Olympia 2016 AGM: Turnaround? Part II

Olympia Capital held it’s 2016 AGM in in Nairobi on Monday. It was a brief meeting at the 680 Hotel during which the board promised they had turned the company round and expected to pay a dividend next year and be on time with their financial reports.  They will announce their half year results, in two weeks, and the CEO said their (unaudited)  business in Botswana was their best investment,  while  South Africa was a disaster where they had lost a lot of money.

Pic from the CBK website.

We don’t want cents

He said, 17 years after they made the deal, 50% of the company business is now from outside Kenya, and even though the Botswana Pula had major exchange rate swings they expect  Kalahari Floor Tiles to pay an interim dividend which will be passed on to Olympia shareholders as a full year dividend.

Shareholders questioned the company’s debts, investment decisions & classification, the absence of the chairman’s report from the accounts and a decision to de-list a subsidiary in South Africa to protect it from creditors.  On the, promised dividend, shareholders said that they want shilling dividend payments, not cents.

Why SACCO’s Won’t Replace Banks

The banking interest rate cap came into effect last week and some banks, like Coop and KCB have set out to comply with the new rates for new loans. But some people have been saying that they will shift to SACCO’s if banks cut back on borrowing that they consider too risky to make at below the 14.5% set by the new law.

SACCO magazineBut SACCO’s won’t really replace banks.  SACCO’s (savings and credit society societies) in which members register, save, and borrow are very good vehicles for customers who understand their needs and have definite investment goals. They are able to borrow loans, at lower rates than banks and often without the need for collateral, usually by having other members guarantee each other.

But the amount members can borrow is  limited, usually by how much they have saved (you cannot borrow more than five times your savings, how much they have outstanding or how many loans they already have. Also you can’t borrow until you have been a member and built up savings for about six months. They require regular deposits, usually each month so this work with salaried people or disciplined savers. They also work well with rural societies and farmers, though some in sectors like coffee have been plagued by debts following crop failure or society mismanagement.

Finally, some SACCO’s uch as Mwalimu, Harambee, Kenya Police, and Afya have over ten billion shillings in assets, but most SACCO’s are smaller than banks and don’t have the credit to lena or range of products that banks do to lend to millions of borrowers. While some SACCO’s have bank-like services like cheque books, and debit cards, they also don’t have the range of financing – trade finance, overdrafts, credit cards that  bank customers are used to.

Kenya Interest Rates Part IV – Coop Bank Leads

Ever since the banking amendment act was passed by parliament virtually all banks have announced reductions of interest rates to comply with the last KBRR – and all have reduced by 0.97% effective August 25.

Kitale branch

Coop Bank branch

But yesterday Cooperative Bank (Coop Bank) was the first to reduce its rates to 14.5% (the Central Bank Rate plus 4%). In a statement from the bank CEO, this new rate will apply for all new loans or credit facilities.  The modalities of the new law that was signed by the president this week, have not been outlined (such as if the rate is retroactive), but virtually all bank share prices have nose-dived over the last two days, with some banks pulling back on unsecured new credit facilities to customers.

Coop Bank is Kenya’s third largest bank, with a loan portfolio of Kshs 220 billion (~$2.18 billion).

Capping Kenya Bank Interest Rates – Part III

Yesterday, the President signed the Banking (Amendment) Bill, 2015. It’s just under a year to the next election, and the president has surprised many by signing the bill.  He’s taken an ace from the opposition and, in a way, fulfilled his Jubilee party manifesto which has a line about “..pursue exchange rate stabilization policy and monetary policy that will lower interest rates.”

In signing the bill he noted that banks … need to do more to reduce the cost of credit and …we will implement the new law, noting the difficulties that it would present, which include credit becoming unavailable to some consumers and the possible emergence of unregulated informal and exploitative lending mechanisms.

There’s a version of the bill  at the ICPAK site that mentions:

  • The maximum interest rate is  4% (above the CBK base rate) for any credit facility in Kenya
  • Deposit on an interest earning account will be 70% of the base rate
  • Fines & jail terms for bank executives.
  • Banks that flout other sections of the banking law, can’t pay out dividends or bonuses and can lose control to the regulator.

There is still a lot of ambiguity in terms of the reach of the law. Does it cover mortgages? What about micro-finance institutions (MFI’s), mobile banking loan products (M-shwari has 4 million customers and KCB M-pesa has almost 1 million borrowers) , credit cards (which have interest rates of 30%) and most important will the law be retroactive? i.e. apply to already existing loans

In the meantime, expect banks to overhaul all their products including:

  • Limiting new loans.
  • Reducing interest-earning accounts i.e savings account products
  • Overhauling all products and marketing materials in terms of disclosures.
  • Bank charges will go up, and maintaining bank accounts will get much more expensive.

Finally, a common lament in this current parliament has been a lack of implementation of its bills. And with interest rates, the president may have signed it, but the date on which they will become effective as a law is not clear.

The era of bank super profits is in the  past, and this new bill makes the banking sector, still unsettled by bank closures and increased regulatory scrutiny, much less attractive to potential investors.

Kenya invests in Currency Printing

Kenya is entering into a joint venture with De La Rue who has been printing the country’s currency for many years in Ruaraka, Nairobi.

London’s stock exchange (LSE) listed De La Rue is the world’s largest designer and commercial printer of banknotes, operates a currency printing plant and has produced Kenya currency notes for several years. As part of the deal, De La Rue will sell 40% of a, currently dormant, De La Rue Kenya EPZ subsidiary to the Kenya government for £5 million (~Kshs 660 million).

The 2016 De La Rue annual report notes that banknote market is over-supplied, and with the 26% of the global bank note market, the company is consolidating and restructuring its operations.

Cool currency cake from @vickystreats254

Cool currency cake from @vickystreats254

  • We will restructure our print manufacturing footprint in the next two years to reduce our capacity and cost base by reducing the number of print lines and consolidating banknote print productions to four locations: Kenya, Sri Lanka, Debden and Gateshead (UK).
  • “De La Rue is delighted to have extended our longstanding relationship with the Government of Kenya into an ever closer partnership. The joint venture fits with our strategy of expanding into key growth markets through long-term partnerships.
  • By operating an EPZ (export processing zone) facility they will be able to   “secure our position as a supply hub of currency and security solutions for the largest economy in East Africa and for the region.”


See more on currency printing in Africa 

£1 = Kshs 132