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Nigeria’s Shashe Banking by @DoubleEph

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It was recently reporting season for Nigerian banks and they trotted out, one after the other, to tell us how they had performed in the first 9 months of 2017. While performance varied from bank to bank, there was one unmistakable theme common to all of them – what I like to define as Shashe Banking.

Let’s take the 5 biggest Shashe Banks – First Bank, Zenith, UBA, GTBank, Access – as our reference point. Combined, they earned N452bn from the ‘innovation’ in the first 9 months of the year, a rise of 62% compared with what they earned in the first 9 months of 2016 (N280bn). There is nothing else in the Nigerian economy that grew by 62% over the last year so this Shashe business is clearly operating at a completely different level from the rest of the economy.

But what is Shashe Banking?

The principle that expenses always rise to match earnings is as true for individuals as it is for governments. Thus, when Nigeria earned $100 per barrel of oil it sold for about 4 years, the country found a way to spend (and steal) all of the money. But there is another principle to the way expenses behave – they can go up like a rocket (quickly) but will only come down like a feather (slowly).

So here we are, more than 3 years after oil prices crashed and Nigeria is still living the champagne life of $100 per barrel while earning a non-alcoholic wine salary of $50 per barrel. The government is finding it incredibly hard to cut expenses so it either manufactures fictitious revenues or…it borrows heavily to plug the gap.

It is this borrowing to fill the gap left open by the crash in oil prices that has given us Shashe Banking in its present manifestation. Given that the Nigerian government is desperate for funding and technically cannot default on its naira borrowings, it ends up paying eye watering interest rates of up to 20% to borrow from local banks.

If you’re a bank, this is a no brainer – it makes perfect sense to divert all the naira you have into Shashe where you can earn decent returns from a guaranteed gold-plated borrower. Why will you take the risk of lending to one random SME who might run into problems and not repay you?

To make it even sweeter (and to be fair to the current government), all profits from Shashe are tax free based on an exemption signed into law by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. The banks probably lobbied for this exemption but the idea was to encourage banks to lend more to government (is it not interesting that the government was writing laws to make borrowing easier at the time Nigeria was earning $100 per barrel of oil?)

In other words, Shashe Banking is a process whereby the government borrows trillions of naira from Nigerian banks and pays them billions of naira in interest for the privilege. One should never refer to any business from afar as ‘easy’ but for Shashe, the tag is justified – it is easy and straightforward.

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But not only is it dangerous, it is sad. Given that the government simply uses the money to pay salaries, we can say that all of this movement of trillions benefits less than 3 million Nigerians directly when you add government workers to bank staff. It is a sad state of affairs.

Nothing illegal has been done by the banks or the government here (who needs illegal stuff when you can make billions legally like this anyway?). But this whole arrangement speaks to a deeper malaise in Nigerian banking that goes beyond the latest Shashe Banking fad. Before Shashe, there was forex (there is always forex). Consider the excerpt below from the communique of the CBN’s monetary policy committee meeting in November 2014 (page 14):

However, available data indicates that banking system liquidity has been lavishly deployed in pursuit of speculative foreign exchange trading at the short-end of the market. While the Committee remains fully committed to the goal of promoting inclusive growth through lower interest rates in the medium- to long-term, banks as agents of financial intermediation have a critical role to play in the nation’s development process. A banking system with an overly high profit motive negates the core tenets of banking and purpose of a banking license

It was after the CBN chased them away from forex that they piled into Shashe. This is the most worrying aspect of all this. It is as if the industry is always chasing the latest get rich quick scheme. Cast your mind back to any time in history and you will almost certainly find the Nigerian banking industry taken in by the one frenzy or the other. When oil prices were high they went to town lending huge sums to oil companies, most of which is now sitting with AMCON.

Shashe is not just about what you do, it is about what it prevents you from doing. When you are permanently geared towards the short term and quick profits, it is not possible to compartmentalise another part of your brain for long term lending that the Nigerian economy so desperately needs – it really is one or the other.

In 2005 after Soludo’s consolidation exercise, Nigerian banks were flush with so much cash. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to get out into the economy and deepen banking and financial services in the economy. But what did they do with all that money? They went on a branch building spree that did nothing but rapidly inflate property prices especially in Lagos.

