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Dollar Scarcity: Airlines Raise Fares by 100%

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Airlines in Nigeria

The lingering foreign exchange scarcity, which has made it difficult for foreign airlines to repatriate their ticket sales proceeds for several months, has forced the carriers to increase their fares by about 100 per cent, OLAWUNMI OJO writes

Foreign exchange risk is now a major component of airfares on Nigerian routes, the country managers of top foreign airlines have revealed.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the airlines operating on international routes in the country had increased airfares by as much as 100 per cent as a result of the development, Punch reported.

A survey of all the major Nigerian routes flown by the foreign airlines in the country showed that the cost of return tickets had been increased by between 80 per cent and 120 per cent of the previous fares, depending on the carrier, time of booking and the season.

The survey cuts across Nigeria-North America routes, Nigeria-South Africa route, and Nigeria-Europe routes. Airfares on the Lagos-London, Abuja-London, Lagos-New York, Lagos-Atlanta, Lagos-Houston, and Lagos-Johannesburg routes were examined.

Findings also showed that local airlines operating international flights, especially Arik Air and MedView Airlines, had increased their airfares.

For instance, airfares on the Lagos-London and Abuja-London routes now cost an average of N380,000 for the economy class seat, as against the average of N200,000 a year ago on the British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways. This represents an increase of 111 per cent.

Similarly, on Air France, an economic ticket on the Lagos/Abuja-London routes now goes for about N360,000, while Lufthansa German Airlines charges N380,000. These represent an increase of 80 per cent and 90 per cent, respectively, when compared with an average fare of N200,000 on the routes a year ago.

A Business Class ticket now goes for as high as N3m as against the N1.5m a year ago on the Lagos-London route.

On the Lagos-Atlanta and Lagos-Houston routes, Delta Airlines and United Airlines, which used to fly Economy Class passengers for between N270,000 and N330,000 some 12 months ago, now render the same service at an average fare of N600,000, depending on the time of booking. This represents an increase of about 100 per cent.

South Africa Airways and Arik Air, which used to fly the Lagos-Johannesburg routes for between N100,000 and N120,000 for the economy class, now fly the route for between N180,000 and N220,000, depending on the time of booking and the season.

The Lagos-Paris route, which used to go for N180,000 on the average, now goes for around N400,000. This represents an increase of 120 per cent.

Operators link the increment in fares to the scarcity of foreign exchange to attend to the operational needs of the carriers and the erosion in the value of the ticket sales proceeds, which are now stuck in banks due to lack of forex to repatriate the funds.

Late last year, the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had unveiled a fiscal policy, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, restricting access to foreign exchange and funds transfer out of the country.

While this has had advantages for some sectors of the economy, foreign airline operators have complained of their inability to repatriate revenue to their operational bases as a result of the new policy.

An official of one the airlines told our correspondent that the carrier had close to N90bn as accumulated earnings in banks, which it had been unable to repatriate.

He said that the airline industry relied heavily on cash to meet its commitments, adding that it was sad that the government was not seeing things this way.

With huge airline revenue in the vaults of the banks, some of the operators nursed fears of being exposed to risks should the pressure on the naira lead to the devaluation of the currency, which could erode the value of the funds by about 35 per cent to 45 per cent.

Following the difficulty in repatriating earnings from Nigeria, some of the airlines initially began restricting cheap fares on the Nigerian routes in the last quarter of last year, leading to an indirect hike in fares.

At the time, the effect was felt more on second tier routes from Lagos-London-Atlanta, Lagos-London-New York, Lagos-London-Miami, Lagos-London-São Paulo, Lagos-London-Houston; or Lagos-Frankfurt-New York, Lagos-Frankfurt-Chicago, Lagos-Frankfurt-Los Angeles, and Lagos-Frankfurt-Shanghai.

Citing Nigeria’s slowing economy amid forex scarcity, some international airlines are now contemplating reducing flights to the country or operating smaller capacity aircraft as a short-term measure.

However, following complaints by the airlines, representatives of the International Air Transport Association are said to have pleaded with the CBN Governor, Godwin Emiefele, to intervene in the matter and make dollars available to them.

But the move has yet to yield any positive results.

The foreign airlines also reportedly met with the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, and urged him to look into their case.

A spokesperson for one of the airlines noted that the difficulty in repatriating revenues was affecting aircraft leases and fuelling, stating that the earnings were partly being used for fuel and renewing aircraft leases.

While the situation persists, the effect on air travellers and other businesses that depend so much on air travel has been immense.

