Agusto, the Nigerian research and ratings company, has helped to shed some light on the challenges faced in the Nigerian electricity market by the newer players on the scene. After a largely successful privatization exercise, the full benefit of a private sector-led electricity market is yet to be felt. The sector, though still hugely promising, is being held back by some challenges. Here are the most important ones you need to know about, based on facts laid out by Agusto and some of our earlier analyses. (Credit to Thisday as well).
- The market is really profitable…
According to Agusto, the industry enjoys good profit margins. But profitability in the Industry varies according to segment, with the grid connected Independent Power Projects (IPPs) being more profitable than their PHCN successor counterparts (the Gencos).
- …But there is a cash-flow problem
Despite the relatively good profit margins, the industry remains constrained by inadequate cash flow. A majority of industry operators, particularly the PHCN successor distribution companies (Discos) have been unable to generate sufficient cash flows to cover their mandatory obligations to the market operator and the GenCos since the take-over of the companies in November 2013, due to the poor billing and cash collection systems.
The introduction of pre-paid meters in 2009 was supposed to help improve the efficiency of metering and collection by the Discos, but they are not widely available across the country. Agusto’s research indicates that less than 55% of grid connected households have access to pre–paid meters. And this is largely due to the inability of Discos to access the requisite financing to fund the purchase of the meters.
- Meter-cheats who are gaming the prepaid metering system are an even greater problem
The problem of by-passing pre-paid meters by customers is another grave risk.
According to a Lagos Disco source, the number of prepaid customers that did not buy electricity within a 6-month period range between 20,000 and 60,000 on average, depending on the particular Disco in question.
It gets worse because some Discos do not even have the resources to determine if their customers have or have not bought electricity after exhausting their last purchase, because their meters have been bypassed.
Prepaid customers bypass their meters by either breaking them and connecting their entire energy load directly to source, or connecting an equipment with heavy usage directly, thus increasing the losses that Discos incur.
The fact that 20,000 – 60,000 customers did not bother to recharge their electricity accounts in 6 months, while still having access to electricity means that they have been gaming the system.
There is now the genuine fear that the more customers migrate to the prepaid metering system, the higher the potential energy and commercial losses the Discos will face. And the losses piled up by the Discos will cascade down the entire electricity value chain, right down to the point of power generation and gas supply.
- The post-paid model stays winning, for now
In contrast to the PHCN successor companies, the off-grid IPPs have better operating cash flows, as they typically request for upfront payment from off-takers before supplying electricity. This places them in a better position when compared to the grid-connected IPPs and Gencos who have to rely on the Discos to collect revenue from customers and feed the value chain.
But the IPPs still face a significant challenge, such as the uncertainties in payments from the Transmission Company (TCN) for electricity sold to the national grid. There are also still constraints with gas supply
- Transmission, which is still in government hands, is the weak link in the supply chain
Despite improved power generation, the transmission network still remains a challenge, contributing to the industry’s losses both at the generation and distribution ends. Losses from the transmission of generated electricity is huge, ranging between 40% and 50%. The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN), recorded 9 full system collapses and 4 partial system collapses in 2014 alone. As at April 2015, the transmission network’s capacity stood at 5,500 MW, which is low when compared to the generation capacity of over 8,000 MW and estimated power demand of 14,630 MW.
The Power Sector deregulation which commenced in 2005 put electricity generation and distribution in the hands of the private sector, but transmission remains in government control.
Industry operators believe that leaving the TCN in government hands is likely to result in the same limitations the Industry faced before the reforms, thereby thwarting all the progress made so far.
A key question on the minds of industry stakeholders is whether or not the FG will complete the current reforms by selling off the TCN. Agusto is of the opinion that the government will only be inclined to disposing the TCN in the face of a severe economic crisis that will require the sale of strategic assets to cover the fiscal deficit.
Agusto notes that while privatisation has been widely acclaimed to be the preferred option, for the electricity sector to be efficient it has to be accompanied by a strong and enabling regulatory environment, improved access to finance, efficiency in billing and metering as well as consistent and secure gas supply.
