“Mrs. Bukky George is A miracle child” – Leo Stan Ekeh.
The news making the rounds is that the billionaire tech entrepreneur, Leo Stan Ekeh, Chairman of Zinox, is allegedly the man behind the takeover of HealthPlus in Nigeria. The rumours come amid a well-publicised management tussle over the soul of the business. Is this real or mere speculation?
Above the frenzy of social media controversies, it is always good to investigate and ascertain the true facts of any case.
In a telephone conversation with the serial entrepreneur, Mr. Ekeh said that when he read the news, he did not give it much thought and dismissed it as one of those social media noises. But to his astonishment, few clips of the news have been sent to him by friends.
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“I have the highest regards for Mrs. Bukky George. I see her till tomorrow as a miracle child like myself. She is extremely brilliant with great energy and passion to succeed in her sector and there are few such women in Africa and my wife is one of them, so it will be spiritually wrong for me to be against her. I know both parties and simply put, they are all credible parties in partnership. I have known her investors – Alta Sempta Capital for some time before I met Mrs. George and we have had preliminary engagement relating to their potential investment in one of my companies and my ambition to roll out across Africa.
But till date, I do not have a kobo share in any of their different investment vehicles including a kobo in HealthPlus, though anyone has a right to invest in any company of his or her choice without clearance from the general public including investing in any of my companies. I have great passion for the health sector and those around me know my investment and support in that sector locally. It is my prayer they resolve their challenges soonest. I want to keep the several discussions I had with Mrs. George private because she is an amazon. I have my highest regards for successful African women and my Group is possibly the only one in the world with five certified women as Managing Directors. You can now understand!”
What do you advise Nigerian companies looking for foreign investors?
‘‘Looking for foreign investors is like taking a bank loan locally. You must keep your promises. When you talk about knowledge economy, it means you should be knowledgeable enough to understand what you are going into or pay quality corporate law firms to advise you, but you must listen to them. The money the bank lends to you belongs to depositors and investors and you must do everything to keep to the terms of the loan. Same with foreign investors. They are here to help you build and make money and in the process, you make more than you would have made. They help you alter your destiny. They are not charity organizations. Sincerely, they add huge value to help you institutionalize corporate governance and make more money than you would have made.
I had warned severally in conferences that the failure rate of startups in Nigeria is unbecoming of a nation and an embarrassment. We should respect agreements signed in this 21st century. That is the only way this country can grow. I am a child of trust economy, so I must keep strictly to agreements to grow. We have world class locally owned legal firms to guide us in these partnerships. I have had at least one major public quoted company as foreign investor and the experience is rewarding. They remain my best friends till today and can vouch for me on major international transactions and they have done this severally even though I bought them out few years ago. We need these people to scale. Nigeria doesn’t have the real financial capacity to build globally rated companies. Trust me on that. Thank you.’’
Nigeria records lowest remittances from abroad since 2008
Nigeria recorded the lowest remittances from abroad since 2008 as Covid-19 affected the income of Nigerians living abroad
Second-quarter data from the CBN shows Nigeria recorded the lowest remittances from abroad since 2008 as Covid-19 affected the income of Nigerians living abroad and looking to snd money to loved ones back home.
According to the data, remittances fell to $3.3 billion in the second quarter of the year way lower than the average of $5.8 billion per quarter remitted to the country. The drop can be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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The data highlights just how bad the global economic crunch has affected the income of people across the world especially Nigerians in diaspora looking to send money to their families. Most have either lost their jobs or seen their earnings tumble due to the global lockdowns.
Nigeria also relies on dollar inflows from remittances to improve on its balance of payment position, a critical economic indicator used in determining a country’s foreign exchange position.
Total foreign remittances into the country rose to $23 billion in 2019 one of the highest on record helping boost income and investments in Nigeria. Poor countries like Nigeria rely heavily on these inflows to soften the low income paid to citizens while also funding millions of families from education to healthcare.
Nigeria Remittances only came second to oil as Nigeria’s top export earner much more than foreign portfolio and direct investments into the country.
Third-quarter numbers are likely to improve as the unemployment rate dropped in the third quarter of the year particularly in the US. For example, the US unemployment rate was as high as 14.7% in April at the height of the lockdowns but has since dropped to 7.9% in September 2020. It was 4.4% in March this year.
Why this matters: Apart from helping to stabilize the exchange rate, remittances are a critical source of cushion for millions of families in Nigeria.
- The global economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic remains pervasive in most developed countries despite the easing of lockdowns.
- In fact, some countries, particularly in Europe are going through the second phase of lockdown meaning more jobs could be lost as we approach winter.
- Nigerians also look forward to the ember months for remittances and is also a useful tool at stabilizing the exchange rate. In the 4th quarter of 2019 and 2018, Nigerians in diaspora remitted $5.9 billion and $6.24 billion respectively.
Exclusive: I put up my house as collateral to save HealthPlus – Bukky George
Bukky George sits with Nairametrics to discuss the crisis that has rocked HealthPlus Limited.
The founder and ‘CEO’ of HealthPlus Ltd, Mrs. Bukky George, revealed she put up her house as collateral to help fund operations of the company she founded in 1999. She revealed this to Nairametrics, in an exclusive interview granted to our Analyst, at Southern Sun, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The Nairametrics’ Lead Analyst sat with Mrs. George, to get a first-hand account of her side of the story, that has pit Private Equity investors from the UK, against the Founder of a business seeking cash to expand their operations.
Nairametrics asked a range of questions, some of which she preferred not to respond to as the matter was still in court. However, in one of the remarks, she confirmed that she had to put up her house as collateral, to get funding from a financial institution. She also implied that the Private Equity firm’s modus operandi was to starve her company of funds, so they can watch the business falter, allowing them to buy on the cheap.
