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
The Wisdom behind Jaiz Bank
Not only have these business magnates from the northern part of the country created something of an oligarchy, they also obtained the backing of Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Development Bank.
The idea of taking out loans without interest rates as the future of banking might still sound as foreign as flying cars to many, but it is already in motion.
Currently, there are over 300 Islamic banks in over 51 countries, including the United States. In Nigeria, Jaiz bank stands at the forefront of this revolution. The bank was created out of the former Jaiz International Plc, which was set up in 2003/2004 as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to establish Nigeria’s first full-fledged Non-Interest Bank.
Jaiz and its unconventional Banking methods
With Islamic banking, there are two main peculiarities and none of them confer a bias on only members of the religion. The first is the sharing of profit and loss, and the other is the prohibition of the collection of interest as stipulated in Islamic law – otherwise regarded as “riba.”
Both concepts feed off each other in that to augment the lack of interest gains, equity participation is employed. In other words, the borrowing business will pay back the loan without interest and also give the bank a share of its profits.
Jaiz bank is the first non-interest (Islamic) bank operating in Nigeria. Being that Islamic banking is grounded in Sharia or Islamic principles and morals, the financial institution does not support businesses that could impact the society negatively.
So even as it finances business, and shares their risks and profits accordingly, it does not partner with businesses involved in betting, alcohol, and so on. Needless to say, their methods have served them well.
From being founded in 2003, to 2011 when it received a license from the CBN to operate as a regional bank, to its official commencement as Jaiz Bank Plc in 2012, the institution has expanded its services exponentially.
Today, the company is owned by over 26,000 shareholders who are spread over Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones and its balance sheet has grown from N12 billion in 2012 to about N62 billion, with asset financing of over N30 billion. The bank operates 27 branches and has a full service range of offerings.
The force behind
Behind the bank’s recorded success is a strong shareholder base, spread across one foreign shareholder, 108 Institutional, 220 Corporate, 26,157 Individuals, 156 Joint, 6 States and 106 Local Government shareholders.
However, seven major shareholders control a total of about 65% of the total share capital of the bank. They include: Dantata Aminu Alhassan having 5.24%, Altani Investment Limited with 7.47%, Dangote Industries Ltd wit 8.48%, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) with 8.50%, Indimi Muhammad with 9.28%, Dantata Inv’t & Sec. Ltd with 12.49%, and, former minister, Mutallab Umaru Abdul with the highest stake of 13.50%.
Not only have these business magnates from the northern part of the country created something of an oligarchy, they also obtained the backing of Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Development Bank.
Whether or not the oligopoly poses a threat to the corporate governance and decision-making power of the rest of the bank’s shareholders is a question that can only be answered based on the happenings that arise.
The Managing Director of the bank, Hassan Usman, had however noted that “fundamental to the vision and mission of Jaiz Bank is to create wealth for MSMEs.” He also assured all that the bank is set to ensure maximum benefits is attained by all stakeholders.
Performance and Investment Outlook
The company has done well in building up funding to keep its operations afloat especially given its style of banking. Just last year, it had secured a N3 billion financing facility from the Bank of Industry (BOI) to boost and develop their operations and give zero-interest loans to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) within the country.
The company’s performance has also been noteworthy. In 2019, the company declared a profit after tax of N1.79 billion which was a 114% growth as compared to the N834.36 million recorded at the end of 2018.
The company is on a growth trajectory; currently, with its low share price of N0.66 on a 52 week average of 0.34 and 0.82, it is a convenient buy.
With a price-to-earnings ratio of 9.27, it shows good signs of growth. Its model might just be the thing to spur economic growth as its result-based gains will not just increase the income of the bank but also aid the growth of small businesses within the nation.
Nigerians now seeing CBN Intervention funds as audio money
Despite the rhetoric, majority of Nigerians are still wary of the so called N1 trillion intervention fund.
When the COVID-19 pandemic came with all her fangs, world leaders swung into action with the creation of intervention funds and palliatives to ease the burden of the average citizen.
In Nigeria, asides the palliatives of foodstuff given by state and federal governments alike, drums were rolled when the Central Bank of Nigeria disclosed its support for critical sectors of the economy.
The apex bank first initiated a fund of N50 billion soft loan to small businesses. The N50 billion Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) was to serve as a stimulus package to support households and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) whose economic activities have been significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The financial institution for the scheme is NIRSAL Microfinance Bank (NMFB) and the interest rate under the intervention was fixed at 5% per annum (all-inclusive) up to February 28, 2021, and thereafter, the interest on the facility shall revert to 9% per annum (all-inclusive) as from March 1, 2021.
Next, it increased its intervention by another N100 billion in loans to support health authorities to ensure laboratories, researchers, and innovators work with global scientists to patent and produce vaccines and test kits in Nigeria so as to prepare for possible crisis ahead.
Finally, it increased its intervention in boosting local manufacturing and import substitution by another N1 trillion across all critical sectors of the economy.
Despite the rhetoric, majority of Nigerians are still wary of the so called N1 trillion intervention fund. The CBN is yet to issue any policy guideline for its implementation and failed to provide further details in its monetary policy committee meeting held last week. This has led many to start to view these promises as “audio money” a social media term for financial promises that are never fulfilled.
