26 Apr

State Firms’ Debt May Threaten Financial Stability, Central Bank Says

The inability of South African state-owned companies to roll over debt could threaten the nation’s financial stability and ultimately result in more credit-rating downgrades, according to the central bank.

Governance issues at state companies, rising contingent liabilities and inadequate liquidity could add pressure to government finances through the increased use of guarantees, the Reserve Bank said in its six-monthly Financial Stability Review released in Pretoria on Wednesday.

“Financial stability centers around the ability of state-owned enterprises to roll over debt and achieve financial consolidation,” the central bank said. “Should state-owned enterprises fail to roll over debt, the government would be liable and might not be able to honor such debt.”

Ratings companies have flagged state firms’ finances as a concern in recent years. While Moody’s Investors Service kept the nation’s credit rating at investment grade and changed the outlook to stable from negative last month, it warned if risks at these companies materialize and increase the government’s debt burden, it could lead to downgrades.

Government guarantees to state companies are at more than 450 billion rand ($36 billion), according to data from the National Treasury. The state’s exposure to this increased to 64.5 percent in the past fiscal year from 54.4 percent as companies drew on the guarantees.

Power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. is the single biggest recipient of guarantees at 221 billion rand, followed by the Road Accident Fund at 189 billion rand, the central bank said. South African Airways said Tuesday it needs 5 billion rand from the government to cover immediate costs and warned it may struggle to make debt repayments due next year.

The rand, which has declined 0.5 percent versus the U.S. dollar this year, was little changed on Thursday morning at 12.4435 per dollar.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-25/state-firms-debt-may-threaten-financial-stability-sarb-says

26 Jan

Central Bank in Africa’s Top Bitcoin Market Warns of ‘Gamble’

The central-bank governor of Nigeria, where bitcoin trading grew the most in Africa last year, said investing in the cryptocurrency is a “gamble” and hinted it may have to be regulated.

“Cryptocurrency or bitcoin is like a gamble, and there is a need for everybody to be very careful,” Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Godwin Emefiele said in an interview on Wednesday at his office in the capital, Abuja. “We cannot as a central bank give support to situations” where people risk savings to “gamble,” he said.

Emefiele is the latest among regulators globally to express concern about bitcoin, one of the most popular cryptocurrencies, because of high volatility and a perception that it facilitates crime.

In January 2017, the central bank released a circular to lenders asking them not to use, hold, or trade virtual currencies pending “substantive regulation and or decision by the CBN.”

Still, demand for the digital currency is surging in West Africa’s biggest economy, with peer-to-peer transactions rising almost 1,500 percent this year, second only to China, according to data from LocalBitcoins.

A bitcoin wipe-out would generate the biggest losses in Russia, followed by New Zealand and Nigeria, according to a report published by Citigroup Inc. in December.

Bitcoin was little changed at $11,254 by 7:12 a.m in London compared with an intraday high of $19,511 on December 18, according to a composite of prices compiled by Bloomberg.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday promised to consider clamping down on the cryptocurrency. Central banks in China and Russia have stopped local-exchange trading of bitcoin.

“I have asked my colleagues in the research and monetary-policy department to study the market and get to know what the issues are,” Emefiele said. The central bank may in future “make some very concrete pronouncements as to the direction,” he said, without giving details.

25 Jan

Rand Cracks 12 per Dollar First Time Since ’15 as Optimism Grows

South Africa’s rand traded below 12 per dollar on Wednesday for the first time since May 2015, extending a rally sparked by an improving domestic political environment and supported by global risk-on sentiment and the greenback’s retreat.

The currency advanced as much as 0.9 percent to 11.9265 per dollar, and traded 0.7 percent stronger at 11.9462 by 11:52 a.m. in Johannesburg. That brings gains in the past three months to 15 percent, the most out of 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

The yield on rand-denominated government bonds due December 2026 fell four basis points to 8.32 percent, the lowest since March.

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as head of the ruling African National Congress in December, setting him on a path to take over from President Jacob Zuma, has fueled optimism South Africa may avert further credit-rating downgrades as the new leadership takes steps to root out corruption and stimulate the ailing economy. Inflows into the nation’s stocks market are running at record levels.

