C&I Leasing, Nigeria’s biggest and oldest leasing firm, has unveiled plans to raise funds for more vessels acquisition and to lease to oil companies and expand its business in Ghana, amongst other investment initiatives.

The company’s chief executive, Andrew Otike-Odibi, reportedly unveiled the plan to Reuters as Dubai-based private equity firm, Abraaj, divests from the company.

He said: “We are looking at increasing our footprint in our current business, increasing our vessel and fleet management business. Our next plan is to introduce our marine business in Ghana over the next 1-3 years.”

To raise the required capital, Otike-Odibi confirmed that plans were at an advanced level to issue bonds next month to raise seven billion naira ($22.3 million), partly to refinance existing debt of up to three billion naira.

According to him, the company has opened talks with local pension funds for the five-year debt, which would also be used for working capital and to acquire new vessels.

The leasing expert hinted that the 27-year old company also planned to raise fresh funds through the equity market, with about 40 percent of a target of between $10 million to $50 million over the next five years coming from share sales,.

C&I Leasing is listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange and its core investors are also directors, owning 56 percent of the shares while the rest is free-float.

The company reported a 23 percent rise in profit before tax of N1.28 billion in 2017. Its shares recorded more than double appreciation last year and have risen 8.5 percent so far this year. The stock gained 2.26 per cent at Wednesday trading session, closing at N1.36.

C&I Leasing has 44 billion naira worth of total assets, of which 30 billion naira is invested in marine assets contributing 60 percent of profits and seen rising to 65 percent over the next five years.

Speaking on the leasing business prospects, Otite-Odibi said: “We don’t see the retail market taking off until the economy stabilises again. People might have jobs today but you can’t guarantee job retention, therefore making payment of lease rentals uncertain.”

He said the company’s debt ratio would be cut to 70 percent from 80 percent now and it would redeem a $2.4 million loan it got from Aureous Capital, now part of Abraaj group, from part of the proceeds of the bond sale.

He said Abraaj was also looking to exit another $10 million loan this year. “Besides the last two years, where we reinvested cash to support business growth, we have paid out dividends,” Otike-Odibi said.

C&I Leasing supplies patrol boats and tug boats to Shell, Mobil, Chevron and NNPC’s operating unit, via long-term contracts. It has 23 vessels and competes with French rival Bourbon Offshore.

The company shut its vehicle distribution unit at the start of Nigeria’s worst recession in a quarter of a century, to focus on oilfield service marine vessel rentals, fleet management and personnel outsourcing.