Several Nigerians, including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, have called on the apex regulators of the banking and Financial market sectors, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to implement a regulatory framework for Cryptocurrency transactions in the country.
In this interview with Nairametrics, Sonnie Ayere, the Group Chief Executive Officer of DLM Capital Group, a firm that has been at the forefront of creating alternative financing solutions for businesses and providing bespoke innovative ideas to access funds for growth, bared his mind on the subject.
To him, without a status of cryptocurrency as a medium of financial exchange by the majority, it could suffer setbacks and remain trading within speculative confines related to commodities, like gold.
What growth trajectory do you predict for the Nigerian economy in 2021 after recovery from recession?
We believe that the post-recession economy for Nigeria in 2021 would reflect significant growth as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy wanes with the resumption of vaccinations to beat back its spread. Businesses requiring customer visits were most severely affected in 2020 by lost patronage. While manufacturers, and marketers alike, carried on with stable, unthreatened production levels and supply of goods; the challenge was how to get customers to pick and purchase them. This inspired a rise in demand for delivery options, by both customers and sellers; thus, we have indications of further potential in new and existing delivery and logistic companies, online retailing, and online payments for sales beyond fixed locations or outlets.
We expect the post-recession economy to exceed its current state in economic performance as this is a state for which most movement restrictions have been eased, and the conduct of business for physical transactions has resumed. We believe that the earlier formed opinions on the Nigerian economy forecasted a more than a transient period of recession relative to other countries facing the same. We believe this was premised on significant negative expectations of anticipated weak responsiveness from the government, high infection rates and perceived challenges of financing and management of the pandemic.
The year 2021 resumed with increased activity in the global economy which has induced higher price levels for commodities following a rebound in demand. In Nigeria’s case, this is relevant to the nation’s Crude Oil exports. Nigeria is again opportune with increased revenues and a chance to increase its savings.
Despite the disruption triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Agriculture, ICT and Financial Services sectors have remained resilient. What do you think is responsible for this and which sectors do you see driving further growth in 2021?
For these three sectors mentioned, the most profound contributions came from the ICT services, because it largely facilitated greater levels of transactions for the financial sector particularly with regards to growth in electronic payments and online merchandising. Agriculture particularly thrived as supply chains faced little threats with movement restrictions, and unlike most other sectors, enjoys steady demand. The prize for value should go to ICT related services for easing the sales of goods and services away from physical markets where people would ordinarily transact.
The Federal Government has presented a budget estimate of 13 trillion with a historic deficit of N5 trillion. How realistic do you see the 2021 budget in line with the assumptions?
Overall, higher oil prices translate to stable expectations on financing with crude oil production and sales. The expectations of performance from that should be covered with increased global energy consumption. Higher revenue from sales also affords the country a greater capacity to service future debt financing payments, which also translates to lower borrowing costs.
What would be critical is the government’s success in increasing tax revenues in the face of depressed economic activity and its ability to raise debt and conduct asset sales if needed.
What is your assessment of the investment climate in Nigeria on the back of COVID-19?
The Investment climate in Nigeria following the Covid-19 outbreak is shaped to reflect the economic situation following the impact felt within average households, and these are lower average earnings per household, a reduction in businesses that can breakeven, and a need for preserving wealth.
For the Financial Markets, the trend is of lower yields for all fixed-income investments; these span government treasury bills and bonds, corporate debt, that is commercial papers and corporate bonds, and even rates on bank deposits. For the stock market, 2020 featured a strong rally though corporate performances were varied, clearly reflecting differences in customer patronage of underlying sectors. We believe it was a clear search for yield as many companies offered attractive dividends relative to their trading prices.
What will be the outlook for the Nigerian fixed income market in 2021 in terms of the regulatory landscape and opportunities for investors?
For the fixed income market for 2021, we anticipate an increase in corporate issues from companies familiar with the financial market and “in-pipeline” transactions from new corporate prospects. The focus would be access to the current lower market rates at different tenures and refinancing their existing debt at these lower rates. We expect to also see increased issuance of commercial paper to shore up working capital for financing inventory.
We anticipate support from our regulators as we push for the inclusion of more companies into the opportunity space for all stakeholders in our domestic financial markets. However, there appears to be a push for higher rates by the main buyside operators, hence an increase in FGN yields.
The Nigerian equity market was on a rally that triggered a circuit breaker on the NSE recently, what does this mean for the market’s outlook?
The impressive rally of equities in 2020 was triggered by investors searching for higher yields. It is only rational that some investors would reconsider their aversion for stocks and seek the upside offered by rich dividend income relative to fixed income investments at the time. Institutional investors have for a recent while favoured fixed income and backed down on taking on equities; fixed income yields in the market had sufficed for the performances of their managed portfolios. We have seen this change with the rally and we do hope for better corporate performance to sustain strong fundamentals for each component industry represented on the Nigerian Stock Exchange All-Share Index.
From an investment perspective, what investment options would you advise investors (retail and institutions) to focus on in 2021?
2021 presents opportunities for value investors as some domestic company stocks remain undervalued relative to similar companies in other foreign stock markets. A domestic investor should focus on companies that have either better endured or increased their sales channels beyond the pre-pandemic levels.
In the fixed-income space, it is important to note that upcoming deals will seek to capitalise on current market offered rates as some sectors of the Nigerian economy ease back into profitability under rising economic activity. Current traded debt securities would be more attractive and priced to yield lower based on improvement in economic conditions.
The theme for investment should be the location of the business front. Many location-based businesses that an individual would traditionally visit to view and purchase merchandised products have had to step up on selling efforts by expanding sales channels beyond their physical location by way of promoting brands and products via social media, their e-commerce sites and offering online options of delivery and payment.
The frontier for distribution has been stretched to include mobile devices with online payments; investors must seek where revenues are secured with a focus on distribution costs.
What is the future of crypto regulation in Nigeria, and what are the gains of Nigeria adopting a digital currency?
Ultimately on admission as an acceptable medium of exchange; some form of regulation under the ambit of the monetary authority and the securities exchange commission would be handed down to manage its effects on the economy as currencies do. The adoption of cryptocurrency as an acceptable medium of transactions included in monetary resources across more countries would most likely precede its adoption in Nigeria; we do feel these would be soon addressed by individual countries and the International Monetary Union as full adoption of cryptocurrencies quite literarily portend some displacement of currently accepted international currencies in international trade, a development member countries which own the major currencies would most likely resist; and of course, countries with currencies out of this group, would most likely support.
Without a status of cryptocurrency as a medium of financial exchange by the majority, it could suffer setbacks and remain trading within speculative confines related to commodities, like gold.
Some critics have argued that there are other ways for the CBN to curb illegal transactions instead of placing a ban on crypto transactions. What is your take on this?
There is no argument that there are other ways to curb illicit flows, but with an unregulated status, it would be natural for the apex bank to view some transactions as ‘rogue’; that is, operating without oversight, controls or data on source and destination of transactions. Until the monetary authority props its infrastructure to monitor and regulate this, cryptocurrencies would be seen to support parallel transaction ecosystems.