Agusto is also of the opinion that the Industry will continue to be plagued by gas supply challenges in the short to medium term due to the absence of a commercial framework for gas to power.
But the successful privatisation of the transmission network (TCN) and the establishment of a competitive power market should bring about improved efficiency in the medium to long term. It expects that more IPPs will become operational as the electricity market moves into the Transitional Electricity Market (TEM).
The TEM promises more private investment as it ensures stricter adherence to gas supply agreements and power purchase agreements
Analysis: Access Bank’s valuation highlights merger blues
Access Bank is valued much less than its peers and this is why.
From green bonds to foreign listings and a determination to plant its seeds across various nations on the African continent, Access Bank over the past few years has shown its desire to grow across its triple-bottom-line.
On the people front, the bank has a reputation for offering arguably the best incentives to its employees in the banking sector even though last year’s plan to cut down salaries threatened to dent this reputation.
It has also introduced some of the sector’s most innovating products aimed at driving financial inclusion and protecting the bank’s market share from FinTechs. The bank has also supported small businesses through loans and financial advisory in line with the CBN’s quest to improve private sector credit.
On the environmental front, it’s spending big bucks on CSR, making a name for itself as a leader in Sustainability, and in terms of dominance, its merger with Diamond Bank and other expansionary measures have turned it into Nigeria’s largest bank and one of Africa’s top banks.
While these moves have shed a positive light on the bank, investors are left to play catchup as the benefits of the mergers and acquisitions are yet to result in improved return on investment for anyone who bought the shares over a year ago.
Its low Return on Investment (ROI)
While Access Bank has many strides to its name, a lot more needs to be done to make it a winner with investors. Its share price has struggled to gain the same momentum achieved by its rivals in the banking sector, particularly the FUGAZ.
Year to date 2020 Access Bank stock has performed poorly when compared to its peers. While the likes of Zenith Bank (33%), UBA (21%), Fidelity (23%), and FCMB (80%) posted double-digit returns, Access Bank fell by 16% in 2020.
In terms of value, the market prices the stock lower when compared to its earnings, making it one of the cheapest stocks in the sector. This is buttressed by its 2.9x (as of January 22nd) price to earnings ratio, one of the lowest in the sector.
In the same vein, the Tier 1 bank also has a lower dividend yield compared to its contemporaries and has not been able to breach its 52-week high of N10.90. One reason for this is that investors are wary of the bank’s loan book mostly inherited from its merger with Diamond Bank. Investors will rather go with some Tier 2 banks that have better upward trends in price appreciation than getting stuck with low valuation multiples.
Access Bank merger blues
As mentioned, one Achilles heel to its valuation problems could be its aggressive expansion strategy, driven by acquisitions. Since its acquisition of Diamond Bank, its valuation has plummeted piling on paper losses for investors who have held the stock since then.
Access Bank is currently valued at N325.2 billion in market capitalization less than half of its N679 billion suggesting a price to book ratio of 0.47x.
While being large provides the benefits of economies of scale, it needs to be nimble and focussed to milk the opportunities provided by the synergies
The bank recognizes this challenge, recently holding an investor call where it explained its move towards a HoldCo structure.
Access Bank will maintain four core subsidiaries under the holding company. They are Access Bank Group – focussed on commercial banking services, Payment Business – its mobile money and payment services business, Lending & Agency Banking – microfinance and microlending services, and Insurance.
Its efforts in restructuring into a HoldCo structure as well as expansions to other African regions – from Kenya to South Africa, is expected to further enhance its overall returns, and perhaps drive up valuations.
Fundamental analysis of recent financials
Access Bank has recorded positive strides in terms of its fundamentals. In its latest 9 months results, net interest income decreased by 6.6% year-on-year, but profits increased by 15% to N102.3 billion.
Access Bank also implements one of the most aggressive recoveries of bad loans in the banking sector pulling in N38.9 billion in recovery in 2019 and N24.7 billion in the first 9 months of this year. These recoveries filter into the bottom line and bolster confidence about its ability to confront its challenges and win.
