Nairobi investment tips from Genghis for 2020

Genghis Capital has launched its 2020 investment playbook with the theme “harnessing value” after a year in which the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) all share-index had gained 18% compared to a loss of 18% in 2018. 

Top gaining shares in 2019 were led by Sameer Africa which rose 86%, then Equity Group 53%, Longhorn Publishers 46%, KCB 44% and Safaricom 42%. Shares on the bottom side were Kenya Airways which lost 77%, then Uchumi Supermarkets -63% and Mumias Sugar -43%. 

The playbook has a summary of 2019 whose gains were largely due to Safaricom and bank shares, and some of the year’s top deals which included the bank mergers of CBA & NIC and KCB & NBK. Other highlights of the year were the launch of derivative futures and the NSE Ibuka program which has uncovered some promising companies. It also notes the suspension of Mumias which joined Deacons and Athi River Mining as other shares in limbo. 

Outlook for 2020: The report includes a macroeconomic outlook for the country this year during which they expect aggressive domestic borrowing by the government, and the Kenya shilling to range between 100 – 104 against the US dollar. They have also factored in the possibility of another Kenya political referendum happening during 2020. 

Going forward, they expect that bank shares will do well, but that other equities will struggle this year. They look forward to the opportunity that derivatives have brought of diversification with lower trading costs but note that there is a need to have a market-maker to resolve some liquidity difficulties of trading derivatives.

They also note that the main shareholders at Unga and Express may try again to delist their company shares and take advantage of a new rule that reduces the takeover threshold requirement from being approval by 90% of shareholders to just 50%. Genghis also expect that the nationalization of Kenya Airways will be completed in 2020.  

Genghis picks and recommendations:

  • Momentum shares are Equity, EABL, KCB, Safaricom.
  • Income Shares are KCB, Barclays, Co-op Bank, Stanchart, KenGen.
  • Value shares are EABL KenGen, Kenya Re.
  • Buy (expect gains of more than 15%) EABL, Kengen, Kenya Re, KCB, NCBA, and Diamond Trust.
  • Hold (expect changes of between -15% to +14% over the next 12 months) Safaricom, Standard Chartered, Barclays, Equity, Cooperative, Stanbic, and I&M.  
  • Sell Recommendation: N/A

See last year’s picks by Genghis.

Stanbic economic briefing for Kenya 2020

Standard Bank (Stanbic) Group Kenya released their Macroeconomic update in which they are cautiously optimistic about Kenya’s growth through the private sector. The presentation in Nairobi was done by Jibran Qureishi, the Regional Economist – Africa at Stanbic.

Highlights:

  • Stanbic economists believe that global growth will fall in 2020 and 2021 as central banks in advanced economies are tapped out and their ability to stimulate economies is limited. Chinese growth will slow to sub 6% in 2020 and be about 5.5% in 2021. Meanwhile, the US cut its rates three times last year but investments are still falling as the trade war with China has hurt growth.  
  • For Kenya, Stanbic expects 5.9% GDP growth in 2020, up from 5.6% in 2019. Three things that held back private sector over the last two years were interest rate caps, delayed payments by government and congestion at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) Nairobi.
  • Government policies should focus on private-sector driven economic growth.
    There is growth but where are jobs? Growth in the wrong place.  90% of new jobs are the informal sector and also in the service sector but these will not create a middle-income economy.
  • Tourism was resilient, earning $1.5 billion last year, but the potential is much larger and this depends on how much private investment the sector can attract. Kenya gets 2 million arrivals but Mauritius, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa get about 10 million in bad years.
  • Ambitious tax revenue targets embolden the government to spend more and tax revenue targets are still much larger than average collections.
  • If the government does not fix fiscal issues, this will lead to unpredictable tax rules which could hamper productive sectors
  • A move back to concessionary loans and away from commercial loans for the first time since the (President) Kibaki years is a welcome step.
  • The Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) may still get extended to Uganda but the government will have to build new ICD. It is not that China does not have money, but they are asking questions they should have asked 7-8 years ago.
  • Kenya traditional manufacturing has been an import-substitution model which has not really worked around the world. Better to shift from being protectionist and instead work towards growing exports which (excluding tea and remittances) have been stagnant – at $6 billion a year
  • Don’t focus on manufacturing too much and neglect agriculture, as a big part of that will come from agro-processing and adding value to agricultural produce.

Charles Mudiwa the CEO of Stanbic Kenya spoke of how the bank has aligned to the government’s agenda. They are a shareholder in the Kenya Mortgage Refinance Company, and 20% of their lending goes to manufacturing with another 9% going to agriculture & food security.

