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Blurb

Central Banks Digital Currencies (CBDCs) – a Gift or a Curse?

Should we expect a CBN announcement on e-Naira soon?

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China recently became the first MAJOR economy to create its Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

Specifically, China’s CBDC has gone from the testing phase to actual implementation. Such that the digital yuan is now ready for use in regular transactions. The expectations are that by the time athletes gather for the upcoming Winter Olympics, visitors to the country can pay for a wide range of goods and services using the Digital Yuan. (Think about using government digital currency to settle Hotel and Restaurant bills, Taxi rides, etc.).

Across the world, Central Banks are racing to implement Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The latest BIS 2021 survey identified that 86% of Central banks are engaged in developing a CBDC.

In this article, we ask the question: What exactly are Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), and why are so many central banks are working towards their implementation?

READ: Very few nations permitted to issue their Crypto – IMF

What is a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)?

Specifically, CBDCs are legal tenders issued by a country’s central bank which will only ever be available in digital format AND will be acceptable from day one for payments of goods and services once implemented.

Fund settlement will be facilitated by the issuing Central bank who may / may not choose to partner with an approved list of institutional counterparties. The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) has a more technical definition here.

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READ: U.S Central Bank leader says no rush into crypto dollar

For the avoidance of doubt, CBDCs are neither the same as Electronic Funds Transfers (EFTs) nor are they Cryptocurrencies. Despite many similarities such as contactless settlement between counterparties, key differences are that Central Bank Digital currencies are legal tender AND represent a direct claim on a central bank by end-users.

  • So, if you are one of those people who likes to “spray” very crispy notes at Owambe… better be prepared as with digital currency, you will never see any physical notes to “spray”.

READ: Leader of world’s most powerful central bank says Crypto unreliable for wealth preservation

Which countries have CBDCs on the horizon?

The latest BIS 2021 survey of 65 central banks identified that 86% of Central Banks are engaged in developing digital currencies. Out of which 60% of central banks have begun research work whilst 14% of central banks are already in the pilot and proof of concept phase.

For a list of countries at various stages of CBDCs implementation, you can click here and here or view the image below.

Jaiz bank

READ: U.S. dollar share of global currency reserves rose to 61.9% in Q1 2020 – IMF

How will the CBDCs work?

For now, each Central Bank is determining its own scope and CBDC functionality as there is no standard global framework regarding infrastructure requirements and functionality scope (e.g. some central banks simply want to focus on domestic payments whilst others want both domestic and international payments focus).

However, having said that, the underlying workflow will likely be similar across the world, in the sense that workflow will include solutions on distribution and utilization.

READ: Computers might steal Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin fortune

  • Distribution: Central Banks will create the digital currency and permit a list of commercial banks to access to the central payment network for onward distribution to end customers. Given that CBDCs are digital, the Central Banks will be able to track exactly who is holding how much of their currency and how exactly their currency is being spent.
  • Utilization: End-users will have a tool (e.g. digital wallets) to help them be aware of their CBDCs balances. Further, these wallets can be presented (i.e. scanned) at participating locations for transaction settlements (think QR codes on a phone app).

In other words, as a CBDC end-user, you only need access to the internet and electricity for spending. Intermediaries such as SWIFT will be bypassed. (You can read more about how the digital yuan will work here).

READ: Former Access Bank CEO, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, launches new book, Leaving the Tarmac: Buying a Bank in Africa

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Why are so many Central Banks rushing into CBDCs?

Firstly, faster cross-border trade settlements / International Trade ambitions:

The widely accepted use of CBDCs will facilitate faster cross-border settlements between participating counterparties. Regardless of your location, there will be less need to convert from local currencies into reserve currencies such as USD, GBP, EUR, and vice versa via financial intermediaries.

Additionally, for a country such as China which has long sought to expand its global reach in international trade, the digital yuan provides mouth-watering opportunities.

  • As a simple example, for international trade facilitation, end-users of smartphones built by Chinese-owned phone companies can potentially be enabled to access the Digital-Yuan, and that digital yuan can be spent with Chinese-owned firms across the world. These payment transactions can take place on the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) controlled network and bypass any existing financial intermediary (you can read more about digital yuan opportunities here).

