By Taofik Salako, Deputy Group Business EditorUnited Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc on Thursday assured that strategic decisions and investments over the years have strengthened the capacity of the pan-African financial group to sustain impressive growths in the years ahead.At the annual general meeting yesterday in Lagos, the bank reaffirmed its commitment to continuously improve shareholders returns and value creation for all stakeholders, having established a diversified business model that ensures impressive performance even in periods of uncertainty, across its geographical network.Group Chairman, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, Mr. Tony Elumelu, who addressed shareholders at the meeting and others who joined virtually across the globe, said the bank has made strategic decisions that will strengthen its resolve to earn the industry leadership that it has envisioned in Nigeria, Africa and globally.According to him, the bank remains committed to ensuring its viability amid an ever-changing business environment and to continue be a role model for African businesses by showcasing the best of Africa to the world.The work we have done in strengthening our governance structures group-wide and in improving our business and operating models in 2020 positions our bank to benefit from these recovery trends and to achieve significant market share gains across our operations, Elumelu said.He noted that the bank spearheaded strategic investments in digital banking and technology platforms to further promote self-service banking while also focusing on enhancing the capabilities of people through various online capacity development programmes.He pointed out that the groups African operations, excluding Nigeria, contributed approximately 55 per cent to the groups profits in 2020, illustrating that the group is truly a pan-African banking group.Key extracts of the audited report and accounts of UBA for the year ended December 31, 2020 showed that gross earnings rose by 10.8 per cent to N620.4 billion in 2020 compared with N559.8 billion recorded in the corresponding period of 2019. The banks total assets also grew by 37 per cent to N7.7 trillion in 2020. Despite the challenging business environment during the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant effect on economies globally, the banks profit before tax rose to N131.9 billion compared with N111.3 billion in 2019. Profit after tax rose by 27.7 per cent to N113.8 billion compared with N89.1 billion in 2019.On the cost side, operating expenses grew by 10.1 per cent to N249.8 billion, as against N217.2 billion in 2019, well below average inflation rate of 13.2 per cent for the year, thus reflecting the banks cost effectiveness.The balance sheet also showed that UBA recorded a remarkable 24 per cent growth in loans to customers at to N2.6 trillion while customer deposits increased by 48.1 per cent to N5.7 trillion, compared with N3.8 trillion recorded in the corresponding period of 2019, reflecting increased customer confidence, enhanced customer experience, successes from the ongoing business transformation programme and the further deepening of its retail banking franchise.Shareholders approved a final dividend per share of 35 kobo, bringing the total dividend for the year to 52 kobo per share as the bank had paid an interim dividend of 17 kobo per share earlier in the year.Shareholders at the meeting commended the banks decision to plough-back some of its profits into business consolidation, adding that these times call for prudent and effective management of financial resources for all businesses especially those with high shareholding rate such as UBA.Founder, Independent Shareholders Association of Nigeria (ISAN), Sir Sunny Nwosu commended the board and management of the bank company for keeping up with its activities despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant effect on major businesses.Whilst advising the company to gear up efforts to increase dividends in the next financial year, Nwosu praised UBAs for ensuring that the African subsidiaries performed well by contributing 55 per cent to the groups business.Another shareholder, Nonah Awoh, who agreed with the improvement recorded from the banks Ex-Nigerias subsidiaries, encouraged the management to boost other subsidiaries with the needed resources to help them perform even better in the current financial year.Managing Director, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, Kennedy Uzoka, explained that the bank had decided to be conservative on dividend payment to further strengthen the business.According to him, as an institution that has been in operations for 72 uninterrupted years, UBA wants to continue to perform optimally. In line with this, it has used most of its funds to prepare for unforeseen challenges.Given the trajectory and the resilience of our business, we can assure you that we will meet and surpass the expectation of you our shareholders. We have recalibrated our business structure, starting from Lagos and extending to the South-South. We have bolstered them with the necessary leadership to achieve our aim. We believe that with these measures we have put in place, our Nigerian business will give the rest of Africa a good fight, Uzoka said. Click here to read full news..