Category Archives: receiverships

Flowers by the Lake: Karuturi and the Bankers

Kenya is known as one of the giants of the giants of the fresh flower world, producing roses, lilies and other carnations that are freighted around the world to be used as gifts, tokens of affection, and to spruce up weddings, offices and restaurants.

A large share of these flowers come from farms around Lake Naivasha, a tiny lake in the Rift Valley of Kenya about 90 kilometers Northwest of Nairobi.  Many of the farms are on Moi South Lake Road, which is also where most of the picturesque Naivasha tourist lodges are also located. The road is a bumpy, potholed road, one which seems illogical given the investments on each side of the road, that run into tens of millions of dollars of lodges interspersed with flower farms, that neighbour each other for almost ten kilometers. In between are small ramshackle town structures that are a common peri-urban feature across the country housing bars, chemists, mobile money agents and other shops. There are also schools named after flower companies and you may spot hundreds of school children playing football or lounging at break time as other kids walk towards their homes, along the road which has sparse traffic of flower company buses and land cruisers and minivans ferrying tourists to different lodges, with familiar names like Simba, Enashipai, Sopa, Pinkman, Crayfish and Crescent. There are also signs for land for sale, usually on the left side of the road, away from the prime lake shore and some with unfinished building structures, outcomes of a dream sold years ago of Naivasha as a place to buy a holiday home.

Then there appears a large group of greenhouses, on the right side of the road, the preferred side. But unlike other farms you have passed, you can see past the ever-present Naivasha thorn bushes and security fences, that the greenhouses plastic walls and roofs are torn, flapping in the wind.. Inside the compound looks overgrown, and devoid of busy activity at other flower farms.

This is Karuturi, a farm that has spawned a long-running case in the Kenya courts. It is not the longest, not by far.  If you spend time in Kenya’s courts you will discover there are cases, commercial and civil, that stretch as far back as ten, twenty, and even thirty years.

The case, Civil Suit No. 78 of 2014 of Surya Holdings, Rhea Holdings and Karuturi Limited, against CFC Stanbic Bank collectively known Karuturi case is a unique one. One that has roped in banks in Kenya and India, landowners, flower pickers, workers unions, schools, two receiver managers, audit firms, suppliers and government agencies.

