If predictions by financial experts are anything to go by, Nigeria’s fiscal and monetary authorities should be bracing for the impact of another global economic recession next year. Tony Chukwunyem writes
Clearly, in the wake of the US President’s (Donald Trump) recent intensification of the trade war between his country, financial circles have been rife with predictions that the world’s economy could face another recession in 2020.
Last Wednesday, for instance, Bloomberg reported that the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China was: “nudging the world economy toward its first recession in a decade with investors demanding politicians and central bankers act fast to change course.”
The news agency cited the drop in German industrial production, which last June registered its biggest annual decline in almost a decade, “highlighting the severity of a manufacturing slump in Europe’s largest economy,” as well as the surprise interest-rate cuts announced by Central in New Zealand, India and Thailand to protect their economies from global headwinds.
It also quoted eminent economist and Harvard Professor, Lawrence Summers, as saying that a recession risk was: “Much higher than it needs to be and much higher than it was two months ago. You can often play with fire and not have anything untoward happen, but if you do it too much you eventually get burned.”
However, even before Mr. Trump announced the latest round of tariffs on Chinese imports, financial experts have been forecasting that 2020 is likely to be the year in which the world’s economy would slide into a recession.
Specifically, another well respected Economist, Nouriel Roubini, had last December predicted that while the current global expansion will likely continue into next year, the conditions for a global recession will be ripe in 2020.
Some of the conditions, according to him, include that the Central Banks in the Western countries were ending their stimulus packages; inflation and interest rates were beginning to rise in these economies and the negative impact of trade disputes on economies.
IMF, World Bank warnings
Furthermore, recent reports released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, while not forecasting that recession is a distinct possibility next year, have not exactly boosted optimism about the global economy.
For instance, in its latest quarterly World Economic Outlook (WEO) report released on July 23, the IMF further reduced its global growth outlook, already the lowest since the financial crisis of 2008/2009 and suggested that policy, “missteps” on trade and Brexit could derail a projected rebound.
The Fund stated that the world economy will expand 3.2per cent this year and 3.5per cent next year, both down 0.1 percentage point from April projections. The IMF also cut expectations for growth in the global volume of trade in goods and services, reducing its estimate by 0.9 point to 2.5per cent in 2019.
“The projected growth pickup in 2020 is precarious, presuming stabilization in currently stressed emerging market and developing economies and progress toward resolving trade policy differences,” the IMF said.
However, while the IMF saw global trade slowing this year more significantly as a result of the trade tensions, it predicted a bounce back to 3.7per cent growth in volumes in 2020, the same pace as 2018.
“The principal risk factor to the global economy is that adverse developments – including further U.S.-China tariffs, U.S. auto tariffs, or a no-deal Brexit – sap confidence, weaken investment, dislocate global supply chains, and severely slow global growth below the baseline,” the IMF said.
According to the Fund, the risks facing the global economy include trade tensions, which hinder investment, the continuing impact of low interest rates on investors’ risk appetite and disinflationary pressures that would make servicing debt harder, and constrain central banks’ ability to use monetary policy in downturns.
Similarly, in its June 2019 Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank forecast that global economic growth will ease to a weaker-than-expected 2.6per cent in 2019 before inching up to 2.7per cent in 2020.
The report stated that growth among advanced economies as a group was anticipated to slow in 2019, especially in the Euro Area, due to weaker exports and investment, adding that U.S. growth is forecast to ease to 2.5per cent this year and decelerate to 1.7per cent in 2020.
It also stated that growth among emerging market and developing economies was projected to fall to a four-year low of 4per cent in 2019 before recovering to 4.6per cent in 2020.
“While almost every economy faces headwinds, the poorest countries face the most daunting challenges because of fragility, geographic isolation, and entrenched poverty,” said World Bank Group Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions, Ceyla Pazarbasioglu. “Unless they can get onto a faster growth trajectory, the goal of lowering extreme poverty under 3 percent by 2030 will remain unreachable.”
Also, stressing in the report that prospects looked worse for developing economies, World Bank President, David Malpass, said: “Stronger economic growth is essential to reducing poverty and improving living standards. Current economic momentum remains weak, while heightened debt levels and subdued investment growth in developing economies are holding countries back from achieving their potential.