“When the funds stopped coming, I had to put my house as collateral, and my personal guarantee is also collateral too. Apart from the money they invested, they don’t have much to lose, but I have everything to lose. When the funding never came, I invested my life savings.”
She emphasized that the modus operandi of some of these investors is, “They come, they pledge, give you some money, and stop. When the business dies, they buy at peanut.”
According to Mrs. George, the failure of the private equity firm, Alta Semper, to disburse the balance of the $18 million, hampered the operations of a once-thriving business. They paid less than half of the total sum.
“The agreement is to fund our operations without delay. The objectives are the premise of the balance funds. However, 18 months on, the balance is still outstanding. We could not meet our target, because more than half of the funds has not been released to us. We were doing well in the first year of the deal, but the DNA changed after 1 year,” she said.
She also hammered on how Alta Semper starved them of working capital, resulting in their inability to stock their shelves with drugs. Saying, “We had board meetings, they are the financial gurus. They saw the working capital and our cash flow and made no comment. I would not fight if I am not sure of winning the case. They were watching us dwindle. We needed to buy drugs on our shelves, but we couldn’t get the fund. We spoke every week, but they kept promising that they will fund me in two weeks. Our agreement indicates that we were joined at the hips, that is, they can’t make decisions without my consent and vice verse.”
Mrs. George insisted that the technical agreement she had signed with Alta Semper, required that they perform certain obligations, which they have failed to fulfill, leading to her decision to go to court.
“We signed a technical agreement, they had obligations but failed to achieve one. I can’t go into details, because we are in court. When I put it down in writing, they compelled me to retract it. When I complained about what is not going right, they stayed mute. I had no choice but to go to court,” she stated.
She also provided her own view of why the other two directors, former Chairman, Dr. Ayo Salami, and Mr. Deji Akinyanju had resigned from the board.
Saying, “The Chairman resigned last week Thursday, another Director resigned 5 weeks ago (that is my nominee Director). A day after the Chairman resigned, they swooped in when we didn’t have a constituted board. They had asked the banks to hijack our account, but they denied it, requesting board resolution, and approved minutes for the meeting. They have not been able to provide that.”
Mrs. George also claimed that the employees of HealthPlus were on her side because she is a ‘good boss’, which is why they avoided meeting with representatives of Alta Semper.
“When they called staff for a meeting on Friday, everybody ignored the call. They tried a zoom meeting, everyone ignored it. If I am not a good boss, don’t you think they would have rushed to the meeting?” she asked.
Nairametrics maintains a neutral stance in this matter. We have also reached out to the representatives of Alta Semper to get their own side of the story. We will keep you updated, as it unfolds in the coming days.
Leaked Bank memo spooks holders of domiciliary (dollar) accounts
A memo purportedly sent to the foreign exchange trading desk of a leading commercial Bank has spooked domiciliary account holders.
A memo purportedly sent to the foreign exchange trading desk of a leading commercial Bank has spooked domiciliary account holders (depositors who keep money in dollars) in banks.
In the memo seen by Nairametrics, the bank mentioned that ” it has become necessary to review the utilization of inflows into customers DOM accounts”. Nairametrics cannot verify the authenticity of the memo. However, it has been widely shared on some social media platforms and was the subject of debate on Twitter.
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In the purported letter, the bank recommended utilization actions for a different type of inflows such as inflows from non-oil and oil proceeds, offshore FX inflows, forex inflows from other Nigerian banks, and inflows from “Internal account to account FX transfers (sourced from offshore inflows)” and Internal account to account FX transfers (sourced from FX cash deposits) FX cash lodgment over the counter.
What seems to have spooked some Nigerians were the recommendations made in the memo. For example, under the category that addressed Offshore FX Inflows Local FX inflows (from other Nigerian banks), Internal account to account FX transfers (sourced from offshore inflows), it recommended that “Transfers to third parties are strictly prohibited”. This suggests inflows from abroad into your local account in Nigeria cannot be transferred to anyone else except you sell to the bank or transfer to yourself.
In another type of FX transfers, Internal account to account FX transfers (sourced from FX cash deposits) FX cash lodgment over the counter, it made the following recommendations.
- The origin and source of the FX deposit should be determined before customer can be credited to ascertain legitimacy
- FX cash lodgments should be lodged by only account holders and they can have unfettered access by telegraphic transfer up to a limit of $40,000.00 monthly for payment of medical bills, school fees, subscription to professional bodies, etc., subject to existing CBN guidelines
- Transfer from one customer to another is prohibited
- Transfer within related companies is allowed subject to a limit of $50,000.00 per month.
- Own use for eligible transfers and in cases as deemed by regulators (savings towards investments, etc.). This should be subject to regulatory limits and backed by signed instructions.
- Cash drawings.
It is unclear if these directives have the backing of the CBN as the origin or the source of the letter cannot be verified at the time of writing this article.
What this means: In recent days we have seen several internal leaks from banks recommending several measures aimed at curbing access to foreign exchange. For example, a text message purportedly shared by a bank and seen by Nairametrics for example stipulates that “customers can no longer effect FX transfers directly to third parties” explaining that customers can only “sell such funds to the banks”.
- The CBN is yet to comment on any of these memos and as far as we know has not issued any circular publicly to this effect.
- If this memo is true, then it suggests other banks are seriously considering capital controls that limit FX speculations in the hope that it will extinguish dollar demands.
Note: There is a lot of fake information out there however, Nairametrics shares information that it believes its readers should know about even if we cannot immediately authenticate its reliability.