Category Archives: Investing in Kenya

Kenya 2018 Budget Breakdown from Barclays

Barclays Bank has released a detailed budget breakdown of Kenya’s estimates for the year 2018/19. This was at an event for corporate investment banking clients of Barclays with a theme of “demystifying the national budget.” and which came a few days after Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Treasury, Henry Rotich had delivered his budget speech and estimates for the year to the country’s parliament.

The Barclays budget breakdown team featured Samantha Singh a Senior Analyst – Macro Research, Barclays Africa Group, Anthony Mulisa (Regional Treasurer East Africa), Peter Mungai (Head of Tax, Barclays Kenya) and James Agin, (Corporate Investment Banking Director). Anthony Kirui the Barclays Director of Markets said that while other accountants and audits had done budget analysis that mainly looked at the tax implications, the Barclays budget breakdown would focus on macroeconomic issues that affect their clients.

Some Highlights 

Revenue Targets:  The Kenya revenue estimates for 2018/19 are very bold, aiming for Kshs 1.9 trillion of domestic revenue, which is 40% more than last year. This is premised on a projected GDP growth for Kenya this year of 5,8%, but which Barclays expects will be at 5.5%

Tax Increases: Some new measure include import duties on iron, steel, oils, excise duties on money transfers sugar, private vehicles, and revised capital gains taxes, withholding taxes and business permit taxes. The Barclays team said that the income tax bill 2018 replaces some 1974 legislation that has not kept pace with time also changes the VAT act, and stamp duty acts.

The budget also moves several items from being zero-rated to be exempt, which means that suppliers are prohibited from claiming refunds and this will result in higher costs of products will be passed on to consumers. Also value added tax (VAT) on fuel products kick in from September 2018, while Kerosene taxes will also go up to match those of petrol.

While the CS mentioned reconsidering the 35% income tax on individuals, he was silent on that of corporations which are now likely to go to 35%, the highest in East Africa. The Barclays team said that Parliament needs to critically look at this, as the average corporate income tax rate across Africa is at 28%, while globally it is 25%. Also, the modalities of a new 0.05% excise duty on financial transfers of more than Kshs 500,000 ($5,000) need to be clarified.

Managing Deficits: Kenya’s deficits have been widening and this is due to lower revenues and higher expenditure, especially of recurrent items. Still, the government targets to reduce the fiscal deficit from 7.2% to 5.7% of GDP. The fiscal deficit is about Kshs 600 billion for 2018-19 is quite large; which the government plans to finance it with a mix of domestic and external finance, but Singh said it will be more difficult for Kenya and other African economies to get Euro Bonds as US interest rates are rising.

She said debt was not necessarily bad, but it was more about where the money went, which should be towards development, but not for recurrent expenditure or to defend currencies. The team was also concerned about recurrent expenditure which makes up 16% of GDP and 60% of the budget while development expenditure is 25% of the budget.

Barclays expect foreign exchange reserves to remain adequate but that with an IMF facility ending in September, Singh said that international investors would want to see Kenya affiliated with IMF and have some standby assistance (even though the IMF is not popular), or it will be hard for them to continue to finance the fiscal deficit.

Debt & Development: The Barclays team was concerned that 4 out of every 10 shillings raised this year will go to pay for debt, and they were also concerned about recurrent expenditure which makes up 16% of GDP and 60% of the budget. They noted that two years ago, 33% of the budget was going to development; now it is down to 25% and that is still going to come under more pressure as public salaries and recurrent expenditure goes up unless the government strengthens its public finance management, ensure efficiency in the collection of taxes, cut waste & corruption, and ropes in a large part of the population who are not making a fair contribution – and the team opined that if these three measures were achieved, the budget’s ambitious targets would be met and this could even enable future tax cuts.

Local Industry & Manufacturing Support: The Kenya government plans to grow manufacturing’s share of GDP from 9% to 15%. This will be enabled by raising customs taxes on iron, steel, textiles, footwear in order to promote local industries by protecting them from cheap imports. The government has also come up with offer off-peak electrical energy schemes at lower tariff’s to encourage businesses to manufacture over 24-hours.

Interest Rate Caps: In his budget speech last week, the CS Treasury requested a repeal of interest rate caps and the Barclays team was hopeful that would be approved by Parliament, saying that the cap had resulted in unintended consequences that were detrimental to the credit sector – with small businesses being unable to access bank credit and that t had also complicated monetary policy decision making.