“It’s urgent that countries make significant structural reforms that improve the business climate and attract investment. They also need to make debt management and transparency a high priority so that new debt adds to growth and investment,” he added.
Impact on Nigeria
With the previous global economic recession-2008/2009- resulting in a significant drop in oil prices, leading to calamitous consequences for Nigeria, which relies on the export of the commodity for over 80 per cent of its revenues, industry watchers believe that another economic slump worldwide next year will seriously undermine efforts by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Government to speed up the country’s economic growth.
Indeed, as predictions about a global economic recession in 2020 came in thick and fast in recent weeks, the price of Brent crude tumbled last Wednesday to $56 per barrel, its lowest level in seven years.
According to traders, slump in oil prices followed an unexpected build in US crude supplies and fears of lower crude demand due to deepening trade tensions.
Significantly, Brent crude, against, which Nigeria’s oil is priced, fell by $2.60 to $56.34 as of 8.10pm on that day, meaning that it had lost more than 20 per cent since hitting its 2019 peak in April.
Nigeria’s 2019 budget, which was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in May, was based on oil production of 2.3 million bpd (including condensates) with an oil benchmark price of $60 per barrel.
Commenting on developments in the oil market, Vice President of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford Connecticut, Mr. Gene McGillian, was quoted in a Reuters report as saying: “The market continues to trade lower on concerns about demand growth and the idea that economic growth can be impacted by the trade war. The market isn’t concerned about anything other than how demand is going to play out through the rest of the year.”
Another report the by the news agency last Friday stated that Nigeria was facing challenges selling its oil as the U.S. was flooding traditional markets in Europe and Asia with exports of competing light, sweet grades.
“The changes illustrate how U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy for ‘energy dominance’ is reshaping oil markets worldwide, as U.S. oil exports surged 260,000 barrels per day in June to a monthly record of 3.16 million bpd,” the report stated, adding: “Crude from Africa’s top exporter has largely been pushed out of the U.S. market in the last decade due to booming domestic output.”
The news agency quoted a major buyer of West African crude as saying: “They (Nigeria) are facing bigger competition from the U.S., and in the last few weeks, U.S. exports have really picked up.”
Projected sluggish demand
Also, another concern for Nigeria is that last weekend, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its latest monthly report, which showed that increasing signs of an economic slowdown and a ramping up of the U.S.-China trade war have caused global oil demand to grow at its slowest pace since the financial crisis of 2008.
“The situation is becoming even more uncertain … global oil demand growth has been very sluggish in the first half of 2019,” the IEA said.
The Paris-based agency said that compared with the same month in 2018, global demand fell by 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) in May – the second year-on-year fall of 2019.
“The prospects for a political agreement between China and the United States on trade have worsened. This could lead to reduced trade activity and less oil demand growth,” the IEA said.
Lowering its global demand growth forecasts for 2019 and 2020 to 1.1 million and 1.3 million bpd, respectively, the IEA cited China as the only major source of growth at 500,000 bpd for the first half of this year.
“The outlook is fragile with a greater likelihood of a downward revision than an upward one,” the report said.
Speaking on the implications of reduced income from oil on the Nigeria economy, a financial analyst, Mr. Jude Ejiofor, told New Telegraph that it would lead to a drop in the country’s external reserves thereby making it more difficult for the CBN to defend the naira.
He said: “We have had the same experience whenever there has been a sharp fall in the price of oil. The external reserves will start declining as the CBN continues to intervene in the forex market. Of course, currency speculators would also be closly watching developments. They would start betting against the naira as soon as they perceive that the CBN does not have adequate dollar buffers to defend the local currency.”
However, as the country’s fiscal and monetary authorities brace for what might be a tough 2020, the consensus in financial circles is that the looming global recession should make them step up efforts to diversify the nation’s revenue sources.
Zenith emerges 2nd most credible lender in Ghana
enith Bank, Ghana, is the second most credible bank in Ghana, according to Credmap Technology Ghana Banking Credibility Index (GBCI).
