Category Archives: Kenya real estate

Acorn Green Bond for Student Accommodation in Nairobi

This week saw the approval of the first-ever green bond in Kenya, issued by Acorn Holdings to fund student accommodation projects around Nairobi.

Acorn is one of the largest developers in Kenya, having delivered over 50 projects worth $550 million in the last decade. These include the local headquarters for Coca Cola, Equity Bank and Deloitte, and the UAP Tower, which is currently the tallest occupied building in Nairobi. They plan to raise up to Kshs 5 billion ($50 million) investors through a bond that has a bullet maturity in five years and which pays 12.25% interest. The green bond issue is partially guaranteed by GuarantCo up to a maximum of $30 million.

Acorn has ventured into purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), under two brands, Qwetu and Qejani. They are developing projects close to universities around Nairobi, which target students at campuses of USIU, University of Nairobi, Daystar, KCA and Riara universities.

This is to address the current situation where the increasing number of students at universities live in sub-standard housing, without amenities, in poor condition or which are considered unsafe. These are mostly in older building not designed for students such as former domestic-staff quarters. Yet students require reliability water & electricity, Wi-Fi, security, furnishings etc. and which ensure security and privacy.

Qejani is a high-rise, mass-market, offering which students can rent for between Kshs 7,500 -12,500 ($125) per month for single, double or quadruple room accommodations, while Qwetu is their premium brand.  The funding will go towards completing student accommodation facilities including Qwetu USIU Road 3 & Road 4, Sirona Phase 1 & 2, Bogani East Road Qwetu, Bogani East Road Qejani, and Nairobi West Qwetu.

The green bond offer, which is restricted to sophisticated investors, opened on 16 August and closes on 27 September 2019. Allotments will be done on 30 September 2019, with the minimum level of subscription set at 40% for it to be deemed a success.

Other aspects of the bond issue:

  • It is restricted to sophisticated (institutional) investors.
  • Opened on 16 August and closes on 27 September 2019. Allotments will be done on 30 September 2019.
  • The minimum level of subscription is set at 40% for it to be deemed a success.
  • Stanbic Kenya is the issuing and paying agent for the green bonds, and they will confirm that funds will not be used for more than 65% of the project costs with Acorn contributing the other 35%. 
  • Helios Partners are investors in Acorn.
  • GuarantCo is sponsored by the governments of the UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia and Sweden and by FMO, the Dutch development bank.
  • Moody’s Investors Service has assigned a provisional B1 to the Acorn bond.
  • The issue will be certified as a green bond given that Acorn’s projects are constructed in accordance with the International Finance Corporation – IFC’s EDGE (“excellence in design for greater efficiencies”) requirements for sustainable buildings and certified by the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) “.. they aim to steer construction in rapidly urbanizing economies onto a more low-carbon path. Certification is based on benefits generated from providing solutions in construction and operation: energy, water, and materials.” 
  • The green bonds program is endorsed by the Central Bank of Kenya, the Capital Market Authority and the National Treasury.

Cytonn Investors Briefing

On Thursday, November 8, the board and management of Cytonn Investment had a session with investors at the end of a weeklong series of meetings. Present at the cocktail were managers and directors of different Cytonn companies, a few hundred of the 3,500 Cytonn investors and a team from principal partner Taaleri Africa. 

Prof. Daniel Mugendi, the Cytonn Chairman, spoke of East Africa’s attractiveness to investments as he thanked the management for the growing the relationship with Talleri, which had just resulted in them investing a further Kshs 2 billion in real estate projects with Cytonn as well an interest to buy 20% of Cytonn in an IPO, which the board supported.

Cytonn has several arms including real estate, education, hospitality, asset management (Seriani and Cytonn Asset Managers are being merged next week), high yield solutions, and a diaspora office run from Washington DC. Edwin Dance, the CEO of Cytonn said that funds raised from investors (minimum Kshs 1 million) are primarily (~70%) put into the different real estate projects such as the Alma, Taraji, The Ridge, Newtown (1,000 acres) and RiverRun which are run as independent special purpose vehicles (SPV)] with their own boards and reporting structures.

Dande said Talleri was the first institutional investor to commit to Cytonn as he also saluted some of the early investors and supporters of Cytonn, including the Chairman, who came on board even as its founders were embroiled in a bitter tangle with their former employers.

Kati Salo, a risk specialist with the Taaleri Africa team said they had exited the Amara project successfully and were now back to do more investments with Cytonn and had signed with The Ridge, taking their investment to Kshs 5 billion. She added that they were impressed with the team who had also given them access to management, clients and advisors and had decided to take a stake in Cytonn in the planned listing of the company. Earlier this year, shareholders of Cytonn had approved a listing of the company, and going by the amended resolution, this may not necessarily be on the Nairobi Securities Exchange,GEMS segment.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: TJRC

From reading the introduction to a new book (available on Amazon) by Ronald C. Slye,  a Commissioner with the defunct Kenya Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission, he narrates how the Commission evolved and troubles it encountered as it sought to carry out  investigations, through to completing its report and handing it over to Kenya’s President. These included accusations again their Commission Chairman and delays to the release of their report so it did not clash with the 2012-13 Kenya electioneering period as well as demands that some clauses be deleted from the final report.

