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2017

February 2017

17 February 2017

Africa has raised $5 billion from IPO’s over last five years

By Partner Press Release | Asoko Insight

2016 marked a challenging year for African equity markets in the wake of lower economic growth and political upheaval around the globe, largely as a result of the US elections cycle and the Brexit vote. African equity capital markets (ECM) broke a streak of three successive years of growth, recording a decline in overall ECM activity of 28% from 2015 in the number of transactions and 33% from 2015 in terms of capital raised.

PwC issued its 2016 Africa Capital Markets Watch publication today, which analyses equity and debt capital markets transactions that took place between 2012 and 2016 on exchanges throughout Africa, as well as transactions by African companies on international exchanges. ECM transactions included in the analysis comprise capital raising activities, whether initial public offerings (IPOs) or further offers (FOs), by African companies on exchanges worldwide, as well as those made by non-African companies on African exchanges. Debt capital markets (DCM) transactions analysed include debt funding raised by African companies and public institutions.

Darrell McGraw, PwC Capital Markets Partner based in Lagos, says: “Many African economies, in particular those dependent on resources suffered in a low growth environment, significantly reducing ECM activity, and a continued lack of clarity around foreign exchange risk in Nigeria further discouraged foreign investment.

“Although overall ECM activity decreased in 2016 in terms of both transaction volume and value as compared to 2015, there was a significant increase in ECM activity, particularly IPOs, in the second half of the year, indicating the cautious optimism of issuers and investors as the year progressed.”

Since 2012, there have been 450 African ECM transactions raising a total of $44.9bn, up 8% in terms of capital raised over the previous five year period 2011-2015.

African IPO Market

Overall, $1.5bn was raised in IPO proceeds in 2016, and while 2016 saw a decrease from the prior year, there has been an overall upward trend in IPO activity over the five year period.

Over the past five years there have been 110 IPOs raising $6.5 billion by African companies on exchanges worldwide and non-African companies on African exchanges.

In 2016, capital raised from IPOs by companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) increased by 25% in US dollar terms as compared to 2015, mainly driven by a comparatively stronger rand and three large listings by Dis-Chem, the Liberty Two Degrees real estate investment trust (REIT) and one of South Africa’s largest private equity firms, Ethos. It was also a record year for the JSE’s AltX, which saw the secondary listing of the fledgling Mauritian private equity investor, Universal Partners, generate proceeds of more than five times greater than in 2015.

Capital raised from IPOs by companies on exchanges other than the JSE decreased by 22% as compared to 2015, largely driven by relatively smaller Egyptian IPOs in 2016. IPO activity on the Egyptian Stock Exchange (EGX) decreased significantly – by 72% in terms of value of IPO proceeds – as companies delayed listing plans in anticipation of an improved economic outlook following the August 2016 announcement of a potential stabilisation programme by the IMF and the free float of the Egyptian pound in November 2016.

Elsewhere on the continent, there were some significant increases in IPO capital raised on exchanges in Ghana, Morocco and Botswana compared to 2015, due to partial privatisations of state-owned entities.

Coenraad Richardson, PwC Capital Markets Partner based in Johannesburg, adds: “The JSE retains the leading position in the African capital markets, with capital raised from IPOs by companies on the JSE representing 42% of the total African IPO capital and 34% of the total number of transactions since 2012.” In terms of value over the past five years, the next-largest value of IPO proceeds raised was on the EGX at $1.1 billion, followed by the Nigerian Stock Exchange at $751 million.

On a sector basis, the financial services sector continued to dominate the African IPO market during 2016 with 45% of total value and 55% of total volume, followed by consumer goods and industrials with a total value of 31% and 13% respectively.

African FO Market

Over the past five years, there have been 340 FOs raising $38.4 billion on both African and international exchanges. As was the case with the IPO market, FO activity was hit by a significant decrease in terms of transaction volume and value, down 27% and 34% respectively. Andrew Del Boccio, PwC Capital Markets Partner based in Johannesburg, notes: “The decline in FO activity after a period of sustained growth reflects many of the challenges and uncertainties in Africa and around the globe.”

In terms of geography, 85% of FO proceeds in 2016 were raised either by South African companies or by foreign companies listed on the JSE. However, the nature of these FOs shows a mixed landscape–a significant portion of funds were raised for business restructuring or divesture by foreign investors looking to monetise or exit their African investments, or by South African companies seeking to diversify their portfolios via acquisition of assets outside of Africa.