According to the firm, the inaugural “credibility-rating” engine is capable of combining crowd-rating and data mining to generate “credibility scores” of individuals and institutions using pooled data about their track record, history, commentary, biography, popular sentiment and reputation.
The assessment, which covered the 2018 financial year, saw Standard Chartered, Zenith Bank Ghana, Ecobank Ghana, UBA Ghana and Barclays Bank placing 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th respectively.
The other banks are: Societe Generale (6th), Stanbic Ghana (7th), Fidelity Ghana (8th), Access Ghana (9th) and GCB Bank (10th).
All 30 of Ghana’s tier-one/universal banks were benchmarked against Credmap’s measures, compared to each other, and then ranked in what became the GBCI, a process that was overseen by a team of senior technical analysts at Konfidants, a management consulting company based in Accra, Johannesburg and Geneva.
Some major criteria in the computation of the GBCI included executive track record of the board and management membership, educational qualifications of board members and senior management personnel and the emphasis on continuous professional development with the studied banks.
Others were reputational factors, degree of board independence from shareholder and management control and influence and consistency and accuracy in board management communications as ascertained from comments in the media, advertising, and publications, including official documentation and reports.
In this inaugural index, the primary focus was on the quality of bank boards and senior management personnel.
The Konfidants team believed that in the wake of recent developments in the banking sector, corporate governance and management competence have emerged, by far, as the most critical factors in determining bank performance and success.
The analysts were able to more rapidly double-check how traditional benchmarks, such as net interest margin, capital adequacy, asset quality, return on equity and return on assets, conceal or reveal the most salient factors in banking governance and reputation.
Wall Street subdued as focus shifts to Fed meeting
U.S. stocks were little changed on Tuesday as investors moved to the sidelines ahead of the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting, while the impact of weekend attacks on Saudi Arabia’s biggest oil refinery faded.
Equity markets took a hit on Monday as the attacks wiped out half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, sending oil prices soaring, while fuelling geopolitical tensions. But President Donald Trump’s statement that he does not want war and a Reuters report that Saudi Arabia was close to restoring 70% of the oil production lost calmed investor nerves.
According to Reuters News, the benchmark S&P 500 index .SPX recovered early losses to rise slightly, with the so-called defensive consumer staples .SPLRCS, utilities .SPLRCU and real estate .SPLRCR sectors posting the biggest gains.
The energy index .SPNY tracked a drop in oil prices, after recording its best one-day surge since January on Monday. The U.S. central bank concludes its policy meeting on Wednesday, with traders currently expecting a 63.5 per cent chance of a quarter percentage point cut from the Fed this week, down from 88.8 per cent on Friday, according to CME’s FedWatch.
“It’s just typical trading on the vigil of a Fed meeting,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York. “We haven’t seen any panic from what happened over the weekend. I think (the Fed) will stick with a quarter of a percentage point cut even after the Saudi attack.”
Banks .SPXBK, which tend to underperform in a lower interest rate environment, fell 0.95 per cent and were the biggest drag on the S&P 500. Since the last interest rate cut in July, U.S. economic data has shown mixed signals about the domestic economy. While strong retail sales and wage growth have bolstered consumer confidence, a protracted U.S.- China trade war has weighed on manufacturing and business sentiment.
Latest data showed U.S. manufacturing output increased more than expected in August, rebounding from a drop in July, while homebuilders’ optimism grew unexpectedly brighter in September. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 22.68 points, or 0.08 per cent, at 27,054.14, the S&P 500 .SPX was up 1.95 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 2,999.91.
The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 6.66 points, or 0.08 per cent, at 8,160.21. Among stocks, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (CMG.N) rose 3.3 per cent as it added a new steak dish to its menu in the United States for the first time in three years.
NSE extends decline by N80bn
Airtel Africa Plc led losers with a drop of 10 per cent to close at N283.50 per share
Trading activities on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange yesterday witnessed another drop in share prices as bears sustained grip on the local bourse following the sell-off that has pervaded the stock market. The local bourse recorded 22 gainers against 15 losers.
Consequently, the All-Share Index dipped 67.55 basis points or 0.6 per cent to close at 27,407.04 index points as against 27.574.32 recorded the previous day while market capitalisation of equities depreciated by N80 billion from N13.421 trillion the previous day to N13.341 trillion as market sentiment remained on the negative territory. Meanwhile, a turnover of198 million shares exchanged in 3,830 deals was recorded in the day’s trading.