“Investors are loving us at the moment,” said Phillip Pearce, a trader at TreasuryOne Ltd. in Johannesburg. “The dollar is taking a pounding and global markets are still on the hunt for yield. There’s not a lot of risk going now. South Africa seems like a good bet.”

The rand could appreciate to as low as 11.50 per dollar if Zuma is removed from office, Pearce said. The probability of the rand reaching that level this quarter rose to 49 percent on Wednesday, from 19 percent a month ago, according to Bloomberg’s forecast model based on prices of options to buy or sell the currency.

‘Better Space’

South Africa is in a “much better space” now than when previous credit-rating actions took place, and can avert further downgrades this year as lawmakers assert their authority to hold the executive to account, South Africa’s central-bank governor, Lesetja Kganyago, said on Wednesday.

To read the full article, click here.

23 Jan

African Development Bank to Add $2 Billion to Nigeria Loans

The African Development Bank plans to increase its loans to Nigeria by more than $2 billion next year with investments in energy, infrastructure and agriculture, its President Akinwumi Adesina said.

“The total portfolio we have in Nigeria is $6 billion,” Adesina said in a Jan. 18 interview in Abuja, the capital. “We expect that by the year 2019, we will grow that into a little bit over $8 billion.”

The Abidjan, Ivory Coast-based lender will pump more than $800 million into Nigeria this year, most of which will fund investments in power. Among them is a $250 million support to revamp power-transmission lines and electricity sub-stations as well as fund a $200 million solar power project in Jigawa state in the north, Adesina said.

The $400 million balance from a $1 billion loan for budget support will be disbursed directly to industries identified by the government after projects have been vetted by the bank, he said.

Africa’s most populous country, with more than 180 million people, is recovering from its worst economic slump in 25 years. It will also receive budget support and public financial management assistance from the lender, he said.

Agribusiness Clusters

The AfDB forecast Nigeria’s economy will grow 2.1 percent this year as the output of and the price of oil, its main export, recovers. The country depends on crude exports for two-thirds of government revenue and most of its foreign income.

Brent crude, which compares with Nigeria’s export grades, has gained 26 percent in the past year, helping the recovery. It traded at $69.40 a barrel as of 7:18 a.m. in London.

As Nigeria seeks to reduce its dependence on oil by boosting agricultural production, the AfDB plans to help set up “staple crop processing zones” and create agribusiness clusters across the country to curb harvest losses of as much as 70 percent for some crops, Adesina said.

“These zones will change our rural economy,” he said. “You will be able to create markets for farmers and reduce massive post-harvest losses. You will change the structure of agriculture itself because people will see it as a business as opposed to a subsistence activity.”

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-22/african-development-bank-to-increase-nigeria-loans-by-2-billion

22 Jan

Zimbabwe President Seeks to Woo Lenders by Paying Loan Arrears

Zimbabwe is committed to repaying arrears to external lenders so that it can resume support programs with institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and end years of isolation from global capital markets, said the country’s president.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, the 75-year-old who took over as leader of the southern African country in November after the military pressured Robert Mugabe into resigning, said one of his priorities is reintegrating his country into the global financial system.

The economy has halved in size since 2000, credit lines from most lenders have been withdrawn and infrastructure has crumbled.

 Zimbabwe owes about $9 billion to lenders such as the World Bank and African Development Bank and has fallen behind in payments, with arrears recently amounting to about $1.8 billion.
If his bid to revive the economy is to succeed, Mnangagwa will need access to billions of dollars of support.
“There are limitations to engaging with Bretton Woods institutions — the limitations are as a result of our arrears with those institutions but they are giving positive indications that they would want to accommodate us,” he said in an interview in his office in the capital, Harare, last week.
“We shall recommit ourselves to paying our debts, our arrears. I believe that they will embrace us in the same manner they are embracing other countries.”
Re-engaging with international lenders would be a first step for the Zimbabwean government, which is also considering a debut international bond sale so that it can invest in infrastructure.
“If this succeeds, we would really need a substantial injection into our economy, in particular into the productive economy,” he said.
“Basically a capital injection into capital projects. Infrastructure development is what we want: dams, roads.”
Still, the Zimbabwean leader demonstrated little appetite for cutting costs in the manner that the IMF and other lenders have urged.
The country’s more than 500,000-strong civil service accounts for about 90 percent of budget expenditure, crowding out investment in much-needed projects such as restoring the capital’s water supply and fixing its roads.
To read the full article, click here.
12 Jan