Both during 2016 and over the five-year period, the vast majority of FO activity was from sub-Saharan countries representing 78% and 81% in total FOs volume, respectively, and 96% and 95%, respectively of total FO value.

Between 2012 and 2016, FO capital raised on the JSE represented 87% of total African FO capital raised and 71% of total transaction volume. In terms of movements from 2015, Nigerian FO activity dried up, with no further offers in 2016, mainly as a result of the ongoing recession and exchange rate environment. Tunisia also saw a significant decline in activity based on value of proceeds raised.

On a sector basis, the financial services sector contributed 47% of total FO value, followed by the healthcare sector at 12%.

During the five-year period from 2012, average FO capital raised per transaction of $113 million remained well above the average proceeds raised from IPOs of $59 million, as a number of large, seasoned issuers, such as Naspers, Aspen, Mediclinic and Steinhoff, among others, tapped markets 17 times for proceeds in excess of $500 million; only one IPO, that of Seplat in 2014 exceeded the $500 million threshold.

African Debt Markets

Debt capital market (DCM) activity, in particular Eurobond activity, represents only a portion of the total debt raised in Africa, with a large component of debt funding sourced from traditional bank finance, other lending arrangements with investors or debt raised in local currency on local exchanges.

Eurobond activity by African corporates continued to decline in 2016, with investment grade and high-yield proceeds from Eurobond issuances falling by 21% to $4.5 billion, and the number of issuances by 53% to just seven, including some large issuances by South African telecommunications provider, MTN, and Nigerian telecommunications infrastructure company, IHS, which raised $800 million in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest-ever high-yield bond. Proceeds from all seven of these 2016 issuances were raised in US dollars.

Domestic debt markets also played a more significant role in the overall DCM story in 2016 than in previous years, particularly in Nigeria, as companies and governments across the continent retreated from risks related to foreign currency funding in 2016 and as global appetite for African debt securities declined.

Del Boccio concludes: “Despite challenging times, we expect to see improved conditions around capital markets activity in 2017, continuing the momentum built in the final two months of 2016, including an increase in ECM activity by companies on the JSE as well as by companies pursuing privatisation plans through the capital markets in Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania and the BRVM region.”

Source: https://asokoinsight.com/news/africa-has-raised-5-billion-from-ipos-over...

17 February 2017

Nigeria’s $1 billion Eurobond begins trading on the London Stock Exchange

By Ugo Obi-chukwu | Nairametrics

Nigeria’s $1 billion 15-year Eurobond started trading on the London Stock Exchange yesterday.
The Offer which was nearly eight times oversubscribed, with $7.7bn in orders, is the longest ever maturity for an international Nigerian issuance, highlighting strong international investor demand and demonstrating confidence in Nigeria’s economy.

“London Stock Exchange welcomes Nigeria’s $1 billion Eurobond to start trading in London today”, said a press release issued by the exchange yesterday.

Simon Kirby, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, in the press release, said: “I am delighted that the Nigerian government has chosen London as the location to list its $1bn sovereign bond. This issuance underlines Britain’s position as the world’s leading global financial center and strengthens our economic and financial relationship with Nigeria.”

According to Ibukun Adebayo of the International Markets Unit, and Head of Middle East, Africa and South Asia, at the London Stock Exchange: “Nigeria’s choice of London Stock Exchange for its first international bond offering since 2013 underlines London Stock Exchange’s position as a leading global venue for debt fund raising and London’s enduring status as a market open to the world.

“The success of Nigeria’s bond listing is a strong statement of international investor interest in building exposure to Nigeria’s economy. It reinforces London Stock Exchange’s status as a strong partner to Nigeria and the City’s ability to provide a deep additional channel of finance for the development of Nigerian infrastructure and the growth of the economy.”

Source: https://asokoinsight.com/news/nigerias-1-billion-eurobond-begins-trading...

17 February 2017

African countries slow execution of renewable power sources

By Staff Writer | The Exchange

There are more than half a billion people who are living in darkness, having no access to electricity. The challenge is quite prevalent in the sub-Saharan Africa region, but the states have not lagged too much to make an effort to deal with the obstacle. The statistics made by World Bank report on Wednesday also noted that in the trail of world’s government policies that promote sustainable energy, the states are on the verge of lighting such regions.