Financial Behaviour: The team also discussed a draft financial markets conduct bill that was recently introduced as one of the alternative solutions to the interest caps and which is now going through public participation. They said that Barclays had given feedback on the bill which is likely to increase the cost of regulation through double licensing, and which is unclear on who it protects.  They said that the bill borrows from Western countries where there was aggressive credit expansion to people who should not have been borrowing, whereas here it is the opposite situation of there being too little credit.

Conclusion: The budget breakdown is a part of a series of sessions that Barclays will have on topical issues that impact their corporate clients, and another session will take place in Mombasa.

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.

Kenya Income Tax Cuts, Increases, and Other changes 2018

The Kenya government, through the National Treasury, is proposing some long overdue changes to the country’s income tax laws, which are contained in a draft bill that will be submitted to Parliament.

The bill has new clauses that affect transfer pricing, new extractive (oil & gas) industries, phase out of turnover tax, and an apparent tax cuts. It comes after other recent changes to the tax code. Kenya also has an ongoing waiver and amnesty program for income tax and assets held outside Kenya to be declared and repatriated to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA)  by June 30.

Leading accounting and audit firms such as KPMG, PWC, and Deloitte have looked deep into the clauses, and these are some of their findings: 

KPMG:

  • Companies are to produce and maintain transfer pricing documentation and policies in place for the year of income.
  • The withholding tax threshold of Kshs 24,000 had been deleted.
  • Payments to non-resident petroleum contractors will be 20% (up rom the current 12.5%)
  • Developers who build over 400 houses to pay taxes of 15% on gains.
  • Micro-finance institutions (MFI’s) interest will be exempt from withholding tax.
  • Sports clubs & associations will get taxed on entrance fees and subscriptions.
  • Farms, warehouses or doing consultancy work for more than 91 days in a year are now considered permanent establishments. KPMG comment – This will require non-resident persons doing business in Kenya to re-think their operational models.
  • A listed company will pay 25% taxes for five years if 40% of its shares are floated.  KPMG  comment – this will reduce the impact of taxation as an incentive to list.

Deloitte:

  • Income tax rate of 35% on more than Kshs 750,000 (~$7,500) per month
  • Non-residents’ who receive their pensions in Kenya will pay a tax of 10% on transfers (up from 5%) 
  • A higher corporate tax of 35% for large companies with taxable income over Kshs 500 million (~$5 million).
  • Real-estate capital gains tax of 20% (up from the current 5%). Deloitte comment – Though the increment is quite steep, it enhances equity considering that CGT is regarded as a tax on wealth.
  • Equality: Each person in a marriage is now required to file their own tax returns: no more cases of wives having their incomes filed under husband’s income tax returns.  
  • Mining & Oil: Losses can be carried forward for a maximum of 14 years (There is no current cap)
  • EPZ holiday removed: Now EPZ’s will pay 10% tax for the first 10 years, and 15% for the next ten years (other companies pay 30% corporate tax).
  • SACCO’s: Cooperative societies to pay a withholding tax on dividends and bonuses of 10% (up from the current 5%) 
  • Subsidiaries in Kenya to pay 10% tax on dividends remitted to the parent companies.
  • E-commerce: The Treasury Cabinet Secretary will be allowed to introduce taxes on digital platforms.
  • Capital allowances reduced: The 150% allowance for investments outside cities has been removed, those for filming equipment reduced from 100% to 50%, and educational institutions from 50% to 10%.
  • Small businesses, that are licensed by counties, will pay a presumptive tax of 15% of the business permit fee. Deloitte comment – (this) replace the turnover tax, currently at the rate of 3% of a person’s turnover (KRA has faced challenges collecting) ..  will require collaboration with the county governments. 

PWC

  • All medical insurance paid by employers for employees is now tax-exempt (even for expatriate staff) and age limits for children covered goes up from 21 to 24 years.
  • withholding tax of 5% will be levied on payments to foreign insurance companies. PWC comment – this is aimed at promoting local insurance companies.
  • Income tax exemptions that have been dropped include income of the Export-Import Bank of the USA (relates to Kenya Airways?). Also on the income of stockbrokers from trading in listed shares. PWC comment – this may have a negative impact on the growth of the capital markets in Kenya;
  • 20% withholding tax on payment to non-Kenyan companies for horticultural exports. 
  • 20% withholding tax on payment of air-tickets to non-resident agents. PWC comment – may lead to increase in airline ticket prices in Kenya which may affect competitiveness of local airlines.