The premium sub-sector was the most active (measured by turnover volume); with 105.2 million shares exchanged by investors in 1,539 deals. Volume in the sub-sector was largely driven by activities in the shares of Access Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc.
Also, the banking sub-sector, boosted by activities in the shares of Sterling Bank Plc and Ecobank Plc, followed with a turnover of 30.3 million shares in 535 deals. Further analysis of the day’s trading showed that in percentage terms, NEM Insurance Plc topped the day’s gainers’ table with 9.74 per cent to close at N2.14 per share while Livestock Feeds Nigeria Plc followed with 9.52 per cent to close at 46 kobo per share. PZ Cussons Plc added 9.32 per cent to close at N6.45 per share.
On the flip side, Airtel Africa Plc led the losers with a drop of 10 per cent to close at N283.50 per share while UACProperty Plc shed 9.55 per cent to close at N1.42 per share. NCR Plc trailed with 9.09 per cent to close at N4.50 per share.
CBN shifts MPC meeting to Thursday, Friday
Meeting was initially scheduled for Sept. 23 and 24
he Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has rescheduled its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting for September.
The meeting, which was earlier scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, September 23 and 24 respectively, will now hold this Thursday, September 19 and Friday, September 20, 2019, according to a statement issued yesterday by the Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor.
“All inconveniences caused by this change are highly regretted,” Mr Okorafor said.
The Apex Bank, did not, however, give any reason for the change.
But citing a source at the CBN, Reuters said the MPC meeting was brought forward because CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, is due to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York next week.
According to the news agency, analysts expect the CBN to begin easing rates from September after inflation fell to almost a four-year low in August. However, the price index remains outside the regulator’s single-digit target and recent naira weakness on the Investors and Exporters’ (I&E) forex window could mean it might want to continue with its tightening stance.
The CBN in March cut its benchmark interest rate in a surprise move to 13.5% from 14% as part of an attempt to stimulate growth and signal a new direction, it said at the time. The move was the first rate cut since November 2015.
The MPC is a special committee of the CBN which has the mandate of ensuring price stability through the formulation of monetary and credit policy to support the economic policy of the Federal Government.
Membership of the MPC consists of the CBN Governor as Chairman, with the Apex Bank’s four deputy governors, and two members of its Board of Direct
Other members include three appointees by the President as well as two others appointed by the CBN Governor.
Although Nigeria emerged from its first recession in 25 years in 2017, growth remains fragile and a recent surge in capital outflows has negatively impacted the country’s foreign reserves.
Forex: CBN sells $8bn to BDCs in seven months
Apex bank’s frequent dollar sales boost forex stability
he Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sold a cumulative sum of $8 billion to the Bureaux De Change (BDC) segment of the foreign exchange market in the first seven months of 2019, data obtained from the apex bank has shown.
New Telegraph arrived at the figure from an analysis of CBN’s economic reports for the first quarter of this year as well as its economic reports for the months of April, May and July.
For instance, in its economic report for Q1 ’19, the apex bank said it sold more forex to authorised dealers, including BDC operators, between January and March, compared with the preceding quarter.
The report said: “A total of $11.81 billion was sold by the CBN to authorised dealers in the first quarter of 2019. This represented 10.2 per cent increase above the level in the fourth quarter of 2018. The development, relative to the preceding quarter, reflected the increase in inter-bank sales and swaps transactions in the review quarter.
“Of the total, foreign exchange forwards disbursed at maturity was $2.30 billion (19.5 per cent); sales to BDCs, $3.64 billion (30.8 per cent); I&E window, $1.53 billion (13.0 per cent); interbank sales, $0.55 billion (4.6 per cent); swaps transactions, $1.14 billion (9.7 per cent); SMIS intervention, $1.40 billion (11.8 per cent); wholesale forwards intervention, $1.00 (8.4 per cent); and SME intervention, $0.26 (2.2 per cent).”
Also, the regulator’s economic reports for April and May this year indicate that it sold a total of $2.2billion to BDCs during the period.
