Kenya Airways 2018 results

Excerpts from the announcement of the Kenya Airways 2018 financial results April 30, 2019 at Ole Sereni Hotel. Nairobi at a breakfast event with investors and media.

Performance: 2018 revenue was Kshs 114 billion (~$1.14 billion), compared to 81 billion in 2017 at the airline, which is in the middle of discussions about taking over the management of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) under a public-private partnership (PPP).

Chairman Michael Joseph said 2018 had been a challenging year, one highlight of which was the launch of non-stop daily flights New York, but there was a lot media scrutiny on PPP on JKIA that was wrong and excitable. He said that the airline was on the right path and thanked the staff for doing a great job under difficult circumstances.

CEO Sebastian Mikosz said this was the second year of growth in passengers and cargo and a narrowed loss. The difference to 2017 (which was abbreviated to 9 months as the airline changed its financial year-end to match IATA and its financial partners) was stark but the CEO went out of his way to compare unofficial twelve month numbers for 2017 to highlight that the airline had increased income, and flown more passengers despite the smaller fleet in 2018. They had 13,258 daily customers (up from 12,484),  a cabin factor of 76% and on-time performance 79%.

They earned Kshs 95 billion from flying 4.84 million passengers in 2018, Kshs 8.5 billion from cargo 8.5 billion and earned Kshs 10 billion from other business including ground handling and repairs and maintenance and training,. While the revenue covered their fleet ownership, fuel and staff costs, they ended with an operating loss of Kshs 683 million and, an overall loss before tax of Kshs 7.5 billion ($75 million).

Fuel: Accounts for 40% of costs, and as prices went up 30% in 2018, it remains one of the biggest challenges to profitability. As such they are going back to fuel hedging as a risk minimization strategy.

Fleet: They are getting back two Boeing 787’s from Oman Air but have extended an ongoing lease with Turkish to retain three Boeing 777-300’s which are simply too large to operate given the current loads and will introduce a complexity  that is not desirable now.

Routes and Partnerships 
  • The New York direct flight route had flown 15,000 passengers as of December 31 2018. The load factor is 64% and CEO said that there was nothing lucrative about NYC but it helped serve the Africa Market with 5 weekly flights which they will adjust back to being daily flights in the summer. The non-stop route offers the fastest route between New York and Indian Ocean destinations countries like Mauritius
  • The Air-France-KLM joint venture is still the biggest part of their business. They have now added one with Delta enabling KQ to sell flights to Delta destination cities beyond New York.
  • UN: With the addition of Geneva (and Rime) in June, they will now fly to all the main UN cities – Geneva, Mogadishu, Paris, New York – from Nairobi, completing their UN network.
  • JamboJet: They are trying to pushing to get their Jambojet subsidiary IOSA-certified so they can codeshare on more local routes.

African Aviation: The results presentation showed comparisons to Rwandair, Ethiopian, Turkish, Ethiopian and Emirates airlines, but Mikosz said that KQ was the only airline interested in growing the Nairobi hub. The CEO cautioned that while in 2010, Ethiopian was the same size as KQ, today it was three times bigger, and that was due to support systems, Also that Rwandair, while considered small today, will catch KQ in five years unless KQ grows its hub in this competitive environment.

PPP: The fate of the public-private partnership proposal for the airline to manage JKIA is still with the Privatization Commission who turned it over to Parliament for public hearings that were stormy at times and led to a lot of inaccuracies. The CEO and Chairman said it was not necessary for the growth plan that the company had presented to shareholders during their 2017 restructuring, but it was one which would accelerate its rate by levelling the playing field with its continental peers.

Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan

Getting There: Qatar Air was the best, and the only real option picked by our travel agent. We booked tickets early and they cost about $1,000 for a round trip. The flights are Nairobi-Doha and Doha-Baku and total time and the total journey time was about eight hours. Our layover in Doha was short and we had to sprint through the airport to get our connecting flight. Fortunately, we had received boarding passes for the Baku-leg in Nairobi, but in the rush, we lost some documents.

In the weeks prior to departure, there was some confusion about how to obtain a visa to enter Azerbaijan. The country has an e-visa page, but the pull-down menu of country choices does not list Kenya. Some other travellers going for the race chose South Africa as the nearest country to complete the e-visa application but we chose to wing it.

The Formula One race is a big business deal in Baku, and there was a Presidential directive on the internet that the Government of Azerbaijan would offer visas on arrival for F1 fans coming to attend the race. We had arrived early for check-in for our flight in Nairobi which was a good thing as we had to haggle with the Qatar Air staff and make some calls as they checked a book register of passengers. Eventually, they allowed us to proceed and board. There was no issue in Doha, other than the sprint across to catch the connecting flight.

On arrival at Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD) in Baku, there was a special desk section for F1 fans with special ushers around, dressed in F1 garb, ready to assist. You showed your ticket, paid a $26 fee and were issued with a 30-day single-entry visa. Note: We had bought our tickets through the official F1.com site and they arrived two weeks before the race, delivered from the UK by DHL to Nairobi.  

