Carrefour in Kenya

Majid Al Futtaim had grand plans for the Carrefour franchise in Kenya which they have since accelerated as other supermarket chains have encountered financial difficulties. This was revealed at a media session by Majid Al Futtaim managers at their Two Rivers Mall office,  located at their second hypermarket in Nairobi. The company which is the leading operator of malls in the Middle East and North Africa holds franchises for Carrefour stores in 38 countries, including 14 in Africa.

Their Country Manager for Kenya, Franck Moreau said they had an initial target to open 5 hypermarkets and 10 supermarkets within 5 years but that has all changed now. When Majid Al Futtaim decided to invest in East Africa, back in 2012, local retailers like Nakumatt and Uchumi were doing quite well. The took up a 20-year lease at Two Rivers, opened their first Kenya store at the Hub in May 2016, and in the last two months, they have signed on to replace Nakumatt as the anchor tenant at two large malls in Nairobi – at TRM on Thika Highway and the Junction Mall on Ngong Road. 

They operate decentralized hypermarkets with each store doing its own ordering, deliveries, storage, handling, marketing, maintenance, payments, and human resources all at the store sites. The financial aim is to create value and market share while meeting or exceeding budgets, and going by current trends in e-commerce, they target to have 15% of online sales in the next two years.

Majid Al Futtaim operates 220 stores in 15 countries, serving 200,000 customers a day. They plan to reach at 500 stores in 5 years with the “great moments, every day, for everyone” theme through innovation in customer service, being a great employer, and working with local suppliers as they take the hypermarket store and adapt it for different countries, customers and cultures.

For Kenya, 1,000 unique products items are imported by Carrefour to differentiate the stores from other supermarkets, and 29,000 other items are sourced from 650 Kenyan suppliers that they work with. Moreau said 50% of their customers at Two Rivers are from the neighbouring Ruaka area who come to shop at Carrefour for the quality, fresh, and available range of products for different classes. But he added that one unique Kenyan thing was a distrust of ‘promotions’ (buyers think there is something wrong with the products on sale) and they are the only supermarket chain asking suppliers for to give continuous and permanent promotions.

The conversion of malls stores to fit the Carrefour model takes time and large investments which Moreau  estimated was five times more than what other local retailers spent on their stores and that it will take about nine months to convert the spaces they are taking over at the Junction and TRM  to full completion, by which time they will have over 1,100 employees in Kenya.

Loan Interest Rates in 1997

Today, loan interest rates are capped at 14%, but what were they like twenty years ago? Here are excerpts from a  Weekly Review magazine issue from December 1997 a time of pre-election jitters, election financing, donor funding cutoffs, high inflation after Goldenberg, a depressed property market, and collapsing banks. This was after the move to streamline the sector through a universal banking law which led more financial institutions to convert into commercial banks, and later to merge.

Commercial bank base lending rates

24% 
Mashreq Bank
Habib Bank
25%
Development Bank
Kenya Commercial Bank
Equatorial Commercial Bank
Co-Op Merchant Bank
Credit Agricole Indosuez

26%
National Bank of Kenya
Fidelity Commercial Bank
Barclays Bank of Kenya
Investment & Mortgages Bank

27%
Consolidated Bank of Kenya
CFC Bank
Cooperative Bank
City Finance Bank
Habib A.G. Zurich
A.M. Bank
Chase Bank
Bank of Baroda
Habib African Bank
Standard Chartered Bank
Bank of India
First American Bank
Giro Bank

Interest rates, from a Weekly Review magazine, December 1997

28%
Citibank N.A.
Guardian Bank
Prudential Bank
Trust Bank
Paramount Bank
Commercial Bank of Africa
Stanbic Bank
ABN Amro Bank

29%
Universal Bank
African Banking Corporation
Biashara Bank
Prime Bank
Akiba Bank
Middle East Bank
Victoria Bank

30%
Transnational Bank
Imperial Bank
Bullion Bank
First National Fin. Bank
Daima Bank
Guilders Bank
National Industrial Credit Bank
Reliance Bank
Ari Bank Corporation
Credit Bank
Southern Credit Bank
Diamond Trust Bank
Delphis Bank
Fina Bank
Commerce Bank

Citi’s outlook on Kenya Banking

Citi Bank has been producing some insightful research reports on companies they watch like KCB, Equity and Safaricom for their investment clients.  The latest one (Will it stay or will it go? — Awaiting clarity on the Banking Act) is an outlook on Kenya banking, based on the financial results that all banks released for the third quarter of 2017 which is exactly a year after Kenya’s Parliament passed a law, which the President then signed, that capped all Kenya banking loan rates at a maximum of 14% per year.

Citi’s findings:

  • Despite the Banking Act of 2016, Kenya’s leading banks maintain among the highest margins (8~9% NIMs) and returns (ROTE 20~23%) of any frontier market, coupled with strong capitalization, a stable currency and an improving political environment.
  • While there is little clarity on the future of the Banking Act, we acknowledge that many investors are interested in that “what if?” case if the legislation was to be amended, and hence provide a sensitivity analysis to gauge the upside from changes to the regulatory regime.
  • The Kenya banking sector is fairly concentrated with the top 5 banks controlling just under half of the assets (48%), KCB is the largest bank with a 14% market share, followed by Equity Bank and Cooperative bank with 10% each. A similar story for deposits, with the top 5 banks accounting for 50% of the market, KCB is the largest player with a 15% share, followed by Equity Bank at 11% and Cooperative bank at 10%.

The Citi report notes that KCB who grew loans by 9% in the third quarter despite the interest rate cap has a diverse client base that makes it easier for the bank to navigate the challenging environment. KCB has expressed interested in acquiring smaller banks like National Bank, as it also it pulled back from volatile South Sudan in May 2017, where it only retains a license.

