EFFECT OF BANK CONSOLIDATION ON PERFORMANCE OF SMALL AND MEDIUM SCALE ENTERPRISES IN NIGERIA
The central tenet of banking sector consolidation was to develop a strong, reliable and diversified banking sector that is capable of playing effective developmental roles in the economy, such as funding of small and medium scale enterprises and becoming a competent and competitive player in the African regional and global financial system. In essence, the reform was expected to create big banks by increasing bank capital base through the capital market and/or mergers and acquisitions. The bank consolidation in Nigeria has generated raging debates on different frontiers such as; the effect of the consolidation on the financial crisis; the desirability of universal banking; and on whether more capital could translate to banking system stability among others. One area that has received little or no attention among scholars and policy makers is the effect of the consolidation on the lending and performance of small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria. Specifically, SMEs are generally perceived as a catalyst for economic and development, given that the economy draws its strength from strong internal dynamics rooted in its large population, resilient SMEs, large and vibrant informal sector. A priori, the emergence of bigger banks is expected to translate into more lending to SMEs. However, some scholars have argued that as small banks transformed to become bigger banks, they tend to lose their existing bonding relationship with smaller custormers such as SMEs. They supported this postulation by arguing that bigger banks will have strong preference for high profile investment with higher returns, while displaying strong bias against credits to SMEs. While each of these groups has propounded theories to support their positions, empirical study that reconciles these theories with reality is non-extent. It was against this background that the main objective of this study was to investigate the effect of pre and post bank consolidation on the performance of SMEs in Nigeria. The specific objectives of the study therefore were to examine the impact of bank consolidation on number of registered SMEs, growth and access to fund for SMEs in Nigeria. This study adopted the ex-post facto design and time series data from 1991-2012 (22years) for pre and post consolidation era were collated from Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission database, Central Bank of Nigeria Statistical Bulletin and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria database. The Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression was used to estimate the three hypotheses formulated for the study. The result emanating from this study indicates that Bank consolidation had positive and non-significant impact on number of registered SMEs in pre consolidation era in Nigeria while it was found to have positive and significant impact on survival of SMEs in post consolidation era in Nigeria. Also Bank Consolidation had positive and significant impact on growth of SMEs in both pre and post consolidation banking era in Nigeria and lastly Bank consolidation have negative and non-significant impact on bank lending to SMEs in pre consolidation banking era in Nigeria but was positive and non-significant on banking lending to SMEs in post consolidation banking era in Nigeria. The study, thus, concludes that the consolidation exercise in 2005 was a welcome development aim at enhancing the growth of SMEs. We therefore, recommend among others that government should make policies that will strengthen and boost access to funds for small and medium scale enterprises. This will ensure continual survival and growth of SMEs which have been adjoined as the engine room for economic growth and development of nations.