The foremost American credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings has revised the National Long-Term and Short-Term Ratings of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GTBank) and Zenith Bank Plc to ‘AA(nga)’ and ‘AA-(nga)’; ‘F1+(nga)’ from ‘F1(nga)’ respectively.
This is against GTB’s initial rating of A+ for National Long term rating and F1 for National Short term rating, and then Zenith Bank’s initial rating of A+ for National Long term rating and F1 for National short term rating.
According to the information available from Fitch, the revised rating follows the recalibration of the Nigerian National Ratings Scale due to the downgrade of the sovereign on 6 April 2020. Rating revisions are used to modify ratings for reasons that are not related to changes in credit quality.
National scale ratings are a risk ranking of issuers in a particular market, designed to help local investors differentiate risk. Nigeria’s national scale ratings are denoted by the unique identifier ‘(nga)’. National scales ratings are not comparable to Fitch’s international scales ratings or to other countries’ national scale ratings.
Key rating drivers
“The recalibration of the Nigerian national rating scale has resulted in the upward revision of the National Long- and Short-Term Ratings of GTB and Zenith. The differentiation between the National Long-term Ratings of GTB and Zenith is made possible by greater details under the recalibrated Nigerian national rating scale, which allows us to differentiate further between the National Ratings of Nigerian issuers.
“The Rating Watch Negative (RWN) on the National Long-Term Ratings, and debt ratings where relevant, reflect their expectation that all Nigerian banks will face material pressures from a weaker operating environment over the next few months, given the oil price crash, a potential further devaluation of the Nigerian naira and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals and businesses,” it stated.
The National Ratings of the two banks are sensitive to a change in their creditworthiness relative to other Nigerian issuers.
Factors that could individually or collectively lead to negative rating action/upgrade are:
Downside risk, which could be as a result of weakening in the banks’ standalone credit profiles, especially if there is sustained material deterioration in asset quality, profitability, and capital metrics. Nigerian banks face very challenging conditions due to pressures in the domestic operating environment. Downside risks are heightened by the coronavirus outbreak especially if periods of lockdown, oil price weakness, and global economic turmoil extend into 2020, giving rise to more severe economic and financial market fallout.
President Buhari, Osibanjo to take Covid-19 vaccine on Saturday
President Buhari and his Vice, Yemi Osinbajo will receive shots of AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccines on Saturday.
The Federal Government has announced that President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, will receive shots of AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccines on Saturday to demonstrate vaccine safety to the public.
This follows the country’s receipt of the first batch of about 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine under the COVAX initiative and the planned launch of the national vaccination campaign.
This disclosure was made by the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, at the second edition of the State House briefing in Abuja on Thursday, which is focused on Nigeria’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the country’s national vaccination strategy.
He said that the exercise will boost the confidence of Nigerians to receive the about 4 million doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine that arrived in the country 2 days ago.
Shuaib said, “The next step in the vaccination programme given that we’ve now received the vaccines is a launch that will be taking place at the National Hospital tomorrow. The time scheduled for that launch is 10 am. The launch will be conducted by the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, (Boss Mustapha).
“The plan is to vaccinate the frontline health workers that work in the treatment centre of the National Hospital, those will be the first people just like we’ve communicated that frontline health workers will be the first people to take the vaccines.
“Launch of National vaccination campaign will take place at the National Hospital Abuja, Friday, March 5, 2021, with Frontline health workers.
On Saturday, the plan is to vaccinate Mr President, Mr Vice-President and strategic leaders, to demonstrate vaccine safety to the public.
Again, we are hopeful that when Nigerians see leaders like Mr President and Mr Vice-President take the vaccines; it will increase their confidence around the safety of the vaccines.
“As you are well aware that even before the vaccines arrived in Nigeria, there is a lot of hesitancy. It is a global phenomenon. Vaccine hesitancy is similar no matter where you are, you have to provide the right information and to those people who have questions, we cannot dismiss their cynicism.’’
The NPHCDA boss also said that state governments must certain requirements and obligations before the Covid-19 vaccines will be released to them.
He said, ‘’States have requirements and obligations to fulfil before the Covid vaccines will be released to them. They have to demonstrate they have taken steps to ensure proper storage, security, etc.’’
What you should know
- It can be recalled that the much-awaited AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja around noon on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, onboard an Emirates airline.
- The receipt of the 3.92 million doses of the vaccine is the first batch from the over 16 million doses allocated to Nigeria through the COVAX initiative, aimed at vaccinating about 20% of the population.