Much of the rest of the world, however, has made strides toward making energy broadly available, developing renewable power sources and increasing efficiency, the inaugural Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy report said.

In a survey of 111 countries, the World Bank found that through 2015 nearly 80 percent had begun to adopt policies to expand electrical grids, connecting them to solar and wind generation, and to help make electric utilities creditworthy and financially viable while keeping energy prices down.

More than a third of countries, home to 96 percent of the global population, were at an advanced stage and progress was not limited to rich countries.

Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda outperformed their peers in access to energy, while Pakistan made progress on renewable energy, and Vietnam had developed policies on energy efficiency.

Yet the report showed “on the whole that African countries are scoring very poorly on the policy environment for energy access,” said Vivien Foster, the World Bank’s global lead for energy economics.

“As many as 40 percent of them are in the red zone, meaning they’ve barely begun to take policy measures to accelerate access to energy.”

There were bright spots on the African continent, such as South Africa, Tunisia, and Morocco, she noted.

UN member states in 2015 adopted a set of sustainable development goals to reach by 2030, including a guarantee of cheap, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all people.

The report, which will be updated every two years, said local authorities should use its findings to compare their policies to regional and global peers in efforts to meet the development goals.

Riccardo Puliti, head of the bank’s energy and extractives global practice, told reporters the global lender currently had a $1.6 billion portfolio to support energy access that was mainly focused in Asia and Latin America.

“But we are moving very strongly in Africa as well,” he said.

For the current budget year, the bank had set $260 million to carry out new projects for the off-grid power generation. The countries to benefit include Kenya, Rwanda, Niger, and Zambia, he added.

Source: https://asokoinsight.com/news/african-countries-slow-execution-of-renewa...

2017

February 2017

16 February 2017

South African investor laps up Zenith and Access Bank shares

By Mohamed Momoh | This Day, Nigeria

Allan Gray Ltd., the largest manager of non-government investment funds in Africa, has increased its stake in Zenith and Access Banks.

The South African investor, based in Cape Town, is betting on Nigeria’s banking industry despite poor performances by the oil companies it depends on and widespread calls for the naira to be further devalued, reported Bloomberg yesterday.

Allan Gray’s Chief Investment Officer, Andrew Lapping disclosed the investment move in a February 10 interview in Cape Town.

He didn’t say how big the holdings are or how many shares his company had bought in each of the banks.

“We see a lot of value in Nigerian banks,” Lapping said. “Most people think they’re all going to zero because of the bad debts. We think they will survive” because high interest rates make the banks profitable and they have less debts to equity compared with European lenders, he said.

Trading data for the month of January showed that 232.210 million shares of Zenith Bank valued at N3.605 billion were traded. Last December, 224.007 million shares worth N3.234 billion were traded.

In the case of Access Bank, 264.230 million units of the bank’s shares valued at N1.789 billion exchanged ownership in January while 171.570 million shares valued at N953.045 million were traded in December.

Access Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Herbert Wigwe said last month that the bank’s non-performing loans were expected to climb to “slightly below 3 per cent of total loans by the end of 2017”.

That compares with 2.1 per cent for the nine months through September.

The banking industry is under stress in Nigeria, where the economy was in a recession during 2016.

Non-performing loans escalated to almost three times the regulatory maximum and foreign investors are calling for authorities to boost flexible trading of the naira before putting more money into the country.

An oil price at half its 2014 levels, combined with sabotage and attacks on oil installations that have cut output, has limited dollar supplies in the country, which vies with Angola as Africa’s largest crude-oil producer.

The bad-debt ratio at Nigerian banks rose to 13.4 per cent last year. The naira was devalued in June and traded at 315.50 to the dollar by 6.53 a.m. in Lagos yesterday, while the unofficial, black-market rate was 507 naira to the dollar.

The official exchange rate should fall to 370 by the end of the year, Craig Metherell, an analyst at Avior Capital Markets Ltd. in Cape Town, said in a February note to investors. Investors are frustrated by central bank policies, he said.

“Dollar illiquidity and the inability to predict the central bank’s decisions remains a constant deterrent to dollar-based investors,” Metherell said. “While we argue that valuations look cheap, we find it difficult to justify investing new money given the current status quo.”

But Allan Gray isn’t the only investor that’s interested in Nigerian lenders.

Laurie Dippenaar, chairman of Johannesburg-based FirstRand Ltd., Africa’s largest bank by market value, said last month that it’s looking to buy a mid-sized bank.

