Zenith Bank Plc expects to grow its loan book by 2.5 per cent this year, as a recovering economy and a drive to win business with manufacturers helps to offset a decline in credit in the first half, it said on Tuesday.

The bank said weak economic growth affected lending last year. However, as the economy improves it expects loans to grow, especially as the central bank introduces liquidity to the banking sector targeting credit to manufacturers.

“For the manufacturing sector, we still see some opportunity there. We believe that there would be an incentive for the manufacturers … and the engagement has started,” Reuters quoted Zenith Bank to have said.

Zenith Bank Plc had announced an interim dividend of N9.42 billion for the half year (H1) ended June 30, 2018, following the release of the bank’s results.

The dividend, which translated to 30 kobo per share, is higher than the N7.5 billion or 25 kobo paid in the corresponding period of 2017.

Zenith Bank Plc posted gross earnings of N322.2 billion in 2018, down from N380.4 billion in 2017. Net interest income stood at N154 billion compared with 139 billion in 2017.

Impairment charges fell from N42.4 billion to N9.7 billion, while non-interest income reduced from N118.2 billion to N93.5 billion.

Profit before tax improved from N92.2 billion to N107.4 billion, while PAT stood at N81.7 billion, compared with N75.3 billion in 2017.

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