Specifically, the reports show that the CBN sold $1.16billion and $1.05 billion to the BDCs in April and May respectively.
Similarly, data obtained from CBN’s recently released economic report for July shows that it sold $1.08billion to BDCs during the period compared with $1.04billion that it sold to the money changers in the previous month of June.
The report said: “The bank continued to intervene in the foreign exchange market to further sustain improved liquidity and relative stability in the market. Thus, a cummulative sum of $2.63 billion was sold by the bank to authorised dealers in July 2019, compared with $2.50 billion supplied in June 2019.
“This indicated an increase of 5.2 per cent above the level in the preceding month, but was in contrast to the decline of 34.6 per cent recorded at the end of the corresponding period of 2018.
“Interbank sales rose by 1.9 per cent to $0.08 billion, in contrast to the decline of 34.5 per cent in the preceding month. Similarly, BDC sales rose by 3.8 per cent to $1.08 billion, while swaps transaction fell by 55.2 per cent to $0.13 billion below the preceding month’s level of $0.29 billion.”
Thus, having cumulatively sold $3.64billion and $3.24billion to BDCs in the first and second quarters of this year respectively, it means that when the figures are added to July’s $1.08billion, the apex bank sold about $8billion to the money changers in the first seven months of this year.
Analysts note that the steady increase in forex sales to BDCs, especially this year, follows the CBN’s decision in November last year to step up dollar sales to that segment of the forex market as part of measures to address rising demand for forex during that period.
In fact, in its “Annual Activity Report” for 2018, the CBN stated that “the direct sale of foreign exchange to BDC’s continued in 2018. However, the bank increased the volume and frequency of its weekly sales to three times per week in May and subsequently to four times per week in November.
“This was to manage the demand pressure which emerged due to capital flight as the market reacted to normalization of rates by the US Federal Reserve, dwindling crude oil price levels and ensure exchange rate stability. Consequently, total sales to a BDC per week stood at $75,000.”
Prior to increasing its weekly sales to BDCs to four times per week late last year, each BDC was entitled to purchase $20,000 from the regulator on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That means a total of $60,000 per week for each BDC.
However, this amount increased to $75,000 when the CBN introduced a special forex sale of $15,000 per BDC every Thursday. New Telegraph gathered that over 4,000 licensed BDCs purchase dollars from the CBN on each of the four days that the regulator sells forex to the operators.
According to analysts, the CBN’s regular supply of dollars to the forex market has been mainly responsible for the stability of the naira against the US currency in the past two years. Indeed, the naira has exchanged at an average of N360/$ in the BDC segment of the forex market in the last one year.
Wase takes oath of office as first Deputy Speaker, ECOWAS parliament
he Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Ahmed Idris Wase, has been sworn in as the first Deputy Speaker, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) parliament.
The event was performed by the Speaker, ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Moustapha Cisse Lo, at the opening ceremony of the second extra-ordinary session of the parliament in Monrovia, Republic of Liberia.
Wase replaced the former Deputy Speaker, Hon. Yusuf Sulaimon Lasun, who did not seek re-election to the Nigerian House of Representatives after the end of his tenure.
The choice Wase as successor to Lasun was unanimously adopted by the Nigerian delegation to the parliament as well as other members of the regional legislative body.
In his response after his swearing in, Wase promised to join hands with his colleagues in the parliament to work towards the integration of the region.
He thanked his colleagues for the confidence reposed in him by raising him to the office of first deputy speaker, assuring that he would bring his wealth of experience in the Nigerian House of Representatives to bear on the regional parliament.
“I am grateful to my honourable colleagues for unanimously adopting me as the First Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament.
“My priority is to work harmoniously with my colleagues, especially the honourable speaker, Moustapha Cisse Lo, to advance the integration of the West African sub-region.
“I hope to bring my years of experience in the Nigerian legislature to bear on the ECOWAS Parliament,” he stated.
The second ordinary session of the parliament was due to hold between November and December, 2019, in Abuja, Nigeria.
FG to produce 100m yam seedlings for farmers
ndication emerged yesterday that the Federal Government has given approval to National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) to produce diseases-resistant 100 million yam seedlings for farmers in the country.
