Regulatory hammer for Kenya telco reverses gains

Reading a version of a report (August 2017) on the telecommunication competition market study in Kenya by  Analysys Mason (AM) of London for the Communications Authority of Kenya presents some startling observations and unwieldy regulatory recommendations.

They regulatory target is the telco – Safaricom, which is the market leader in Kenya’s telecommunications and mobile money space. The reports documents areas where Safaricom is dominant as well as other telco spaces and areas where other companies like Telkom Kenya, Airtel, Wananchi, Equitel (from Equity Bank) and Multichoice (who were beyond the scope of the study) also dominate.

The AM report looks at the current state of the telecommunications sectors, but it ignores the reality of how it got to be where it is – the history of telecommunications in Kenya, strategic-decision-making, investment & management decisions, price wars, new technologies like mobile money and fibre cables etc.

Other studies have been done on the telco sector in Kenya by different agencies. In 2012 Citi did a report on Bharti Airtel (after Bharti-Airtel bought out Zain Africa in 15 countries for $10.7 billion in 2010) and at the time; It noted:

Safaricom is by far the largest operator, with a 65% market share. Bharti is a distant second with a 15% share. Safaricom’s dominance has come down from a  peak of ~80% a couple of years back as the smaller operators have become more aggressive.. while they both launched in 2000, Kencell (now Bharti) focused on the quality of network and high ARPU customers, Safaricom focused on the mass market. Also innovations like per-second billing, which Bharti took some time to introduce and M-PESA also helped  (Safaricom) cement its dominant market position and Safaricom’s stable management in contrast to Zain’s frequent management (1. Kencell 2. Celtel 3. Zain 4. Bharti) changes also helped it compete more effectively.

Kenya has other dominant players such as EABL (alcohol), BAT (cigarettes), Kengen (energy production) and Brookside (milk), but the Communications Authority (CA) is the only agency that can declare if there is a dominant telco market player.    

In the past, the CA  has pushed some changes to level the telco field such as rolling out number-portability, the ending of mobile money agent exclusivity, and the upcoming rollout of mobile money interoperability.  

But some AM report proposals are regressive such as at least five days before launching a new tariff, loyalty scheme or promotion, Safaricom should provide a justification that the proposals can be replicated by a reasonably efficient operator – AM or that Safaricom may not offer loyalty bonuses or promotions for which the qualification criteria require different levels of expenditure or usage by different subscribers in the same category – AM
The range and messaging of different Safaricom promotions like Tunukiwa, Bonga, Flex and now Platinum, is sometimes confusing but they should not be restricted from competing and innovating. Already, another investor report by Citi has already expressed concern about the impact on telcos of some of the regulatory recommendations in the AM report including that they may have effects that will be unclear, they do not foster innovation, and they may result in high prices. 

The AM report notes that there is some concern among investors in that, as Safaricom has maintained a high share of the market for many years and that recently Essar/Yu exited Kenya (2014), Orange sold out (to Helios who re-branded as Telkom-Kenya) and Bharti indicated that they may  also consider leaving Kenya, and perhaps other countries in Africa.

While appeasing investors is good, they have to contend with Safaricom and its impact on a telco regulator with targets, and to the Kenya government country as a significant taxpayer (Safaricom’s 2017 annual report cites payment of Kshs 84.3 billion in taxes and fees to the government, in addition to 35% of Kshs 57 billion dividends that was paid to shareholders)

Finally, Safaricom is a vertically-integrated company, and dominant players come and go and they evolve over time as market forces, customers, and technologies changes. The AM report notes the introduction of Pesalink, which can be seen as a reaction by the banking sector to M-Pesa, and it also cites the use of Equitel – on average, a Safaricom M-Pesa subscriber makes 6 transactions per month, whereas an Airtel Money subscriber makes 0.6 and an Orange Money subscriber makes 0.1. However, the average Equitel subscriber makes 10 transactions per month – AM. 

No one knows what the telco sector will look like in the next decade, but the consumers, not regulatory muscle, should be the decider.

Kenya Eurobond 2018 A to Z (Part II)

Excerpts from reading the prospectus for Kenya’s 2018 Eurobond issues totaling $2 billion (~Kshs 202 billion). 