A manager with a transport and logistic firm, Mr. Emmanuel Iruobe , said the company had incurred more costs than were provided for in the execution of most contracts this year.

Iruobe urged the government to look into the situation with a view to resolving it in the interest of Nigerians.

On their part, stakeholders in the travel industry under the aegis of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies have faulted the astronomical cost of air tickets by the airlines, especially the foreign carriers.

Describing the situation where taxes that go to the airlines are higher than base fares as unacceptable, the group has petitioned the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Aviation, to caution the foreign airlines over the alleged sharp practices.

The Publicity Secretary, NANTA, Mrs. Ngozi Ngoka, opined that the cumulative effect of taxes and surcharges by airlines also generated a final price to the passenger that could be as much as double the advertised airfare for a short-haul flight.

Another stakeholder, who is the Chief Executive Officer, Gadshire Travels, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, berated the airlines, describing the excuse of forex scarcity and multiple taxes given to increase fares as untenable.

According to him, the arbitrary increment and gap between what is charged in Nigeria and other African countries on the same routes are due to the failure of regulatory authorities to perform their duties.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Merger and Acquisition

Access Bank Plc Expands Footprint in Tanzania with ABCT Acquisition

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Access bank

Access Bank Plc has taken a significant stride in expanding its presence in East Africa through the acquisition of a majority equity stake in African Banking Corporation of Tanzania (ABCT) Limited, a subsidiary of Atlas Mara Limited.

The acquisition, which was completed recently, underscores Access Bank’s ambition to become one of the leading financial institutions in Africa.

The transaction not only solidifies its position within the East African banking landscape but also aligns with its broader goal of enhancing intra-African trade and fostering economic development across the continent.

Commenting on the transaction, Roosevelt Ogbonna, Managing Director of the Bank, said: This strategic move represents a notable step towards setting a railroad in Tanzania for intra-African trade within the East African region, Africa and the rest of the world. It underscores our commitment to creating a robust East African banking network, driving positive change and innovation. We are excited about the opportunities this acquisition presents for our operations in Tanzania and are eager to leverage our
combined strengths to deliver exceptional financial solutions and experiences to our customers.

Commenting on the transaction, John Imani, Managing Director, African Banking Corporation (Tanzania) Limited, said: “The completion of our transaction with Access Bank Plc, not only underscores the strong confidence of Access Bank in our operations and the Tanzanian market but delivers new and exciting opportunities for our customers, employees, and stakeholders. The new entity is poised to enhance our service offerings, leveraging Access Bank’s extensive resources and expertise to deliver even greater value to our clients. We look forward to an exciting and prosperous future as part of the Access Bank family, driving economic growth and financial inclusion across Tanzania.”

Following the acquisition, Access Bank plans to merge ABCT with the consumer, private, and banking business of Standard Chartered Bank Tanzania, another entity it is acquiring.

This strategic integration aims to create Access Bank Tanzania, positioning it as a prominent player in the country’s banking sector.

The combined entity will offer a comprehensive range of banking products and services tailored to meet the evolving needs of Tanzanian businesses and individuals.

Access Bank’s expansion into Tanzania is expected to stimulate competition in the local banking industry, spur innovation, and deepen financial inclusion.

With a robust presence across multiple African markets, Access Bank continues to demonstrate its commitment to driving sustainable growth and fostering economic resilience across the continent.

As Access Bank Tanzania prepares to launch under its new structure, stakeholders are anticipating enhanced banking solutions and increased accessibility that will contribute to Tanzania’s economic prosperity in the years ahead.

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Dangote Lauds African Banks, Repays $2.4B of Refinery Loans Despite Challenges

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Aliko Dangote - Investors King

Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest person and founder of the Dangote Group, announced that he has repaid $2.4 billion of the $5.5 billion borrowed to construct his $19 billion refinery near Lagos.

This disclosure was made at the Afreximbank Annual Meetings (AAN) and AfriCaribbean Trade & Investment Forum, where Dangote praised the crucial support from African financial institutions amidst numerous challenges and sabotage attempts.

Speaking to an audience of international financiers and business leaders, Dangote revealed that various entities, both local and foreign, sought to derail the 650,000 barrels per day facility.

“Many thought the project would fail,” he said, highlighting the skepticism surrounding the ambitious venture. Despite these hurdles, Dangote credited the Afreximbank and Nigeria’s Access Bank for their unwavering support, emphasizing that the project would not have succeeded without them.