Secondly, from a domestic perspective, CBDCs will be a potential game-changing macro-economic tool.

For countries not interested in global trade dominance, digital currencies offer Central banks an exciting opportunity to transform monetary policies. Specifically with regards to financial relationships and money transmission mechanisms (too much grammar but we have all heard of stimulus and intervention funds!!)

Under the current state, when a Central Bank wants to increase or decrease money going into the hands of consumers, it does so via a range of tools (i.e. alter interest rates, set reserve ratios, buy/sell short-term instruments, etc.). Unfortunately, this current approach has some limitations which include:

  • Transmission mechanisms: Despite all the tools available to Central Banks, they ultimately rely on financial intermediaries (i.e. banks). Existing monetary policy tools simply aim to influence commercial banks to increase or decrease the amount of money/funds available for onward lending to end consumers.
  • These tools, as well as, associated end-user responses may not often work as fast as Central Banks would like. As an example, most bank customers will tell you that loan application processes can be extremely cumbersome and sometimes subjective.
  • Also, think about folks in remote areas who truly need credit for their business expansion but are not financially included or are not able to complete the plethora of loan application forms or are missing IDs for authentication, etc.
  • All these limitations create latency challenges for Central Banks looking to influence macroeconomic indicators quickly.
  • Monitoring: Under the current approach, it is cumbersome for Central Banks to continually track existing money in circulation and utilization purposes. Think about CBN intervention funds and how difficult it is for the CBN to know exactly how its intervention funds are being spent once the funds are disbursed to applicants.

Fortunately, with digital currencies, given that they leave digital footprints, Economic Surveillance is facilitated (i.e. Central banks can monitor exactly who owns how much and what it is being used for); arguably giving Central Banks an opportunity to better direct funds to parts of the economy requiring support.

Thirdly, Technology advances driving the growth of the Digital Economy and lowering operating cost dynamics.

  • The unrelenting growth of the Digital Economy: The use of physical cash continues to decline driven by the exponential growth of contactless services such as e-commerce (Amazon, Alibaba, eBay), contactless interaction (Zoom, Facebook-Portal, Google-Nest), etc.
  • Global eCommerce is now projected to be over 25% of total retail sales across the world and the US estimates that Digital Economy accounted for 6.9% of 2017 GDP which made it the seventh (7th) largest component of GDP and still growing.
  • Given that no one needs physical cash for transactions in the digital economy, Central banks are warming up to the need to implement CBDCs for transactions in this emerging digital economy.
  • Changing unit cost dynamics: From a central bank perspective, there are significant costs incurred for maintaining oversight of existing payments and settlement systems. Furthermore, there are additional costs for creating cash, transporting, storing, and securing existing stock of physical cash. As existing systems become outdated and population growth continues apace, there will be an inflection point for when it will simply be cheaper to create digital currencies to drive financial inclusion. Especially as cloud computing processing capacity continues to expand at a cheaper unit cost.

Are there risks/issues to be concerned about with Digital Currencies?

The answer is yes, whilst there are benefits, there are also some risks and concerns such as the risk of excessive Economic Surveillance, Privacy concerns, ease of implementing, and Negative Interest (aka financial wealth tax).

Economic Surveillance can easily be a double-edged sword especially in the hands of an authoritarian regime, as an increased level of economic oversight can easily lead to financial repression or targeting opponents. However, just like with CCTVs, the risk of misuse cannot be a unilateral reason to discredit the opportunities available with CBDCs. (You can read more about concerns here)

So, what about Nigeria?

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was not included in the BIS 2021 survey, additionally, the CBN has not formally outlined its position on whether it plans to implement a Central Bank Digital Currency in the future (e-Naira).

However in February 2021, (as part of its explanation of its regulatory directive on Cryptocurrencies), the CBN acknowledged the emerging trend of Central Banks’ ability to issue legal tender digital currencies.

Nairametrics founder, Ugodre mentioned on his Twitter Spaces show “OnTheMoney” that a senior official at the CBN informed him that the Apex bank was seriously considering digital currency and had put together a team to explore its possibilities.

So, should Nigerians expect an e-Naira soon?