Acting Director-General, NABDA, Prof. Alex Akpa, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja, during the opening ceremony of a workshop on; “Basic laboratory training on living modified organism (LMO) detention and identification,” organised by NABDA in collaboration with International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Akpa noted that the production of such high yielding yam seedlings was part of lined-up intervention of his agency towards achieving food security objectives of government.
He said: “Our interventions are very strategic and have led to resounding successes in Bt cotton commercialisation, approval for release of Bt cowpea and even more recently, massive production of yam seedlings for the Nigerian yam value chain. It is going to be 100 million yam seedlings.”
Earlier in his remarks, Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified organism were opening new vistas for the country’s agriculture and food security drives.
The minister noted that agricultural biotechnology would assist Nigeria in stopping the importation of basic food. He also added that the country had already achieved success with the newly developed and approved Bt cotton varieties.
According to him, “Genetically modified organism has a very important role to play in the search of our great nation to be in a position to ensure that we can feed all our citizens and start the process of producing many of the things that we now import from outside.”
Onu said: “There are so many areas that require interventions, you have to start with the seeds, we want to make sure that the seeds used in the country are high-yielding and they are disease resistant.
“Now, when we grow enough cotton, we will be in a position to revive the textile industry. We also need raw materials for our industries and of these raw materials come from the farm,” said.
Ecobank Pay hits N2bn transactions value
cobank Nigeria has said that over 100,000 merchants have been onboarded on the EcobankPay platform with transaction value reaching N2billion.
Announcing this development in Lagos, Executive Director, Commercial Banking, Ecobank Nigeria, Carol Oyedeji, said she was impressed with the level of acceptance of EcobankPay service by Nigerians. She reiterated that the digital product was introduced into the financial landscape to enhance payment and create ease and convenience of transactions.
“The performance of EcobankPay underscores the choice of Ecobank in bringing digital payment solutions for safe, reliable and convenient transactions to both customers and non- customers of the bank. The EcobankPay channel offers a distinct advantage of supporting the three main payment schemes, Masterpass, mVisa and mCash thereby broadening acceptability regardless of which Bank a client makes payment from. The QR Code is much cheaper than having a point of sale (PoS) terminal and credit to the merchant is instant,” she noted.
Also, commenting on the achievement, Managing Director, Ecobank Nigeria, Patrick Akinwuntan, said: “we are determined to make Ecobankpay the choice for instant digital payment in Nigeria. This payment solutions was introduced by Ecobank to create payment convenience for goods and services and also to support the growth of businesses especially SMEs.
Further, he reiterated that: “Ecobank is impressed with the significant progress made on EcobankPay transactions, as it is gradually becoming a lifestyle payment for all. The initiative is to deepen financial inclusion in the communities and specifically aid business transactions between merchants and clients by eliminating risk of payment rejection. Ecobank has so far set up EcobankPay Zones in over 50 locations in different parts of the country. These are digital hubs enabling businesses within a location adopt Ecobank’s wide range of digital products for ease of payments for goods and services. The payment options at the zones include EcobankPay, Xpress points, Automated Teller Machines (ATMS) and Point of Sale (PoS),” he noted.
EcobankPay offers customers a multi-channel payment experience that includes Mobile QR Payment at merchant stores (mCash, Masterpass and mVisa), Merchant QR is set up via Facebook Messenger as well as USSD payment for low-income phone users.
Tasks operators on whistle blowing
The Securities and Exchange Commission, (SEC), has urged market operators to make use of the commission’s whistle blowing policy and report any suspicious transactions.
The Acting Director General of the SEC, Ms. Mary Uduk, who was reacting to questions during a two-day international capital market conference, organized by the commission, in collaboration with the Department of Finance, University of Lagos, assured investors that the commission was committed to ensuring that suspicious transactions are not allowed in the capital market.
She lamented that the private placement bubble happened with the connivance of many market operators, who encouraged issuers to take advantage of loopholes in the relevant investment laws at the time.
Uduk recalled several efforts and appeals to such issuers to list their shares without success, stressing that “market operators encouraged private placements knowing that the law did not allow the SEC to regulate private companies.
