Category Archives: Kenya economic growth

KQ EGM 2017

Kenya Airways (KQ) held an EGM – extraordinary general meeting of its shareholders today in Nairobi. KQ Chairman, Michael Joseph opened the KQ EGM with a statement that this was essential to the future of the airline, as it restructured their debt and reduced their cash payments. He cited the origin of the airlines’ problem as the fleet expansion, ordering new planes back in 2005, that arrived later than expected, and soon after there were issues like terrorist attacks, economic decline, Ebola and the airport fire. This was at a time that there were a lot of state-owned Middle East airlines allowed to Nairobi who did not have a profit motive and who undercut their KQ’s prices.

KQ’s first Dreamliner arrives in April 2014

He said the board had made responses such as offloading some aircraft to leases till the situation improved and they had also hired Sebastian Mikosz as CEO, who is a turnaround specialist.

Excerpts from the KQ EGM and the hour-long Q&A with shareholders

The Michael Joseph factor: Shareholders seem to have a lot of faith in Michael Joseph as a person to lead the turnaround. This is because of his legacy at Safaricom; he himself admitted as much in the challenge ahead of him, but he said that turning around KQ was much more complicated than Safaricom.

Hot button issues:

What Went Wrong? When it’s not clear what happened, Kenyans typically assign blame to corruption or mismanagement and several shareholders ask about a forensic audit query that had been done at KQ. Joseph said they had not forgotten the forensic audit, and he was going to clean the airline; he said that action had been taken with staff several dismissed or in court (He said justice was slow in the country cited a case where the former CFO had sued the airline and that case had not been heard a year later).

Payment to advisors; This came up several times and the figure cited was Kshs 1 5 billion. Joseph said the payment was a lump sum figure for the many advisors engaged in the complex restructuring deals. He cited Mckinsey as one case he was not happy and which had been terminated. Others were international competitively sourced and they had negotiated them down but had to pay.

Management ownership and staff pay: Shareholders asked the board and management to show commitment, by becoming shareholders. Joseph said he was a big investor at Safaricom and the KQ restructuring had an employee share ownership plan (ESOP) as part of the ownership plan, while disclosures about directors shareholdings would be forthcoming. Another shareholder asked the board and management to take a pay cut in line with what was expected of other employees.

Role of Government: Joseph said that the Government had allowed many new foreign airline flights to Kenya and that whenever the president visited abroad, other presidents asked if their airlines can fly to Kenya, or the tourism minister allows them to fly tourists to Mombasa – forgetting about KQ. Part of their future engagement with government will be on licensing of other airlines. On a question about nationalizing the airline, Joseph said that this had been ruled out and that KQ would remain a public company.

Banks left out to dry: Some shareholders asked if the banks agreed to the conversion? Banks lend depositors money to get it back and not for shares – and do not take KQ’s problems to other banks where this will make us miss dividends. There is a court case brought by some banks that will be ruled on August 10.

Fleet and performance CEO Mikosz spoke about monitoring the perception created in media about delays and cancellation at KQ and which unfairly gave the airline a bad impression. He said that flying 160 flights per days you expect 2-5% are expected to have some delays and this was standard in the aviation industry, but their stats were good.

Minority shareholders: Several minority shareholders said they had voiced issues at past AGM’s about high ticket prices, low dividends, and other issues who had been ignored and who were told that the airline was alright. Michael Joseph said he was an independent director and he and others were there to look out for minority shareholders.

Shareholders at the KQ EGM unanimously voted for the lengthy balance sheet restructuring that was done in a single vote.

Another circular will be issued with terms for shareholders investing afresh in the airline.

The next meeting will be a regular shareholder’s AGM on September 21.

KQ EGM swag: transport to/from town, t-shirt, packed lunch by NAS.

Urban Inflation Index: July 2017

Comparing prices and inflation in Nairobi to four and five years ago. 

Price and inflation comparisons are made a bit difficult by the unprecedented (in recent years) shortage of certain food commodities. Back in 2008 as post-election violence rocked the country, supermarkets opening shop, receiving supplies, stocking shelves and selling fresh foodstuffs and household items were seen as one of the barometers that life was getting back to normal. But going into the August 8 elections, several supermarkets have had empty shelves, notably at Kenya’s largest chain, Nakumatt that is limping under debt, and empty shelves, with lawsuits from landlords and key suppliers and a delayed shareholder deal. Unlike Uchumi who faced a similar situation just over a year ago, Nakumatt has not shown humility in asking for a bailout from the government or relief from suppliers and partners.