Stanbic was the lead arranger for the Acorn green bond that was listed on London’s LSE today. The bank also has a DADA program to promote women financially (with a goal to lend Kshs 20 billion) and is also supporting financial literacy training to musicians and Uber drivers.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: IMF Transparency Evaluation

Last week a team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released a Report known as the Fiscal Transparency Evaluation Update on Kenya. The country has had an on – and – off history with the IMF and World Bank and one of the key objectives of this report was to estimate Kenya’s balance sheet and take into account all the public sector entities which were believed to have grown significantly since 2014.

Size: The report found that there are 519 entities, including 213 extra-budgetary ones, 47 county governments, social security funds, the Central Bank and 14 financial intermediaries, and 136 public corporations. It estimates that assets are liabilities are 30% greater than in 2014.

The stock of Kenya’s public sector liabilities (mainly pensions) is high (at 30% of GDP) compared to other emerging markets and low-income developing economies and creates potential fiscal risks. Fortunately, it finds that Kenya’s public sector net worth, estimated to be -5% of GDP in 2017-18 is broadly comparable to other similar economies.

It cites some glaring issues. Nairobi County has the largest amount if negative net-assets followed by Mombasa and Isiolo, Garissa, then Murang’a. Nairobi inherited a loan it has been servicing but which still has a Kshs 3 billion balance. Also, Nairobi has guaranteed a Kshs 19.1 billion loan, which is in its books, but this relates to assets that were transferred to another entity – the Athi River Water Service Board.

PPP: Concern about public-private partnerships (PPP) projects: There are 78 PPP’s (67 by the national government and 11 by county governments) in the pipeline, worth $11.4 billion and it notes that no risk analysis is undertaken for pipeline projects, which are sizable and growing in number.

PPP projects are 13% of GDP and half of the amount relates to six projects that are at the procurement stage. These are the Nairobi Mombasa highway, Mombasa petroleum hub, Nairobi – Nakuru – Mau Summit highway, 140MW geothermal at Olkaria, road annuity programs, and a second Nyali bridge project

State Corporations: High-risk public corporations lost Kshs 23 billion in 2017–18. These were topped by Kenya Broadcasting Corporation which lost Kshs 9 billion. Its losses were equal to 436% of revenue and it has a net worth of Kshs -54 billion. Others were Kenya Railways Corporation (which lost 6 billion), Nzoia Sugar Company Limited -3 bn, and South Nyanza Sugar Company -2 bn. Also losing 1 billion each was the National Oil Corporation of Kenya (which was supposed to be an IPO candidate), Chemelil Sugar, Agro-Chemical and Food Co., Muhoroni Sugar, and the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Co. These ten account for 95% of the loss-making entities.

Oil & Mineral prospects: Kenya has small reserves of natural resources accounting for 3.2% of GDP but non-oil mining could be 10% of GDP by 2030 with oil boosting it by another 1.5%. Neighbour Uganda has better prospects with greater amounts of proven oil (1.7 billion barrels in Lake Albert) and gas reserves and has taken steps to ensure transparency, establishing a sovereign wealth fund and moving towards joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). Uganda which has two major upstream projects – a domestic refinery and an export pipeline through Tanzania, is expected to start production after 2023 and reach a peak of 230,000 barrels per day.

Summary: The big headline so far is that approximately 500 projects are stalled with an estimated cost of Kshs 1 Trillion (12% of GDP).

Ghosn Press Conference

Former Nissan and Renault CEO, Carlos Ghosn staged an escape from home-arrest in Japan and flew to Lebanon on December 31, where he re-emerged this week and gave a press conference to justify his decision to flee. 

In the session, broadcast live from Lebanon, he spoke of the decline in Nissan’s performance that started after he left as CEO to focus on bringing Mitsubishi into the Alliance. He had been CEO for 17 years and left Nissan in 2016 with $20 billion cash, profitable, growing, respected, having taken it from nowhere in 1999 to a top (no 60) brand in the world. But performance dived after he left, in 2017 and 2018. 

He traced his troubles to a shareholder vote in France to give Nissan which owned 15% of Renault voting powers there, similar to what Renault had at Nissan in Japan with its 15%. But the vote did not attain the threshold required and the Japan government was upset and blamed him for that – and saw removing him as the only way that Nissan would get autonomy.  

He was surprised (like Pearl Harbor) when he was arrested at an airport terminal in Japan in November 2018 and told he was being charged with understating his compensation – an amount which was not fixed, approved or paid. He wanted to call Nissan to get a lawyer and (at the time) he did not know it was stage-managed. They were trumped-up charges which, while Nissan pled guilty to in Japan and paid a fine to its government, in Tennessee (USA) they had denied the same charges.