 A summary of the case events:
  • December 2012: Stanbic advances facilities to Karuturi; with the main loan to be repaid over five years. The facilities are secured by guarantees from directors of Karuturi as well as Rhea Holdings and Surya Holdings, related companies which are the registered owners of the land parcels the farm was situated on, The first repayment was made in January 2013 but then none was made for the next three months in succession.
  • January 2014: Stanbic obtained an advisory opinion which showed that the Karuturi farm was insolvent, its financial accounts were questionable for 2012 and it appeared the directors of Karuturi had abandoned the farm. They advised that putting the farm under receivership was the only way to stop further degradation of the assets. as the farm had stopped sales and production of flowers at Naivasha in August 2013.
  • February 2014: Stanbic places Karuturi in receivership and appoints Kieran Day and Ian Small as Receivers and Managers.
  • February 2014: Receivers advised the bank to move to dispose of the farm as soon as possible and to preserve assets by continue trading.
  • March 2014: Karuturi sues to challenge the appointment of receivers and stop the sale of the charged properties.
  • June 2014: Court rules that the appointment of receiver managers was proper. It also restrains the receivers from selling the charged properties (Rhea’s LR 10854/60 and Surya’s LR’s 12248/20, 12248/21, 12248/38, 25261 and 25262)
  • Karuturi was reported to have been relocating to Ethiopia in March 2014  in what was seen to signal a loss for Kenya as a preferred flower growing powerhouse.
  • October 2014: The Receivers create a company called Twiga BV to facilitate the sale of Karuturi flowers to the Netherlands and to receive revenue in order to pay expenses, staff and suppliers of the business. This came after Karuturi BV had been declared insolvent.
  • October 2015: One of the Receiver Managers is relocating from Kenya and the firm resigns. The bank appoints Muniu Thoithi and Kuria Muchiri of PWC as the new receiver-managers. Twiga was transferred to the new receivers at the end of 2015.
  • March 2016: In a hearing of a case filed to wind up Karuturi, and with lawyers for Polythene Industries, Agility, Ivaco, Inter Label, ICICI and Stanbic, the lawyers for Karuturi side with the winding up clause and allowed this process to proceed.
  • October 2016: A High Court judge finds that Karuturi had admitted (in March 2016) that they owed the bank $4M and Kshs 2.7 million before the receivership and that Surya and Rhea had provided securities to secure this debt. The court also directs that an independent forensic audit be done on business and operational transactions during the receivership period and look at items such as the expenses paid by the bank, repayments by Karuturi to the bank, balances outstanding, exports and production, payments to workers, tax payments, status of assets bought or sold during the receivership inventories, and compare the performance of the company between 2007-2012 to the receivership period.
  • November 2016: The suit parties settle on Deloitte to do the audit.
  • August 2017: Karuturi applies to the court seeking to pay $3.8M and Kshs 2.7 million within sixty days and have the bank release the land titles of Surya and Rhea.
  • October 2017: The audit report to the court reveals that, in addition to the debt owed before the receivership of $6.2M, another $9.4M had been spent during the receivership. The audit showed that 403 million good quality roses had been harvested (between February 2014 and May 2016), 2% of which could not be accounted for. Altogether in 2015 and 2016 Twiga received $23.6 million and paid $23.5 million for vendor expenses and administrative functions. Also, the assets of the company were intact, contrary to a Karuturi claim that the receiver managers had run down the assets of the company and it dismissed many of the accusations of Karuturi including that on transfer pricing and found that the receivers had not engaged in misconduct. The audit also found that the last known date of production at the farm was early in May 2016 and that the farm was descending into disrepair as costs continued to be incurred in preserving it.
  • October 2017: ICICI Bank of India wins a separate demand for $40 million from Karuturi.
  • January 2018: Courts rule that the receivership was proper and that Karuturi directors should pay the pre-receivership debt of $4M and Kshs 2.7 million, with interest, within 60 days. Also that, within 90 days, they are to pay $6.3M owed to creditors during the receivership and $6.7M advanced by the bank during the receivership period up to December 2016 and another $0.97M of receivership expenses incurred the following year to July 2017.
  • March 2018: Reports that an American company, Phoenix Group, has invested an undisclosed sum, said to be $2 billion, in Karuturi Global to help it pay its debts and revive its Kenya operations.

  • May 2018: The Receiver Manager of Karuturi (in liquidation) puts the movable assets of the company on sale. These include 1,400 steel greenhouses, vehicles, refrigeration and irrigation equipment. The land they occupy at Moi South Rd, Lake Naivasha is not part of the transaction.
  • Later in the month, Karuturi appealed against the court judgment and sought to terminate the receivership and also stop the sale of assets.

  • September 2018: The case is due for hearing this month. In the meantime, Kenya has enacted new company laws and insolvency laws. The main difference is that whereas before a receiver manager would act in the interest of the bank, they are now mandated to act on behalf of the bank and all creditors of the company.

Chase Bank Reopens as SBM Kenya

Monday saw the conclusion of the receivership of Chase Bank as SBM Kenya, part of a Mauritius financial group, completed a carve out of assets, staff and branches of Chase Bank that was overseen by the Central Bank of Kenya and the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation.

CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge said this was a historic event in Africa, not just in Kenya, as previously when banks were shut down, they stayed closed – but that since Chase closed and was reopened in April 2016, 97% of its depositors had been paid in full, and the remaining (large) depositors could now get structured access to 75% of their deposits through SBM (including 50% of their deposits immediately) over a three-year period during which they will earn interest.

He said this had been accomplished as a private sector-led initiative, supported by KCB, and that the process had been transparent throughout, with a unique EOI (expression of interest), done to maximise value for depositors and stakeholders. He added the remaining 25% of the assets would remain with Chase Bank (in receivership) and that CBK and KDIC would continue working to pursue the full recovery of the assets that were illegally taken from Chase Bank.

