Category Archives: Barclays

Barclays Kenya now officially Absa Bank

Barclays, which has been in Kenya for 103 years has officially now transformed to Absa Group the culmination of a three-year journey of transition following the divestiture of Barclays PLC majority shareholding in the Barclays Africa Group.

Barclays remains as the largest shareholder in Absa which is present in 12 African countries, has 40,000 employees, and listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The transition to Absa across Africa has seen the migration of hundreds of Barclays technology systems that were run from the UK to the continent, mainly in South Africa and Kenya. Absa Group now had a reprobative office in London with another soon in New York.

Absa owns 68.5% of Absa Bank Kenya PLC which is currently the fourth-largest bank in the country by assets. Absa Kenya, which is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, has 63,000 shareholders who approved the name change to Absa at their AGM in May 2018.

The one-off cost of the Absa Kenya rebranding is being spread out over two years and through September 2019, had cost the bank Kshs 910 million. All 86 branches in 38 counties across Kenya are being rebranded in the new Absa bold red colours. This past weekend, the bank transitioned several customer channels, including internet banking, social media, mobile banking, SMS, and point of sale systems to reflect the Absa brand.

Barclays Life Assurance has also officially changed to Absa Life Assurance Kenya. It is ranked third, with a 10% share of the group life insurance market in the country.

NSE Charity Day 2019 supports the fight against cancer.

The fifth Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) Charity Day held today spotlighted the prevention and management of cancer in Kenya.  All the day’s equities trading fees will be donated to the National Cancer Institute of Kenya, a body that has been mandated to coordinate all cancer management activity including research and the setting up a national cancer registry.  

NSE Vice Chairman Bob Karina said that previous Charity Day’s had been staged with different themes and raised over Kshs 30 million to support identified worthy causes. The NSE supported wildlife conservation in 2015, the environment in 2016, and girl-child protection in 2017, while last year they supported education endeavours. The NSE Company Secretary Kuria Waithaka mentioned organizations that have received support from previous “charity days” included SOS Children’s Home, Joy Children’s Home, Save the Elephants and the Borana Ranch Conservancy – where the NSE had adopted and named a rhino “Hisa,” which is Swahili for ‘shares.’

Barclays Kenya’s Head of Markets, Anthony Kirui said that the Barclays which had been a partner of the NSE Charity Day for the last three years was in the final stage of its brand transition to Absa. The new identity was being rolled out with a strategy to put customers at the front and some of the tailor-made services the bank now has include unsecured credit for small & medium enterprises (SME’s) of up to Kshs 10 million (~$100,000), and LPO financing of up to Kshs 50 million, while mortgages can be 100% financed.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Sicily Kariuki said that the country recorded 48,000 new detections of cancer and 33,000 deaths every year and that everyone knows someone who has been affected or has fundraised towards someone’s cancer treatment.

She added that while the Government was investing in interventions in the cancer fight and to reduce the cancer burden through new radiotherapy and cancer centres, 80% of the fight was within people’s control; she asked that people mind their lifestyles, meals, physical activity, environments & communities, and go for early screenings.

Celebrity participants at the trading day included Sheila Mwanyigha, Terryanne Chebet Suzie Wokabi, Nameless, Patricia Kihoro, Pinky Ghelani  and June Gachui, among others, placed NSE client trades online and over phones working alongside real stockbrokers. The day saw 13.27 million shares traded worth Kshs 528.6 million with top activities being around Safaricom and Equity Bank.

Kenya remains the third most attractive financial market in Africa

The third edition of the Africa Financial Markets Index report that was released in October 2019, found that Kenya had retained its third position thanks to industry efforts to improve opportunities for investors.

The AFM index by the Absa Bank Group and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) is a useful tool designed to gauge Africa’s readiness to fund itself and its growth plans. It reviews 20 African countries across six pillars of market depth, access to foreign exchange, market transparency, tax & regulatory environment, the capacity of local investors and macroeconomic opportunity and the legality & enforceability financial agreements.