For other fans who already had applied for and got e-visas online, they could walk up to airport machines and get served.

After getting an e-visa, you then proceed to the immigration area.  There, they ask a few questions about the purpose of your trip and you also have to provide an email and phone number (we gave Kenyan ones).

if you intend to stay for more days in the country, you have to register online within 10 days of arrival and even the hotel you are staying at can process this

Getting Around: Baku is a small city and we walked end-to-end across it on different days. There was no need for taxis as it’s a very walkable city with lots of sights. We took a taxi from the airport that cost 50 Manat for a distance of about 40 kilometers using an unofficial cab (the official airport ones charge 70 Manat) and that was the only ride we hailed. All cabs are old Mercedes cars. As you walk around, note that weather changes were quite abrupt from sunny to cloudy. days were ok, but the nights were chilly.

Where to Stay: We had made a reservation at the Viva Boutique using Booking.com which we had made a while back and the rate was about $120 (200 Manat). They cost much more if you have booked late. Hotels tend to block off and charge higher fees for Grand Prix weekends. This room which would now be about  400 Manat on race day while other hotels would charge about 800 Manat. 

The hotel is not far from the track and we walked to different events of the race weekend.

We had arrived a few days before the race and had made an Airbnb reservation for the first few days. The homeowner had offered to pick us from the airport, and we had even negotiated an amount for this. But after clearing immigration, the Airbnb host was not answering his phone and we got worried. So we went to the hotel and negotiated for extra nights.

What to Eat: Restaurants are many, from local ones to others serving common international cuisines such as London Pub, McDonald’s and Starbucks.  Local restaurants had many dishes which we did not try. They have chicken served in many different styles and we ate a lot of chips and bacon.

Staying in Touch: It’s usually advisable, when visiting a new country, to get a local phone SIM card, in order to avoid roaming rates that are very expensive. We got Azercell lines from a booth at the airport that cost about $20, and which came with lots of minutes, SMS and 10GB data bundle that lasted the whole trip. This enabled lots of phone chats, browsing, and sharing of images and videos from the Baku trip with friends. However, like in a few other countries, you can’t make phone calls on WhatsApp – a VPN is advisable for that.

Shopping & Sight-Seeing: The local currency is called the Manat. It’s quite strong $1 = 1.70 Manat (so a Manat is ~$0.6 or ~EUR 0.5). Credit cards work well here for most purchases, but it is always a good idea to call your bank before you travel to any country.

Sights to see on the streets of Baku are the full-grown trees, especially in the old city section. The buildings also have interesting architectural designs, walling and engineering of tiles on newer buildings.

Baku is a small town. Malls are modest in size. There are kiosks that are rather expensive, compared to the supermarkets.  By Monday, after the race, malls were quite empty.

One popular tourism attraction is Yanar Dağ, (“burning mountain”), a natural gas fire which blazes continuously on a hillside on the Absheron Peninsula on the Caspian Sea near Baku. Tourist charges to visit are 2 Manat each.

Race Day:  The race is at 4:10 PM, which is late compared to other F1 races, and Baku is an hour ahead of Nairobi. 

We had great seats across the pit lane that cost about $500 and it was a fun vantage point. The race itself was kind of anti-climatic given the dominance of the Mercedes team who recorded their fourth consecutive 1-2 finish in 2019, and pre-race favourites Ferrari again seemed lost. The stage was set on Friday, during practice, when one of the cars from team Williams ran over a manhole cover which had come loose. This cause extensive damage to the car and the session had to be stopped. Other teams, including Ferrari, had their practice time limited as a result and this may have contributed to their Sunday pace.

During the weekend, we did the pit-walk to view cars up close in the garages. Many F1 races now put on huge musical concerts to entertain fans from across the world who have come to attend, and this year Baku had American rap star Cardi B performing on Sunday night, after the race.

Odd Points: You can exchange foreign currency with no questions asked and no need to show any identification (ID) in Baku.

A guest post by @asemutwa who travelled to watch the Formula 1 Socar Azerbaijan Grand Prix 2019 race in Baku.

Also see this other race trip report.- Guide to Abu Dhabi.

Equity – Atlas Mara bank deal

Atlas Mara and Equity Bank Group announced an agreement for the exchange banking assets.

The deal will see Equity acquire Atlas Mara’s 62% shareholding in Banque Populaire du Rwanda  and Atlas Mara’s interests of 100% of BancABC Zambia, 100% of BancABC Tanzania and 100% of BancABC Mozambique in exchange for Atlas Mara receiving 252 million newly-created Equity shares worth $105 million (Kshs 10.7 billion). Through the deal, Equity expands its Africa footprint into two new countries of Mozambique and Zambia

This also came the day that Atlas Mara announced their financial results for December 2018 which ended with $2.8 billion assets and profit after tax of $34 million, which were slight declines partly attributed to reduced interest income, the enactment of IFRS9 and the economic situation in Zimbabwe.

