Category Archives: Corporate governance

Mortgage Refinance and Amendments to The CBK Act, 1966

Via a legal alert from Oraro & Company Advocates: The Finance Act, 2018 which was assented to on September 21, 2018, amended the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Act, 1966 to regulate Mortgage Finance Businesses (the business). The amendments include having new definitions and the introduction of new powers to the CBK. These amendments came into effect on 1st October, 2018.

New Definitions

  • A Mortgage Refinance Business is defined as the business of providing long-term financing to primary mortgage lenders for housing finance and any other activity that the bank may prescribe from time to time;
  • Mortgage Refinance Company means a non deposit-taking company established under the Companies Act of 2015 and licensed by the CBK to conduct mortgage refinance business;
  • Specified Mortgage Refinance Company means a licensed mortgage refinance company licensed under the CBK Act.

Increased CBK powers

With the introduction of new sections, CBK will now have the power to license and supervise the business. This includes:

  • Determining capital adequacy requirements;
  • Prescribe minimum liquidity requirements and permissible investments for the business;
  • Supervise the business by conducting both on and off-site supervision;
  • Assess the professional capacities of persons managing the business;
  • Approving the board management of the business;
  • Approving the appointment of external auditors;
  • Collecting regular data from the business;
  • Approving the annual audited accounts of the business before publication and presentation at the AGM;
  • Revoke or suspend a license;
  • Receiving reports from the Mortgage Refinance Business.

These are extracts from other documents from Oraro & Company with detailed implications of the passing and presidential assent of the Finance Bill 2018.

Britam vs Cytonn Executives

A dispute between insurance giant Britam and some of its former executives who left the firm and set up a rival investment management firm called Cytonn has been on and off for the last four years. Recently a judge ruled that a criminal case would continue in the courts.

After that decision, Cytonn CEO Edwin Dande issued a personal statement on the long-running case as he set out to absolve Cytonn, which is known for its real estate property developments and financial industry reports, from the case against its four executives who had been at Britam. He writes on the reasons behind the dispute and their departure  which he says was due to insider attempts to destroy a Kshs 5 billion portfolio of client funds that they had brought to Britam (excerpts) :

  • .. the resignation was due to an operating environment that was fraught with illegalities and unethical business practices that we did not agree with…
  • we could not agree to be part of actions such as illegally using client insurance funds to purchase shares of Britam to rescue a failed IPO, we objected to using insurance funds under our management to purchase a failing bank – a transaction that has now led to loss of billions of shillings of investors’ funds..  
  • ..following our resignation, Britam launched a full-scale assault in an attempt to ruin our careers by filing 7 different suits claiming up to Kshs. 9.8 billion in stolen funds… 
  • The suits were obviously malicious and designed to achieve only two objectives: first was to punish the former team for daring to leave as a team, and second was to deter competition.

He writes that his statement was released was to reassure Cytonn’s 500 employees and 3,000 clients who had invested over Kshs 20 billion in various investment products.

Britam has been silent on the dispute other than their 2014 annual report which mentions the litigation; The British-American Asset Managers Limited is the Fund manager of a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) which has been mandated to invest in property. The LLP loaned Shs 3.9 billion to various third parties to purchase property. The company on behalf of the LLP has instituted legal suits to recover the above amounts plus costs. The court cases are ongoing and we expect that the outcome will be favourable

Both Cytonn’s managers and Britam have separately settled with Acorn that was a partner in the fund-raising plan before the dispute.

EDIT/ Update October 12: The Court of Appeal granted stay orders on October 11, meaning there is no prosecution action against the four Cytonn executives for now.

Karuturi AGM 2018

As workers of the former Karuturi flower farm in Naivasha, Kenya, await the outcome of a new appeal of the long-running court case and receivership, the Karuturi Group held an AGM in India and passed new resolutions to turn round the company.