Overall, South Africa remained in first place, topping four of the six pillars, while Mauritius topped the legal agreements measure and Egypt topped the macro-economic opportunity one.

Speaking on trends across Africa observed in the 2019 AFM Index, Jeff Gable, the Head Of Research at the Absa Group, said there were several exciting financial markets events across the continent this year. These included the first-ever sovereign blue bond by Seychelles to support marine projects, Nigeria selling a 30-year government bond that was four times over-subscribed, Uganda halving the withholding tax on government bonds from 20% to 10%, Zambia launching a primary dealer system and Ethiopia announcing plans to launch a stock exchange in 2020.

On the AFM Index 2019, Kenya, along with Botswana and Namibia, increased to above 50 in the first pillar of market depth. The value of bonds listed in Nairobi doubled from $8.8 billion to $17.5 billion, mostly due to sovereign issues. However there remained a need to have more active trading of bonds and equities, and Kenya has rolled out an M-Akiba infrastructure bond targeted at retail investors that they can access for just over $30.

Kenya came second behind Mauritius on the pillar of enforceability of market agreements. It also scored well for its new insolvency law which encourages rehabilitation of distressed firms, and its endorsement of standard financial master agreements (ISDA GMRA, GMSLA).

However, it lost the lead on the foreign exchange pillar to South Africa. While the country has built up high foreign exchange reserves, up from 4 months to 5.8 months of import cover, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had reclassified Kenya’s exchange rate regime from ‘floating’ to ‘other managed arrangement.’  The AFM Index has continued to highlight the risk of rigid management of foreign exchange by some African countries and pushed for more flexible regimes.

On the third pillar of market transparency, Kenya’s tax code was found to be supportive, but the country had raised taxation on mobile cash transactions creating some uncertainty. There has also been some recent progress as, in the last few weeks, capital markets stakeholders have convinced the Government to retain the country’s capital gains tax at 5%, and set aside an amendment in the 2019 Finance Bill that had proposed to change it to 12.5%.

The country was also flagged for its capping of interest rates which had shrunk credit availability and weakened companies profitability.

Kenya’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Ukur Yatani, in a speech read on his behalf at a Nairobi launch of the report, spoke of the need for Kenyans to save and invest to fund economic growth. Even with the country attaining formal financial inclusion of 82%, up from 26% in 2006, more could be achieved through financial markets.

He said that the country had established a Nairobi International Financial Centre authority to attract capital to Kenya and with the movable property security rights in place, the government was now supporting the setup a Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company that would make it easier for banks to advance funding towards affordable home ownership.

He noted that President Kenyatta had declined to assent to the Finance Bill until Parliament reviewed the cap on interest rates which, evidence showed, had resulted in a negative impact on the economy. Kenya was one of the few countries on the index which saw bank non-performing loans go up, from 10 to 11.7%, last year. He hoped that Members of Parliament would now view the President’s determination as an opportunity to give a stimulus to the economy.

Jeremy Awori, CEO of Barclays Bank of Kenya said that the country had ranked favourably, rising from 5th, when the first AFM Index report was published in 2017, to 3rd in 2018, a position it retained this year. This was due to efforts by industry stakeholders and regulators who had also worked with the Capital Markets Authority to launch a 10-year master plan for the industry. He added that, after Kenya had come up with new regulations for exchange-traded funds, Barclays Kenya had launched the first ETF in the region – New Gold which had performed well since its introduction.

He said that, as Barclays transitions into the Absa brand in Kenya and across Africa, customers will not feel any change in products or services and that they were working to upgrade systems to ensure they remain accessible from anywhere in the world. He added that strong domestic financial markets were a cushion to economic headwinds and that Barclays would soon launch a new wealth and asset offering in Kenya.

Charles Muchene, Chairman of Barclays Bank of Kenya, saluted Paul Muthaura, the outgoing CEO of the Capital Markets Authority, who has led the organization to be recognized as the most innovative capital markets regulator in Africa for four years in a row.  He said that a new ATS platform,  introduced at the Nairobi Securities Exchanges, had broadened the capacity of traders, enabling them to do multiple transactions on the same day, while also supporting securities lending and derivatives trading.

