Category Archives: shariah banking

NewGold ETF Debuts at the Nairobi Securities Exchange

March 27 saw the listing of 400,000 gold bullion debentures, via NewGold, an exchanged traded fund (ETF)  at the Nairobi Securities Exchange. NewGold is represented by Barclays Financial in Kenya. It is incorporated in South Africa and is also listed on stock exchanges in Botswana, Nigeria, Mauritius, Namibia and Ghana. The listing will be equal to these previously issues ones.

The NewGold ETF tracks the value of gold bullion and will be the Kenya shilling equivalent of the international market price of gold. Selling of NewGold will not attract capital gains in Kenya. Also in March 2008 NewGold got approval in South Africa for being shariah compliant with Islamic principle of ethical investing “NewGold and NewPlat ETFs open the way for Muslim investors to gain exposure to precious metals – gold and platinum – through investing in a listed ETF.”

NewGold listed at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in 2004 and “since launch NewGold has grown rapidly, attracting over R21 billion investment, due to its healthy returns. It is the largest ETF listed on the JSE

Notes from NewGold

  • JSE Code GLD: GLD are designed to track the spot gold price less management fees
  • ISIN ZAE000060067
  • Gold Entitlement Approximately 1/100th one fine troy ounce of gold.
  • The Underlying Assets: Allocated Gold – all gold is kept in the form of 400 oz London Good Delivery Bars. The gold is kept in an allocated form, and as such does not carry third party credit risk
  • Absa is the originator, Barclays is the sponsoring broker, and Mboya Wangongu advocates are the legal advisors.

Biggest Banking Stories of 2016

Some are carry-overs from 2015, but still having an impact on the banking sector in 2016 include:

1. The shutdown of Chase Bank in April 2016 came after a 24-hour period that started with a second set of 2014 financial accounts published in unclear circumstances in a newspaper, with different figures. Whether this was due to a reclassification of Shariah loans or (insider) director lending was never explained, but it accelerated an ongoing run of withdrawals and the Central Bank had to close the bank the next day. While it reopened a few weeks later with funding from the central bank (channeled through KCB), and depositors have been able to access some of their funds, the bank is not back to its full standing (it’s till not lending in full, and there’s a moratorium on depositors interest) and  new investors are being sought to enable the bank to stand on its own from April 2017.

2 Njomo Bill: In a rare bi-partisan move, usually reserved for their own salary raises, members of parliament rallied around to take on an even less popular target – that of super profit making, high-interest rate, banks with the Njomo bill. This was the latest attempt to rein in interest rates and the president surprisingly signed the bill, passing on a hot potato which was expected to lead to a slowdown in lending and make banks less attractive to investors.

3. Governor Patrick Njoroge at the Central Bank. Widely admired by the public for his no-nonsense enforcement & understanding of rules, supervision, austerity, and honestly to clean up the banking sector, but vilified in some circles for his unreasonable decision-making that has seen three banks close under his watch.

4. Last year Imperial Bank closure was a shock, and in 2016 the extent of the shell is still becoming clear through numerous court documents pitting the receivers, regulators, shareholders, some customers and even the family of the later managing director who engineered the fraud. But all that pained depositors want to know is, where is the money, how much money is there, and when will they get paid?

5. Lax government banking. From not following up whistleblowers on Family, Chase and Imperial, to a reluctance to act on South Sudan leaders. From double payments to government contractors, to county and national governments having dozens of banks accounts for inexplicable reasons. From a parastatal moving to a single signatory and withdrawing all its’ funds to pay a fictitious contract, and the funny banking of NYS money by Josephine Kabura at Family Bank. The anti-fraud / anti-money laundering/ anti-terror rules are  not being observed.

Reading the Tea Leaves at Chase Bank: Part II

Yesterday the directors of Chase Bank appeared before a parliamentary committee looking at the closure of the bank. They traced the events at their bank, back to the sudden close of Imperial Bank which was followed by a slow down in liquidity in the banking sector, and finally late disagreements with their audit firm – Deloitte on some items in their financial statements, including reconciliation of Islamic bank products.

 These Islamic loans were reclassified, at the auditors insistence as insider loans, and new sets of accounts were published in the newspapers, which the directors did not sign. Later, the same day, the Chairman and Group MD also said they were forced to resign. All this bad news coming out on one day precipitated a run on the bank.  There were also a few (in-camera)  sessions at parliament from which the media were barred.