Diamond Bank Plc, Sterling Bank Plc and Wema Bank Plc were among mid-sized Nigerian lenders that plummeted more than 40 per cent last year as the domestic economy performed the worst since the 1980s.

“Everyone thinks the naira is going to weaken, but I’m not so sure,” Lapping said. “The bad-debt problem can cure itself over time.”

Nigerian banks are also attractive because of their small size — in an economy that vies with South Africa as the continent’s largest — adds to their growth potential, while lending as a proportion of equity remains low at 3.5 times, Lapping said. Still, the industry’s exposure to oil remains a concern, he said.

Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Nigeria’s biggest bank by value, has a market capitalization of N715 billion ($2.3 billion), Access Bank is valued at about N194 billion and Zenith at about N475 billion.

FirstRand, on the other hand, has a market value of 293 billion rand ($22 billion).

The Nigerian Stock Exchange Banking 10 Index has climbed 0.7 per cent this year as gains by Access Bank, Zenith, United Bank for Africa Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc helped compensate for losses in the other six members of the gauge.

“Maybe we’ve dug ourselves into a hole” by investing in Nigerian banks, Lapping said. “Even if it’s 50-50, going bust or going up, the upside is so much that it’s worth the risk.”

Source:https://asokoinsight.com/news/south-african-investor-laps-up-zenith-acce...

16 February 2017

Nigeria yet to decide how much to borrow from World Bank

By Mohamed Momoh | This Day, Nigeria

The federal government has said it is yet to decide the amount it would borrow from the World Bank.

The Minister for Budget and National Planning, Chief Udoma Udo Udoma, disclosed this yesterday while fielding questions from State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at which Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo presided.

The meeting, which lasted till about 6pm was the longest in the history of this administration.

The World Bank loan is to be partly used to finance the 2017 budget.

When asked how much would the country be asking for from the World Bank, Udoma said: “The figure will depend on the (2017) budget approved by the National Assembly.”

Udoma’s response was a departure from the $2.5 billion the federal government had earmarked for borrowing from the World Bank under the three-year $30 billion foreign borrowing plan, which is still awaiting approval at the National Assembly.

The budget minister, however, admitted that funding constraints had made it difficult to release funds for capital projects.

However, he said due to the peace in the Niger Delta, revenue was beginning to improve.

He said: “Because of the funding constraints, the budget has a deficit, I travelled with the Minister of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor to market the Eurobond.

“As you can see, the Eurobond was oversubscribed by about eight times, so the funds are coming in, there is more stability in the Niger Delta, so more monies are coming in.”
Udoma also said the council yesterday spent hours fine-tuning the Economy Recovery Growth Plan.

He also said the council had extension discussion on the plan.

According to him, the growth plan is still being fine-tuned.

The minister said: “But a lot of inputs were made by council members and it is virtually ready for the president to launch. However, we are doing some fine-tuning and during this period we also do some final consultation before the president launches the plan.”

He said the plan, when approved, is expected to drive economic recovery and lay the foundation for longer term growth as well as improve the competitiveness of the Nigerian economy.

The minister stated that jobs and social inclusion were also key focused areas of the plan.

He gave the immediate execution priorities of the plans as: agriculture and food security, energy-particularly power and petroleum product sufficiency, industrialisation- focusing on small and medium size enterprising, transportation which is very, very important as an infrastructure requirement to get the economy really moving, and stabilisation of the micro-economy environment.

The minister also said the council spent a lot of time looking at implementation.

Udoma said that one of the means of ensuring implementation was to have a delivery unit which he said would be in the presidency.

He gave the key principles of the plan as: Tackling constraints to growth, leveraging the power of the private sector. This is very important. This is why we have been having extensive consultations and discussions with the private sector, promoting national cohesion and social inclusion, allowing market to function, approving the core value for which this country stands.

Udoma, however, insisted that the plan was still being fine-tunined.

Also yesterday, FEC approved N126 billion for the construction of twelve roads mostly in the northern part of the country.

Minister for Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who announced the approval for the roads said the projects are located in Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Adamawa, Kwara, Gombe, Adamawa, Enugu States.

Fashola said awarding the contacts would help to reflate the economy.

He said: “The headline figures are in the region of N126 billion but I think that Is not the story, the story really is what the award of those contracts will do to the economy. It will restore confidence to the construction industry.”