The four banks combined constitute less than 2% of the revenue of Atlas Mara. They would all require capital and liquidity to support and will now be consolidated off the Atlas Mara balance sheet in the deal to be concluded by the end of the year. Atlas Mara will now continue to focus on core investments where they can be market leaders. In 2019, they plan on stabilizing the bank in Zimbabwe and increasing their 49.7% shareholding at Union Bank of Nigeria.

Also In the results announcement, Michael Wilkerson, the Executive Chairman of Atlas Mara wrote about being frustrated, liked other shareholders, that the company’s share prices did not represent its true value and that the new stake in Equity, digital banking leader, would help improve that. They also did a BankABC Bostwana IPO in December 2018 selling 25% of the bank to investors on the Botswana stock exchange.

KCB to acquire National Bank of Kenya

KCB has made an all-share offer to acquire National Bank of Kenya in a not too unexpected move. Kenya’s largest bank will acquire the private, but state-controlled, NBK that was wrestling with an undercapitalized position.

KCB will acquire NBK, which has assets of Kshs 115 billion by offering 1 share for every 10 NBK shares. KCB trades at about 45 and NBK at 4.5 and this puts the offer, after conversion of NBK preference shares into ordinary ones, at about Kshs 7 billion. NBK has deposits of Kshs 99 billion and loans of Kshs 47 billion. It issued a rather late profit warning just before reporting a pretax profit of Kshs of 587 million for 2018, in March this year.

Bank shareholders: The NBK results notice also mentioned that its principal shareholders had committed to increase the capital of the bank a year ago. The Government of Kenya and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) are significant shareholders in both KCB and NBK. At KCB the Government owns 17.5% and NSSF 6.12% while at NBK, the workers’ fund has 48% and the Government has 22.5%.

This deal presents an opportunity to rescue National Bank whose capital to asset ratio had dipped to 3%, far below the statutory minimum. The Government has grappled with how to restructure its portfolio of struggling banks and this option is a cash-less one that will see it and NSSF increase their shareholdings in KCB as other NBK shareholders gain by obtaining shares in the Kshs 714 billion KCB, the regional banking leader. Trading of shares of both banks was briefly halted on Friday morning, prior to the announcement.

Conditions of the deal to go ahead include approval by 75% of NBK shareholders (NSSF and the government own a combined 70% of the shares), while the Government is to also convert 1.135 billion preference shares in NBK into ordinary shares, representing a recapitalization of the bank by Kshs 5.7 billion. Also, if the deal is concluded, NBK will be delisted from the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

Banking M&A: KCB is now in the process of acquiring two banks – NBK and Imperial as two weeks ago the CBK and KDIC announced an improved offer deal with KCB for Imperial’s assets. The deal news comes in a week after NIC and CBA shareholders approved a merger of their banks.

It remains to be seen if Equity and Stanbic, which have expressed takeover designs on NBK over the last decade, will put in a bid for NBK. And also what will happen to other banks in similar positions of being in dire need to raise capital from their shareholders to meet statutory requirements.

NIC Bank shareholders approve merger with CBA at the 2019 AGM

NIC Bank shareholders met for their 2019 annual general meeting and approved a merger with CBA bank, creating Kenya’s second-largest bank (by customer deposits), a day after CBA shareholders had approved the same deal.

The merged bank will have about a 10% share of banking assets, deposits, and loans in Kenya. It will encompass the two groups serving over 41 million customers and their banking entities in Kenya, insurance (CBA Insurance and NIC Insurance), investment banking & stockbroking (CBA Capital, NIC Capital, NIC Securities), and regional subsidiaries in Tanzania (both banks), Uganda, (both banks) and Rwanda (CBA) and Côte d’Ivoire where MoMoKash is a CBA partnership with MTN and Bridge Group.

Group Managing Director John Gachora said scale is important in banking and that by merging NIC, which is known for asset finance and corporate banking, with CBA, which has desirable mobile banking and high net worth businesses, they would be the largest bank by customer numbers in Africa. CBA will be 53% shareholders in the merged bank.

NIC turns 60 this year, and in 2019, their focus will be on getting to Tier I ranking through the merger, and getting regulatory approvals after they had obtained shareholder approvals.  Directors also got approval to effect a name change (already under consideration) and the right to dispose of up to 10% of the assets of the bank without reverting back to shareholders. They will also create an employee share option program (ESOP) to retain key staff, and CBA, who already have an ESOP for their veteran staff (that owns 2.5% of that bank), will fold itself into the new incentive scheme. Other conditions of the merger include obtaining a waiver of capital gains and stamp duty tax in Kenya, approval of regulators in different countries, and approval of landlords and financial partners.

EDIT In May 2019, The Competition Authority of Kenya approved the merger of NIC and CBA banks on condition that none of the 1,872 employees of the merged entity are declared redundant for 12 months after completion of the transaction.