Category Archives: Ecobank

Money Transfer across Africa

From focusing on money transfer in Kenya, where there has been a lot of development and competition especialy in the area of mobile money transfers, it now moves on to what about across Africa? From country to country?

Today in Nairobi Ecobank formally launched their Rapidtransfer which was rolled out in October 2009 is now available in Kenya. With Rapidtransfer one can send money to families members e.g. school fees, pay for goods, send cash to another account in another country, and have the funds available instantly in local currency

An illustration used was for how one can now transfer money from Mombasa Kenya to Dakar Senegal – and with Rapidtransfer, an individual can send a maximum of $10,000 per day (~Kshs 800,000)between the two points on opposite sides of the continent instantly! It is also open to non-account holders and can be used for intra-country transfers as well. The product works only within the Ecobank network, which now covers about 30 countries. They get around the foreign currency restrictions in some countries by making and receiving payments in local currency (no forex exposure to customer) and all at a competitive rate compared to Western Union or Moneygram.

Rapidtransfer was was launched by Kenya’s Central Bank Governor who chided the media for wanting too much from the product already. On whether Rapidtransfer will be on mobile phone, he gave tales about trying to buy a car in 1992 when money would take a week to be transferred from a Nairobi account to a Mombasa account (it was then faster to send money hidden in an Akamba Bus package) and this was also at a time when branches were not linked and one could only transact at a particular branch.

Rapidtransfer is unique in that many because banks don’t talk to each other across border e.g. a bank in Kenya and a bank in Uganda may share the same parent or name but customers who cross borders are not able to transact (except using visa). However, Ecobank customers are also able to use their ATM bank card in all the 30 countries they are present to fully transact across borders.

Pan African Banking

Part II of Ecobank 2010 AGM

After the Ecobank AGM in Nairobi on June 11 for shareholders only, there was a media briefing with Arnold Ekpe – Group CEO, Kolapo Lawson – Group Chairman, Tony Okpanachi – Managing Director Kenya and the other executive directors of Ecobank.

At the session were journalists from several African countries including Ghana Nigeria Rwanda Uganda Zambia, Kenya and various media houses including AllAfrica asked questions of members of the board, mainly answered by the Chairman and the Managing Director. Questions were asked in English and French and the (multi-lingual) directors answered each in the language asked, with the CEO summing in English sometimes.

A lot of the same information given to the press was also disclosed to shareholders during the AGM, and at some point, the CEO asked business journalists to read the actual full annual reports, not just the abridged versions, as a lot of the answers were there.

Media Q&A excerpts

Explain African strategy, especially in war-torn countries?

Ecobank serves African countries and African countries always have needs for financial services. E. g. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) can be Africa’s richest country, it needs financial services and Ecobank has invested about $30 million in telecommunications and small & medium enterprises (SME’s). They understand the risks they face such as non-payment of loans and mitigate those risks. Also, wars can’t last forever, and they saw this in Liberia where they were the only bank that remained during the wartime and are now the largest bank in the country.

Also, they plan to be a world-class Pan-African bank. They devote 1% of their after-tax profit to an Ecobank Foundation that has helped a lot of young entrepreneurs and they are the leading micro-finance bank in Africa, with MFI subsidiaries, in addition to commercial banks, in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Cameroon etc. They have also lent between $500 million to $1 billion to other micro-finance institutions

In answer to other questions, they said No, they don’t have a sector-specific strategy; they look at all risk and return opportunities, and also they are not really into agriculture, though by extension their microfinance arms are.

Asked about the 38% decline in profit attributed to Nigeria’s banking problems: Ecobank’s exposure in Nigeria is 30% compared to the rest of Africa, which is 70%. They are competitive in Nigeria and going forward they see markets like East Africa, and Southern Africa (notably Angola), as being more important over time to an extent that problems in one market (country) should not adversely affect the bank’s bottom line.

What is unique about Ecobank? (asked by a Zambian journalist who noted that they and other banks had invested in Zambia at the height of the global economic crisis?)