Advisors:  joint lead managers were Citigroup Global Markets, J.P. Morgan Securities, Standard Bank of South Africa and Standard Chartered Bank. The fiscal/paying agent was Citibank (London), Registrar was Citigroup Global Markets (Deutschland), legal advisors were White & Case LLP and Allen & Overy LLP (English and US law), and Coulson Harney LLP and Kaplan & Stratton Advocates (Kenya Law) and the listing agent was Arthur Cox (Dublin).

Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Securities, Standard Bank of South Africa and Standard Chartered Bank each committed to subscribe for $250 million of the 2028 and $250 million of the 2048 bond issues

Codes: for the 2028 Notes: 491798 AG9 / US491798AG90 / 178426192 XS1781710543 / 178171054 and for the 2048 Notes: 491798 AH7 / US491798AH73 / 178426478 XS1781710626 / 178171062

Debt Rescheduling: Kenya has approached the Paris Club three times to seek debt relief and rescheduling; in January 1994 for $535 million, in November 2000 over $301 million and in January 2004 over $353 million. Also to the London Club 1998 over $70 million and in 2003 over $23 million.

Default (defined as): Failure to pay 15 days after due date, or issuer (Kenya government) ceases to be a member of the IMF.

Denomination: The Notes are issued in registered form in denominations of US$200,000 and integral multiples of US$1,000.

Disclosure: The Issuer will publish all notices and other matters required to be published (regarding Condition 14, 10, 13: on the website of the National Treasury.

Finance Management: Kenya’s law provides that: over the medium term, a minimum of 30% of the national budget shall be allocated to development expenditure and the national government’s expenditure on wages and benefits for its public officers must not exceed 35%  per cent. of total national government revenue and over the medium term, the national government’s borrowings should be used only for the purpose of financing development expenditure and not for recurrent expenditure. .

IMF: The second and third reviews of the IMF programme due in June 2017 and December 2017 could not be completed on time due to the prolonged election period. Accordingly, no funds under the SBA-SCF 2 facility are available to Kenya until it has reached certain targets to the satisfaction of the IMF, which will be assessed at the next review. But, even if the IMF agrees to make this or another programme available upon conclusion of their review, the government intends to continue to treat the arrangements as precautionary and does not intend to draw on the facility unless exogenous shocks lead to an actual balance of payments need.

Income tax (enhancement of): A review of the Income Tax Act is ongoing and is targeted to be completed by mid-2018. In an effort to boost domestic revenue mobilisation, the government is undertaking reforms to bolster revenue yields  including roll out of the integrated customs management system, implementation of the regional electronic cargo tracking (RECTS) to tackle transit diversion; data matching and use of third-party data to enhance compliance, integration of iTax with IFMIS to ensure timely collection of withholding VAT and other withholding taxes; expansion of tax base by targeting the informal sector, betting, lotteries and gaming; pursuit non-filers and increased focus on taxation of international transactions and transfer pricing and enhance investigations and intelligence capacity to support revenue collection.

Informal economy: A significant portion of the Kenyan economy is not recorded and is only partially taxed, resulting in a lack of revenue for the government, ineffective regulation, unreliability of statistical information (including the understatement of GDP and the contribution to GDP of various sectors) and inability to monitor or otherwise regulate a large portion of the economy.

Interest Rates: The yield of the 2028 Notes is 7.25% and the yield of the 2048 Notes is 8.25% in each case on an annual basis. The yields were calculated at the issue date.

Listing: The Eurobond Notes will not be issued, offered or sold in Kenya, and the notes may not be offered or sold in the United States. Applications have been made to the Irish Stock Exchange at a cost of 5,500 euros and the London Stock Exchange for GBP 4,200.

Litigation:  The Issuer has appointed the High Commissioner of the Republic of Kenya in London, presently located at 45 Portland Place, London W1B 1AS as its agent for service of process in relation to any proceedings (“Proceedings”) before the English courts permitted by

Indebtedness:  Total national government debt stood at US$41.2 billion as at 30 June 2017, representing a 17% increase from June 2016. The government is permitted under the terms of the PFMA to incur debt within the limits set by Parliament, currently set at 50% of GDP in net present value terms. Following the issue of the (Eurobond) Notes, the total net present value of debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to nearly reach the 50% limit. Although the government may be restricted from incurring further public debt under such circumstances, the Government will be seeking to refinance or repay near-term maturities, and therefore expects to maintain the ratios within the set limits.