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They were even chasing themselves around town – once a bank moved into one street, others soon followed and God help you if you had been renting there before they turned up because your cost of living was guaranteed to go up. A most damning indictment of Nigerian banking is that the telcos who got to Nigeria after them have way more customers than they do combined. Nigerian banks really have not cracked what banking actually is.

The government has now signalled that it wants to switch from local to international borrowing. Part of the recent $3bn Eurobond is to be used to pay down some local debt as well. It is safe to say that the era of Shashe Banking is now coming to an end. But given what we know about Nigerian banking, you can bet your last bitcoin that they will simply move on to the next short term quick profit scheme. Maybe Nigerian banks don’t owe anyone anything. Maybe they are simply a reflection of the society they operate in. Maybe it is unrealistic to expect them to rise above a wider culture that is overwhelmingly short term.

But what is unmistakable is this – the Nigerian banking industry is wired for Wire Wire

 

 

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. afcs9905

    April 1, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Lol. As a former banker. I can agree to this

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Merger, Tax incentive boosts BUA Cement FY 2019 result

BUA Cement Plc recently released financials reveal a 47.5% increase in revenues of N175.52 billion up from N119 billion in 2018.

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BUA Cement gives succour to host communities in Edo

One of the industries set to experience the downsides of the Covid-19 pandemic is the construction industry. Given the slowdown in construction activities as a result of the lockdowns and constrained economic activities, the reasons are not farfetched.

Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, Globe Newswire had predicted an accelerated growth pace of the global construction industry from 2.6% in 2019 to 3.1% in 2020. This growth has now been revised to 0.5%. What is even more daunting is that the revised growth rate is based on the assumption that the outbreak will be contained across all major markets by the end of the second quarter of 2020.

It is only after that (including freedom of movement in H2 2020) that events could facilitate reverting to the normal course of activities to foster businesses in the industry like BUA Cement or those that depend on it to restart activities.

Nigeria’s third-largest cement company, BUA Cement Plc, however, still has its 2019 victories in order. Involved in the manufacturing and sales of cement, BUA Cement has 3 major subsidiaries and plants in Northern and Southern Nigeria.

(READ MORE:Update: BUA Cement Plc lists N1.18 trillion shares on NSE)

With a market capitalisation of N1.18 trillion ($3.3 billion), BUA is the third most capitalised company on the NSE. Its recently released financials reveal a 47.5% increase in revenues of N175.52 billion up from N119 billion in 2018.

Kalambaina Cement Line 2, BUA Group, Kalambaina Cement, CCNN, Merger, Tax Incentive Boost BUA Cement FY 2019 Results

The company’s profits also increased by 69.1% from N39.17 billion in 2018 to N66.24 billion in 2019. Core operating performance was strong, and this was supported by strong cement sales in the domestic market, impairment writes back, and other income.

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The main reason for the company’s increased earnings is from the cost synergy and increased revenue as a result of the merger that took place between CCNN Plc and Obu Cement Company Limited.

There was also a striking jump in its income statement on its tax for the year. For FY 2019, it incurred a tax expense of N5.6 billion, in comparison to the N24.9 billion tax credit it received in FY 2018.

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This was as a result of a reversal of previous tax provision made on Obu Line 1; it received approvals for an extension of the company’s pioneer status on Obu line-1 and Kalambaina line-2 in February 2020, to leave effective tax rate at just over 8% in 2019. The pioneer status will help the company save funds that will otherwise have been spent on higher taxes.

(READ MORE:Dangote Cement to access more debt funding)

BUA reported an impressive FY’19 result. Its performance shows the growing strength of the company and its increasing market share. On the back of the strong performance, management declared an N1.75 dividend per share that translates to a dividend yield of 5.5% on current prices.

Cash flow position was also robust with a strong closing cash balance – from N2.8 billion in 2018 to N15.6 billion as at year ended 2019. The company’s growth, as well as the impact of its merger, present a great buy opportunity of the highly capitalized, low-cost stock. As of today when the market closed (21st May) its share price stood at N35.60 from a 52-week range of N27.6 and N41.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Best and worst case scenarios for the Nigerian economy

What we see is a great growth stock further heightened by the population expansion and increased urbanization. However, we expect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic to be felt from the Q1 results of the company.