Equity has put brakes on lending, with flat loans growth in the third quarter. The bank’s Equitel is now Kenya’s second largest mobile money platform after Safaricom’s M-Pesa, with 4% of customers and 23% value of transactions. Equitel appeals to customers as it has no internal charges. Meanwhile, mobile loan growth fell in the half year at Equity as the bank tightened lending standards, while KCB’s grew. Still, Equity disbursed 1.6 million mobile loans through Equitel in the first half of 2017.

The Citi report also notes that KCB lags Equity in the digital push, with mobile phones accounting for 70% of transactions at Equity and  57% at KCB. Elsewhere, 86% of all customer transactions at Co-op Bank are done on alternative delivery channels mainly mobile banking, ATMs, internet and agency outlets. Another finding was that the large banks have benefitted from the flight to safety by depositors following the collapse of three smaller banks in 2015-16.

The Citi Report looked at the Kenya banking interest rate caps under three scenarios with the first  being that the caps are extended even further to bank charges. The report mentions that the Kenya banking regulator, the Central Bank (CBK), had rejected 13 out of 16 commercial bank applications to increase charges, all pointing to tough times for banks in a slow loan growth environment. The second scenario was that the interest rate cap remains as is, and the third scenarios was that the caps are loosened by excluding some loan segments which will allow banks to lend at higher rates to riskier segments like SME’s, retail and micro-finance clients. However, Citi finds that the interest rate caps are not going away soon, and they are here to stay, probably for a few years. 

Finally, the Citi report (published on 19 November), rates KCB as a ‘buy’ with a target share price of Kshs 47 (current price on December 8 is Kshs 43), while they are neutral about Equity Bank which they value at Kshs 38.5 per share (current price is Kshs 41) as they think it is fairly valued.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Nairobi Stock Exchange in 1997

What companies were listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, twenty years ago, in 1997? A chart of listed shares appeared in Financial Review which was a popular magazine that featured business, and later political stories.

Still Listed
BAT Kenya
Bamburi Portland Cement
Barclays Bank of Kenya
Car & General
Carbacid Investments
Credit Finance  (later CFC, now Stanbic?)
Diamond Trust
Dunlop Kenya (now Olympia)
Eaagads
East African Breweries
East African Cables
East African Portland Cement
E. A. Oxygen (now BOC)
Express Kenya

ICDC Investment (rebranded as Centum)
Jubilee Insurance
Kakuzi
Kapchorua Tea
George Williamson (Williamson Tea)
Kenya Oil (Kenol)
Kenya Power & Lighting
Limuru Tea
Nation Printers & Publishers (now Nation Media Group)
National Industrial Credit (now NIC Bank)
Pan Africa Insurance (now Sanlam Kenya)
Sasini Tea
Unga Group


De-Listed 
CMC Holdings
A. Baumann & Co
Brooke Bond (became Unilever Tea)
Hutchings Biemer
Elliotts Bakeries
Kenya Orchards
Marshalls
Ol Pejeta Ranching
Timsales
Uplands Bacon Company

Gone
African Tours & Hotels (now Kenya Safari Lodges)
Chancery Investments
Consolidated Holdings
City Brewery Investments
E. A Bag & Cordage
E. A . Packaging
E. A. Road Services
Kenya National Mills (absorbed into Unga)
KCC (there’s now New KCC)
Motor Mart & Exchange
Pearl Dry Cleaners
Philip Harrison & Crossfield
Sofar Investments
Theta Group

This Standard article explains what happened to some of the companies. e.g. City Brewery manufactured City Lager beer, and Theta was a tea factory while many others were bought out or went out of business,

Also, see Who Controls Industry in Kenya in 1968. 

Strathmore Promotes Agri Export Business Opportunities

On Thursday at Strathmore Business School, there was a session to highlight some of the opportunities and challenges for Kenyan companies that wanted to get into the farm export business.

Kenya is known for flower exports, but not so much for fruits and vegetables which can be quite lucrative and are better suited to the climate here. An example was cited that a kilo of dhania (coriander) that sells for Kshs 50 per kilo in Nairobi, can fetch €3-4 euros in Europe.

Some excerpts

Export fruits and vegetables

  • Know the markets. Buyers have no obligation to buying from Kenyans. Companies have to know how to sell at expos where everyone is selling the same fruits and vegetables.
  • Kenyans are known for sending good samples, but the problem that buyers in other countries have with many Kenya companies is that they are later not consistent in quality and quantity of food exports. 
  • How to identify opportunities and threats in the news; Things like Brexit, earthquakes and climate changes and others like Muslim migration across Europe.
  • One can’t venture into exports unless they interact with the government – HCDA, Export Promotion Council, KEPHIS and others like the FPEAK, and the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Also, potential exporters must update themselves on changing regulations.
  • How to manage finance when upfront payments are rare, and there are international frauds who take deliveries but don’t pay. Also how to avoid the many fake consultants.  
  • The biggest challenge in this country is labour, not capital! One solution is shared labour for exporters and farms who can’t employ full-time skilled workers.
  • If one is not in charge of their own logistics, they are not in business. 

The Strathmore Business School exploring international markets program class takes place early next year and involves two modules: The first will take the class to the Fruit Logistica in Berlin, in February 2018 which is the world’s leading trade fair for the international fresh produce business where they will learn about the packaging, presentation, logistics, marketing. and other business aspects at the fair that had had 3,000 exhibitors from 84 countries and 76,000 visitors this year. Then at module two in Nairobi, they will learn about local production, logistics, local bank and financial options, obtaining global certification, branding, and other aspects of the food value chain. The deadline for applications is December 20.