How Access Bank got Japaul to pay up N37 billion loan that had gone bad
Brute force, Courts, quid quo pro are hallmarks of Access Bank’s debt recovery schemes.
In 2018 when Access Bank took over Diamond Bank, in what is the largest merger in Nigeria’s banking history, they knew it was not a match made in heaven like their PR agencies will make you believe.
In merging with Diamond Bank and taking over their juicy assets, they had also taken over the lemons that had for years bedeviled the bank who had pioneered mobile banking applications well ahead of its time.
When Access Bank merged with Diamond Bank, the latter had total loans and advances of N787.8 billion out of which N219.9 billion in loans were impaired. Oil and gas-related loans made up a significant chunk of the loans and were estimated at about N302.6 billion, most of them distressed.
Included in the oil and gas loans was a $66.4 million in loans owed to the bank by Japaul Oil and Maritime, as they were referred to at the time. The loans had gone bad accumulating unpaid interest of about $11.2 million. By the time Access Bank took over the loans, Japaul agreed to a restructuring rolling over both the principal and interest.
This is typical of most Nigerian companies burdened with debts they cannot pay. To avoid being run over by the bank, the debtors will negotiate a restructuring, extending the loans by one to three years and if lucky, reducing the interest rates. In return, the bank books new fees (which are often paid in advance of the restructuring) and then gets to avoid huge provisioning mandated by the central bank.
It is often a ‘win-win’ situation that essentially kicks the can down the road until, like in the case of Diamond Bank, the chicken comes home to roost. But Access Bank is not new to slugging it out with debtors, particularly those who do not pay up. Upon takeover in 2019, Herbert Wigwe, the CEO of Access Bank announced that his bank was going to go after Diamond Bank debtors. In an interview in 2019 he maintained that “we recovered N2.2 billion bad debt in the year under review. Access Bank will intensify effort to ensure that it recovers the debt owed to Diamond Bank. We will go out for Diamond Bank’ debtors and if they are not ready to redeem their debt we will publish their names in the newspapers.”
In 2019, Access Bank swooped on Japaul Plc seeking repayment of their Diamond Bank loans which was now about N37 billion. The bank took over Japaul’s trading assets and integral to the going concern status of the company. Before now, Japaul made money rendering marine services, dredging, mining and construction mostly for the oil and gas companies.
But business has been bad for years now leading the company into net accumulated losses of over N50 billion as of 2018. For the 5 years leading to 2018, the company posted back to back losses with revenues going from N5.3 billion in 2015 to about N85.8 million in 2019. External loans had also ballooned from about N18.8 billion to about N38.8 billion. Its share price had also fallen to about 20 kobo per share by the end of 2019. It was nearing bankruptcy and something had to give.
They began a court battle with Access Bank over the loans and the threat of a liquidation eventually settling for a deal. Sources inform Nairametrics that Access Bank is one of the most aggressive banks in the business when it comes to playing dirty with debtors. Unlike Diamond Bank, Access Bank is ready to battle in the courts and is ready to deploy any legal means necessary to recover their loans even if their actions are viewed as uncanny.
Recently, the bank obtained a Mareva injunction sealing the offices and taking over the assets of Seplat due to a related party loan owed by the latter’s Chairman, ABC Orjiakor. Just like Japaul, the loans owed by ABC Orjiakor were also obtained from Diamond Bank. According to sources, when Access Bank swoops in for their loan recoveries, they deploy all tactics in the books to ensure all or most parts of the loans are recovered from chronic debtors.
Eventually, Access Bank and Japaul agreed to settle the matter outside the court. In exchange for repaying the N38 billion loan, Access Bank settled for a repayment of N30.9 billion. The deal involves Access Bank taking over two of Japaul’ s Dredgers (12& 13) for N5 billion and a Barge (Beau Geste) for N25.9 billion. Japaul also gave up its land in exchange for working capital of N1.5 billion from the bank.
In return, Japaul gets to clean up its balance sheet erasing what is left of its debt, booking a profit of about N40 billion and wiping off its negative equity of N35.5 billion. However, in one fell swoop. From negative equity of N35.5 billion, the company’s net assets are now N4.69 billion. A win-win for everyone.
