the Zimbabwean economy continued to show signs of resilience and recovery.
The various economic stabilization initiatives, including the foreign exchange auction system introduced in June 2020, resulted in a significant drop in inflation with, year-on-year inflation (Y.o.Y) dropping from a high of 837% recorded in July 2020, to 60.74% as of December 2021. Month-on-month inflation (M.o.M) averaged 4.05% during the year 2021.
During the period under review, the local currency depreciated by 32.9% from ZW$81.7866/US$ to ZW$108.666/US$. In 2021, total foreign currency receipts inflows into the economy increased by 53% to US$9.7 billion, a record high compared to US$6.3 billion in 2020. The performance was driven by increased commodity prices, increased capacity utilization across sectors, international remittances, and gold incentives put in place by the government.
Notwithstanding the economic headwinds, the economy achieved an economic growth rate of 7.8% on the back of the continuation of the tight monetary and fiscal consolidation, a good agricultural season and the stabilization effect brought by the auction system.
Operating income increased from ZW$3.4 billion to ZW$6.98 billion for the year ended 31 December 2021, largely driven by growth in transaction volumes and values during the period under review. Total comprehensive income for the period amounted to ZW$2.25 billion (Dec 2020 ZW$1.66 billion).The Group achieved a basic earnings per share of 463 cents (Dec 2020 – 338 cents).
Operating expenses at ZW$3.5 billion, were 72% above the 2020 levels, reflecting the effects of inflation and exchange rate depreciation. The Bank continues to pay special focus on its digitization strategy which is expected to increase efficiencies resulting in cost reduction.
Total assets closed the year at ZW$29.4 billion, up 67% from ZW$ 17.6 billion as at 31 December 2020, funded by strong growth in customer deposits as the banking subsidiary continues to grow its customer base. Customer deposits and other liabilities increased by 85% reflecting strong personal and commercial inflows following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
The Group’s investment property portfolio was valued at ZW$3.5 billion as at 31 December 2021 while property and equipment stood at ZW$4.1 billion. The revaluation gains largely reflect the changes in the macro economic environment.
Loans and advances and other assets stood at ZW$12.4 billion as at 31 December 2021, increasing by 93% from prior period levels. The banking subsidiary maintained a high-quality loan book, closing the year with an NPL ratio of 1.33%.
The Bank maintained a sound liquidity position with a liquidity ratio of 41% and this was above the statutory minimum of 30%.
The capital adequacy ratio of the banking subsidiary remained strong at 57.48% compared to a regulatory minimum of 12%. The subsidiary maintained adequate capital levels to cover all risks and was compliant with the minimum capital of the equivalent of USD30 million.
The Board has resolved not to declare a dividend in order to fund the growth initiatives being pursued by the Group as well as buttress the regulatory capital position of the Group’s banking subsidiary.
The banking subsidiary owed USD13.4 million to various line of credit providers as at 31 December 2021 which have been registered as Blocked Funds with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in line with regulatory directives. In 2021, the Government of Zimbabwe assumed the obligation to settle these Blocked Funds in terms of section 52 of the Finance Act no 7 of 2021. The Blocked funds are listed under Annex 1 of the Finance Act no 7 of 2021. In terms of section 52 of the Finance Act no 7 of 2021, outstanding blocked funds may be liquidated through the issuance of Government-backed zero coupon or non-interest-bearing foreign exchange savings bonds or such other debt instruments denominated in foreign currency. The timing of issuance of the Government-backed instruments is yet to be advised.
LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE LISTING
At the 2021 Annual General Meeting, the Company sought and obtained shareholder approval to delist from the London Stock Exchange following a determination that the regulatory compliance and administrative costs that the Company was incurring annually were high and outweighed any benefits derived or to be derived from the dual listing. Having obtained shareholder approval, the Company applied and obtained approval to delist from the London Stock Exchange with effect from 8 July 2021. The delisting did not adversely affect any of our shareholders as the company’s shares continue to be listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange where the company has always maintained its primary listing. The number of shares held on the London Stock Exchange was 198 443 shares. The Company is in the process of winding up administrative processes related to the delisting.
Mr. Benefit Washaya retired at the end of December 2021 after serving as the Bank’s Chief Executive Officer for fourteen years. He was replaced by Mr. Gerald Gore, formerly the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, who was appointed Chief Executive Officer with effect from 1 January 2022. Mr. Benson Ndachena also resigned from his post as Chief Finance Officer with effect from 1 October 2021 to pursue other interests. He was replaced by Mrs. Margret Chipunza who assumed the role of Chief Financial Officer with effect from 30 September 2021.
I thank Mr. Washaya and Mr. Ndachena for their sterling contribution to the Group and I wish them well in their future endeavors. I am confident in the ability of the incoming Executive team to take NMB into our next growth phase.
OUTLOOK AND STRATEGY
The Bank will continue to accelerate the digitization strategy with the main aim being to provide seamless digital financial solutions to both corporate and individual clients. The Group will continue to fund and support the productive sectors of the economy as part of our drive to support the growth of the Zimbabwean economy. I will be coming back to the market with further developments on this front.
I thank our valued clients, depositors, shareholders, regulatory authorities and other key stakeholders for their continued support. To my fellow board members, management and staff, I extend my heartfelt gratitude for their continued diligence, dedication and relentless efforts which have culminated in the achievement of these commendable results.
B. A. CHIKWANHA