Later, in speaking about the capacity of local investors, the CMA CEO spoke of the need to educate, and shift, more retail investors towards long-term gains from managed funds. This would cushion them from the tendency to speculate on quick returns from land, gambling, and pyramid schemes.

Geoffrey Odundo, CEO of Nairobi Securities Exchange, said they had held some positive engagements with the National Treasury to get more big government listings to the NSE. He also said that they now have an Ibuka program to nurture small companies to be more attractive for investments, adding that this was part of a plan to increase its equities turnover from 6% of the total market to 15% in a few years. The NSE now had 12 asset classes including equity and index futures launched earlier this year and had been voted the second most innovative exchange in Africa.

The 2019 AFM Index report can be downloaded here along with a databank summary of the different country rankings under each of the six pillars.

NewGold ETF top performer at the NSE in 2019

The Barclays New Gold Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) is the top performing investment at the Nairobi Securities Exchange this year.

While the NSE has introduced several new products like REIT’s, index futures, equity futures, and the M-Akiba bond, it is the ETF that is shining this year.

The Barclays New Gold ETF was launched at the NSE in March 2017 of 400,000 shares was listed at the NSE in March  2017 at a price of Kshs 1,205 per share. This was a relatively small number of shares for the new investment class. But their liquidity is assured as Barclays buys all the shares that are sold, paying investors two or three days later. 

The ETF is ideal for pension and insurance funds and other institutional investors, as well as for individuals and retail buyers, and gold does feature in the portfolios of a small number of high net worth individuals in Kenya. The ETF attracts no capital gains tax and is shariah-compliant.

Gold has traditionally been a hedge for times of turmoil, and with ongoing trade disputes between the US and China, UK’s Brexit, slowing growth in Asia and Europe, and uncertainties of debt levels and weaker currencies in Africa, gold represents a hedge, or point of safety that people turn to as a store of value.  Africa’s largest economy, South Africa is also facing its own capital flight and repatriation issues.

Gold has risen on the back of global demand for safety as the ETF represents the fractional equivalent of the price of real gold bullion. Gold is now ~$1,500 per ounce, up from $1,280 at the beginning of the year. The price has moved between $1,000 and $1,300 over the last five years.

As Nairobi investors have suffered paper losses with NSE share index prices dropping to ten-year lows, levels last seen in March 2009, the NewGold ETF has ascended this year by 21% and is up 25% since its introduction. That’s largely due to it being determined the global price of gold, not by local demand.

NewGold, which is the largest ETF on the Johannesburg exchange, is also listed and trades on share exchanges in Botswana, Nigeria, Ghana and Mauritius.

Societe Generale and Absa partner to grow across Africa

Societe Generale (SocGen) of France and Absa have entered two deals; one for a Pan-African wholesale banking partnership and another for the sale of selected SocGen’s businesses in South Africa to Absa. 

SocGen bills itself as the number one bank in French-speaking Sub-Saharan Africa with a presence in 19 countries, mainly in Western and Northern Africa, while Absa is in 12 countries mainly in Southern and Eastern Africa, as a rebrand of Barclays across Africa.

The partnership will be a non-exclusive one that will allow the banks to sell each other’s products and services. It will also extend to providing dedicated services to Chinese multinational businesses, leveraging on SocGen’s presence in China.

The second agreement relates to the sale by SocGen of its custody, trustee and derivatives clearing services in South Africa to Absa and will result in the transfer of clients, employees, and IT services. The deal enables Absa to re-enter the custody and trustee business. It does not include SocGen’s securities lending services which will end in March 2019 leaving SocGen in South Africa to operate corporate and investment banking.

Barclays is the fourth largest bank in Kenya while Societe General has a Kenya Representative Office in Nairobi. SocGen’s digital banking journey includes ventures in mortgages, insurance technology, and auto leasing. Another is  YUP, a mobile money wallet launched in 2017 after acquiring a stake in TagPay, that is now in four African countries and has 300,000 clients.