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The industry could slow down for the year as the level of commercial construction also slows down. Yet the best part of holding stocks like this is that even with stalled operations for a period, a resurgence will always emerge.

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Analysis: Airtel Nigeria is winning where it matters

Airtel has left no stones unturned in ensuring that its provisions are top-shelf – subscribers to the network, of course will have their own ideas.  

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Analysis: Airtel Nigeria is winning where it matters.

Airtel might have won our hearts over with internet-war adverts starring our favourite tribal in-laws, but its fundamentals are what will make us the bucks that keep us happy. Airtel Africa Ltd is a subsidiary of Indian telecoms group, Bharti Airtel Ltd; the group has left no stones unturned in ensuring that its provision of prepaid plans, credit transfers, mobile internet services, messaging, roaming facilities and more, are top-shelf – subscribers to the network, of course, will have their own ideas.

Since last year when Airtel Nigeria became the second telecommunication company in Nigeria listed on the NSE, the company has experienced a steady level of growth. With a presence in 14 African countries, the group’s strength lies in its diversity with stronger companies mitigating the poor performances of others.

Performance Overview: Airtel Africa 

Airtel Africa’s report for the year ended March 2020, revenue jumped by 10.9% from $3.1 billion at the year ended 2019 to $3.4 billion in 2020. The consolidated profit before tax also jumped by 71.8% from $348 million in 2019 to $598 million in 2020. However, profit for the period dropped by 4.23% with earnings of $408 million in 2020 from the $426 million it had earned in 2019. A reason for this is the tax figure that moved from a credit of $78 million in 2019 to tax payments as high as $190 million in 2020. Total assets also jumped by 2.41% from 2019’s value of $9.1 billion to $9.3 billion in 2020 primarily as a result of their acquisition of more property, plant, and equipment (PPE). The total customer base grew by 9.3% to 99.7 million for the year ended.

Full Report here.

Revenue growth of 10.9% was driven by double-digit growth in Nigeria and East Africa. However, the rest of its African operations experienced a decline in revenue. Its success in Nigeria is especially commendable, considering the fact that the company lost more than 100,000 subscribers in Nigeria between December 2019 and January 2020. Raghunath Mandava, Chief Executive Officer, remarked that the results which were in line with the group’s expectations, “are clear evidence of the effectiveness of our strategy across Voice, Data and Mobile Money.”

(READ MORE: NCDC and NNPC-IPPG reinforce #TakeResponsibility theme with multi-lingual campaign)

Behind The Numbers – Nigeria

Airtel Nigeria’s performance indicates the company is making the right calls in a very competitive industry. Nigerians are fickle when it comes to data and voice but will spend if the service is right. The company grew its data revenue by a whopping 58% to $435 million a sign that its strategy to focus on data is working. Voice Revenues for the year was up 15% to $850 million. In total, Airtel Nigeria’s revenue was up 24.4% to $1.37 billion. Ebitda margin, a number closely watched by foreign investors 54.2% from 49% a year earlier. Operating profit for the year ended also jumped by 52.6% for the year from 2019 and 32.4% from Q1 2019. Total customer base in Nigeria also grew by 12.5%.

Regulation forces Airtel Africa to initiate shares listing in Malawi , Analysis: Airtel Nigeria is winning where it matters.

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Nigeria is surely critical to Airtel Africa’s future seeing that it contributes about one-third of its revenue. Recent results thus indicate it is winning where it matters most and it must continue to stay this way if it desires to survive a brutal post-COVID-19 2020. Telcos are expected to be among the winners as Nigerians rely more on data to work remotely but there are other players in this game. Concerning the impact of the pandemic, he explained that at the time of the approval of the Group Financial Statements, the group has not experienced any material impact arising from the impact of COVID-19 on its business.

On cash flows…

The group has also taken measures to enhance its liquidity. The CEO explained that it is moving its focus to enhance liquidity towards meeting possible contingencies.

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“Having considered business performance, free cash flows, liquidity expectation for the next 12 months together with its other existing drawn and undrawn facilities, the group cancelled the remaining USD 1.2 billion New Airtel Africa Facility. As part of this evaluation, the group has further considered committed facilities of USD 814 million as of date authorisation of financial statements, which should take care of the group’s cash flow requirement under both base and reasonable worst-case scenarios.”