They are present in more African countries (29) than any other bank in Africa: from Zambia, one can transfer cash within Ecobank to 28 other countries and a customer can use an Ecobank card in all their 29 African countries, including South Africa during the World Cup and access to thousands of ATMs.

Another question was asked (in French) and from the answer, it seems to be about delays in Rapidtransfer – through which one can send cash to 29 African countries within 24 hours. They answered that they have to comply with anti-money laundering/fraud verification, and they use text messages for the transfers, and if the recipient is not available, the money is refunded to the sender. CEO said there are more Africans in the African Diaspora than outside Africa and they transfer a lot of money which is what Ecobank is facilitating, noting that the volume of ‘Rapidtransfer’ had trebled in 3 months

The genesis of the bank was in a private-sector attempt to facilitate regional trade in the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) region. To this day they try and facilitate regional trade within Africa, among African countries; in East Africa, regional trade is ‘high’ at 20%, West Africa it’s 10%, and Central Africa is at 2% – compared to Europe at 60%. The bank enables business people to trade across countries instantly, and in East Africa when the EAC protocol takes off on July 1 2010, they will be the only bank with such a presence in the five East African community countries.

Fundraising plan: Of the $3 billion targeted in the rights issue, they managed to raise $778 million. They had earlier discussed with shareholders and plan to raise another $500 million this year and more when conditions improve.

Will they cross-list in Kenya?: They mentioned the need to build a critical mass of shareholders as they have just about 800 shareholders in Eastern and Southern Africa. Answering a similar question later, they said cross-listing had to make business sense and there needs to be ample liquidity in terms of many shareholders trading a lot of shares. Their investor relations (IR) people are watching and will advise them on the way forward

Investment in Kenya: Has been about $40 million in two years. The bank they bought, EABS, had 8 branches, they are now at 19 with another three scheduled to be added this year


Why staff numbers are down?: Overall, in the last few years, staff numbers have been on the increase going from 3,000 to over 11,000, but they shed some staff in 2009 through rationalization and efficiency programs.

Ecobank 2010 AGM

Ecobank, a Togolese based banking conglomerate, makes history today by having its 22nd annual shareholder’s general meeting, not in Togo or Accra where it is listed, but in Kenya. Why Kenya? While it has a presence in over 30 African countries, in 2008 they completed a buyout of a homegrown financial institution that was known as the East African Building Society, which is now known as Ecobank Kenya from which they will base their ambitious regional plans.

As with exposure to the Ugandan investment sector, Ecobank brings an awareness of practices of and levels of disclosure for Kenyan companies that have engaged in cross-listing on exchanges in Uganda and Tanzania.

• Looking at the AGM notice for Ecobank which has 180,000 shareholders, it encourages shareholders to sign their proxies and vote even if they don’t plan to attend the AGM, with for/against/abstain boxes to tick.
• Notice figures are quoted in US$ [profit of $62.9 million and a dividend of $29.7 million equivalent to $0.3 per share]. [At the end of 2009, Ecobank has assets of $9 billion, while in Kenya it was the 19th largest bank by the same measure with assets of Kshs 13.95 billion, ($186 million) and made a loss of Kshs 1.15 billion ($15 million) after making heavy provisions in a one time effort to clean up their old loan book]
• Approval of director’s remuneration is something glossed over in Kenya and approved without scrutiny or numbers disclosed, perhaps referred to in the footnotes. Ecobank lists the packages availed to directors that are being voted on [Chairman $50,000, other board members $30,000 and all get two first-class air tickets to Europe]
• There is a follow-up to previous shareholder resolutions: It notes that shareholders had approved capital to be raised by $3 billion, by a rights issue – but that so far only $778 million has been raised and (the meeting) asks shareholders to re-affirm the decision and to allow the board to continue to raise funds by various means.
• Audit firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) is re-appointed as joint auditors comprising teams from PWC Ivory Coast and PWC Nigeria.
• Directors being co-opted to the board have their (extensive) CV’s – two in this case, and both are under 50 years.