The job of the CEO is to create value, and that of the board is to protect shareholders – but, he said, today there is no alliance – I worry as a shareholder we lost 35% of value while the entire auto industry is up 12%. Today the Nissan-Renault alliance, which was the number one auto group in the world in 2017, does not work – They wanted to turn the Ghosn page and they have – growth has disappeared, profits are down, there is no strategic direction and innovation. 

What they have today is a masquerade of an alliance that is going nowhere – and they missed out on bringing Fiat Chrysler into the Alliance which he had been negotiating – and who instead chose to join the PSA (the Peugeot, Citroën) group.

The presumption of guilt prevailed and he was pressured to confess in a country where the conviction rate is 99%. He spent 130 days in isolation, underwent endless interrogations, spoke to his wife twice in nine months (in the presence of a lawyer) – and when I left Japan, I did not have a court date for the first charge – and my lawyers said it would be five years before I got a judgment – which he led him to conclude that he would die in Japan if he did not get out.  

 Another theme of his defence was that he was not greedy. He had served the company for a long time and in 2009, amid the US auto crisis, he was asked to become the CEO of General Motors and engineer a similar turnaround there. He now says, he made a mistake and should have accepted that offer. 

He was determined to fight back against a smear campaign that was part of a €200 million investigation. I was a hostage in a country I had served for 17 years, I revived a company – I was a case study and role model in Japan with 20 books written about me, then instantly I became a cold greedy dictator.

Absa AFM Index shows African countries improve in investor readiness

The 2019 Africa Financial Markets Index report that was released in October, found that several countries had closed gaps to perennial leader South Africa, improving on several measures such as financial transparency, local investor capacity, legal protection and macroeconomic opportunity.

Showing just how much African countries have made progress, while only six had scored better than 50 (out of the maximum 100) in the first index in 2017, last year ten countries did that, and in 2019, thirteen countries scored better than 50 points.

The ranking of countries in the Absa 2019 Africa Financial Markets Index and some of the market/investor activities highlighted in the report include:

South Africa (and also number 1 in the last index): Is the top country in 5 pillars after it regained the lead from Kenya on the foreign exchange one. The JSE also launched a Nasdaq clearing platform.

2 (4) Mauritius: Has diversified its economy from sugar and textiles to tourism and financial services. It leads the continent in pension assets under management of $4,331 per capita. It has also established a derivatives trading platform.

3 (3)Kenya: More detail on Kenya’s ranking and investor initiatives here.

4 (6) Namibia: Bank Windhoek issued a green bond in the year. One concern is that the country lacks sufficient financial markets experts.

5 (2) Botswana: The country’s exchange has large market capitalization, but this is mostly due to dual-listed mining companies that have low trading volumes. They also formed a financial stability council to coordinate different regulators and plan to launch a mobile phone bond product like Kenya’s M-Akiba.

6 (5) Nigeria: Showed big improvement as they have liberalized their exchange rate and built up reserves. Pension funds were freed up to invest in infrastructure, bond, and Sukuk funds.

7 (15) Tanzania: Created a tax ombudsman and also repealed an amendment that had made it illegal to publish statistics that were not approved by the Government.

8 (8) Zambia: Improved budget reporting. But reserves dropped due to high interest payments on external debt as mining production has declined.

9 (11) Rwanda: Share of exports grew, and an agreement was reached with the IMF to accelerate urbanization and financial markets.

10 (10) Uganda: Market trading activity dropped from $25 million to  $11 million and one of the largest stockbrokers opted not to renew their operating license.

Others were:

11 (16) Egypt: Topped the pillar of macro-economic opportunity due to export gains and declines in non-performing loans. Moody’s also upgraded their banking system ratings.

12 (9) Morocco: Now publishes monetary policy announcements and data releases. Has an active financial market but limited availability of financial products. It plans to launch an agricultural commodities exchange.

13 (7) Ghana: Is seeking to cap foreign holdings of government debt. The Bank of Ghana merged small banks and revoked licenses of others that did not meet minimum capital requirements.

16 (13) Ivory Coast: Enabled more-accessible budget reporting and plans to launch an agricultural commodities exchange for 2020.

20 (20) Ethiopia: Announced plans to launch a stock exchange for 2020, with aims to have significant privatization events including the listing of telecommunication companies. Local banks are also adopting international financial reporting standards. But the requirement that their pension funds can only invest in government securities is considered an impediment.

Also on the index are Seychelles (ranked 14), Mozambique (15), Angola (17), Senegal (18) and Cameroon (19). The 2019 AFM Index report was produced by the Absa Bank Group and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) and it can be downloaded here.