They also looked at other recent tax adjustments which PWC notes will mainly alleviate the government from paying VAT refunds.

  • Milk, maize, bread, bottled water, will all cost more after moving from “0%” VAT to “exempt” VAT as importers will pass on non-recoverable VAT to consumers.
  • Same for LPG gas, some medicines and agricultural pest control inputs.
  • Making housing affordable. PWC comment – the Government is also proposing a stamp duty exemption for the purchase of a house by a first time home owner under an affordable housing scheme
  • Betting/Gambling: For winnings, a 20% tax will be deducted at source i.e the betting company) on any prizes (this is up from the current 5%)

Other Clauses in the Income Tax bill

  • Parent companies are to file country-by-country reports with KRA within 12 months of year-end.
  • No capital gains tax is due on land if it is compulsorily acquired by the government.
  • No capital gains on listed securities.  
  • While there is a new 35% tax for the rich, the income tax bill appears to lower taxes for the low-income.  e.g. someone earning Kshs 40,000 (~$400) per month, who pays 5,932 in tax per month now after personal relief, will have a lower tax burden.  Income tax bands are expanded in the 10% range (now up to 13,000 from the previous 10,000) and there is also a higher relief of Kshs 1,408 versus the current 1,162) and the resulting net tax for the person will now be Kshs 5,009 for the month – a 15% income tax cut?.  
  • Tax rate of 15% for five years for local vehicle assemblers. This can be extended by another 5 years if the company achieves 50% local content value in the vehicles.  
  • Taxes waived on the income of disabled persons, amateur sports associations, and NGO’s (relief, poverty, religion, distress) whose regional headquarters are located in Kenya.  

Finally, other stakeholders are invited to review the proposed changes to the 103-page income tax bill and submit comments via email to ITReview2017_at_treasury.go.ke by May 24.

7th BAFM – Building African Financial Markets – Day Two

Summary of day one of the BAFM.  

The second day of the 7th BAFM – Building African Financial Markets seminar continued with more explanations on changes in the global scene and how they could affect African exchanges.

Michele Carlsson of Nasdaq said immediate top compliance concerns were the need to fully understanding regulations and how they affect exchanges, and the inability of technology to meet current market requirements. She said it was important for exchanges to have market surveillance systems that could look at several assets classes, do powerful visualizations, have flexible alerting, and enable real-time controls as well as being scalable and resilient.

Anne Clayton of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange spoke on the impact that various new European Union regulations that could have on African capital markets. These include rules on general data protection (GDPR, May 2018), benchmark regulation (BMR – Jan 2018), financial instruments regulations (MiFID II –  Jan 2018) and others on derivatives trading. She explained that data on GDPR, EU citizens had to be notified of data breaches and they also the right to be forgotten if they requested it i.e. to have all their data wiped out from a system  – .but that is in conflict with “know your customer” (KYC) and “anti-money laundering” (AML) laws, which require that financial data, is kept for seven years.  African exchanges have low liquidity and the costs of compliance keep going up, now estimated at 5-10% of turnover, even where there is no uptake of products or use of some of the new rules. Many of them have low liquidity and are heavily dependent on foreign investors to provide liquidity, but such investors are sensitive to any policy or taxes which can make them shift to other markets. But non-compliance could result in heavy penalties for companies.

Dr. Anthony Miller spoke of new opportunities from linking exchanges to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through new products. Last week Fiji launched a green bond at the London Stock Exchange while there was a gender bond floated in Asia to support women funded entrepreneurs. This is at a time that companies like Bloomberg are tracking the growth of green funds around the world, while many other investors are eliminating carbon investments, like coal, from their portfolios.

Block chain and bitcoin were top topics of discussion on day two of the BAFM. One talk was an explanation on the different aspects of block chain technology, which could offer African institutions the ability for Africa to leapfrog old hurdles. Sofie Blakstad spoke of using block chain to provide cheaper rural financing that is much cheaper than from commercial banks, and that the technology also enabled an unprecedented level of validation of the impacts of targeted funding programs such as micro-finance institutions  e.g. how ethical or green their funding programs are, by looking at data from the beneficiaries.

(Away from the BAFM, on the same day, Juliani, a popular Kenyan gospel musician launched Juliani “Hela” a loyalty point-based currency earned by customers on every purchase of an official Juliani event ticket, a T-shirt, or album).