To this end, they have put in the required strategies to preserve its cash as its cash and cash equivalents, consequently, jumped by 19.1%.

(READ MORE: COVID-19: MTN says it has put strict measures in place to preserve resources)

Buying opportunity

Investors looking at this impressive result will be wondering if this portends a buying opportunity. Airtel Nigeria closed at N298 on Friday and has remained at this price for about a month. The stock is quite illiquid and is not readily available to buy.

It’s the price to earnings ratio of 4.56x makes it quite attractive. Further highlighting this opportunity is its price-to-book ratio which is as low as 0.5273, suggesting that the stock could be undervalued. Whether it is available to be bought, is anyone’s guess.

 

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Analysis: Nestlé strong but exposed.

Being a market leader is great, but in times of economic despair, it can quickly turn you into prey.

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Why Nestle Nigeria’s return remains strong - EFG Hermes, Nestle Nigeria Plc appoints new Director, Nestle Plc: FY 2019 Revenue beats estimate; but profit underperforms

With about six decades of being the choice companion for families within Nigeria and the diaspora, Nestlé Nigeria Plc has positioned itself as one of the largest food and beverage companies on the continent. Owing to the expansive growth of Nigeria’s population – one projected to reach 300 million by the year 2030, as well as the growing middle class, the FMCG sector has a very positive outlook.

Consequently, Nestle’s leadership in the industry and its huge market size expectedly gives it a huge advantage. However, with the global economy barely racing against the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, even the brimming FMCG sector will experience its own level of disruption.

Nestle’s recently released Q1 2020 financials reveal a revenue decline of 0.9%, as it dropped to a marginal ₦70.33 billion from the ₦70.97 billion turnover it garnered in Q1 2019. The profit before tax also experienced an 8.7% drop while the profit after tax had a 12.84% drop, both yielding ₦17.5 billion and ₦11.2 billion respectively, for the first quarter of this year. This is predominantly owing to its increased losses from its overseas activities.

READ ALSO: Italy to invest in Nigeria’s agric sector

The company procures all of its raw materials on a commercial basis from overseas and local suppliers; consequently, the percentage of its supplies dependent on international suppliers had a negative impact on its Q1 2020 financials. Its profits were plagued by a foreign exchange loss of ₦154.7 million from ₦18.9 million, an even higher loss of 720.6%. While the company did not disclose the value of its export revenue, we believe it too might have suffered from reduced exportation in the latter part of the quarter.

The group has since been taking on expansionary projects, such as its launch of a second beverage production plant in Ogun State in February of 2018. The company, on a continuous basis, explores the use of local raw materials in its production processes, contributing its own quota to the Nigerian economy.

READ MORE: Polaris Bank’s profit rises to N26.2 billion from N2.8 billion

Just last week, Nestlé’s stocks went up 2.56% to close at ₦1000, a price it still currently holds today after markets closed. Its price to earnings ratio is 18 and its earnings per share (EPS) of 55.54, signal an investor sentiment of confidence. However, its high price to book ratio of 13.9865 reveals that the company is slightly overvalued and its price of ₦1000 makes it attractive primarily to institutional investors that can afford to purchase large volumes of the stock enough to benefit from its steady growth in value. The company had proposed a dividend payout of ₦45 per share. This also comes after paying ₦25 per share interim dividends earlier. Its dividend yield at the time of writing this is 7%, further heightening the possibilities for the income investor.

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While the company has strong fundamentals governed predominantly by its position as a market leader, its years of experience, and its existence in the FMCG sector, it too might not have a smooth sail in the coming quarter. Its overseas business from both the supply and the demand sides are expected to experience a further decline, ultimately resulting in an even lower relative turnover and lower earnings.

READ MORE: Cadbury Nigeria reports N638.9 million profit for Q1 2020

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We also expect the decline in average disposable income of Nigerians from loss of jobs and an overall wariness of the economic impact of the pandemic, to further drive down turnover; however, sound operational efficiencies and cost control/ profit strategies by the group could ease the burden. The company fundamentals remain strong but its exposure to consumer disposable income remains a major concern. There is always a cheaper alternative and when your pocket empties your choice for cheaper substitutes swells.

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