Category Archives: Forex

Online currency trading with FXPesa in Kenya

With the recent attention on exchange rates and online forex (foreign exchange) trading in Kenya, this month we got to engage with one of the pioneers in the space – EGM Securities.

Their parent company is Equity Global Markets Capital, with seven locations across the world, They launched in Kenya in 2017 after they got a non-dealing online foreign exchange broker license from the Capital Markets Authority (CMA). This means that they don’t set the prices locally, they just enable the trades and make money from the spreads.

They then spent their first few months tweaking and develop their offering in Kenya where the mobile phone is prevalent for payment transactions. They then came up with FXPesa, a simple tool for retail traders to use.

FXPesa was launched in May 2019 and also has a web version. Within six months, FXPesa had registered over 25,000 users. They have integrated with local payment methods such as M-pesa, Equitel, cards, and bank transfers for traders to get money out and in easily. People can trade as little as $100, right from an uber or matatu. Prices change in nano-seconds, but traders on FXPesa can set “stop-loss” and “take profit” triggers and also earn trading bonuses.

After downloading the FXPesa from an app store, users can register and get on to a demonstration portal. The demo account comes with some virtual money, and prices the same as real the trading side, for new potential investors to get started. 

Meanwhile, EGM does some vetting and extensive know-your-customer (KYC) checks to ensure the accounts are legitimate and not being used for money laundering. They also offer beginner, intermediate, or advanced training classes. They also aim not to be used for dangerous speculation and cap trading amounts based on people’s income.

FXPesa offers clients over 100 instruments such as currency pairs, commodities, indices and shares. Some of the most popular ones are currency pairs like Euro/US dollar, US dollar/ Japanese Yen and Great Britain pound/US dollar as well as commodities like gold and crude oil, and Apple and Google shares. The South African Rand is the third most traded currency.

Nigeria fines MTN’s Banks over Forex breach

A few weeks after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directed local commercial banks to refund foreign currency (forex) it says telecommunications giant MTN had banked through them, the CBN has gone ahead to debit the accounts of two banks it cited for facilitating what it termed as illegal capital repatriation from Nigeria.

The banks mentioned were Standard Chartered, Stanbic IBTC,  Citibank, and  Diamond Bank which were all directed to refund a total sum of $8.13 billion for breaching Nigeria’s forex rules on behalf of MTN.

It was later reported that the CBN had debited N2.4 billion ($7.9 million) in fines from Standard Chartered and N1.2 billion from Citigroup. The CBN spokesman said they had investigated the remittance of forex by the banks related to irregular certificates of capital importation (CCI’s) issued to offshore investors of MTN and concluded that $3.45 billion was repatriated by Standard Chartered Bank, $2.6 billion by Stanbic IBTC, $1.7 billion by Citibank Nigeria and $348 million by Diamond Bank between 2007 and 2015.

MTN had been in talks to raise funds, possible do an IPO in Nigeria which is their largest market, like a recent one in Ghana. In various statements to shareholders on the matter, MTN said they are a law-abiding corporate citizen and that the issue of historic dividends allegedly repatriated by MTN Nigeria between 2007 and 2015 had been investigated and concluded at the Nigerian senate which found that there was no collusion to contravene forex laws.

MTN’s has since sued the CBN and Attorney General of Nigeria to restrain them from taking further action against assets of the company.

EDIT: December 24, 2018:

After discussions between the Central Bank and MTN, a settlement deal was arrived at which will see MTN pay just US$53.2 million,  a tiny fraction of the $8.1 billion the Bank had sought from the group’s subsidiary in the West African country.

Cement Moment: CDC Buys into ARM

ARM (Athi River Mining) Cement seems to have been grappling with a short-term debt burden. It was reported that an Indian firm Ultratech was interested in investing $125 million, a few weeks ago for a stake in the firm. But today’s results announced by ARM, which show a full-year loss of Kshs 3.5 billion, 9blamed on an unrealised exchange loss  of Kshs 3.7 billion) also came with a notice that the CDC Group, the UK  government-owned development finance institution, has committed to invest Kshs 14 billion (~$140 million) for equity in the listed company.

CDC will become the largest shareholder in ARM and the company will use $110 million of the new funding to reduce their short-term debt (payments stand at about $1.5 million per month) and which totaled $200 million at the end of 2015. ARM shares have lost 2/3 of their value, now at 30 after trading as high as 80 in 2013

A few days ago, CDC also announced an acquisition of 10.7% of I&M Holdings, the parent group of I&M Bank. More detail here about ARM’s debt and fund-raising history, and when they kicked Bamburi, then a large shareholder, off their board.

Other Cement Companies

An Oxford Group report notes that The growth in (Kenya) construction activity has been a boon for producers, but the scope for further increases in the near term is sizeable, given that Kenya’s per-capita consumption remains well below that of other major economies on the continent. Annual per-capita demand for cement averages 100 kg, according to sector players, compared with 506 kg in Egypt and 230 kg in South Africa…However, the rise in domestic demand has not necessarily translated to a healthier balance sheet for the country’s producers. The average net profit margins for Kenya’s cement firms hit an all-time low of 11% last year, according to ARM Cement.

  • Bamburi: A recent investor note about Bamburi mentions that its shares have gained 25% in the last year and it increased its’ profit by 45% in an industry which recorded a decline in average net profits. Bamburi also has a generous dividend policy and has paid an increasing level of divided since 2011.
  • EAPCC East African Portland Cement is said to be trying to negotiate with the government to use some of their vast land holdings in Athi River / Kajiado area to restructure the company.
  • Dangote: Is still interested in investing in Kenya? Media reports say there’s a grinding plant in Kenya with others planned.
  • Savannah Cement completed a major plant upgrade to boost the firm’s production and efficiency.

Corporate Briefs

Kenya Bus trouble: Kenya Bus Services is going through some turbulent times as creditors have tried to sell some of their buses during the busy Easter weekend. General Motors Kenya moved to Court to attach 17 Msafiri buses over a 198 million shilling debt, and last week Kenya Grange Vehicle Industries tried to ‘sell’ 10 of KBS newest vehicles (the double-decker buses?) over a 6 million shilling debt – but both moves were halted by the Courts.

Braeburn (school) buys Hillcrest (school): The Saga of the Hillcrest schools, formerly owned by Kenneth Matiba’s Alliance Investments, took a new turn when the schools were sold to the Braeburn Group to settle a Kshs. 620 million debt owed to Barclays Bank. Earlier this week MP’s and some lobby groups launched a campaign to urge the Government to save the Matiba group  companies from predatory foreign banks.

SMS Banking: National Bank has launched SIM-ple banking which will enable customers to check balances, verify salaries, make utility payments and about 30 other services. This Nation article said that there’s a vast potential for mobile banking that is not being exploited. It’s probably due to the cost as both Prime and Co-operative banks already offer mobile banking at 30 shillings per SMS request, but the service is currently free at Dubai Bank.

No to a Strong Shilling: Central Bank has announced that it will move to weaken the Kenyan Shilling if it gets too strong against the US dollar. The shilling hit a 21-month high of 72.9, and bank forex dealers expect the dollar to fall below the 70-shilling mark soon. However, a strong shilling makes Kenya’s principal exports like coffee, tea and flowers, more expensive

US: No to Africa: The US will not finance recommendations made in the Commission for Africa Report.

Interest Rates inch up: Barclays Bank base lending rate is now 13.75%. In 2003 lending rates at most banks were about10%. The new rates at major banks of 13 – 14% are still far below the 25 – 28% rates that they charged customers in the late 1990’s.