South African Steinhoff Unit Mulls Early Redemption of Bonds

Steinhoff International Holdings NV said one of its South African units is considering an early redemption of all notes in issue as the global retailer struggles to stay afloat amid an accounting scandal.

Steinhoff Services Ltd.’s redemption of securities issued under a 15 billion-rand ($1.2 billion) bond program will require pricing supplements to be amended and restated, the Frankfurt- and Johannesburg-listed company said in a statement after the market closed on Thursday. The necessary approvals will have to be obtained, Steinhoff said, without giving more detail.

The parent company’s woes began on Dec. 5 when it said it had uncovered accounting irregularities and that Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste was resigning. Thereafter its bond yields spiked and its share price lost most of its value. Banks started to withdraw lines of credit and regulators from South Africa to Europe began to investigate. The stock fell 3.7 percent to 6.50 rand as of 9:36 a.m. in Johannesburg, extending its decline this week to 26 percent.

To raise liquidity the retailer has started parting with some assets it built up in a two-decade acquisition drive. French retailer Carrefour on Thursday said it acquired a 17 percent stake in Showroomprive from Steinhoff’s Conforama for 79 million euros ($95 million), while last week Steinhoff’s Austrian unit, Leiner Immobilien, sold its flagship store in Vienna for 60 million euros. Other measures to shore up finances include Steinhoff selling its Gulfstream 550 jet, while Jooste has been auctioning his racehorses.

With Steinhoff also having issued debt internationally, the European Central Banksaid earlier this week it had disposed of the company’s securities after they were downgraded to junk.

Pending Lawsuits

Steinhoff Services, the vehicle the retailer uses to sell listed bonds on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, has 12 notes in issue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Those securities amount to a total of 7.6 billion rand in debt. More than half of those sales took place last year with Steinhoff Services having sold 4.83 billion rand of bonds in 2017. It has three notes valued at a total of 1.4 billion rand maturing in 2018.

To read the full article, click here.

11 Jan

Africa: How Africa Can Ride On the Cryptocurrency Wave

ANALYSIS

Nairobi — Cryptocurrency to most people and institutions in Africa is a very big, and daunting word. Like all new technologies, the concept of digital currencies remains an abstract idea to a lot of people, ushering in change and attempts to alter the status quo.

But the truth is change happens, whether we are ready or not. Those who take advantage of the change wave, stand to benefit as early adopters.

The opportunity to once again take charge of our own destiny has been presented to us as Africans. The question now is not about cryptocurrency, the question is what are we going to do to harness the full power of this opportunity?

In the beginning of trade in Africa, we travelled across lands, and water to trade amongst ourselves. The farmers from the west had cocoa; the nomads from the north had camels and other resources. Each measured the value of their goods or service and agreed on the exchange. “Trade by batter was born”

Then gold came, and other valuable resources so people started using this as a form of trading, then we had promissory notes, which were convertible based on the value of gold, or silver the issuer of the gold had in their vault. All these evolved into what we now call money today, and the unit of that money we derive from either the dollar, euro, pound even yen at the minute.

Cryptocurrency has landed at our doorstep and it’s a scary thought. Let me first define cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency is defined as a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange, using cryptography to secure the transactions and to control the creation of additional units of the currency. Cryptocurrencies are classified as a subset of digital currencies and are also classified as a subset of alternative currencies and virtual currencies.

To read the full article, click here.

05 Jan

Angola Joins Long List of Oil Producers in Scrapping Dollar Peg

Angola is poised to become the latest emerging-market nation to dispense with a pegged currency, another sign that a four-year slide in oil prices has battered exporters in the $2.2 trillion-a-year market.