The foreword of the book written by Reverend Desmond Tutu is also available and he gives some more background to the Commission and Slye’s writing. Tutu writes that the Kenya Government did not support the report, and printed as few of them as possible and Parliament has not debated the TJRC report.

In a chapter, available online, Slye explains how he came to join the Commission and some to the things he went through. He thanks his university, the Seattle University School of Law,  for making the complete TJRC report, in sectors and versions, available online on its website as well as also hosting supporting documents that he researched as the basis for his book.

In terms of finance and budgets, there were allegations against that the commission was a waster of public funds and Slye has dedicated a separate page called “Financial Scandals” that contains documents and correspondence on the financial affairs of the Commission. .. includes the letters written by the Commission to the relevant Parliamentary Committee’s requesting an investigation into the handling of the Commission’s finances by the Ministry of Justice. It also includes the only document the Commission received from the Ministry of Justice in response to our inquiry concerning how our monies were being spent.

Excerpts from the documents;

  • The Commission, while independent, never really had control of its monies which was stipulated in the TJRC act; that was done by the (Justice) Ministry. The Ministry also communicated that the Commission would have no control of funds until much later.
  • Some trips Commissioners made e.g to hear facts at the Kenya Coast were paid for out of their pockets but were never reimbursed. Nor did they get reimbursed for some medical expenses, some local travel which were done out-of-pocket, as well as for moving expenses of foreign Commissioners.
  • Money was spent on their behalf for activities which the Commissioners were not aware of e.g. Kshs 16 million to host a “council of elders.”

TJRC financial report from the Justice Ministry

  • In October 2009,  the Ministry sent three different sets of papers to JTRC purporting to give a breakdown of usage of their funds and Slye writes that it included bulk payment for Ministry of Justice retreats and bulk payments for unidentified casual workers when the Commission had just a CEO and two consultants
  • In December 2009, the TJRC submitted a two-year budget request for Kshs 2.06 billion. It also submitted a supplementary request for Kshs 631 million. When no answer was received, it wrote, in January 2010, requesting for a lower amount Kshs 480 million. In March 2010, the Ministry wrote that, of this request, they had been allocated Kshs 30 million in the budget for the rest of the fiscal year. The Commissioners soldiered on and decided to pursue alternative means of funding.
  • The page also contains a press release the Commissioner put out that stated:  “The TJRC would like to emphasise the need for financial independence and to restate that at no time has the TJRC had control over any finances. The Ministry, which has seconded one of its finance officers to the Commission, controls all and every aspect of our budget.”

In July 2011 the Commission was accused of corruption through media reports. Slye writes that internal investigations concluded there was no foundation. In their first year (2009-10), their budget was controlled by the Ministry and they had no control of finances till their second financial year. They lacked financial independence, they had to seek Ministry approval of all activities (delayed processes), and had no authority to approve /disapprove expenditure incurred by the Ministry on behalf of TJRC with no knowledge the ministry expenditure beforehand and they were not given a true account of expenditure in the first year. 

During their second year (2010-11), they ran low on funds and had to seek advances from the Treasury for 44 million and 80 million from the Ministry of Justice. They requested supplementary funding which never came which allowed hearing in Mount Elgon, Upper Eastern and North Eastern. Eventually, 650 million of the 1.2 billion was released. There were recurrent delays, payments came in tranches, they had to seek loans, and were only able to visit two provinces and hold public hearings.

Office of the Auditor General (OAG): 

Meanwhile, the Office of the Auditor General of Kenya mentions the TJRC in some reports:

  • In the report for 2010/2011, reference was made to the Commission’s failure to deduct Pay As You Earn (PAYE) from the salaries of 304 statement takers totalling Kshs.13,077,033. A review of the position during the year under review revealed that no attempt was made to recover the amount.
  • The statement of financial position of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) lacked opening balances. Further, the statement of management responsibilities was not signed by the officials as required. The whole financial statements were not dated and the necessary supporting documents and schedules including cash books and government ledgers, were not provided for audit review.
  • Although notes to the financial statements were provided, they were poorly numbered and arranged such that it was not easy to follow the financial statements. The financial statements also lacked numbered pages and headings.
  • In the circumstance, the accuracy and completeness of the financial statements could not be ascertained.
  • With regard to truth, justice and reconciliation activities, the Ministry reported to the OAG that it had facilitated the enactment of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Act, 2008 and the appointment of the TJRC Commissioners. 