The journey thus far
The Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) Microfinance bank, on behalf of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has started the disbursement of the N50 billion Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) to the beneficiaries. As at April, it noted that it had received over 80,000 applications for the facility, out of which 40,000 of them were households.
As expected with such funding, the sentiments have been both positive and negative. While some have said they have gotten the funds, others have complained incessantly about the various challenges encountered in the process of obtaining or applying for the loans. Pockets of tweets revealed the general struggles of obtaining the loans. Several applicants have complained about not being able to open accounts or access the facilities and others have complained about making inquiries without responses.
Bola Murtala explained to Nairametrics that “I applied online around the 30th of April, filled out the forms, and submitted. After I got a reply in my email that my application has been received, but then I haven’t heard back from them since then. I wouldn’t know what’s going on but I have seen people who say they got an approval. How far it is true, I wouldn’t know.”
Another applicant, Okey Adinde, said “I applied and received a message telling me that I will be contacted if there was any other document required and if I didn’t send that document after 72 hours after the mail, my application will be declined. Since then, I have not heard from them.”
One Twitter user also complained about being asked to tender collaterals even though the loans do not require any.
Clearly, the program is not without its own hiccups. During an interview with Channels TV, the Managing Director of NIRSAL Microfinance Bank Plc, Abubakar Kure, explained that the nationwide lockdown and restrictions had a major challenge to the smooth processing of the facility. Yet, on the company’s website, it claims to have disbursed over N25 billion and going.
However, there are positive comments too:
Fidelis Ayebae, the chief executive officer of Fidson Healthcare Plc. explained that his company had received N2.5 billion from the central bank’s coronavirus intervention fund. Dollar scarcity and a weakening naira had heightened the inflation on inputs of many pharmaceutical firms in the country.
“You now have a situation where nobody is holding letters of credit, no manufacturer is getting anything from their suppliers abroad because even the ones that we owe, we are not able to pay,” said Ayebae, who also heads the 180-member pharmaceutical group of Nigeria’s manufacturers association.
In truth, sentiments on the program is still burdened with the same lack of faith and trust in systemic leadership and Nigerians have had their fair share of disappointments. Even as the CBN and NIRSAL have set off on a good note by augmenting businesses and individuals in key areas to withstand the impact of the pandemic, the need for transparency cannot be overemphasized.
By employing tighter systems, particularly in the area of customer relations, while also clearly disclosing its activities, the system will assuage the fears of Nigerians whose faiths have been battered by deceptive leadership amongst others.
It is only then that they’ll know for sure that the days of audio money are over and that its leaders can be trusted.
Analysis: Total Nigeria needs a financial overhaul
Total Nigeria’s Q1’20 results are a testament that some might have it worse than others as it recorded a revenue drop of 9.3% to N70.2 billion
The Oil Industry has had a particularly tough year, owing primarily to the novel pandemic. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that the global oil demand is expected to further decline this year as Covid-19 spreads around the world, constraining travel as well as other economic activities.
Organizations like Total depending on international trade will be forced to scale down operations until restrictions ease off. However, Total Nigeria’s Q1’20 results are a testament that some might have it worse than others.
The period recorded a revenue drop of 9.3% to N70.2 billion in the first quarter of this year compared to Q1 2019. Total earns its revenue from three main sectors namely: Networks, General Trade, and Aviation. Revenue from Aviation fell by 39.5%. The decline in Networks is attributed to the reduced demand as a result of the enforced lockdown and restriction on travel across the nation.
Yet, it is clear that the company had its own challenges pre-COVID-19. In the quarter, it attained a loss after tax of N163 million which was 65.6% better than the loss after tax of the comparative quarter; it is overwhelmed by a myriad of distinct issues.
First off, its revenue has experienced a steady fall over the years; reasons for this is tied largely to its lack of importation of petroleum products.
It is also burdened by inefficiencies in its operations evident in its high operational and direct expenses, as well as its high debt over the past years. The company has carried on huge loans and borrowings in its books: N40.6 billion in 2019 and only a marginal reduction of N2.2 billion in the current year.
Even higher are its expenses after an 8.38% reduction in the just-released results, it arrived at N69.7 billion for Q1 2020. Amongst its high operational expenses is the high and increasing technical fees it pays to its parent company. From N251 million in the first quarter of last year, it incurred around N700m in the year under review. It also has cash flow issues with about N22b in negative cash and cash equivalents. In its 2019 report, it revealed that the year had been tough with its cost of doing business rising exponentially as evident in its interest expense, 395% higher than the previous year as a result of repayment for products and a high level of borrowing.
The company, in its last full year annual report, noted that to make significant savings to both operational and capital expenditure costs, a series of initiatives relating to cost efficiency, process optimization, and significant reduction of working capital requirement and finance costs, were put in place and are in motion for this year.
As Dr. Fatih Birol, IEA’s Executive Director put it “The coronavirus crisis is affecting a wide range of energy markets – including coal, gas, and renewables – but its impact on oil markets is particularly severe because it is stopping people and goods from moving around, dealing a heavy blow to demand transport fuels.”
However, Total’s position goes beyond the impact of the pandemic. Its rebound rests on its ability to carry on with cost control and lower debt commitments, together with the speed of the containment of the virus. That said, the company might need to raise capital soon while also coming up with formidable strategies to strengthen its business model.