Firstly, with regards to innovation, the Nigerian payments landscape continues to evolve rapidly as the CBN drives innovation as part of its National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS). Thus far, this strategy has resulted in the deployment of new products in the Nigerian payments space such as Money Market Operators (MMOs), Payment Solutions Service Providers (PSSPs), Agent/Super Agents, Payment Service Banks (PSBs), etc.

Furthermore, the CBN is keen to leverage its regulatory sandbox for more innovations and has very recently in 2021 issued new guidelines on open banking, as well as, QR codes.

Consequently, having a digital Naira should not be ruled out as an additional tool to drive financial inclusion in Nigeria,

Secondly, based on industry statistics, Nigerians are quick to adopt technology that facilitates convenience at minimal cost to end-users.

  • Specifically, CBN payments statistics reports show that the use of cash and ATMs in Nigeria continues to decline rapidly. The latest annual report shows Cash/ATM usage has declined from 18% of transactions in 2015 to 6% of transactions in 2019. In other words, 93% of activity was done electronically (across platforms NIP, REMITA, MMO, etc).
  • Furthermore, NCC reports show high penetration rates for mobile technology with over 195 million active mobile phone subscribers (95% penetration) and 150 million internet subscribers (73% penetration rate).

These reports lend credence to the perception that Nigerians are quick adopters of new technology where the technology enhances convenience at minimal cost to end-users.

Consequently, a digital Naira will likely have high adoption rates to the extent that end-users do not expect to incur additional onerous charges.

Finally, from a CBN perspective, we already know that the APEX bank prefers direct interventions as part of its macroeconomic toolkit. Arguably having a digital Naira (e-Naira) allows the CBN to better facilitate direct transmission to target beneficiaries in key sectors, whilst monitoring the use of the funds disbursed, and expedite recovery when funds are due for repayment.

So, should we expect a CBN announcement on e-Naira soon? Your guess is as good as mine.

The "Blurb Team" is the official conveyer of the opinions of the Nairametrics Research & Analysis Board on matters of financial reports, macroeconomic data, and economic policies.

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Blurb

GSK in big trouble as losses mount

The results were less than impressive with several key indicators showing a year-on-year decline.

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GSK Consumer Nigeria Plc records 3.34% increase in 2020 9M revenues.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc (“GSK Plc” or “the Company”) is a public limited liability company with 46.4% of the shares of the Company held by Setfirst Limited and Smithkline Beecham Limited (both incorporated in the United Kingdom), and 53.6% held by Nigerian shareholders.

The ultimate parent and controlling party is GlaxoSmithKline Plc, United Kingdom (GSK Plc UK). The parent company controls GSK Plc through Setfirst Limited and SmithKline Beecham Limited.

The Company recently published its unaudited first quarter (Q1) 2021 consolidated financial statements for the period ended 31 March 2021.

READ: GSK Consumer Nigeria Plc records 3.34% increase in 2020 9M revenues

The results were less than impressive with several key indicators showing a year-on-year decline. For example, Group revenue (turnover) declined from ₦4.99 billion in Q1 2020 to ₦3.46 billion in Q1 2021 a drop of over 30.66%. The revenue drop was due to a sharp decline in the local sale of its healthcare products.

Total loss after tax as of Q1 2021 was ₦238.07 million compared to a profit after tax of ₦113.47 million for the same period to Q1 2020.

The company is essentially divided into two segments viz: Consumer Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals. While the Healthcare segment was largely profitable in Q1 2021 (making a profit before tax of ₦ 8.73 million by March 31, 2021, the pharmaceuticals segment made a loss of ₦262.93 million in the same period.

READ: GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria announces changes in its board

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The Consumer Healthcare segment of the company consists of oral health products, digestive health products, respiratory health products, pain relievers, over the counter medicines, and nutritional healthcare; while the pharmaceutical segment consists of antibacterial medicines, vaccines, and prescription drugs. While goods for the consumer healthcare segment are produced in the country, the pharmaceuticals are all imported.

The largely imported pharmaceutical products are thus exposed to the vagaries of foreign currency fluctuations coupled with a negligible to no revenue from the foreign sale of its healthcare products (same as in Q1 2020) as it barely exports its products out of the country.