Source: https://asokoinsight.com/news/nigeria-yet-to-decide-how-much-to-borrow-f...

16 February 2017

GE partners with transnet to digitise African transport

By Antony Kiganda | Construction Review Online

GE Transport and Transnet, South African-based freight logistics chain have gotten into a partnership to digitise African transport.

The move will enable a flawless link of shippers and transport operators in streamlining pricing and capacity on the network, shipment planning, fuel costs savings and distribute goods to the market more efficiently.

GE Global Chairman and CEO, Jeff Immelt said: “The digital joint venture we’re getting in with Transnet will not only advance Africa’s transport sector, but release huge opportunities for the supply chain stimulating Africa’s economy.”

Siyabonga Gama, Transnet’s Group Chief Executive said: “Disruptive innovation has become the new catchphrase for good reason. Innovation generates new markets and basically changes the way we live and work. The joint venture with GE Transport is enabling us to form a new industry and build up new skills that have the possibility to change the world as we know it.”

As a worldwide digital industrial leader and dealer of equipment, services and solutions to the rail, mining, marine, power and drilling industries, GE Transport will help Transnet to deliver goods and services with better speed and efficiency through the provision of necessary data required through Predix – GE’s cloud-based operating system for the Industrial Internet of Things.

The timing of this scheme falls in line with the vigorous growth taking place across Africa. Since 1995, Africa’s trade has almost doubled, placing huge logistical pressure on present transport infrastructure.

As it stands, managing the diverse transport routes and developing new infrastructure is difficult. GE’s innovative solution will bring simplicity to payment processes, goods management, customs inspections and lessen the trouble of a paper-based environment.

GE is encouraging development across the sectors of aviation, healthcare, transport and power as sectors that are increasingly being occupied by software companies, technology companies and industrial companies. “This joint venture is GE’s chance to take the new technology that we will develop in South Africa and launch it to the rest of Africa,” said Immelt.

Digitalization in Africa is necessary to driving growth on the continent. It plays a major role in motivating inter-Africa trade. This isn’t the first time GE and Transnet have partnered.

The two bodies have partnered since 2009 to produce and distribute more than 230 Evolution Series diesel electric locomotives, such as the “most African” locomotive, which attributed 55% locally produced content.

The move by GE to digitise African transport comes at a time when experts says transport in Africa is disorganized and poorly managed.

Source: https://asokoinsight.com/news/ge-partners-with-transnet-to-digitise-afri...

2017

February 2017

15 February 2017

Africa set to become top gas market, says experts

By Staff Writer | ESI Africa

In a recent report, there appears to be uncertainty around whether South Africa’s gas market, and the regional gas boom, will replace mining as the region’s new money-spinner.

Leading energy and gas experts, including Karen Breytenbach from the Department of Energy’s IPP Office, Dr Garth Strachan from the South African Department of Trade & Industry and Head of the Gas Industrialisation Unit, and John Smelcer, Oil & Gas Partner at Webber Wentzel, are expected to address the industry next week in Johannesburg.

The experts will be examining what the future holds for South Africa’s gas industry and what economic growth prospects this sector can provide to business, the press statement said.

Africa Set to Become Top Gas Market

According to the news release, Africa is set to become a leading gas market and has the potential to become a significant market for the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) with many African countries exploring the natural gas potential.

According to a report by PwC: “Africa is the last true oil and gas frontier with more than 4,200 oil and gas blocks identified.

“The continent has proven natural gas reserves of 513 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) with 91% of the annual natural gas production of 7.1Tcf coming from Nigeria, Libya, Algeria and Egypt.”

The report added: “Almost half of Africa’s gas blocks are open, subject to force majeure or in the application phase. More than 80% of the 1,300 blocks in North Africa are licensed, while in sub-Saharan Africa it is estimated that only about 30% of 2,900 blocks are licensed.

“In the sub-Saharan regions it is evident that many new opportunities still exist, especially for exploration and production (E&P) companies that are willing to take risks.”

According to Smelcer: “We are on the cusp of a new industry – but significant challenges remain to lift-off.

“Strategic engagement by all key stakeholders will be required to get over the last hurdles.”

The potential is evident, but today’s leading oil and gas executives in Africa will need to stay on top of emerging challenges and opportunities to remain competitive in the nascent industry.

Source: https://asokoinsight.com/news/africa-set-to-become-top-gas-market-says-e...