David Wagemma spoke about M-Akiba which was the first mobile-traded government bond in the world that cost Kenyan investors just $30 and which took five minutes to sign up and pay for, all via their mobile phones.

Later in a panel on block-chain as a disruptive technology for markets, Abubakar Mayanja said that progressive regulators should have sandbox licensing so that regulation goes on even as new ideas are developed, while Reggie Middleton, said the 1,500 cryptocurrencies in existence could grow on their own without needing each other and they did not need to concern central bankers and regulators in Africa as they had nothing to do with currencies.

In their remarks to close the event, Geoffrey Odundo, CEO of the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), thanked organizers, saying that the BAFM had trended for two days and he saw that even the Deputy President was still following the conversation, while Oscar Onyema, President of African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA)  said that this had been the best event in the BAFM series, with the next one to be hosted by the BRVM in Ivory Coast in April 2019 – who would be challenged to excel of the Nairobi event

Day two of the 7th Building African Financial Markets seminar was held at the Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel in Nairobi Kenya on April 20, 2018.

7th BAFM – Building African Financial Markets – Day One

The 7th BAFM – Building African Financial Markets seminar was officially opened by Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto with a joke that it was important that the organizers, who were the African Securities Exchange Association with the Nairobi Securities Exchange go out and clarify the difference “stock exchanges” and “stock theft” which is a big menace in Kenya. He then mentioned that securities exchanges provided assets protection and wealth creation and that some companies that the government had divested from like Kengen, Safaricom, and KCB were now among the leading institutions in Africa.

He asked the capital markets to help revive the agricultural sector and urged them to work on a commodities exchange and use block chain to create a ledger for collateral, and that he hoped the summit would redirect shareholders attention to the opportunities that reward vigilant, flexible and innovative investors.

One of the highlights of the day was a talk by Terry Adembesa who explained the complex processes and long steps that the Nairobi Securities Exchange has to go through to introduce new products and to persuade companies to list on the exchange. He explained how they had passed regulations to allow derivatives trading and short selling (which they plan to introduce later in 2018 for selected equities_ and to also allow market making by selected firms for stocks and bonds. They had made strides get pension and insurance funds to recognize their new products like Real Estate Investment Trust’s (REIT’s) and lobbied alongside Barclays to get Exchanged Traded Funds as an accepted class of equities that local funds could buy into. They had also lobbied the Kenya Revenue Authority to waive taxes on development REIT’s.

He added that African exchanges like Kenya’s have low volumes compared to Johannesburg and Mauritius; they mainly trade equities, with low participation from local investors (Trading at the Nairobi Exchange is 35% by local investors compared to 100% in many Asian markets) and later this meshed well with a nice presentation on the African Financial Markets Index by George Asante of Barclays Africa. It was a nice illustration of the maturity levels of stock exchanges in 17 countries that constitute 60% of GDP of Africa, with a startling finding that there was a significant cost borne by African countries by them not having effective capital markets.

Sallianne Taylor explained how Bloomberg  collects data and showcases African companies and exchanges to the wider world, facilitating financial leaders and exchanges to meet investors and financial journalists, while Nora Owako traced the evolution of Safaricom’s M-Pesa which has changed over the years to match the needs of consumers and now encompasses international remittances, savings, loans, utility payments, and merchant finance.

Another striking revelation was by David Waithaka of Cellulant during one of the afternoon panels on fintech as an enabler. The company, which was founded in Kenya, had run a platform in Nigeria that had connected 15 million farmers to 6,000 agro-dealers for farmers to get inputs and with commercial banks providing bridging finance to agro-dealers as they awaited reimbursements from the government. The program had a redemption rate of 59% and through it, farmer incomes improved from $700 to $1,800. It was later extended to rice and saw $2.4 million worth of commodity trades in two months. It is being rolled out in Liberia and event participants asked” Why not Kenya?”!

One of the shocks of the first day of the BAFM was from Joseph Tegbe of KPMG Nigeria who gave a talk on cybersecurity and warned that there was a real possibility that countries could use cyber attacks to target and destabilize the stock exchanges of other countries.

NSE Chairman Samuel Kimani thanked the BAFM gold sponsors – Bloomberg and Barclays, silver ones – CMA Kenya, Safaricom, Kengen, EFG Hermes, and others. The day ended with news during a panel on fintech as an enabler, that Barclays launched a green mortgage product, offering cheaper financing for energy-efficient homes

Day one of the 7th BAFM – Building African Financial Markets seminar was held at the Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel in Nairobi Kenya on April 19, 2018.