Total multilateral debt increased by 15.8% to stand at US $8.0 billion at 30 June 2016 while total bilateral debt increased to US $5.3 billion at 30 June 2016, mainly driven by a rise in stock of debt from the People’s Republic of China, which increased by 21.2%. Also, as at 30 June 2017, the national government guaranteed approximately KES135.1 billion of the indebtedness of the non-financial public sector include Kshs 77 billion to Kenya Airways last year.

Purpose Kenya expects the net proceeds of the issue of the Eurobond Notes, before expenses, to amount to approximately US$1,999,600,000 which it intends to use for financing development expenditures and to refinance part of its obligations outstanding under certain syndicated loan agreements. According to the “Plan of Distribution”, Kenya syndicated loans of from October 2015 (debt now $646 million) and March 2017 ($1 billion)  and proceed from the new February 2018 issue will be used to pay all of the 2015 loan and part of the 2017 loan and  to “manage the maturity profile of the government’s debt.”

Repayments: (for both issues) payable semi-annually in arrears on 28 February and 28 August in each year commencing on 28 August 2018. The Eurobond Notes are not redeemable prior to maturity.

Withholding Taxes: All payments in respect of the Eurobond Notes by or on behalf of the Issuer shall be made without withholding or deduction of any present or future taxes,

See Part I about the 2014 Eurobond issue. 

1USD  = Kshs 101, 1 GBP = Kshs  139, 1 Euro = Kshs 123

Barclays Africa to rebrand as Absa Group

The journey has been a dozen years in the making but Thursday brought confirmation that Barclays in Africa would be re-branded as Absa following shareholder and regulatory approval.

The official statement from Barclays Africa on the change notes that:

  • A priority for Barclays Africa is to restore leading positions in core business areas, while expanding into new markets, enabling the group to deliver double-digit growth.
  • The Group will expand its corporate and investment banking unit to certain international jurisdictions, with offices set to open in London and later in New York, trading as Absa Securities, and offering opportunities for our clients to financial markets offshore, and providing access to corporates and institutions seeking to invest in Africa. 

Barclays is in twelve countries in Africa, including Ghana, Uganda, Zambia and Kenya and the re-brand is expected to be phased gradually.

EAVCA: Fintrek explores Fintech opportunities in East Africa

This week, the East Africa Venture Capital Association (EAVCA) with Intellecap Advisory Services released the Fintrek – which explores fintech opportunities in East Africa, new frontiers in fintech (defined as firms using technology to deliver financial products/services or capabilities to customers or others firms) and fintech investments in East Africa.

Asia Pacific and Africa have been harbingers of mobile payments and that is transitioning into fintech now. The Fintrek report notes three underlying factors driving fintech uptake as:

  • (i) the use of alternative data to generate credit takings of the unbanked (and deliver services to them cheaply e.g no need for bank branches),
  • (ii) peer to peer networks (decentralized collaboration, payments across borders, unregulated) and
  • (iii) the emergence of nontraditional players (telcos, wallets like Google Pay & Apple Pay, e-retailers like Amazon)

smartphones offer fintech opportunities.

Regionally, Kenya is seen as a leader in the region owing to its levels of deposit penetration, deep financial sector penetration, and smartphone ownership (at 44% compared to less than 10% for Tanzania Uganda Rwanda and Ethiopia). Kenya is where most fintechs are setting up, and Kenya-based fintechs have raised $204 million between 2000 and 2017 which is 98% of the funding to the region.

Funding: In terms of funding, fintechs are still in early stages as seen in the small deal sizes: seed funding provided 47 deals (averaging $447,000) and 60% of all funding was to impact areas renewable energy/off grid lighting and health care (microinsurance). Five companies M-KOPA, Off-Grid Electric, SunFunder, Angaza, Azuri) have raised $345 million (through debt and equity) accounting for 55% of the funding between 2010 and 2017. Another finding was that while 53% of all funding between 2010 and 2017 was from venture capital funds, their average deal size  ($6 million – e.g. from Apis, Madison Dearborn)  is lower than those of corporates ($15 million – e.g. from Stanbic, Commercial Bank of Africa) and foundations ($10 million – e.g. from Calvert, Emerson, Omidyar Network) deals.

Fintechs needs a balance of debt and equity investments to grow, but they are struggling to get debt financing (mainly bank loans). Fintechs in East Africa had debt-equity ratios of 1:1 compared to 3:1 globally, indicating they have capacity to absorb more debt but are not doing it. The EAVCA report cites one of the funding challenges as investors want proof of traction while fintechs need working capital to demonstrate proof of concept, lack of funder knowledge about local markets, East Africa fintechs don’t look like what foreign investors expect, currency fluctuations make it had to raise debt and there is a lack of fundraising skill among local fintechs who can’t afford the teams that will enable them to raise money.