The Bombay Stock Exchange-listed Karuturi, the world’s largest producer of cut roses, had published an annual report ahead of the AGM. According to the notice and results of the AGM, the Group proposed to increase the authorized share capital of the company to meet their long-term capital requirements.

Karuturi also plans to allocate convertible warrants to new shareholders who are; IBelive Fitness Solutions who may end with 10% if they exercise all options, Eye-3 Info Media who may end with 8% and Srinivasa Retail who will end with 14.3%. Prior to the AGM, the three had no shares in the company while the promoters of Karuturi had 25% and other public shareholders had 75%, including Deutsche Bank with 5%.

Shareholders also voted to appoint Messrs K G Rao and Co as auditors of the company and the notes showed that the previous year’s figures had not been audited by the current year auditors who had then provided a qualified opinion due to non-filing of some tax returns by the holding company. Another resolution was to ratify the appointment of the daughter of the Chairman and MD Sai Rama Karuturi, who had joined the board in September 2017. The resolutions were all passed.

The company has primary borrowings with Axis Bank in India (third largest private bank in the country), ICICI Bank of India, Axis Dubai, and smaller borrowings at the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Zemen Bank and Lion Bank in Ethiopia.

The accounts provided an (incorrect) link to the long-running Kenya bank case and receivership in Kenya. There are mentions in the notes that Karuturi Kenya was wound up by a court order of March 2016 and the company did not have any outstanding tax demands in Kenya or Ethiopia 

In a statement, the Board Chairman wrote that the Kenya farm should soon be back in the company’s possession following workers’ protests to various government authorities and media attention fueled by Kenyans on Twitter. On Ethiopia, he welcomed the new leadership of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and mentioned that the company had withdrawn all cases against the government of Ethiopia, paid compensation to the workers, and entered new lease agreements with a view to resuming operations in mid-2019.

Flowers by the Lake: Karuturi and the Bankers

Kenya is known as one of the giants of the giants of the fresh flower world, producing roses, lilies and other carnations that are freighted around the world to be used as gifts, tokens of affection, and to spruce up weddings, offices and restaurants.

A large share of these flowers come from farms around Lake Naivasha, a tiny lake in the Rift Valley of Kenya about 90 kilometers Northwest of Nairobi.  Many of the farms are on Moi South Lake Road, which is also where most of the picturesque Naivasha tourist lodges are also located. The road is a bumpy, potholed road, one which seems illogical given the investments on each side of the road, that run into tens of millions of dollars of lodges interspersed with flower farms, that neighbour each other for almost ten kilometers. In between are small ramshackle town structures that are a common peri-urban feature across the country housing bars, chemists, mobile money agents and other shops. There are also schools named after flower companies and you may spot hundreds of school children playing football or lounging at break time as other kids walk towards their homes, along the road which has sparse traffic of flower company buses and land cruisers and minivans ferrying tourists to different lodges, with familiar names like Simba, Enashipai, Sopa, Pinkman, Crayfish and Crescent. There are also signs for land for sale, usually on the left side of the road, away from the prime lake shore and some with unfinished building structures, outcomes of a dream sold years ago of Naivasha as a place to buy a holiday home.

Then there appears a large group of greenhouses, on the right side of the road, the preferred side. But unlike other farms you have passed, you can see past the ever-present Naivasha thorn bushes and security fences, that the greenhouses plastic walls and roofs are torn, flapping in the wind.. Inside the compound looks overgrown, and devoid of busy activity at other flower farms.

This is Karuturi, a farm that has spawned a long-running case in the Kenya courts. It is not the longest, not by far.  If you spend time in Kenya’s courts you will discover there are cases, commercial and civil, that stretch as far back as ten, twenty, and even thirty years.

The case, Civil Suit No. 78 of 2014 of Surya Holdings, Rhea Holdings and Karuturi Limited, against CFC Stanbic Bank collectively known Karuturi case is a unique one. One that has roped in banks in Kenya and India, landowners, flower pickers, workers unions, schools, two receiver managers, audit firms, suppliers and government agencies.

