The Bank of Ghana (BoG) has now allowed banks to declare and pay dividends to shareholders in respect of the 2020 and 2021 financial years if they can meet some stringent conditions. The central bank had earlier banned banks from paying dividends following the “liquidity releases to banks and specialised deposit-taking institutions (SDIs) that were provided by the BoG to contain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the banking sector”.
The BoG has now softened its stance, stating that “In view of the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic and its potential impact on the banking sector, the Bank of Ghana by this Notice directs banks and SDIs to desist from declaring or paying dividends or distributing reserves to shareholders, and from making any irrevocable commitments regarding the declaration or payment of dividends to shareholders for 2020 and 2021 financial years, unless the following minimum criteria have been satisfied”
Banks must meet the six conditions below before they can pay dividends to shareholders.
1. Compliance with Sections 34 and 35 and all other relevant provisions of the Banks and Specialised Deposit-Taking Institutions Act, 2016 (Act 930);
2. Compliance with the Capital Adequacy Ratio of 13%, Cash Reserve Ratio of 10% and Non-Performing Loans (NPL) ratio of below industry average at all times;
3. Compliance with Section 72 as well as all other relevant provisions on dividend payments as prescribed under the Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992);
4. Submission of Audited Financial Statements to the Bank of Ghana;
5. Have no restrictions imposed on its operations by the Bank of Ghana by way of Prompt Corrective Actions (PCAs) as per Act 930; and
6. The Bank of Ghana stress test results on the specific bank showing that it will maintain sufficient capital buffers after payment of dividends.
However, in addition to meeting the conditions above, banks must still seek “written approval from the BoG before declaring or paying dividends or distributing reserves to shareholders, and making any irrevocable commitments regarding the declaration or payment of dividends to shareholders”.
The central bank noted that the measures have helped to ensure a stable banking sector, and that it would remain proactive in identifying and addressing risks to the banking sector. All banks and SDIs are expected to immediately comply with this directive.