Kee Chong Li Kwong Wing, Chairman of SBM Holdings, said that they would work with local staff and management of the bank, first to get it back to $1.5 billion assets it was before the closure and then to double in size in 3 to 5 years. He said the vision was for SBM Bank Kenya to have its own local investors, board and management and eventually be listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange. He added that the model of managing overseas subsidiaries by remote control had not worked in Mozambique and Zimbabwe and that they would not repeat that in Kenya which had potential to be a key partner with Mauritius.

SBM Kenya now moves from being a Tier III to Tier II bank as SBM will also invest an additional $60 million (Ksh 6 billion) for the bank’s growth, taking its investments in Kenya to $86 million. The bank has taken on and rebranded 50 of 62 previous Chase branches and absorbed 825 staff into SBM Kenya.

ARM Cement goes into Insolvency

The appointment last Friday of joint administrators for ARM Cement was a surprise for the shareholders of the cement company that is listed on the NSE. But by ARM going into insolvency, this will give the company an opportunity to continue operations while organizing its debt position.

ARM Cement had loans with Stanbic Bank Kenya, African Finance Corporation and overdrafts with  Barclays, Stanbic, Guaranty Trust and UBA banks. Maweni, its Tanzanian subsidiary, had loans with Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (PTA Bank), and Development Bank of South Africa and overdrafts with Stanbic and Standard Bank (Mauritius). The financial statements for the year prior to the ARM insolvency noted that the company was not in compliance with financial covenants  with AFC, Stanbic, and Aureos

The ARM Insolvency move comes two years after Britain’s CDC invested in the company and became its largest shareholder, while earlier this year the company insisted a process to sell its non-cement businesses to further reduce its debt position.

But the moves appear to have not been completely successful and there have been a raft of board changes this year that has seen the exit of Pradeep Paunrana the company CEO and founding family representative and other longtime directors of the company and the arrival  last week of Linus Gitahi (former CEO of the Nation Media Group), as the new Chairman alongside other directors from CDC . The ARM insolvency move apparently has the support of CDC.

EDIT August 19: Official  Statement: ARM CEMENT PLC (In Administration) 9 TH FLOOR, THE WESTWOOD, RING ROAD, WESTLANDS P.O. BOX 41908 – 00100 NAIROBI, KENYA

To all shareholders and Stakeholders,
ARM CEMENT PLC (IN ADMINISTRATION) -PRESS RELEASE. _____________________________________________
As the Board, we acknowledge that on 17 August 2018, ARM Cement PLC was placed under administration following an application by the secured lenders. The running of the Company has now been placed in the hands of PwC’s Muniu Thoithi and George Weru, who have been named the Joint Administrators of ARM Cement Plc.

According to the Kenyan Insolvency Act, Administration is a proceeding intended to maintain the company as a going concern. The powers of the Board transfer to the Administrator who owes its duties to the company, and to the court. This is in contrast with receivership, where the Administrator owes duty to creditors.

We support any orderly process that secures the long-term viability of the company and the future of employees, suppliers and other stakeholders and shall lend our support where called upon to ensure that this goal is realized.

By Order of the Board
LINUS GITAHI (Kenyan), PRADEEP H PAUNRANA (Kenyan), JOHN NGUMI (Kenyan), ROHIT ANAND (British) KONSTANTIN MAKAROV (American), SOFIA BIANCHI (Italian),ALIYA SHARIFF (Canadian),THIERRY METRO (French).
TEL: +254 202 692 978 (PILOT LINE) + 254 202 667 675/6 MOB: + 254 733 636 456 EMAIL: INFO@ARMCEMENT.COM WEBSITE: WWW.ARMCEMENT.COM

 

Bank Closures in Ghana and Tanzania

August 2 saw bank closures in Ghana and Tanzania with interesting back stories on the institutions from regulators in both countries.

Tanzania: the regulator Bank of Tanzania (BoT) issued notices that covered two separate cases. BoT took over Bank M, closing it down for three months and appointed a statutory manager (in place of the directors and management of the bank) who will determine the future of the institution. The statement (PDF) read that this was done for reasons that “..Bank M has critical liquidity problems and is unable to meet its maturing obligations. Continuation of the bank’s operations in the current liquidity condition is detrimental to the interests of depositors and poses systemic risk to the stability of the financial system.“. Two years ago, Bank M distanced itself from M Oriental Bank in Kenya.  