This public spat between Chase and Deloitte all adds to what’s been an unusually busy news cycle for auditors and audits. Chase was big in Islamic banking, and in their 2015 memorandum to raise funds though a bond issue, the noted that they started Sharia compliant banking solutions in 2008 and these now amounted to 12% of  their customer deposits. KCB over Chase

This is close to the size of fully complaint Shariah banks like Gulf and First Community, and far larger than other more established banks who had ventured into Sharaih banking like KCB and Barclays.

Since reopening at the end of April, Chase Bank has opened its doors, apps, and platforms to its customers. In conjunction with KCB and the receiver manager at the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation they were able to avail funds to depositors. But the bank is yet to resume loans and lending – and that is the life blood of any bank.

QNB in Kenya

The local newspapers have an ad by QNB Group (QNB – Qatar National Bank ). QNB is not in Kenya officially, but they are the largest investor at Ecobank (with 23.5%) who have a mid-size presence in Kenya (about No 20) – one of the 36 countries across the continent that Ecobank is present in. QNB

A newspaper opinion piece last year linked QNB with a bid to buy government shares in one of Kenya’s state-owned local banks – one with a regional presence in East Africa. QNB Capital was also joint lead manager for Kenya’s 2013 eurobond with pals to arrange a Sukuk (sovereign bond) for Kenya after the Eurobond.  

A Bloomberg piece notes that the Qatar bank is pushing into Africa as competition in its home market of 2 million people curbs profitability..with the possibility that QNB will go for the entire (Ecobank).

Reading the Barclays Tea Leaves

Barclays Kenya just published their 2008 annual report; what does some interesting points about the banking sector.


Barclays Peek
– Is the second largest bank in Kenya behind KCB, but still tops in profit – with Kshs 8 billion ($100 million) before tax. Has 126 billion ($1.58 billion) in deposits, loans of 108 billion ($1.35 billion) and total assets of 168.5 billion shillings. It would probably reclaim the number one status from KCB, but KCB shareholders will next month absorb the assets of S&L, their mortgage subsidiary
Shariah Banking Barclays launched La Riba in 2008 – and in 2008 they managed to mobilize over 2 billion in new la riba deposits to stand at 3.3 billion ($41 million) at end of year, but gave out just 19 million in loans
Customers They have a popular Business club – with over 10,000 members some of whom were flown to Dubai, China and Holland. Barclays had 930,000 customers in 2008 (2007 was 580,000) – compared to Equity Bank’s 3.3 million customers, and 60,917 shareholder 60, 917 (up from 58,945 in 07)
Staff cutback? Employees in 2008 reduced by 16% – as group had 5,571 at December 08 compared to 6,900 in December 07. In 06 they had 2,197 (but it appears in 2008, they shed the part time staff whose numbers reduced from 4115 to 1698)
No thanks Agriculture. Agriculture is referred to as the backbone of Kenya’s economy7, but Barclays estimate their exposure to the sector to be just 1% of loans. Private industries account for 44%, with 10% each to manufacturing and to transport & communications sectors.
Asset finance reduced?? Assets under financial lease decreased slightly – still at 6.1 billion
Gloabl crisis / External Impact? a 1% or decrease in interest rates would impact profit about 5%, but there’s no impact from strength/weakness of Kenya shilling (bank only does business in Kenya)
– Directors: the three directors who were appointed at previous times are up for re-election on May 15; Brown Ondengo (2003), Jane karuku (2003), and Paul Phemngorem (1998). Barclays (UK) parent, with 68.5% of the vote, will pretty much determine who will remain or leave the board. No other shareholder has more than 1%, with the next largest being Kenya’s national social security fund (NSSF) with 2%
Cheaper to borrow overseas than the NSE: The bank received subordinated debt in the form of a tranche of NSE listed bonds of 2 billion shillings (3,078b) repayable over 5 years – at 10.36%. They also borrowed 1.25 billion from their Barclays parent; BBK in the form of a 10 year loan at just 2.39%
Pension Funds gloomy outlook The Barclays staff pension scheme with 44% equity investments was down 13% in value (to Kshs 7 billion), compared to a gain of 6% in 07