Access, First Bank, 3 others record N17bn unclaimed dividends

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By KELECHI MGBOJI

Returns filed by capital market registrars for third quarter 2012 showed that as at September 30, top five companies, Access Bank, First Bank, UACN Plc., Nestle Plc. and Fidelity Bank have the highest amount of unclaimed dividends, valued at N11.191 billion.

Access Bank had highest level of unclaimed dividends amounting to N3.456 billion followed by First Bank with N3.167 billion while UACN Plc recorded N1.972 billion.
The duo of Nestle Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc followed in that order with N1.369 billion and N1.227 billion, respectively.
During the period, the Securities and Exchange Commission received returns on unclaimed dividend totaling N17.414 billion for that period alone.

According to SEC quarterly report for the third quarter 2012 the value of unclaimed dividends had increased sharply in recent time, from about N27.8 billion in 2008 to N41.3 billion in 2009, only to hit N41.7 billion in 2010.
In 2011 it hit N50.2 but slightly increased further to N50.7 billion as at September 2012.

In April 2012, SEC disclosed that the stock of unclaimed dividend had risen to N52.2 billion from about N40 billion. But SEC quarterly report for third quarter 2012 which was released in November put the figure at N50.7 billion suggesting that owners of the money might have claimed about N2 billion or probably it got statue barred and was reverted to the originating companies.

The apex regulator had recently said it had begun strategic reduction of the outstanding unpaid dividends and tasked registrars on a radical solution to the problem adding that “we jointly considered a number of options and by the end of this quarter, the result will be felt.”

The Director General, Ms Arunma Oteh noted that the commission’s target was that in 2013 it should reduce the size outstanding dividend by 50 percent stressing the regulator aimed to finally dispose of the operational and regulatory bottlenecks that have led to the accumulation of unpaid dividends.

Oteh said the regulator understand that some of the shareholders are having problems on the issue of paying their dividends into current accounts as some of them do not  operate such account.
She noted that the commission is currently working with other regulators on how to ensure that dividends are paid directly to shareholders savings accounts.

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