We are not exactly sure what Access Bank plans to do with dredgers and barges it took over from Japaul. Interestingly, in the deal, Japaul also gets to lease back the two dredgers for a period of 6 years from Access Bank for a sum of N1 billion paid annually from 2021 – 2026. Japaul got a one-year moratorium on repayment expiring in December 2020.
Japaul has since changed its name to Japaul Gold and Ventures citing the dwindling oil and gas sector for its reasons. The company believes gold mining and technology are the future and is seeking to raise N25 billion in equity to pursue this course. Its share price has ostensibly risen by 150% since the turn of the new year, the best performing on the stock exchange.
For Access Bank, aggressively going after bad loans have paid off immensely. In 2019 the bank recovered N38.9 billion in bad loans barely a year after taking over Diamond Bank. In the first 9 months of 2019, a total of N24.7 billion was captured in bad debts recovered. It is a strategy that is working and there is no betting against Access Bank doubling down on aggressive recovery this year.
Champion Breweries, Raysun deal highlights disclosure shortcomings
Is Heineken taking over Champions Brewery?
Champion Breweries Plc informed the Nigerian Stock Exchange, last week, via a press release that an insider, Raysun, had purchased about 1.9 billion shares at a price of N2.6 per share.
The disclosure was part of the stock exchange’s requirement that listed companies must reveal deals made by insiders of the company for the benefit of shareholders and the investor community.
That’s about how far the press release went. It did not reveal why Raysun was purchasing? Who they purchased the shares from and why the deal is being consummated? In terms of corporate disclosure, this was a dud.
Raysun is the largest shareholder and majority owner of Champions Breweries. Raysun is also an entity owned by Heineken, the majority shareholder in Nigeria Breweries Plc – the largest brewer in the country. Thus, Heineken is an indirect shareholder of Champions Breweries.
These relationships give this deal enough scrutiny to warrant a better disclosure starting from the actual purchase of shares revealed in the press release.
Here are some contexts;
Champion Breweries shares breakdown
- Champions Breweries has a total of 7.82 million shares outstanding at the time of this purchase
- Raysun held about 60.4% shares in Champions Breweries according to disclosure in its 2019 annual report.
- Asset Management Nominees and Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation own 12.3% and 10% respectively. The rest of its shareholders own about 17.3% or 1,351,954 units.
- At the current share price of N1.12, Champion Breweries is valued at N10.57 billion by the market.
- However, Raysun’s purchase of 1.9 billion shares at N2.6 per share (valued at N4.9 billion, almost half of the current market capitalization), now values the company at about N20.3 billion.
Where did the shares come from? This is a vital question and here is why.
Going by the number of shares they bought last week (24% of equity), they only could have been able to purchase that many shares by buying up all the shares owned by the Asset Nominees (12.3%), all the shares owned by Akwa Ibom Investment Corporation (10%) and another 3% from other regular shareholders.
It could also be that either or both Asset Nominees and Akwa Ibom IC sold part of their shares and then they made up the rest by purchasing some from the market. Why is Heineken, through Raysun, acquiring so many shares? Is there a takeover deal in the offing? Do they plan to merge Champions Breweries with Nigeria Breweries or still keep it as a standalone company? Will Champions Brewery cease to exist if there is a merger or will they delist following this massive acquisition of the shares of their subsidiary?
The speculation is palpable.
This is what happens when listed companies refuse to properly disclose transactions involving mega share purchases of this nature. How does a majority shareholder go from 60.4% of shares to 84% and an announcement is not made explaining or clarifying who sold and if this is a takeover bid.
But investors seem not to mind at the moment, if the momentum of the share price is anything to go by. A 57% year to date gain is a testament to this. It appears investors expect a mandatory takeover announcement to be made anytime soon and are scrambling for the shares ahead of any announcement.
Unfortunately, this is not how markets should work anywhere, and the sooner it stops the better. The Nigerian Stock Exchange has made massive progress with compliance to disclosure requirements and we believe strongly that they will at some point bring Champion Breweries to order and have them disclose all the requisite information about this transaction. Better late than never.