 A summary of the case events:
  • December 2012: Stanbic advances facilities to Karuturi; with the main loan to be repaid over five years. The facilities are secured by guarantees from directors of Karuturi as well as Rhea Holdings and Surya Holdings, related companies which are the registered owners of the land parcels the farm was situated on, The first repayment was made in January 2013 but then none was made for the next three months in succession.
  • January 2014: Stanbic obtained an advisory opinion which showed that the Karuturi farm was insolvent, its financial accounts were questionable for 2012 and it appeared the directors of Karuturi had abandoned the farm. They advised that putting the farm under receivership was the only way to stop further degradation of the assets. as the farm had stopped sales and production of flowers at Naivasha in August 2013.
  • February 2014: Stanbic places Karuturi in receivership and appoints Kieran Day and Ian Small as Receivers and Managers.
  • February 2014: Receivers advised the bank to move to dispose of the farm as soon as possible and to preserve assets by continue trading.
  • March 2014: Karuturi sues to challenge the appointment of receivers and stop the sale of the charged properties.
  • June 2014: Court rules that the appointment of receiver managers was proper. It also restrains the receivers from selling the charged properties (Rhea’s LR 10854/60 and Surya’s LR’s 12248/20, 12248/21, 12248/38, 25261 and 25262)
  • Karuturi was reported to have been relocating to Ethiopia in March 2014  in what was seen to signal a loss for Kenya as a preferred flower growing powerhouse.
  • October 2014: The Receivers create a company called Twiga BV to facilitate the sale of Karuturi flowers to the Netherlands and to receive revenue in order to pay expenses, staff and suppliers of the business. This came after Karuturi BV had been declared insolvent.
  • October 2015: One of the Receiver Managers is relocating from Kenya and the firm resigns. The bank appoints Muniu Thoithi and Kuria Muchiri of PWC as the new receiver-managers. Twiga was transferred to the new receivers at the end of 2015.
  • March 2016: In a hearing of a case filed to wind up Karuturi, and with lawyers for Polythene Industries, Agility, Ivaco, Inter Label, ICICI and Stanbic, the lawyers for Karuturi side with the winding up clause and allowed this process to proceed.
  • October 2016: A High Court judge finds that Karuturi had admitted (in March 2016) that they owed the bank $4M and Kshs 2.7 million before the receivership and that Surya and Rhea had provided securities to secure this debt. The court also directs that an independent forensic audit be done on business and operational transactions during the receivership period and look at items such as the expenses paid by the bank, repayments by Karuturi to the bank, balances outstanding, exports and production, payments to workers, tax payments, status of assets bought or sold during the receivership inventories, and compare the performance of the company between 2007-2012 to the receivership period.
  • November 2016: The suit parties settle on Deloitte to do the audit.
  • August 2017: Karuturi applies to the court seeking to pay $3.8M and Kshs 2.7 million within sixty days and have the bank release the land titles of Surya and Rhea.
  • October 2017: The audit report to the court reveals that, in addition to the debt owed before the receivership of $6.2M, another $9.4M had been spent during the receivership. The audit showed that 403 million good quality roses had been harvested (between February 2014 and May 2016), 2% of which could not be accounted for. Altogether in 2015 and 2016 Twiga received $23.6 million and paid $23.5 million for vendor expenses and administrative functions. Also, the assets of the company were intact, contrary to a Karuturi claim that the receiver managers had run down the assets of the company and it dismissed many of the accusations of Karuturi including that on transfer pricing and found that the receivers had not engaged in misconduct. The audit also found that the last known date of production at the farm was early in May 2016 and that the farm was descending into disrepair as costs continued to be incurred in preserving it.
  • October 2017: ICICI Bank of India wins a separate demand for $40 million from Karuturi.
  • January 2018: Courts rule that the receivership was proper and that Karuturi directors should pay the pre-receivership debt of $4M and Kshs 2.7 million, with interest, within 60 days. Also that, within 90 days, they are to pay $6.3M owed to creditors during the receivership and $6.7M advanced by the bank during the receivership period up to December 2016 and another $0.97M of receivership expenses incurred the following year to July 2017.
  • March 2018: Reports that an American company, Phoenix Group, has invested an undisclosed sum, said to be $2 billion, in Karuturi Global to help it pay its debts and revive its Kenya operations.