Britam vs Cytonn Executives

A dispute between insurance giant Britam and some of its former executives who left the firm and set up a rival investment management firm called Cytonn has been on and off for the last four years. Recently a judge ruled that a criminal case would continue in the courts.

After that decision, Cytonn CEO Edwin Dande issued a personal statement on the long-running case as he set out to absolve Cytonn, which is known for its real estate property developments and financial industry reports, from the case against its four executives who had been at Britam. He writes on the reasons behind the dispute and their departure  which he says was due to insider attempts to destroy a Kshs 5 billion portfolio of client funds that they had brought to Britam (excerpts) :

  • .. the resignation was due to an operating environment that was fraught with illegalities and unethical business practices that we did not agree with…
  • we could not agree to be part of actions such as illegally using client insurance funds to purchase shares of Britam to rescue a failed IPO, we objected to using insurance funds under our management to purchase a failing bank – a transaction that has now led to loss of billions of shillings of investors’ funds..  
  • ..following our resignation, Britam launched a full-scale assault in an attempt to ruin our careers by filing 7 different suits claiming up to Kshs. 9.8 billion in stolen funds… 
  • The suits were obviously malicious and designed to achieve only two objectives: first was to punish the former team for daring to leave as a team, and second was to deter competition.

He writes that his statement was released was to reassure Cytonn’s 500 employees and 3,000 clients who had invested over Kshs 20 billion in various investment products.

Britam has been silent on the dispute other than their 2014 annual report which mentions the litigation; The British-American Asset Managers Limited is the Fund manager of a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) which has been mandated to invest in property. The LLP loaned Shs 3.9 billion to various third parties to purchase property. The company on behalf of the LLP has instituted legal suits to recover the above amounts plus costs. The court cases are ongoing and we expect that the outcome will be favourable

Both Cytonn’s managers and Britam have separately settled with Acorn that was a partner in the fund-raising plan before the dispute.

EDIT/ Update October 12: The Court of Appeal granted stay orders on October 11, meaning there is no prosecution action against the four Cytonn executives for now.

KPMG on the 2018 Finance Bill Amendments

The President of Kenya signed the Finance Bill 2018 after a stormy debate in Parliament last week that saw chaotic arguments about vote procedure methods used and actual vote counting mainly with regards to VAT on petrol products.

Some of the earlier clauses in the Finance Bill had been highlighted and KPMG, which has done a series of articles,  has provided a further update on aspects of the laws in Kenya and which they termed “..the changes present an unprecedented disruption of the tax regime that will impact the economy and citizenry for years to come.

Their perspective on the signed Finance Bill implications:

  • Excise duty on services: The President accepted Parliament’s decision to drop a Robin Hood tax of 0.05% on money transfers above Kshs 500,000 (~$5,000). But the shortfall was replaced by an increase in taxes on all telephone and internet data services, fees on mobile money transfers, and all other fees charged by financial institutions which all now go up by 50% – and which KPMG writes may have a negative impact on financial inclusion.
  • A national housing development levy was approved. With the country’s wage bill of Kshs 1.6 trillion, KPMG estimates that government can potentially collect Kshs 48 billion a year (~$480 million) from the levy, (Kshs 24 billion of which will be from employers) – a massive amount when compared to the Kshs 12.8 billion that NSSF – the National Social Security Fund collects in a year. Regulations for the National Housing Development Levy Fund (NHDF) have not been set, other than that the payments are due by the 9th of the following month. For employees who qualify for affordable housing, they can use that to offset housing costs but for those who don’t qualify, they will get a portion of their contributions back after 15 years.
  • Petroleum VAT: KPMG says that a significant portion of the government’s tax targets for 2018/19 was dependent on value-added tax (VAT) on petroleum products and that is why they have been insistent on having this implemented. Sectors that supply exempt services such as passenger transport (PSV’) and agriculture producers are expected to raise their charges to customers as they are unable to claim back the 8% VAT tax.
  • Kerosene, which is used by low-cost households, takes a double hit with the introduction of VAT as well as an anti-adulteration tax of Kshs 18 per litre. Already kerosene now costs more than diesel in some towns around the country.

  • Excise duty on sugar confectionery, while opposed by sugar industry groups, was reinstated in a move similar to other countries that are trying to address lifestyle diseases by introducing taxes on sugar products.
  • The betting industry, whose survival which was at stake, gets a reprieve as the gaming and lotteries taxes, introduced on January 1, were reduced from 35% to 15%. Many of the prominent betting companies had scaled back their advertising and sponsorship and had turned to engage in serious lobbying efforts ever since. Also, an effective 20% tax on winnings has now been introduced. The earlier tax law allowed bettors to claim some deductions if they kept records, but that has been removed altogether.