Category Archives: China

Ethiopia privatization window opens

Several weeks of rapid news has seen Ethiopia privatization of state enterprises proposed as one of several changes to sustain what has been one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies. This all comes in the wake of a new era under Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, who is leading change within the country and outside, such as on his recent visit to Kenya.

In the last few days the Ethiopian government has lifted a state of emergency, signaled an effective cease-fire with Eritrea, released long-jailed political prisoners, reshuffled security leaders, launched e-visa’s for all international arrivals with a view to dropping visa requirements for all other African nationals, and opened the Menelik palace to tourists among other changes, which have drawn comparisons or Abiy to Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia in the 1980’s.

The surprise was statements about plans for the massive Ethiopia privatization program in which the government would sell minority stakes in roads, logistics, shipping, and prime assets like Ethiopian Airlines, which just took delivery of its 100th aircraft, a Boeing 787, and which is the centrepiece of a logistical, tourism and business hub plan for the country. The program would also extend to two sectors that have been off-limits to foreign investors up to now;  banking and telecommunications.

For comparison, a 2012 list of Eastern Africa’s largest banks had the Commerical Bank of Ethiopia as the largest in the region followed by National Bank of Mauritius and KCB in Kenya, and at last measure (2017) had about  $17 billion of assets, 1,250 branches, and 16 million customers. And in telecommunications, Ethio Telecom, a government-owned monopoly has about 20 million customers in a country with population of 107 million (many of them children), but still a low penetration rate. 

Ethiopia privatization of state enterprises is not a new item, but it is one which the government has put side as it pursued an industrialization model that has seen the building of new infrastructure, new factories, industrial parks, agro-processors, leather parks, vehicles manufacturers etc. but which has not been equally felt by the country’s large and young population – and this has seen wide-spread protests and a state of emergency that ushered in a new leadership with a new prime minister (Abiy). 

It also came after a lengthy story in the FT – Financial Times on the state of Ethiopia’s economy which cited the fatigue that China has with large investments and some projects that are operating below capacity coupled with the high government debt and shortage of foreign currency  – Two investors said that Sinosure, China’s main state-owned export and credit insurance company, was no longer extending credit insurance to Chinese banks for projects in Ethiopia as willingly as it used to. It notes that imports into the country are four times that of exports from  Ethiopia leading to the shortage of foreign currency.

The changes in Ethiopia could also be a warning to other African counties that have been molded in a similar way to Ethiopia model, with heavy borrowing from China and building infrastructure and mega-projects for the future.  When the Ethiopia privatization program starts it’s unclear who will benefit and if Chinese companies will be given priority given that they have invested for a long period in Ethiopia compared to other new companies, such as Vodacom and MTN, who are excited about the prospects that are now opening up

S&P ranks top banks in MEA (Middle East & Africa)

Qatar National Bank (QNB) with $229 billion of assets is the largest bank in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) zone according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. It is followed by First Abu Dhabi with  $182 billion and then the top African bank, which is the Standard Bank of South Africa (Stanbic) with $164 billion of assets. Fourth and fifth are banks from Israel which S&P notes rose on the list due to the appreciation of the country’s Shekel currency versus the US dollar.

S&P MEA top bank origins

South Africa has the most African banks on the list with First Rand (ranked 8), Barclays Africa with $94 billion of assets and which is rebranding to Absa is ninth, while Nedbank and Investec are in 13th and 27th place respectively on the S&P list.

Other African banks are the National Bank of Egypt (14)  and Attijariwafa of Morocco (23 ). QNB, which has been publishing quarterly results in Kenyan newspapers alongside other commercial banks, is also the second largest shareholder of Ecobank of Togo, but there are no Nigeria banks or any Sub-Saharan ones from the East or West blocks of the continent on the MEA list. Kenya’s largest bank group – KCB has about $6.5 billion of assets.

QNB and the banks on the MEA list are ranked according to IFRS accounting principles but certain banks use local accounting measures e.g Israeli GAAP, Eqyptian GAAP and Qatari GAAP.

The MEA banks are a sub-set of S&P’s list ranking the largest banks in the world. The list was topped by four banks from China, led by the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China with $4 trillion of assets, followed by China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and the Bank of China. There is more diversity after that with Mitsubishi UFJ of Japan in 5th place with $2.8 trillion of assets, followed by  JPMorgan Chase (USA), the UK’s HSBC and in 8th place is BNP Paribas of France with $2.3 trillion of assets. Eighteen of the top 100 banks are from China, with $24 trillion of assets, the US had eleven banks and Japan has eight banks, but none from the MEA.

Kenya Eurobond 2018 A to Z (Part II)

Excerpts from reading the prospectus for Kenya’s 2018 Eurobond issues totaling $2 billion (~Kshs 202 billion). 

Advisors:  joint lead managers were Citigroup Global Markets, J.P. Morgan Securities, Standard Bank of South Africa and Standard Chartered Bank. The fiscal/paying agent was Citibank (London), Registrar was Citigroup Global Markets (Deutschland), legal advisors were White & Case LLP and Allen & Overy LLP (English and US law), and Coulson Harney LLP and Kaplan & Stratton Advocates (Kenya Law) and the listing agent was Arthur Cox (Dublin).

Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Securities, Standard Bank of South Africa and Standard Chartered Bank each committed to subscribe for $250 million of the 2028 and $250 million of the 2048 bond issues

Codes: for the 2028 Notes: 491798 AG9 / US491798AG90 / 178426192 XS1781710543 / 178171054 and for the 2048 Notes: 491798 AH7 / US491798AH73 / 178426478 XS1781710626 / 178171062

Debt Rescheduling: Kenya has approached the Paris Club three times to seek debt relief and rescheduling; in January 1994 for $535 million, in November 2000 over $301 million and in January 2004 over $353 million. Also to the London Club 1998 over $70 million and in 2003 over $23 million.

Default (defined as): Failure to pay 15 days after due date, or issuer (Kenya government) ceases to be a member of the IMF.

Denomination: The Notes are issued in registered form in denominations of US$200,000 and integral multiples of US$1,000.

Disclosure: The Issuer will publish all notices and other matters required to be published (regarding Condition 14, 10, 13: on the website of the National Treasury.

Finance Management: Kenya’s law provides that: over the medium term, a minimum of 30% of the national budget shall be allocated to development expenditure and the national government’s expenditure on wages and benefits for its public officers must not exceed 35%  per cent. of total national government revenue and over the medium term, the national government’s borrowings should be used only for the purpose of financing development expenditure and not for recurrent expenditure. .

IMF: The second and third reviews of the IMF programme due in June 2017 and December 2017 could not be completed on time due to the prolonged election period. Accordingly, no funds under the SBA-SCF 2 facility are available to Kenya until it has reached certain targets to the satisfaction of the IMF, which will be assessed at the next review. But, even if the IMF agrees to make this or another programme available upon conclusion of their review, the government intends to continue to treat the arrangements as precautionary and does not intend to draw on the facility unless exogenous shocks lead to an actual balance of payments need.

Income tax (enhancement of): A review of the Income Tax Act is ongoing and is targeted to be completed by mid-2018. In an effort to boost domestic revenue mobilisation, the government is undertaking reforms to bolster revenue yields  including roll out of the integrated customs management system, implementation of the regional electronic cargo tracking (RECTS) to tackle transit diversion; data matching and use of third-party data to enhance compliance, integration of iTax with IFMIS to ensure timely collection of withholding VAT and other withholding taxes; expansion of tax base by targeting the informal sector, betting, lotteries and gaming; pursuit non-filers and increased focus on taxation of international transactions and transfer pricing and enhance investigations and intelligence capacity to support revenue collection.

Informal economy: A significant portion of the Kenyan economy is not recorded and is only partially taxed, resulting in a lack of revenue for the government, ineffective regulation, unreliability of statistical information (including the understatement of GDP and the contribution to GDP of various sectors) and inability to monitor or otherwise regulate a large portion of the economy.

Interest Rates: The yield of the 2028 Notes is 7.25% and the yield of the 2048 Notes is 8.25% in each case on an annual basis. The yields were calculated at the issue date.

Listing: The Eurobond Notes will not be issued, offered or sold in Kenya, and the notes may not be offered or sold in the United States. Applications have been made to the Irish Stock Exchange at a cost of 5,500 euros and the London Stock Exchange for GBP 4,200.

Litigation:  The Issuer has appointed the High Commissioner of the Republic of Kenya in London, presently located at 45 Portland Place, London W1B 1AS as its agent for service of process in relation to any proceedings (“Proceedings”) before the English courts permitted by

Indebtedness:  Total national government debt stood at US$41.2 billion as at 30 June 2017, representing a 17% increase from June 2016. The government is permitted under the terms of the PFMA to incur debt within the limits set by Parliament, currently set at 50% of GDP in net present value terms. Following the issue of the (Eurobond) Notes, the total net present value of debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to nearly reach the 50% limit. Although the government may be restricted from incurring further public debt under such circumstances, the Government will be seeking to refinance or repay near-term maturities, and therefore expects to maintain the ratios within the set limits.

Total multilateral debt increased by 15.8% to stand at US $8.0 billion at 30 June 2016 while total bilateral debt increased to US $5.3 billion at 30 June 2016, mainly driven by a rise in stock of debt from the People’s Republic of China, which increased by 21.2%. Also, as at 30 June 2017, the national government guaranteed approximately KES135.1 billion of the indebtedness of the non-financial public sector include Kshs 77 billion to Kenya Airways last year.

Purpose Kenya expects the net proceeds of the issue of the Eurobond Notes, before expenses, to amount to approximately US$1,999,600,000 which it intends to use for financing development expenditures and to refinance part of its obligations outstanding under certain syndicated loan agreements. According to the “Plan of Distribution”, Kenya syndicated loans of from October 2015 (debt now $646 million) and March 2017 ($1 billion)  and proceed from the new February 2018 issue will be used to pay all of the 2015 loan and part of the 2017 loan and  to “manage the maturity profile of the government’s debt.”