15 February 2017

Outlierz launches seed fund for African startups

By Staff Writer | Africa Global Funds

Outlierz, a Moroccan based investment firm, has launched a new seed fund dedicated to provide smart capital to startups in Africa.

The firm eyes tremendous opportunities at the intersection of Technology, Entrepreneurship and African economies. Outlierz said that there is talent, but not enough money and appropriate resources to grow scalable startups from emerging ecosystems.

The fund will invest $20-50K in “past-idea stage startups with a viable prototype and a dream team”.

In addition, it will look at $50-200K as follow-on investment or participate in Seed round / Series A of growing companies with traction and revenue.

Kenza Lahlou, Founder and MD of Outlierz, said: “We started from a simple yet striking conclusion: too many startups fail at the pre-seed and seed stages because of a lack of appropriate resources. We intend to change that by providing smart capital to the continent’s most promising companies.”

In addition to providing capital, the fund will provide hands-on advice, resources and access to its global network of world-class mentors and investors.

Outlierz stated that its goal is to take startups “to the next round of funding”.

“The target outcome will be a stronger pool of high potential startups that are ready for subsequent investment and, in the end, lead to success stories that are uniquely African,” Lahlou said.

Outlierz is backed by entrepreneurs and angel investors, including CEO of YCombinator, Michael Seibel, 500startups MENA partner, Hassan Haider, as well as tech entrepreneurs from Africa and Morocco.

Source: https://asokoinsight.com/news/outlierz-launches-seed-fund-for-african-st...

15 February 2017

Ethiopian banking industry finds silver lining amidst uncertainity

By Samson Berhane | Addis Fortune

The nation’s private banks have achieved remarkable results during the first half year of the current fiscal year, despite a popular perception that the economy has been sluggish due to political instability and forex crunch.

Last year was challenging for the economy as the country was hit by a severe drought, which left over 10 million people in need of emergency assistance, and the registered economic growth was the lowest in a decade.

All the16 private banks, in their semi-annual performance, have reported robust growth in deposits, loans and gross profits.

Their total deposit skyrocketed to a little over 170 billion Br, showing a staggering 30pc increase compared to the same period last year. This amount has taken industry observers by surprise for what private banks mobilized in half year surpassed the total deposits they had collected the whole of the previous year.

“This is surprising considering the political instability, severe drought and economic slowdown of last year,” remarked Abdulmenan Mohammed Hamza, a financial analyst.

In the first quarter of the current fiscal year, the unrest in Oromia and Amhara regional states has reached its peak, where hundreds of millions of worth of investments were ransacked, vandalized and turned to ashes.

Some banks, such as Oromia International Bank (OIB), have reported that the unrest adversely affected their capability to reach their customers. OIB has 40pc of its branches located in Oromia Regional State.

“The unrest adversely affected the Bank’s ability to collect remittances,” an executive who works at OIB told Fortune a month ago. “The problem even continued into the first quarter of the current fiscal year, when the unrest reached at its peak.”

The unrest in Oromia also affected the Bank’s performance in advancing loans, according to this executive.

“It affected the bank’s capability to move liquid resources from most branches to least liquidated one,” he said.

Abdulmenan relates massive growth in deposits to unprecedented expansion in branches by private banks.

In the first half of the current fiscal year, Ethiopia’s private banks opened 305 branches, raising their total network to 2,355. Accordingly, one bank branch serves around 33,448 people in the country, lower by half from the ratio five years ago.

Cooperative Bank of Oromia (CBO) is also the highest performer in this stance, opening 62 branches in just half year period while Zemen, which advocates consumer segmentation, is with no branches opened during this period. Yet, a directive from the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) compel banks to increase their branch network by 25pc every year.

In the first half year of the fiscal year, the CBO turned out to be the bank with the highest growth in deposits. It has reported a 35pc growth to 11.4 billion Br in deposit since June 30, 2016. This represents close to seven percent of the industry’s total. As more deposit indicates more income, this could be a trend in reversal for a Bank which was hit by an eight-fold decline in its profit last year, due to an increase in the demand for letters of credit.

The growth in deposits is even higher than last year’s growth of 14pc.

OIB too has reported a 32.4pc growth in its deposit of 9.3 billion Br, which is higher than the industry’s average rate of growth.

“We’ve worked aggressively in our marketing campaign,” a communications officer for the OIB told Fortune.