Pepsi to Kenya?

. Nairumour that after an absence of many years, Pepsi will re-enter the Kenyan market in the near future to resume battle with Coca Cola, possibly through their South African partners. If so, it will cap a great year for investment to the country, and that despite 2008 being a relatively tough year for investors and companies, with the post-election violence, business disruption, high fuel and energy prices, depressed consumer spending, P & P madness (pirates and politicians) collapsing stockbrokers, there was a steady flow of new investments and new products that happened this year.

Re-cap of some notable ones

Banking
– Takeovers concluded – Ecobank take over of EABS, and Stanbic merger with CFC (now CFCStanbic)
– UBA licensed (2009)
– Gulf African and First Community (Shariah banking kicks off)

Beverages
– Summit Lager a new beer from Keroche Industries
– East African Breweries launched Alvaro (malted soft drink)
Coca Cola launched Novidia (another malted soft drink) and also started selling Minute maid
– KETEPA launched Safari Iced Tea

Communications
– WPP buys into Scangroup
– 2008 saw the launch of two new mobile operators – Orange (France Telkom) and Yu (Essar/Econet) to battle Safaricom and a re-energized Zain
– Altech buys into KDN
– A long-running fight over one(EASSY)submarine cable, gave birth to three different ones being laid to Mombasa
– Wananchi launched Zuku (TV, Broadband, Phone)

Transport, Energy & Manufacturing
– Tiger brands buying into Haco
– An investment in the Kenya Oil Refinery at Mombasa was still under battle between Libyan and Indian Investors
– Jinchuan (China) to bail out Tiomin?
– Mirambo and PD Toll to salvage the Rift Valley Railways
– Delta Airlines (USA – but postponed to 2009)
– Air Arabia started flights to Kenya

Tourism
– Libyans took over the Grand (Laico) Regency
The Tribe opens.

Exits
– Chevron (Caltex) sold out – bought by Total
– Unilever (de-listing from the NSE)
– Roy Puffet from rift Valley Railways

Facing South and West

With the NSE under water, even lower than the post-election period, it may be time to look West and South for investment ideas. Not too far West, where the US where the financial tsunami is still warming up (threatening to take down Lehman and AIG today), or too far South where it will take some adjusting to Zuma time.

Here there’s some previously unthinkable debate about postponing the Coop Bank IPO and how low the fundamentaly sound (PDF) Safaricom (could) be by the December holiday period.

What’s in store in the rest of Africa?

Kenya: Unilever shareholders have till October 6 to decide if they want to get paid de-list the company.

Togo: According to the Business daily Kenyans may be able to invest in Ecobanks’ rights issue to raise $1 billion. 5 new shares can be bought for every 9 held at $0.29 (~Kshs. 20) per share, minimum 500 shares, and closes October 3

Malawi The Real Insurance Company of Malawi offering of 77.5 million shares at kwacha 2.30 (~Kshs. 1.15) per share, closes on September 19

Botswana The Funeral Services Group offering of 36 million shares at P1.00 (~Kshs. 10) per share. Closes September 22

Insular Tanzania continues to lock out foreign, deliberately including East African, investors from their market, so no thanks!

More at africanshareholder.com

Plane truth

[image: KQ 777]

Embattled Kenya Airways who are facing local strike threat and customer service issues were ranked No. 93 in Top 100 Airline survey; how did they fare against their regional peers in terms of passengers carried and revenue (euros)?

Airline, passengers carried, revenue in millions of euros
12. Emirates, 21.2 million passengers, EUR 6,801 million
27. Virgin Atlantic —
41. South African, 7.5 million pax, EUR 2,184 million
73. Egyptair 5.7 million pax, EUR 1,166 million
90. Ethiopian 2.29 million pax, EUR 583 million
93. Kenya Airways 2.8 million passengers, EUR 611 million