Repayments: (for both issues) payable semi-annually in arrears on 28 February and 28 August in each year commencing on 28 August 2018. The Eurobond Notes are not redeemable prior to maturity.

Withholding Taxes: All payments in respect of the Eurobond Notes by or on behalf of the Issuer shall be made without withholding or deduction of any present or future taxes,

See Part I about the 2014 Eurobond issue. 

1USD  = Kshs 101, 1 GBP = Kshs  139, 1 Euro = Kshs 123

Fintech Companies to Watch and Influencers in 2018

Companies: Last November, KPMG and H2 Ventures released a report listing their fourth annual fintech innovators (‘Fintech100’)  comprising 50 established companies and 50 emerging companies to watch in Fintech.  The companies are innovation across sector like banking, payments, remittances, spending, artificial intelligence, data management, and insurance.
They noted that China continues to dominate the fintech landscape, with 5 of the top 10 companies on the list. Digital or new banks in the list include Solaris Bank, Nu Bank, and Atom Bank.
Some notable companies on the list;
  • ZhongAn (online property insurance)
  • Stripe (frictionless financial transactions)
  • OurCrowd provides an equity crowdfunding platform for accredited investors to access and invest in Israeli companies)
  • Circle (free international remittance via email)
  • Xapo allows users to utilize their bitcoins while Xapo safely stores them)
  • Future Finance (gives students loans of 2,000 to 40,000 pound,  within 24 hours that can be paid over 5 years)
  • Coinbase (enables digital currency transactions)
  • AfterPay Touch (from Australia gives online shopping users an option to spread purchases across four equal installments)
  • Robinhood (free stock trading of US stock and ETF’s)
  • Alan (Europe’s  first digital health insurance company)
  • Bud (enables users to combine bank accounts and get personalised insights from a single source)
  • Capital Float (from India provides collateral-free working capital loans to small businesses within 3 days)
  • Cuvva (provides short-term,  flexible car insurance to consumer groups, including taxi- drivers that range from 1 hour to 28 days)
  • Flutterwave (from Nigeria, is in over 36 African countries, enables individuals and businesses to accept online and offline payments)
  • GrassRoots Bima (from Kenya matches customers with micro-insurance products – known as WazInsure)
  • KredX (from India matches SMEs seeking working capital with investors looking for above-average yield on short-term investments)
  • Leveris (banking platform for digital retail banks)
  • Riby (Nigeria cooperatives enabler)
  • Sensibill (allows bank customers to get their receipts in a few different ways)
  • SoCash (addresses cash logistics issues for banks)
  • Token (an API banking platform)
  • Valiant Finance (an online broking platform for SME’s) 
Influencers: Also, Jay Palter has a list of 195 fintech influencers for the year 2018; have only heard of a few – Brett King (who visited and spoke in Nairobi in January 2017), Yann Ranchere, Elon Musk and Vinod Khosla, but will check out the rest.
EDIT
 
Also,  the new CB Insights report on fintech observations and trends to watch in 2018 cites:
  • No billion-dollar fintech M&A in 2017
  • Chinese firms drove fintech IPOs in 2017
  • Europe saw record for fintech investing in 2017, as Asia and the US saw fintech funding recede
  • Amazon gets more aggressive in fintech — outside of the US, but Amazon’s US efforts are a far cry from Tencent and Ant Financial’s global fintech forays in China
  • The largest deals in 2017 went to companies providing insurance…
  • Startups are allowing Chinese investors to access overseas securities and In 2017, Ant Financial’s Yu’e Bao became the largest money market fund in the world
  • Banks forgo partnering in favor of fighting fintech with fintech 

Huawei in Kenya

Huawei Kenya held a media briefing at their Kenya headquarters near Lavington. This was refreshing as last year when they were to do a demonstration of the Nairobi Smart Cities project; they scaled it down as soon as they heard the Cabinet Secretary was not going to show up for the event.

Huawei has been operating in Kenya for 19 years since 1998. They have done lots of projects mainly in the telecommunications space; they rolled out networks for Safaricom and Telkom Kenya and also launched the Ideos, the $100 smartphone with Google and Safaricom.

The Huawei Kenya representatives spoke about ongoing projects with the government such as cloud services for the entire Kenya government, roll out of government fibre to all 47 counties, and police security & 4G networks. Since 2015 they also provide the software for M-Pesa for Vodafone to roll out across Africa and the world. They also provide about 2/3 of the infrastructure of Safaricom and also power M-Kopa solar payment systems.

Huawei is a $75 billion company with 180,000 employees (80,000 who work in R&D), and operate in 170 countries. It is entirely employee-owned by 81,000 employees in China while the founder/CEO owns  1.4% of the shares. They have 300 staff working in Kenya and provide about 100 scholarships a year for Kenyans to study in China.

In 2016, Huawei sold 139 million smartphones – (number three behind Apple and Samsung). They work hard to combat the reputation that Chinese means ‘low quality’ and Huawei is the world biggest patent filer, and have been granted over 62,000 patents. They spend over $10 billion a year in R&D – and build their own its own chipsets, batteries, and some phones have three antennas etc. to optimize their phones.