But the three largest performers in deposits are Awash, Dashen and Abyssinia banks. Nonetheless, industry analysis shows that higher deposit growth in one year is accompanied by lower growth in the next. The average growth rate in deposits was 24pc over the past five years.

Some bankers believe growth in aggregate deposit may not necessarily translate to real growth.

“We’ve to see details to understand whether there is growth,” says a banker. “It might be due to the slowdown of economic activities.”

Another banking veteran, who used to work at the central bank, agree. But in part.

“If the growth in deposits is due to an improvement in savings, that is a positive thing,” he told Fortune. “However, if it was as a result of time deposit, it means that the money is not mobilized which implies there is a slowdown in investments. We should know the source of the deposits.”

The growth in deposits hugely varies across banks. The rate registered by big banks such as Awash and Dashen is lower than of the average rate registered by either medium banks or small banks.

On the other hand, the most efficient income earner in 2015, Lion International Bank, and Bunna Bank have reported the lowest nine percent of growth rate among all banks.

“The political unrest in some parts of the country in July and August, 2016 has affected our deposit mobilization,” said Hailay Haftu, director for Business Development & Corporate Planning Department at Lion Bank.

“We lost between 30 million Br to 55 million Br from our deposit,” he disclosed to Fortune.

Andualem Alem, a director at Awash Bank with a decade of experience, believes the problem has little to do with an economic slowdown as the majority of the population is unbanked.

“It’s not easy to mobilise deposit in countries such as Ethiopia,” he said. “Banks invest too much in order to get depositors.”

A senior executive at Bunna attributed the slow deposit growth to accumulated debt of the Bank.

“We paid a significant amount of money,” he said. “This has affected our profit growth.”

These are banks which have seen their profits dropped from the same period last year. Lion saw a profit decline by one million Birr to 188 million Br in the first six months of the current fiscal year, due to a slow growth in exports. Earnings from exports have declined by 49 million Br to a billion Birr.

As observed in Lion, Bunna also saw a decline in profit by 35pc in the half year period of the current fiscal year compared with the same period last year. The Bank has earned a gross profit of 92 million in just a half year period.

The gross profit of the industry has gone up by 14.6pc to 3.35 billion Br. This is much higher than last year’s growth rate of 8.6pc, perhaps driven mainly by increased loan disbursements.

The total loans and advances have increased by 25pc to 116.17 billion Br for the six months ended December 31, 2016. The industry has reported a growth rate of 32pc compared with a similar period last year, which is higher than last year’s annual growth rate of 23pc. This must have been driven by increased deposits mobilization and liquidity, a rise from net investments in five-year bonds issued by the central bank, which was due for redemption since the last quarter of 2015/16.

The directive compels banks to invest 27pc of their gross loans and advances in government bonds, which has caused a liquidity crises in some of the banks.

The Bank of Abyssinia has reported the highest rate in growth of 36pc, advancing close to 11.1 billion Br during the half year, whereas as the loan book at Zemen has shrunk by four percent, to 3.2 billion Br. However, Awash leads its peers advancing loans of 20 billion Br, followed by Dashen Bank 16.3 billion Br.

The loan to deposit ratio of the industry has increased to 68pc from 67pc over the past year, which indicates banks are earning as much from deposits. It was 64pc on June 2016.

This phenomenon has been observed across a number of banks, something industry insiders attribute to the seasonality of loan disbursements and recovery.

Awash has the highest loan to deposit ratio of 77pc, whereas Zemen has the lowest at 54pc.

“We’ve disbursed the collected deposit to earn more income,” said Andualem, the communications director of Awash. “This is one of our main priority in our five-year strategy launched last year.”

Even though loan to deposit ratio of the industry has shown a modest growth Abdulmenan thinks there is still some room for improvement.

With a gross profit of 22 million Br in just half a year, Zemen leads all the banks with a growth of 57pc, compared with the same period last year.

The two big private banks, Awash and Dashen, have reported gross profits of more than half a billion Birr each, representing 15pc of the industry.

Banking experts agree that the profit performance is pretty remarkable.

2017

February 2017

02 February 2017

Rolake Akinkugbe on the BBC's Global Newspaper Review (January 23rd 2017)

Rolake Akinkugbe , Head of Energy at FBN Merchant Bank (Lagos, Nigeria) does the morning global newspaper review on BBC with Sally Bundock and Adnan Nawaz on Trump & the Media, Sino-Russian LNG 

See here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBEeUyQzzyc&t=81s