On to the index

Gotten Cheaper (in four years)

Finance: Bank loans are 14.0% due to the interest capping law of 2016. Average bank rates were 17% in July 2013

Fuel: A litre of petrol is Kshs 97.1 (~$4.25/gallon) today in Nairobi. It was 109.52 per litre in July 2013 (and 117.6 five years ago).

About the Same

Staple Food: With just under two weeks to the elections, maize has been hard to find, even at the government subsidized prices of Kshs 90 per pack. In July 2013 the pack cost Kshs 104 (and it was 118 five years ago) But just how long it will stay at 90 is not clear as the 2017/18 budget drafted at a time of high maize prices and low supplies, zero-rated the importation of white maize for a period of four months. Will it go back up after this window closes?

Communications: Phone call rates flattened in 2013 even though at the time Airtel and Yu were bringing the prices down, while now Safaricom battles distant Telkom Kenya (rebranded from Orange) and Airtel, as well as Equitel from Equity Bank, with competition more on data pricing, and mobile money transfers – where M-Pesa still dominates.

Beer/Entertainment: A 200 bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 200 at the local pub. This is the same price it was in July 2013. (And it was 180 five years ago)

Utilities: Pre-paid electricity is about Kshs 2,500 per month, which is unchanged from the last review. The calculation of pre-paid tokens remains a complicated exercise.

More Expensive

Other food item: Sugar is hard to find, more so for traditional brands like Mumias. A 2kg bag of Chemelil sugar is Kshs 290  compared to 250 in July 2013 and five years ago it was 237. Prices of other food commodities like milk and butter have also gone up.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs. 103.9 compared to 87.15 in July 2013 and 84.25 five years ago.

There has been quite some outward flow of currency ahead of the election.

Moody’s Debt Summit Nairobi

Moody’s 4th annual East Africa investor summit Kenya, held in association with Rich Management, looked at East Africa’s resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa’s low growth environment.

Excerpts

Economic growth:

  • Kenya and Nigeria summit audience think political risks are main challenge to credit in emerging markets. Dubai summit ones are watching USA (policies under Trump and China (economic slowdown) events
  • Between 2007-15, 6 of 10 fastest growing African economies were commodity exporters, but for 2016-18, 5 of fastest growing ones are in East Africa. While Sub-Saharan Africa growth is at a 20-year low, East Africa is attractive as their growth is not about commodities.
  • Kenya’s economy growing due to infrastructure, FDI, population but banks not benefiting, partly due to the interest rate cap.
  • Investors in Kenya want to see a benign August 8 election with a first round winner and a gracious loser.

Bank’s and interest rate:

  • Banks face a dilemma – on whether to lend to companies in the Kenya economy or to the Kenya government (where they can earn 10% per year short-term, or 14% in the long-term).
  • There was already a slowdown in bank lending (due to regulation and NPA’s) before the interest rate caps.
  • The Cost of borrowing in Kenya was too high; and even after interest rate caps, large banks are still getting good 20% returns on equity.
  • Some firms are opportunistically raising debt – locking in cheap funding ahead of the election e.g. East African Breweries announced they would build a brewery at Kisumu even as they are yet to agree on the financing. But the problems at Nakumatt are probably due to the drying up of their credit lines as banks feel 14% lending does not compensate their risk.
  • At Moody’s, they rate three large Kenya banks – Coop Bank, Equity Bank and KCB Group all equally. Equity has 55% SME exposure and KCB is big in property, while Coop is well-balanced between business and consumer lending – but they have all taken steps to mitigate risks from the interest rate cap law.