The cost of importing the antibacterial, vaccines and prescription drugs, and the significant local operating expenses wiped off the marginal gross profits made by the pharmaceutical segment of the company. In effect, the gross profit of ₦508.12 million made by the pharmaceutical segment of the company was eliminated by an operating expense of ₦735.7 million and this resulted in a net loss for the pharmaceutical segment of the business.

READ: Nigerian Breweries posts N7.66bn as Q1 2021 profit, shares gain 2.2%

Apart from the impact of imported pharmaceutical products as already discussed, other issues that affected the company’s Q1 2021 results and are likely to continue to affect its performance in future include:

  1. A limited product mix that has only the likes of Macleans and Sensodyne (Oral Healthcare); Pain relievers (Panadol and Voltaren); Digestive Health (Andrews Liver Salt); and Respiratory Health (Otrivin and Panadol Cold and Catarrh) all within the Consumer Healthcare segment.
  2. Increased competition, particularly from local pharmaceutical manufactures of similar over the counter medicines and other prescription medications and vaccines.

In addition, in October 2016, GSK Plc divested its drinks bottling and distribution business that manufactures and distributes Lucozade and Ribena in Nigeria, and other assets including the factory used for the drinks business to Suntory Beverage & Food Limited. The loss in revenue from these popular brands continues to impact its topline.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is a global healthcare company and is well-known and acknowledged for its pioneering role in discovering and distributing vaccines for the likes of hepatitis A and B, meningitis, tetanus, influenza, rabies, typhoid, chickenpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, cervical cancer and many more.

Jaiz bank

It is also renowned for its manufacture and distribution of prescription medicines such as antibiotics and treatments for such ailments as asthma, HIV/AIDS, malaria, depression, migraines, diabetes, heart failure, and digestive disorders.

Perhaps GSK Plc’s fortunes may change if the company is able to obtain the parent company’s licence to manufacture GSK-owned vaccines and prescription medicines within the country while also exploring the possibility of extending the sale of its products outside the shores of the country.

Since different expertise is required for vaccines and prescription drug manufacture and distribution as compared to manufacture and sale of consumer healthcare products, perhaps another alternative may be for the company to create two separate companies with one company being a 100% vaccines and prescription drug pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution company while the second company specializes entirely in the manufacture and sale of consumer healthcare products.

As a result of the Q1 2021 performance, the company’s earnings per share (EPS) dropped to -20 kobo compared to the 9 kobo earnings per share reported in Q1 2020. At the start of 2021, GSK Plc’s share price was ₦6.90 but the company has since lost over 10% of its price valuation as the company’s share price closed at ₦6.20 on April 30, 2021.

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Blurb

NB Plc’s share price and dividends keeping shareholders happy

It was not all hunky-dory for the company as its cost of sales jumped from N48.3 billion in Q1 2020 to N66 billion in Q1 2021.

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Jordi Borrut Bel, Nigerian Breweries Plc

Nigerian Breweries Plc (“NB Plc” or the “Company”) reported its first-quarter (Q1) 2021 results on April 23, 2021.

The company’s performance was impressive considering the headwinds it faced late in 2020 and early 2021 from inflationary pressures, poor consumer purchasing power, lethargic economic growth, and increase in the company’s beer prices which took effect from Q4 2020.

The company achieved a net revenue for the three months to March 31, 2021 of N105.68 billion compared to N83.23 billion for the same period to March 31, 2020 — a 27% increase compared to the Q1 2020 results.

It also achieved a N39.67 billion gross profit — a 13.7% increase in gross profit compared to Q1 2020.

Quarter-on-quarter EBITDA rose by 22.8% from N19.82 billion in Q1 2020 to N24.34 billion in Q1 2021. Other positive outcomes quarter on quarter were the increase in operating income (from N10.94 billion to N14.49 billion), profit before tax (from N8.3 billion to N11.51 billion), and profit after tax (from N5.53 billion to N7.66 billion).