The southern African nation, an OPEC member, said this week that it would let the kwanza trade within a new band. The rate at which it was fixed against the dollar since April 2016 “does not reflect the truth,” according to central bank Governor Jose Massano.

It joins a long list of commodity exporters — from Russia to Egypt, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Uzbekistan — that have floated or devalued currencies in a bid to end crippling shortages of foreign exchange and to revive economic growth.

“It was a long time coming,” said Kaan Nazli, a strategist at Neuberger Berman in The Hague, which manages almost $300 billion, including Angolan bonds.

The move underlines just how forcibly President Joao Lourenco is trying to bolster his nation’s finances, three months after he replaced Jose Eduardo dos Santos, the ruler for almost four decades.

Angola, which relies on oil for more than 90 percent of exports, kept a tight grip on its currency as the commodity slid. While the kwanza has already weakened 40 percent to 166 per dollar since mid-2014, analysts say it’s still too strong. Charles Robertson, Renaissance Capital’s chief economist, said in a note Thursday that the kwanza was the most overvalued of the more than 50 currencies he analyzes and that its fair value was 348 to the greenback.

The currency has tumbled to 430 on the black market as dollars run dry, leaving hundreds of companies struggling to pay foreign workers and overseas suppliers. Economic growth fell to zero in 2016 after averaging almost 9 percent per year during the previous decade.

Angola has bled reserves — which more than halved in the past four years to the lowest since 2010 — to defend the peg. The dos Santos administration said it was the best way for the import-dependent nation to curb inflation, which stands at 28 percent.

Read more: Angola Joins Long List of Oil Producers in Scrapping Dollar Peg

03 Jan

Top five trends that will drive Africa’s private equity market in 2018

While the rest of the world battles a series of economic and political difficulties, Africa is looking forward to a year of growth and increased private equity investment.

For a general view on the likely global trends in the private equity market in 2018, we need look no further than the developments of the past few years. As growth rates around the world declined, Africa and other emerging markets took on ever-greater significance, and are now pivotal in global private equity activity.

According to Quantum Global’s Africa Investment Index, in 2015, the top five African investment destinations – including Botswana, Morocco, South Africa and Zambia – collectively attracted foreign direct investment of $13.6bn. This was a testament to international players’ growing interest in the continent.

It is true that some of the world’s developed markets will return to growth in 2018, and private equity investors will turn their attention towards them once more. However, Africa’s long-term growth and increasingly transparent and stable geopolitical and economic landscape will continue to support the expansion of private equity across the region.

Private equity has also taken on a greater share of public sector financing in developing markets. Some of Africa’s largest economies have ventured into their first ever public-private partnerships (PPPs), and interest from limited partners and general partners has grown significantly over recent years.

However, the importance of private equity in Africa’s economic development is underpinned by an annual funding gap of around $100bn in the region, along with a soaring youth population. Private equity has also helped to drive much-needed development of the region’s capital markets, which are slowly maturing.

1 – Increased deal flow

Despite political uncertainty in countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa, there is significant deal appetite and interest in quality assets in Africa. Further north and west, democratic elections have passed in multiple countries, including Angola, which saw its first transfer of power to the opposition party since peacetime in 2002. This should provide investors in those countries with much greater confidence than in previous years.

Deal flow remains high and, given the region’s economic growth, is likely to remain so in 2018. The challenge is one of quality and bankability: management in Africa remains complex for financial, structural and political reasons. These complexities are inherent in all developing markets and will continue in 2018 and beyond. Growth trends in 2018 will demand that general partners deploy highly specialised teams with expertise in specific sectors, in addition to a deep understanding of African markets.

2 – Economic recovery in West Africa

Improvements in commodity prices combined with the region’s expected economic recovery will drive further investment in West Africa. Nigeria and Angola will benefit from analysts’ forecasts that oil prices will rise to around $58 per barrel in 2018, easing public expenditure pressures. Private equity investors and other state players, such as China, will also benefit from a potential uptick in public sector spending on important infrastructure works, and we may see greater appetite for PPPs and general private capital in government-led projects.