Africa Debt markets

  • While Moody’s recently upgraded Senegal and Ivory Coast and stabilized Ghana, 8 of 19 Sub-Saharan Africa economics are still rated negative.
  • South Africa preempts state corporation defaults through bailouts – e.g. at Eskom, SAA – but this doesn’t inspire business confidence.
  • East Africa economies have solid reserves (4-5 months of imports) but key risks are fiscal deficits and debt accumulation (50% debt to GDP is a warning point).
  • One of the best performing Eurobonds in Mozambique defaulted.. a flood of money can ignore fundamentals

Kenya’s Debt

  • Kenya has a history of debt going back over the last ten years.. it knows how to live with the debt. Currently 15 to 17% of Kenya’s income goes to pay debt – (Moody’s get data from government budgets or IMF)
  • The London Stock Exchange, and some European ones, are considering issuing some debt in Kenya shillings.
  • Kenya can do better in terms of exports & revenue e.g. by improving productivity – the government explained this to the IMF.

Why the Future is Kenya

Friday saw the launch of the Future is Kenya a film designed to lead the promotion of Kenya as a leading trade and investment hub. It is led by the Brand Kenya Chairman, Dr. Chris Kirubi, and draws on corporations and other private sector and government officials.

Through a campaign dubbed ‘WHY THE FUTURE IS KENYA’, business leaders drawn from the financial, technology, service and hospitality sectors celebrated Kenya’s status as an investment hub with the premiere of a specially-commissioned short film and campaign launch at Nairobi’s Coca-Cola Auditorium.

Milk Pricing in Kenya

Most supermarkets in Nairobi now have ATM’s/’bars’ which are machines where customers can bring their own containers and buy their own quantities of unbranded milk. Today at one ATM, milk was Kshs 80 compared to about Kshs 110-120 per litre (sold in half litre packs for 55/= or 60/=) for branded milk packs.

Branded milk sachets

But how does milk pricing work? M-Farm tracked a milk trader called Wangondu,  who sells 1 litre of milk at 70/- at his milk bar.

  • Farmers usually use donkeys to transport milk. The wholesaler is introduced into the supply chain at the point which motorbikes transport milk to a center. When there was Mid March scarcity – majority of the milk was sourced from Kinangop at 35 to 37/= per litre.
  • Boda boda people who bring 100 litres to the main road are paid 250/- meaning, the milk bar trader has to add 2.50 per litre bringing the total cost to 40/- per litre. The road is bad; lot’s of push and pull which adds another cost to the milk.
  • Milk is very sensitive and has to be moved quickly. If one is collecting 1,000 litres, it means there will be 20 motorbikes from different sourcing points and have a vehicle using a particular route to collect aggregated milk. At end of day of the day, milk per litre costs a trader about 40/- to 50/- given the circumstances.
  • Pasteurization costs 6/- per litre bringing the total cost thus far to 56/- per litre.
  • Each vehicle collecting aggregated milk has to have 3 people; a driver and 2 loaders. At this point, transport cost of the milk is charged at 6/- per litre. A wholesaler trader calculates his/her profit margin at 3/-.
  • If milk is being sold to a retailer at 65/- they add 5/- margin to retail the milk to 70/- litre. When there’s surplus milk, a trader reduces 5/- per litre by demanding that the farmer delivers the milk to the aggregation center and bears the cost.   Were it not for the rains, the wholesalers had an agreement that on the Saturday before the start of April rains, milk pricing would have retailed from 80/- per litre.
  • When the rains come, they hire an escort to help with the pushing of vehicles who are paid 2/-. “We as traders, take advantage, don’t see the reason why we should sell the milk at 80/- and we see the way farmer and consumers suffer and we have to be neutral. When we have mercy on both the farmer and consumer, the consumer ends up claiming that my milk is cheap because it has been tampered with and therefore, of poor quality.”
  • Bars have lower milk pricing at some supermarkets

    But all the same, the little margins I make are able to pay licenses and pay my handymen in my milk bars. Even after all deductions, I am able to make 1/- or 2/- per litre as profit.

  • When there’s scarcity of milk, we source from Kikuyu and Limuru dairies. Harvesting, transportation to the milk buyer in town, management of milk at the milk bar – this is my business solely. I have to buy from the joint business source,  make sure there are no additives, and we have to be there to make sure the quality you get from the shamba is what we give the customer.

Milk is also being sourced from other countries in East Africa as and there is a butter shortage (affecting bakers like Sugarpie). 500 grams of butter is retailing at Kshs 1,000/- and this is just ridiculous.

$1 = Kshs 103.