The Bank of Tanzania also published an update (PDF) on other banks whose licenses it had revoked in January 2018. Of these earlier bank closures, three of them had been given up to 31 July to increase their level of capitalization and as a result, the BoT had approved a decision to merge one of the affected banks – Tanzania Women’s Bank with another bank – TPB which will result in all its customers, employees, assets, and liabilities transferring to TBP Plc . Meanwhile, two of the other banks, Tandahimba Community Bank and Kilimanjaro Cooperative Bank managed to meet the set minimum capital requirements and have been allowed to resume normal banking operations.

Ghana: Meanwhile in Ghana, the regulator Bank of Ghana revoked licenses of five banks – uniBank Ghana, Royal Bank, Beige Bank, Sovereign Bank, and Construction Bank – and appointed a receiver manager to supervise their assets and liabilities as a combined new indigenous bank, called the Consolidated Bank. All deposits at the five banks have been transferred to the new bank and customers will continue banking at their usual branches which will now become branches of Consolidated. Also, all staff of the five banks will become staff of Consolidated, except for the directors and shareholders of the five banks who will “no longer have any roles”

The Bank of Ghana statement reads that .. “to finance the gap between the liabilities and good assets assumed by Consolidated Bank, the Government has issued a bond of up to GH¢ 5.76 billion. ” and goes on to give some details and background of the problems encountered at the former five, leading to the subsequent bank closures:

  • uniBank: The Official Administrator appointed in March 2018 has found that the bank is beyond rehabilitation. Altogether, shareholders, related and connected parties of uniBank had taken out an amount of GH¢5.3 billion from the bank, constituting 75% of total assets of the bank. Over 89% of uniBank’s loans and advances book of GH¢3.74 billion as of 31st May 2018 was classified as non-performing, in addition to amounts totaling GH¢3.7 billion given out to shareholders and related parties which were not reported as part of the bank’s loan portfolio. uniBank’s shareholders and related parties have admitted to acquiring several real estate properties in their own names using the funds they took from the bank under questionable circumstances. Promises by these shareholders and related parties to refund monies by mid-July 2018 and legally transfer title to assets acquired back to uniBank have failed to materialize.
  • Royal Bank:  Its non-performing loans constitute 78.9% of total loans granted, owing to poor credit risk and liquidity risk management controls. A number of the bank’s transactions totaling GH¢161.92 million were entered into with shareholders, related and connected parties, structured to circumvent single obligor limits, conceal related party exposure limits, and overstate the capital position of the bank for the purpose of complying with the capital adequacy requirement.
  • Sovereign Bank:  Subsequent to its licensing, a substantial amount of the bank’s capital was placed with another financial institution as an investment for the bank. The bank has however not been able to retrieve this amount from the investment firm with which it was placed, and it has emerged that the investments were liquidated by the shareholders and parties related to them. Following enquiries by the Bank of Ghana, the promoters of the bank admitted that they did not pay for the shares they acquired in the bank. The promoters of the bank have since surrendered their shares to the bank, while the directors representing those original shareholders have since resigned. The Bank of Ghana has concluded that Sovereign Bank is insolvent, and that there is no reasonable prospect of a return to viability.
  • Beige Bank: Funds purportedly used by the bank’s parent company to recapitalize were sourced from the bank through an affiliate company and in violation with regulatory requirements for bank capital. In particular, an amount of GH¢163.47 million belonging to the bank was placed with one of its affiliate companies (an asset management company) and subsequently transferred to its parent company which in turn purported to reinvest it in the bank as part of the bank’s capital. The placement by the bank with its affiliate company amounted to 86.86% of its net own funds as at end June 2018, thereby breaching the regulatory limit of 10%. Also, the bank has not been able to recover these funds for its operations.
  • Construction Bank: the initial minimum paid up capital of the bank provided by its promoter/shareholder, was funded by loans obtained from NIB Bank Limited. An amount of GH¢80 million out of the amounts reported as the bank’s paid-up capital and purportedly placed with NIB and uniBank, remains inaccessible to the bank – and the bank’s inability to inject additional capital to restore its capital adequacy to the minimum capital of GH¢ 120 million required at the date of licensing threatens the safety of depositors’ funds and the stability of the banking system.

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.