The Fintrek report identified 11 fintech opportunities models and 47 sub-models and identified 4 sub-models that have flourished in East Africa:

Payments and Savings: digital wallets (M-Pesa, Alipay, Tigo pesa – which pays 7-9% interest and now attract high-end users), payment intermediaries (Cellulant, Direct Pay, Jambopay) and digital currencies (Bitpesa, Coinbase, Belfrics – a crypto-currency platform).

Lending: direct lending (Branch, Tala – with 1.8M customers in Kenya, Kreditech, Umati capital), P2P lending (Lendable, Pezesha – has 6,000 borrowers & 200 lenders), and lending aggregators (lakompare). Also, there is telco-based nano lending (M-Shwari, KCB-M-Pesa, Equitel – which issued $57 billion worth of loans – and telco-bank lenders in Kenya account for over 76% of total loan accounts, but only 4% of the loan values)

Financial Management: Insuretech (Bimaspace, BimaAfya, Microensure), Investech (Abacus, Xeno) and personal finance management – (Chamasoft, Caytree).

FS Enablers: (Jumo – credit underwriting for 5 million customers and 20 million loans), Arifu, FirstAccess, NetGuardian – fraud identifier), FarmDrive, Sasa solutions, Lendddo).

Some recent fintech deals in East Africa include Farmdrive (from the Safaricom Spark Fund), Pezesha (DFS lab), Pula (DFS lab, CGAP), M-Kopa ($80M – Stanbic, CDC, FMO, Norfund), Tala ($30M – IVP), Jumo ($24M – Finnfund), Mobisol ($12M – FinnFund), Angaza ($10.5M – Emerson), Flutterwave ($10M – Greycroft), Netguardian ($8.5M – Freemont), Trine ($8M – Gullspang), Lendable ($6M – Kawisafi, Omidyar, Fenway), Direct Pay ($5M – Apis), Azuri ($5M – Standard Chartered), Bitpesa ($4.25M – Greycroft), Branch ($2M – from high-networth Kenyans and funds – arranged by Nabo Capital)

Production of the Fintrek report was supported by Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Africa and Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO).

See more of the EAVCA Fintrek report and other fintech opportunities at the 5th Sankalp Africa Summit on March 1-2, 2018 in Nairobi and see their private equity snapshot report.


Kenya law review to boost microfinance banks

The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has published a consultative paper on a review of the country’s microfinance bank laws. It notes that since the first microfinance bank (MFB) was licensed in May 2009 (which as Faulu), the number of licensed MFB’s in the microfinance industry space has increased to thirteen – including Faulu Kenya MFB, Kenya Women MFB, SMEP MFB, REMU MFB, Rafiki MFB, Century MFB, SUMAC MFB, Caritas MFB, Maisha MFB, Uwezo MFB and U&I MFB, with two more – Daraja MFB and Choice MFB – being community-based MFBs.

The thirteen  MFB’s had a total of 114 branches as at December 2017 but there was a drop in performance as their assets declined by 4.6% to Kshs 69 billion at the end of 2017,  with their loans and deposits also taking a dip between 2016 and 2017. The last three years have also seen a decline in their profitability (overall profit of Kshs 549 million in 2015, followed by a loss of KShs 377 million in 2016 and a steeper one of Kshs 731 million in 2017) with the 2017 loss attributed to a reduction in financial income.

CBK found that microfinance banks face various challenges including; they need better governance & structures, have inadequate capital & liquidity, faced increased credit risk & non-performing loans, are reliant on deposits & expensive borrowings, and face more impact  from fintech company innovations, and Kenya’s interest rate caps law (2016) as well as IFRS9.

CBK has made proposals for microfinance banks including improving their corporate governance (through vetting, setting duties & tenure of board of directors and having more independent directors), having a single license for MFB’s (no more national or community distinctions), increasing the minimum capital for existing and new MFB’s, and vetting of MFB shareholders. Others proposals are around risk classification which will shift from the current assumption that loans are repaid weekly, to the reality that they are repaid monthly, and that microfinance loans now have a longer term outlook

Members of the public are invited to give views by March 15 (email: and these will be incorporated into a microfinance amendment bill (2018) that will later go to Kenya’s Parliament around June this year.

$1 = Kshs 101