“Insider trading is what we have to prove. A lot of us are in the market and we have whistle blowing mechanism. It is the operators who will be in a better position to know and report such infractions. For those that have been reported to us, we have been carrying out investigations and once we have evidence we will invite them and also refer them to the relevant authorities.
“With the whistle blowing provision, we have always asked operators in the market to come to our aid if they find any unwholesome activity going on. It is our market and so we all have to do our bit. The market should not be left to us alone; you need to provide information for us to take the necessary actions.
“Anyone that is caught engaging in any activity that is against the laid down rules, be rest assured that such an operator will be made to face the full wrath of the law.”
She lamented a situation where many private companies took advantage of gaps in Nigerian laws, especially between 2007 and 2008, to defraud many investors, by embarking on private placements, with promises to list the shares for trading on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), when in reality they had no such intention.
Insurance: Poor market outlook amid recapitalisation
As the insurance sector recapitalises, there is need for the operators to rise to investors’ expectations by devising mechanisms to shore up performance on the Nigerian Stock Exchange [NSE]. Chris Ugwu reports
ike other emerging markets, in Nigeria most people take insurance policies out of compulsion rather than necessity, resulting in a situation where most players operate at an abysmal level.
The operators have also been accused of being poor in product innovation and marketing, resulting in gross inability to convince and even attract quality businesses, besides poor record of corporate governance industry wide.
That’s why most insurance stocks quoted on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange rather than showing any sign of appreciating in value have remained relatively on the downside even as a larger percentage of the companies have dropped below previous floor price of 50 kobo.
The drop follows the implementation of the amended pricing methodology and par value rules of the NSE, which took effect on January 29, 2018 to reflect the true value of stocks.
The Rules, as stated, stipulate the revised price limit, price movements and tick sizes i.e. price floor, minimum pricing increments and minimum quantity to be traded that will change the published price.
The Rules also classify equity securities into different price groups in order to achieve this objective.
Market stakeholders and participants are made to realise that the new Par Value Rule specifies that the price of every share listed on the exchange shall be determined by market forces and equities may now trade below the previous price floor of 50 kobo per unit, which used to be the norm.
It is worrisome that of all the insurance companies quoted on the floor of the exchange, only about six stocks have remained in the region of 50 kobo and above at the close of trading activities last Friday.
This few lucky ones that have weathered the storm include Custodian and Allied, N6.30, AXA-Mansard Insurance, N1.71, Continental Reinsurance N1.50, NEM Insurance N1.78, AIICO Insurance, 68 kobo and Linkage Insurance, 50 kobo.
Among the sub-sector indexes, barometers that measure the performance of each sector, insurance index also ranks the worst in the gauge table.
In an Index table released by the Nigerian Stock Exchange last Friday, the NSE insurance Index which has an opening year value of 126.48 index points closed the week with a drop of 21.03 basis points or 16.62 per cent to close at105.45 index points.
Trouble with insurance stocks
Since the crash of the nation’s capital market in 2008, negative perception has trailed the sub-sector, which was compounded by the inability of about 85 per cent of the companies in the industry to pay dividend to shareholders for many years.
Investors in the insurance sub-sector of the market are lamenting their faith over what they described par value state of insurance share prices.
Speaking with New Telegraph, the Managing Director, Crane Securities Limited, Mr. Mike Eze, said some of the insurance companies were not helping matters as they are most visible among companies that are often sanctioned for breaching post listing requirements.
He linked the inability of the sub-sector to rise above the nominal level to crisis of confidence, as the few ones that raised high expectation for good results ended up posting negative financial results.
“There were high expectations that some of them will bring good results to the market, investors started taking position on the insurance stocks, but they ended up posting negative results which now has a spiral effect on other insurance companies, hence investors started dumping their shares,” he said.
Chief Executive Officer, Highcap Securities Limited, Mr. David Adonri, said insurance sector had not improved on its performance after the recession because of volatility of the sector.
He said the stocks, though penny stocks, would have attracted investors but because of low dividend payout of the companies as investors are not willing to take position.
Adonri said that the trend in Nigeria’s insurance sector had remained a product of underdevelopment of the sector as well as public perception of the insurance business in the country.