CEO @NphcdaNG: Launch of National vaccination campaign will take place at the National Hospital, Abuja, Fri March 5, 2021, with Frontline health workers
On Saturday the plan is to Vaccinate Mr. President & the VP and strategic leaders, to demonstrate vaccine safety to the public
— Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident) March 4, 2021
Why NNPC should be commercialised
A commercialized NNPC with more committed employees would mean better accountability and transparency in its operations.
The Nigerian government is seeking efficient ways of positioning the country on its path to recovery and the petroleum industry which contributes about 90% of its exchange earnings would undoubtedly be critical on this journey.
The long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which seeks to regulate the entire Nigerian Petroleum Industry and repeal a host of existing legislation is paramount in transforming the industry and introducing more efficiency particularly in its government-owned parastatals. The PIB has gained more traction in the current administration and is now awaiting deliberations by legislators.
A key highlight of the PIB is commercializing the State-run behemoth, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This move would see the NNPC incorporated as a Limited Liability Company and be known as NNPC Limited. This company would conduct its affairs on a commercial basis without resorting to using government funds.
While this might seem like a bold move by the government, it still should not come off as a surprise…
Owing to the fall in crude oil prices from over $100/barrel to below $50/barrel levels in 2020, Nigeria’s exciting story with crude oil slowed down but has picked up in recent months. The country’s heavy dependence on the volatile crude oil market and its ineptitude in diversifying during its “oil-rich” days have now thrown its growth story in jeopardy. The once 3rd-fastest growing economy with foreign reserves in excess of $40bn now wallows in rising inflation complemented and a weakened currency.
Why do we need to commercialize NNPC?
A core theme with a number of government-owned parastatals is the plague of inefficiency and obscurity in the way they are run. To give an idea of the NNPC’s lack of transparency, the corporation only published the group’s audited financial statements for the first time in its 43 years of operation in 2020. It’ll be right to commend this administration is pushing for transparency but you can go on to imagine what went on during those opaque years of operation.
As expected, the results were not impressive. The corporation reported a recurring loss, albeit 70% lower in 2019. The significant reduction in losses may prove the government’s will in improving the operations of the NNPC, however, comments on the report noted that “material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the Group and Corporation’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
Moving down to the State-owned refineries with a combined capacity of 445,000 bpd, capacity utilization well below 20%, and recurring annual losses in excess of ₦150bn, we can agree that the condition of these refineries is utterly worrisome. Despite the government’s annual budget for Turn Around Maintenance of these refineries, they have now been shut down with plans to undergo a Build, Operate, and Transfer (BOT) model.
Chief among the NNPC’s problems is corruption. A number of investigative reports have explained how subsidy payments, domestic crude allocation, revenue retention practices, and oil-for-product swap agreements are smeared with corruption. The Senate has initiated countless probes and new management seeking transparency has been introduced by the President, however, it just seems like the rot has eaten too deep into the system.
What does commercializing NNPC mean for the country?
The government-managed NNPC has proved to be inefficient and riddled with corruption. A commercialized NNPC with more committed employees would mean better accountability and transparency in its operations. The possible introduction of more shareholders would strengthen the amount of funding available to the NNPC and further shift the burden of being the sole-financier away from the government.
Exploring an NNPC IPO
An Initial Public Offering (IPO) would see the NNPC’s shares traded on Stock Exchanges and position the corporation to raise much more funding, build trust and endear to the international community. While this might seem like a daunting task, Nigeria can perhaps take a cue from Saudi Arabia whose National Oil corporation; Saudi Aramco began raising capital for its IPO in December 2019.
The Saudi Crown Prince; Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) announced a valuation of $2trn enticing the world’s largest investment banks, appointed a new set of leaders on the board of the corporation, and executed a highly engaging local marketing strategy. Although the valuation figure was brought down to $1.5 – $1.7 trillion by financial advisors, Saudi Aramco successfully achieved its IPO raising nearly $26 billion for 1.5% of Aramco’s value.
NNPC’s fundamentals might not support an IPO currently as investors might be wary of the high level of risks involved but we can’t deny the immense opportunities an IPO would present not just for NNPC’s transparency and performance but Nigeria’s economic reform.
The recurring performance of the corporation with several corruption allegations, inefficiency, and unclarity is indeed worrisome. It is time to have the NNPC turn over a new leaf and operate on a commercial basis. This would afford the government the ability to deploy funds into other segments of the economy and have the NNPC focus on being a commercially viable entity.
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