  • May 2018: The Receiver Manager of Karuturi (in liquidation) puts the movable assets of the company on sale. These include 1,400 steel greenhouses, vehicles, refrigeration and irrigation equipment. The land they occupy at Moi South Rd, Lake Naivasha is not part of the transaction.
  • Later in the month, Karuturi appealed against the court judgment and sought to terminate the receivership and also stop the sale of assets.

  • September 2018: The case is due for hearing this month. In the meantime, Kenya has enacted new company laws and insolvency laws. The main difference is that whereas before a receiver manager would act in the interest of the bank, they are now mandated to act on behalf of the bank and all creditors of the company.

Draft banking conduct and consumer finance laws in Kenya

In a move that may weed out practices that led to the introduction of interest rate capping, the Kenya government has developed a draft Financial Markets Conduct Bill for consumer finance protection.

Some clauses in the bill of interest:

  • Advertising: A person without a financial conduct license cannot put out an advertisement for the provision of credit. This also applies to building owners (billboards?), or in newspapers, magazines, radio, television.  Also, lender advertisements must be truthful. They cannot be misleading by deception.
  • Credit Limits – cards/overdrafts: Once a credit limit is approved, a financier can’t reduce the credit limits or decline to replace a lost credit card
  • Credit ReferenceNo release of  credit reports to unauthorized people
  • In-Duplum: There is also roundabout way of reintroducing the in-duplum rule. There is a clause that if a loan goes into default, the interest, fees, and other charges to be repaid cannot exceed the balance of the loan on the day it went into default.
  • Insurance: Loans cannot require a borrower to get insurance from a specific company.  
  • GuarantorsThe new laws protect guarantors and requires that they be made aware of all clauses in loan contract before they give guarantees, and with no variation to guarantor terms allowed. This is probably inspired by one guarantor and default dispute involving a cousin of the President that has seen over a dozen cases litigated in several courts over 25 years.
  • Pre-Receivership Management:  The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK)  can appoint a person to assist an institution to implement its directives when the CBK believes a bank or its officers are not in compliance with the act. The new law provides tools to assist troubled banks without shutting them down, and CBK can also order some shareholders to wind down their interest in institutions within a specific time.
  • Spam messages? Bank shall not communicate marketing messages to customers unless the customer loan agreement authorizes it.  
  • Statements: Requires all borrowers to be given term sheets before signing for loans, and a  copy of the loans contract afterwards. They are also entitled to a free statement every six months and other copies within ten days of a request.
  •  Variations: loan agreements shall not have clauses to vary interest during the loan, or be based on a different rate other than the reference rate of the lender.  
  • Wide Regulation: The new laws will apply to all providers of more than fifty loans and issuer of loans have six months to obtain the new licenses. What of loan apps?

Whether this new law which cracks down on unsavoury banking and consumer finance and behaviors will ease out the 2016 interest rate capping law while assuring parliamentarians who  championed the setting of maximum interest rates that bank behaviour will be better-regulated remains to be seen. Also if the clauses will help borrowers who have shifted to other more expensive lending platforms regardless of the consumer finance terms and interest rates charged there.

But the bill also creates a host of new financial regulators including; (i) a Financial Markets Conduct Authority (ii) Financial Services Tribunal (iii) Conduct Compensation Fund Board (iv) Financial Sector Ombudsman (v) an Ombudsman Board who may trip over other existing financial regulators.The bill is in the public participation stage and interested persons can send in feedback on its clauses to ps_at_treasury.go.ke before June 5.