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

 

Kenya Banks – Super Profits Back?

The simultaneous release on Thursday morning of half-year results of Kenya’s three largest banks portrays a picture of the banks resuming their super profits streak even as the government looks set to repeal interest rate caps later this year.

But the results are deceptive in that the banks have all shown flat growth in loans, despite the growth in customers deposits which have increasingly been channelled towards funding government debt, at the expense of the private sector.

The results showed:

  • Flat growth in loans: e.g while KCB deposits are up by Kshs 40 billion this year, net loans are actually lower than December 2017. 
  • Decline in assets and capital – as the banks noted that the adjusted capital ratios were due to CBK guidance on IFRS9. 
  • NPA’s up.  
  • Growth in the diaspora and the East Africa region.
  • KCB is expected to complete  the acquisition of Imperial Bank later this year

James Mwangi CEO of Equity spoke of the bank’s total income now being ahead of where they were in June 2016 before the interest rate caps were set by Parliament, and that the June 2018  results were achieved despite losing 40% of loan interest income in Kenya. Interest rate caps which were reintroduced in Kenya in 2016 were pushed at a time when large banks were recording “super profits” and which parliamentarians attributed to them charging high-interest rates to borrowers.

Another factor has been cost efficiency improvements through digitization and a move away from fixed investments in brick and mortar. Equity also reported that 97% of customer transactions were done outside branches and these accounted for 55% of the value of transactions, and their CEO said that in future, branches will be for high-value transactions, advisory services, and cross-selling products.

With the result of the three, along with that of Barclays and Stanbic earlier this month, we have results of five of the seven largest banks in Kenya and none from the smaller banks. Last year,, the top -ten banks took over 90% of the industry profits. What does IFRS9 portend for the smaller banks?

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.

China and Africa’s Infrastructure Developments

Excerpts from a piece by Andrew Alli, the former Africa Finance Corp (AFC) CEO, in his debut column for Quartz Africa on separating myths and realities of the role of China in Africa’s infrastructure developments.

China firms funded, built and operate Kenya’s new railway.

  • China’s was the fourth largest foreign investor in Africa spending about $40 billion in 2016, according to UNCTAD’s World Investment 2018 report, behind the US ($57 billion), the UK ($55 billion), and France ($49 billion).
  • Construction contracts are backed by Chinese financial institutions—like China Export -Import Bank and Sinosure – looking to support the exports or sales of Chinese products and services. The mission of these financing entities is to support jobs and income generation in China, as well as to support more strategic objectives of the Chinese government.
  • Chinese companies are surprisingly risk-averse when it comes to Africa – most Chinese financiers will not consider a project without insurance from Sinosure, the Chinese government-owned political risk insurer, or other similar institutions. In turn, Sinosure often requires a guarantee from the government of the country in which the project is located. (e.g. – with Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway construction, the contracts specify that there will be insurance cover of 6.93% of the commercial loan – done by a Chinese firm, SinoSure, to take care of nonpayment). Sinosure insurance and other financing costs do not come cheap, which leads to the point that Chinese firms are not necessarily cheaper than firms from other countries – and while the bare construction costs of certain projects may seem cheaper, even after equalizing for quality, there are other costs that may apply including the insurance and other financing costs mentioned before, and costs associated with local content. 
  • It is true Chinese firms prefer to use all-Chinese inputs. If you want local workers and contractors, you will have to make that a negotiating point.
  • While some work done by Chinese firms can indeed be shoddy,  this doesn’t have to be the case.  For example, while a Western firm may tell you a bridge will cost you, say, $300 million. A Chinese firm may tell you that you can have a $300 million bridge, or a $250 million one.- and things that may be taken for granted in other parts of the world can be negotiable when dealing with a Chinese firm. You have to be careful to specify the quality that you want and the standards that you would like the project to be built to. You also need to be very specific about the environmental and social standards you want the project to adhere to.
  • For too long the number of firms willing to engage in, and finance, projects in Africa has been very limited, meaning that competition has also been limited leading to high prices and a lack of innovation. The increase in interest by Chinese firms has increased the amount of competition, forcing prices down overall and improving quality. The bleating of companies being forced out of cozy monopolies is probably one cause of the constant refrain we hear about the “dangers” of Chinese interest in Africa. We shaved the costs of that project in Ghana by over 20% from initial quotes by running a competitive process involving a Chinese firm.
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