GDP figures also recovered across most of West Africa in 2017, and in some cases are forecast to surge in 2018. The IMF’s most recent World Economic Outlook (released in Q3 2017) has projected growth of almost 9% for Ghana in 2018, with an overall rise of around 3.4% for sub-Saharan Africa.

3 – Improved global liquidity conditions

With projected higher oil production and oil prices predicted to rise throughout 2018, foreign exchange liquidity rates are also expected to grow globally. Private equity in Africa will therefore offer a much higher rate of return compared with cash and fixed income assets.

Around the world, borrowing rates and inflation remained stable throughout 2017. This was also the case in many parts of Africa – even in countries that struggled with low forex reserves and the slump in oil prices. Some of the region’s biggest economies, such as Angola and Nigeria, have reined in spending and demonstrated fiscal restraint, including introducing currency controls. These measures have contributed to greater liquidity.

4 – Nigeria attracting more investments

With the value of Nigeria’s economy projected to grow to $650bn by 2022,medium to long-term prospects look optimistic, with solid fundamentals underpinning growth expectations, particularly in the non-oil sectors of the economy. However, the country also faces an $878bn infrastructure investment gap between now and 2040. This figure (which pertains only to infrastructure) is based on forecasts of an annual GDP rise of 4.1% and a population that is rising by 2.4% per year at current trends.

5 – Chinese asset diversification

The slowdown in China’s economy is likely to lead to Chinese investors further exploring opportunities in emerging markets like Africa. Such investors are also likely to pursue increased collaboration with credible private companies and institutions. China has a track record of investing across diverse asset classes in Africa, particularly in infrastructure: as far back as the 1970s, China helped to build one of Africa’s longest railways, the 1,860km TAZARA Railway from Tanzania to Zambia. China is already investing heavily in diverse asset classes across the continent, including Angola’s first ever PPP. The inherent Chinese appetite for diverse assets in Africa spells good news for African governments, many of which have redoubled their efforts towards major infrastructure works over recent years.

As we look ahead to 2018, there is clear evidence that the global economy is improving, even though there are new geopolitical issues on the horizon: namely Brexit, the Chinese slowdown and Middle Eastern security concerns. Despite these issues, Africa faces a year of growth, and will continue to act as a promising destination for private equity investors.

Source: How We Made It in Africa

13 Dec

Africa’s Biggest Company Is Ready to Fix Its Tencent Problem

Naspers Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Bob Van Dijk said Africa’s largest company will consider “structural options” if the value gap with its stake in Tencent Holdings Ltd. persists.

Naspers has a 33 percent stake in Shenzhen, China-based internet giant Tencent, valued at about $158 billion, while Naspers itself has a market value of about $112 billion. The discount is “too high,” and has been accelerating in the past 20 months, Van Dijk said Tuesday in New York. Leaving aside Tencent, analysts place Naspers’ asset value at more than $180 billion, said Chief Financial Officer Basil Sgourdos.

Africa’s largest company by market value is considering using tools such as depositary receipts to access new pools of capital that are otherwise restricted to trade on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Sgourdos at the investor presentation. Naspers will also consider listing some underlying businesses to unlock further value, he said.

In October, veteran emerging-markets investor Mark Mobius said it should buy back Naspers stock. While repurchases could make sense when the company has more financial flexibility, right now it is focused on spending on expanding its businesses and on acquisitions, Sgourdos said.

Capital Outflows

The value gap with Tencent has widened in line with capital outflows from South Africa, where Naspers has its primary listing, Van Dijk said. It will be close to “impossible” for Naspers to move its listing from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, which has also been protecting the company from hostile takeovers, he said.

Van Dijk has resisted pressure to sell Naspers’ holding in Tencent, a suggestion that has surfaced over the years.

The Cape Town-based company, which also owns Africa’s largest pay-TV business and newspapers, has been focusing on e-commerce and is now among the world’s largest investors in the space, backing ventures from Mail.Ru Group Ltd. in Russia to iFood in Brazil.

Naspers plans to accelerate the “path to profitability” of its e-commerce businesses and sees potential for initial public offerings of companies in its portfolio, Van Dijk said.

To read the full article, click here.