He noted that though a few of the insurance companies had already submitted their reports, most of the companies were still challenged in terms of filling their reports, regulatory approval of their reports among other issues.
Speaking on the sector’s inability to thrive in the Nigerian capital market unlike what is obtainable in other parts of the world, he said that the Nigerian market and economy had not been able to break even because of general perception of insurance business in the country.
“The insurance sector may find it difficult to materially affect the economy and the capital market. You know that insurance sector has not gained the people’s confidence and long before now when the sector was poorly regulated, it carved for itself a negative image because of their inability to settle claims promptly.”
He added that even as the situation had changed now, looking at the situation in the Nigerian economy, which is more of mercantile economy, financing short term activities, banks drive such an economy.
Such scenario has placed the banks in a position to play dominant role in the Nigerian economy, as well as occupying a commanding height in the Nigerian capital market, for which the insurance sector has not really been positioned to play, even as most of the listed insurance companies are still trading at par value.
According to Mr. Sunny Nwosu, founder of Independent Shareholders’ Association of Nigeria (ISAN), the sub-sector is grossly hit because the money raised during their capitalisation had melted with the market.
Nwosu noted that the sub-sector’s performance had been so poor; adding that after their consolidation, there should have been growth in their income and others.
A senior broker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said “what is seen in the market is that insurance companies seem not to be up there, so investors’ confidences are really down on it. They are just in the market and they are not doing much to improve on their performance.
“It was actually a failure on the part of the regulator to do the thorough work. Some of them should not have come to the market initially; some of them are faced with a lot of management problems.”
He noted that in terms of confidence, there have not been any improvement as the sector is not doing what it is expected to do in other to improve performance.
He said investors ought to be careful with insurance company basically.
“If you must invest in insurance, invest on insurance that has improved fundamental, in terms of stock management and ensure that their stock management is good enough,” he said.
Leeway for regulator
Concerned over the abysmal state of the sector, shareholders have reintegrated the need for the industry regulator, and professional bodies to intensify efforts at extenuating the challenges thwarting the expected performance of the sector.
The operators called for a review of some laws regulating the affairs of the industry.
According to them, complete review of industry laws as well as formulating new approach to ginger insurance in Nigeria would boost optimum efficiency in operations and forestall further stagnation in their share prices.
Nwosu noted that insurance regulators must find ways to tackle the ills impeding success of the sector.
He said: “The regulators and management of these insurance companies must find out what is happening. They have their financials; they should know what is happening, whether it is the balance sheet that is dragging them back or debt issue or lack of research and development. They should not fold their hands and watch them.”
The President, Constance Shareholders Association, Mallam Shehu Mekail, said regulators must review exiting laws regulation the sector, and ensure that the board and management operate with level of transparency and accountability.
He pointed out that insurance services in the country had very low level of penetration, stressing the need for more awareness campaign for insurance products.
Efforts by the regulator
In a bid to reposition the sector, the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), the regulator of the industry, on May 20, 2019 reviewed upwards the capital requirement of insurance companies in Nigeria.
The Insurance Act empowers NAICOM to increase the minimum paid-up share capital of insurance and reinsurance companies from time to time.
Although this recent upward review does not affect Islamic insurance (takaful) and micro-insurance companies, it covers the four major classes of mainstream insurance companies in Nigeria which include; life, general, composite and reinsurance.
Life, General, Composite and Reinsurance companies with previous minimum capital requirements of N2bn, N3bn, N5bn and N10bn were reviewed upwards to N8bn, N10bn, N18bn and N20bn marking percentage increments of 300 per cent, 233 per cent, 260 per cent and 100 per cent respectively.
As per the guidelines in the circular, existing insurance and reinsurance companies, have until June 30, 2020 to comply with the new capital requirements while new applications will be evaluated based on the new capital requirement.
Specifically, increment in capital requirements are met in any of three ways: mergers, acquisition or direct injection of funds and each of these methods come with their own set of challenges.
Hence, the choice is on the insurance companies to critically appraise the possibility of each of the choices in order to determine their most feasible step.
There is need for good policies and corporate governance as they help bring about positive sentiments to reduce the history of fluctuations in insurance stocks.
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