Author Archives: bankelele

About bankelele

Writing on banking, finance and investments in East Africa. Email bankelele_at_hotmail.com, Instagram: Bankelele, Twitter: @Bankelele.

Safaricom’s Ethiopia License Bid

This week marked the deadline for bids for two new Ethiopia telecommunication licenses on April 26. Two offers were received in Addis Ababa; one by MTN (Mauritius) and the other for a “Global Partnership for Ethiopia”, a consortium by Vodafone, Vodacom, Sumitomo and Safaricom.

This is part of an overdue privatization push by Ethiopia that has continued even as political tensions have flared up in different parts of the country. The licenses do not include mobile money, but that is something that currently monopoly, Ethio Telecom has been granted and hopes to launch soon. It is expected that others who did not bid for mobile licenses such as Orange may bid for the partial privatization of Ethio Telecom which has 50 million subscribers.

Can Safaricom grow in this market 110 million population strong-market? That has been a goal of Safaricom’s management for the last few years. But a January 2021 report by Citi Bank was negative on the “high risk, high return” venture which will impact Safaricom’s earnings in the short to medium term. This was due to the impact of Covid-19 on the risk profile of all potential investors in Ethiopia, but also as, by taking a controlling stake in the consortium, the Ethiopia operations will be consolidated in Safaricom’s financials. Citi expects that Safaricom would raise half a billion dollars of debt to contribute to the consortium which would put an end to special dividends paid by the firm.

After technical and financial evaluations of the two qualified bids, a decision is expected by mid-May 2021.

Also, see more about MTN, from their Nigeria listing.

Nairobi Coffee Auction

Here’s a report from a visit to an auction at the Nairobi Coffee Exchange in 2004. This was done on behalf of an investor who wanted to export coffee to North America and was around the time there was a controversy on the licensing of coffee marketing agents like Tetu Coffee.

  • Kenya has a real coffee exchange, where coffee is bid for and sold electronically in US$ but the exchange is located off Haile Selassie Avenue, near the main bus station.
  • Dealers are issued with electronic keys that enable them to buy coffee that is in the warehouses of KPCU and other coffee marketers. The coffee lots, priced in dollars, are displayed on a digital boards for local buyers such as Dormans and Java, and exporters.
  • These dealers pay $1,000 for a license to trade at the exchange. I talked to one dealer, and he advised to buy from him because he exports up to 15,000 bags to the States each year. They have offices in LA and NY and one can pick up a bag from either of these places for around $300.
  • 38 bags (2,303 kg) of AA (60Kg) sold today for $118 while he bought 49 bags (2956 kg) of C grade coffee for $77. Also, coffee grades are difficult to prove because one tree can produce all seven varieties of coffee.
  • It costs 8 Euros to airfreight a kilo to North America (about 800 shillings per kilo – and therefore about 40,000 per 50kg bag)

I learnt about coffee grades and the industry – there are so many cartels, millers, marketers, dealers etc. – that the Tetu concept to cut out all these middlemen, and deal with the farmers makes sense, but this would also affect the livelihoods of everyone in the chain.

It would be nice to visit the Nairobi Coffee Exchange again in 2021.

Absa Kenya launches Asset Management

Absa Bank Kenya has rolled out an asset management subsidiary following approval from Kenyan regulators to expand its century-old business of offering financial services in the country. 

Following approval by both the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) and the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA), Absa Asset Management will offer advice and products for customers to invest in listed shares, treasury bonds, corporate bonds, private equity, property, offshore and other investment classes.

Anthony Mwithiga, the CEO of the new Absa Asset Management unit, said they would offer fund and investment management for institutions, such as pension schemes, retail solutions for the mass market, and bespoke or personalized services for high-net-worth individuals.

The retail solution will offer investment opportunities through five different unit trusts being, a money market fund for Kenya shillings or US dollars, a bond one, a balanced fund, and an equities fund that people can subscribe to for as little as Kshs 1,000. All the classes will benefit from the data-driven insights, investment professional advice and risk management of Absa that is guided by three pillars of value growth, income generation and value preservation.

The CEO of the RBA Nzomo Mutuku said that that investment management, now with Kshs 1.4 trillion of assets under management, still has great potential to grow and that the performance of these investments is what drives pension benefits in Kenya, not pension contributions.

He said that being diverse had sustained growth even during Covid-19. While there has been a decline in interest for corporate bonds, private equity has gone up (from 0.07% to 0.12% as a share of portfolios) and good returns had also been got from ETF‘s that are about to get a boost from a new class for fixed income, and REIT‘s from new tax laws. He added that, when the shilling depreciates, offshore investments deliver good performance. Another new class is now infrastructure in which funds can invest 10% of assets and they are waiting to see which Public-private-partnership (PPP) projects come online.

KCB 1923 AGM: Optimism amid political disturbances

In May 1923, the East African Standard published a report from a bank AGM.

Mr. Robert Williamson, the deputy chairman of the National Bank of India addressing shareholders at the annual meeting yesterday, made a brief reference to the position in East Africa today and in the course of his remarks, suggested considerable improvement in the prospects for both trade and agriculture.

Mr. Williamson said the export trade of the country was more active and its products such as maize, coffee, and hides had found a ready market. The Uganda cotton crop, although it would not realize the original estimate of about 100,000 bales, would be fairly large and should assist in the off-take of imported goods through the buying power produced from its sale.

“The repeal of the Kenya income tax and revision of customs duty should also improve matters. There are,” he added, “certain political disturbances locally almost inseparable from the growth of a young country with a mixed population such as Kenya has, which we all trust are capable of adjustment. The outlook in this direction is promising as deputations from the districts are coming to London to interview the Secretary of State for the Colonies.”

A dividend for the six months ended December 31st, last at the rate of 20% per annum was agreed to.

More:

The National Bank of India was the top bank in colonial Kenya. It is the oldest bank in the country and is today known as KCB

Bank Clerk in the Kenya Colony

In April 1923, the East African Standard, ran an anonymous blog-like column by a bank clerk in the Kenya Colony. He narrates how he wakes up slowly, is brought tea by his servant Juma (which means Friday), then is brought his bath, of which there are two types, before he goes to work.

Excerpts:

“… and then on to the business of the day. Monotonous life? don’t you believe it! I doubt whether a bank clerk’s life is ever really monotonous as some make it.

In Kenya, it certainly is not as our customers are so varied. One minute, a newly-retired colonel of the Indian army, moustache and all. Next, a retired lieutenant commander from the Navy who perhaps goes one further and sports a beaver. Then one of the boys – Navy, Army or Air force for the duration, now farming. Then a lady farmer, charming, even wearing breeches. Government officials and visitors.

In they come, day after day. Monotonous? Never. All as different as chalk from cheese except in two respects; they are all jolly good sorts and they all want overdrafts.

It’s all very well to be light-hearted about it but I am afraid that we often miss the gleam of bitter sadness which lies behind it all. Kenya is a young colony and fortunes cannot be made in a day. There are as many who failed to grasp this. They come out here with family and little else. The wife is still here, the family perhaps has increased but an ominous overdraft and a mortgage form have taken the place of the little ones.”

The day ends with sundowner drinks and an early night, to be repeated all over again.