This week saw the approval of the first-ever green bond in Kenya, issued by Acorn Holdings to fund student accommodation projects around Nairobi.
Acorn is one of the largest developers in Kenya, having delivered over 50 projects worth $550 million in the last decade. These include the local headquarters for Coca Cola, Equity Bank and Deloitte, and the UAP Tower, which is currently the tallest occupied building in Nairobi. They plan to raise up to Kshs 5 billion ($50 million) investors through a bond that has a bullet maturity in five years and which pays 12.25% interest. The green bond issue is partially guaranteed by GuarantCo up to a maximum of $30 million.
Acorn has ventured into purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), under two brands, Qwetu and Qejani. They are developing projects close to universities around Nairobi, which target students at campuses of USIU, University of Nairobi, Daystar, KCA and Riara universities.
This is to address the current situation where the increasing number of students at universities live in sub-standard housing, without amenities, in poor condition or which are considered unsafe. These are mostly in older building not designed for students such as former domestic-staff quarters. Yet students require reliability water & electricity, Wi-Fi, security, furnishings etc. and which ensure security and privacy.
Qejani is a high-rise, mass-market, offering which students can rent for between Kshs 7,500 -12,500 ($125) per month for single, double or quadruple room accommodations, while Qwetu is their premium brand. The funding will go towards completing student accommodation facilities including Qwetu USIU Road 3 & Road 4, Sirona Phase 1 & 2, Bogani East Road Qwetu, Bogani East Road Qejani, and Nairobi West Qwetu.
The green bond offer, which is restricted to sophisticated investors, opened on 16 August and closes on 27 September 2019. Allotments will be done on 30 September 2019, with the minimum level of subscription set at 40% for it to be deemed a success.
Other aspects of the bond issue:
- It is restricted to sophisticated (institutional) investors.
- Opened on 16 August and closes on 27 September 2019. Allotments will be done on 30 September 2019.
- The minimum level of subscription is set at 40% for it to be deemed a success.
- Stanbic Kenya is the issuing and paying agent for the green bonds, and they will confirm that funds will not be used for more than 65% of the project costs with Acorn contributing the other 35%.
- Helios Partners are investors in Acorn.
- GuarantCo is sponsored by the governments of the UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia and Sweden and by FMO, the Dutch development bank.
- Moody’s Investors Service has assigned a provisional B1 to the Acorn bond.
- The issue will be certified as a green bond given that Acorn’s projects are constructed in accordance with the International Finance Corporation – IFC’s EDGE (“excellence in design for greater efficiencies”) requirements for sustainable buildings and certified by the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) “.. they aim to steer construction in rapidly urbanizing economies onto a more low-carbon path. Certification is based on benefits generated from providing solutions in construction and operation: energy, water, and materials.”
- The green bonds program is endorsed by the Central Bank of Kenya, the Capital Market Authority and the National Treasury.
EDIT October 3, 2019.
Edit: Jan 13 2020: Acorn Holdings listed the Kshs 4.3 billion green bond on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.
EDIT Jan 20 2020: President Uhuru Kenyatta rang the bell to mark the cross listing of Kenya’s first green bond on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
Edit: October 27 2020: Acorn plans to transfer its partnership interest in Acorn Project II to a new Acorn Development REIT (D-REIT) that has been approved by the CMA.
Edit: February 24 2021: Acorn converted its bond intro units trusts as two real estate investment trusts (Reits), a D-REIT and I-REIT on the NSE’s new unquoted securities platform.
Edit: 29 March 2021: Acorn reported the results of their offer. The I-REIT raised Kshs 3.34 billion and the D-REIT raised Kshs 4.24 billion. Each had 22 professional investors and the shares will be traded on the OTC facility of the NSE.
Edit: May 6 2021: Acorn announced that it will make an early repayment of Kshs 777 million of the Kshs 5 billion medium-term note and the amount will be delisted from the fixed-income segment of the Nairobi Securities Exchange.
To be updated.