He elaborated on the challenges faced, noting that foreign banks were often unsupportive, with some even attempting to push the project into default during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If I had raised the idea of international project financing, they would have shut it down, asking for my great-grandmother’s birth certificate,” Dangote remarked, criticizing the stringent and often discouraging conditions set by international financial institutions.

Dangote underscored the importance of African financial institutions in the continent’s industrialization, stating, “Without banks like African Finance Corporation (AFC) and Afreximbank, it would be difficult to industrialize Africa. They understand the challenges and issues unique to our continent.”

Despite the adversity, Dangote proudly announced significant progress in loan repayment. “We borrowed just over $5.5 billion. We’ve paid interest and some principal, totaling about $2.4 billion. Now, only $2.7 billion remains. We’ve done very well for a project of this magnitude,” he stated.

Addressing concerns about receiving enough crude oil for the refinery, Dangote acknowledged ongoing resistance from established players in the oil industry.

“Those who had access to easy money for decades don’t want to lose their grip. They fight back, but these challenges are temporary. We will overcome them,” he assured.

Dangote also highlighted the strategic importance of the refinery for Nigeria and the broader sub-Saharan region.

“Africa must produce what it consumes. We can no longer rely on the West. During the COVID period, some international banks hoped to see us default. Thanks to banks like Afreximbank, that didn’t happen.”

Furthermore, he revealed that 25% of Dangote’s fertilizer production is now exported to the US, and the company is poised to meet the Caribbean’s urea needs.

He emphasized the refinery’s role in securing Nigeria’s energy future, noting that the facility will act as the country’s strategic reserve for petroleum products.

With eyes set on future ventures, Dangote announced plans to enter the steel industry. “We aim to ensure every piece of steel we use comes from Nigeria. No foreigner will make our continent great; it must be driven by domestic investment,” he proclaimed.

In a testament to the Dangote Group’s self-sufficiency, he revealed that the company produces about 1,500 megawatts of power for its operations, bypassing the national grid and its limitations.

In closing, Dangote reflected on his journey, acknowledging the continuous battle against powerful adversaries but expressing confidence in ultimate victory.

“The fight is ongoing, but with the support of our people and government, we will prevail,” he affirmed.

As Africa’s industrial landscape continues to evolve, Dangote’s story serves as a beacon of resilience and a call to action for local investment and self-reliance.

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Merger and Acquisition

Tolaram Acquires 58.02% Stake in Guinness Nigeria from Diageo

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Guiness

Tolaram Group has acquired a 58.02% stake in Guinness Nigeria from Diageo Plc. for ₦81.60 per share, representing approximately a 60% premium over Guinness Nigeria’s closing price of ₦50 on Monday.

Announced on June 11, 2024, the acquisition underscores Tolaram’s commitment to expanding its footprint in Nigeria’s robust consumer market.

Diageo, the UK-based beverage giant, will retain ownership of the Guinness brand, which will be licensed to Guinness Nigeria, now under Tolaram’s majority control, through long-term agreements.

Under the terms of the deal, Tolaram will initiate a mandatory takeover offer in compliance with Nigerian Exchange regulations.

However, Guinness Nigeria will continue to be publicly listed, maintaining its presence on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

A statement from Guinness Nigeria highlighted the terms of the agreement, confirming the continued production of the Guinness brand along with Diageo’s locally manufactured ready-to-drink and mainstream spirits under license and royalty agreements.

The transaction is slated for completion in 2025, pending necessary regulatory approvals.

Commenting on the acquisition, Sajen Aswani, Tolaram’s Chief Executive, said: “Our partnership with Diageo to jointly grow Guinness Nigeria underscores our commitment to build on our strong presence and heritage in Nigeria, cultivated over decades of dedication and unwavering confidence in the future of Africa. We take a long-term view on all our investments, and this partnership reflects our optimism on the exciting opportunities that lie ahead across the continent.”

Diageo CEO Debra Crew echoed Aswani’s sentiment “I’m excited to announce our new partnership with Tolaram. Guinness has been Nigeria’s favourite beer for nearly 75 years. Tolaram shares this passion for Guinness and for Nigeria, making them the perfect partners as we continue to grow our business and seek to delight even more consumers in the country.”

This strategic acquisition is expected to bolster Guinness Nigeria’s market position, leveraging Tolaram’s extensive experience in the consumer goods sector to drive growth and innovation.

The partnership aims to enhance the availability and appeal of Guinness and other Diageo products in Nigeria, contributing to the country’s economic development and consumer satisfaction.

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