It was not all hunky-dory for the company as its cost of sales (direct costs attributable to NB Plc’s production) jumped from N48.3 billion in Q1 2020 to N66 billion in Q1 2021, an increase of N17.7 billion. According to the company, its costs are subject to seasonal fluctuations as a result of weather conditions and festivities. As a result, the company’s results and volumes are dependent on the performance in the peak‐selling season, typically resulting in higher revenue and profitability in the last quarter of the year.

The total cost of sales, marketing and distribution, and administration expenses grew from N72.47 billion in Q1 2020 to N91.63 billion in Q1 2021 – a jump of 26.43%. This jump was largely attributable to the cost of raw materials and consumables which grew to N46.53 billion (compared to N30.2 billion for the same period in Q1 2020).

The raw materials cost pressure has been a trend since Q2 2020 driven by the rising commodity prices, foreign exchange devaluation and domestic inflationary pressures. As a result, the cost of the raw materials to net income ratio has continued to rise. This ratio was 36.3% in Q1 2020 but has risen to 44% in Q1 2021.

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What may be a source of particular concern for the company is how well working capital is being managed from a liquidity and leverage perspective. The company reported cash and cash equivalents of N30.37 billion in Q1 2020, this had dropped to N18.43 billion by Q1 2021. In the same period, trade debtors and other receivables (i.e., those that owe the company for purchases that have not been paid for) had increased from N11.42 billion in Q1 2020 to N23.48 billion in Q1 2021, an increase of over 105% in just 12 months!

More worrying, in terms of magnitude, are trade creditors and other payables (i.e., those that the company owes payments for goods and services purchased) which grew from N139.2 billion in Q1 2020 to N145.41 billion in Q1 2021, a rise of N6.21 billion (or 4.5%) in just 12 months.

While the company’s loans and borrowings had reduced significantly (short-term loans in Q1 2021 was N35.65 billion versus N39.64 billion in Q1 2020; and long-term loans in Q1 2021 was N15.87 billion versus N51,81 billion in Q1 2020), the cost of borrowing, that is, interest expenses that the company paid on borrowed funds, rose from N2.7 billion in Q1 2020 to N3 billion in Q1 2021. This suggests that while short term and long-term borrowing have reduced, working capital needs are being refinanced at a higher cost or alternatively, most of the reduced short term or long-term borrowings have simply been restructured from longer-term loans to shorter-term overdrafts and commercial papers with a higher interest expense. The balance sheet as of Q1 2021 showed a liability in the form of bank overdraft and/or commercial papers of N21.44 billion which was not in the books in Q1 2020.

The first-quarter report also showed that as of March 31, 2021, the company had revolving credit facilities with five Nigerian banks to finance its working capital with the approved limit of the loan with each of the banks ranging from N6 billion to N15 billion (total N66 billion). N9 billion of the available amount was utilized at end of March 2021 (2020: Nil).

It should be noted that NB Plc’s financial statements for the 3 months ended 31st March 2021 are yet to be independently audited, so the results may be further improved or be worse, depending on the views and professional opinion of the external auditors in terms of accounting treatments and management judgement on significant transactions.

From the company’s numbers and explanations, the results are clearly driven by:

(1) Benefits from its increased pricing with the raised prices taking effect from December 10, 2020. The increases ranged from 5.2% to 6%, mainly on selected brands packaged in aluminium cans and on the 600-ml Star Larger returnable glass bottle.

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(2) Volume growth in its premium brands (particularly Heineken) and non-alcoholic portfolio (particularly Maltina).

(3) Relative inelastic demand for its portfolio mix despite price increases, availability of substitutes, and stagnate consumer wages eroded by inflation. In economics, inelastic demand occurs when the demand for a product remains static or changes less than changes in price.

Overall, the company achieved outstanding results that would have confounded analysts’ estimates. Given continued inflationary trends and currency depreciation, it would be interesting to see whether turnover and profitability growth are sustainable over the remaining quarters of the year. On its financial year 2020 performance, the company paid a final dividend of NGN0.69 in April 2021 (interim of NGN0.25 paid in December 2020). If the trend is sustained, it can only be good news for NB Plc in terms of increases in its share price and dividends for its shareholders.

Heineken Brouwerijen B.V owns 37.73% of the company to which NB Plc pays annual technical service fees and royalties.

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