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Nigeria’s Promise Turns to Peril as Investors Head for the Exits – Bloomberg

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The promise of Africa’s biggest economy has turned to peril.

Companies drawn to Nigeria by the prospect of a population bigger than Germany and Turkey’s combined are retreating; those staying have publicly criticized the president, a military strongman in the 1980s who came back to power via an election last year; and foreign investors are pulling their money out.

The corporate tribulations that began with a slide in oil prices and accelerated after the imposition of capital controls are also entangled in a global emerging-market slump. In propping up the naira in a futile bid to contain inflation, officials have jacked up pressure on an economy running out of cash, deepening a black market in currency trading and causing shortages of imported goods from fuel to milk. U.S. officials said they will press their Nigerian counterparts to change tack during talks in Washington this week.

“Our clients, Fortune 500 and other multinationals, are all quite concerned by the state Nigeria finds itself in,” said Alexa Lion, a senior analyst at Washington-based Frontier Strategy Group, which advises companies looking at developing nations. “Sentiment has worsened. There’s a lot of anxiety.”

Frustration too.

After four years trying to gain traction, Truworths International Ltd., a South African clothing retailer, last month gave up. It closed its last two outlets in Nigeria, in the southeastern cities of Enugu and Warri. Willing to tolerate dilapidated infrastructure, complicated red tape and expensive rent, the company said the import and foreign-exchange restrictions caused it to throw in the towel.

‘Impossible’

“We were happy to lose money for a few years while we developed the business and opened new stores,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Mark said in an interview. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was not being able to get stock into Nigeria. You can’t have a clothes shop with no clothes. With all the other things, it just wasn’t worth it. It was impossible to do business.”

Nigeria’s appeal has faded as the price of oil, source of 90 percent of export earnings, has crashed. Growth slumped to 2.8 percent last year, the slowest since 1999, and will decelerate to 2 percent in 2016, according to Morgan Stanley. In dollar terms, the economy in 2019 will still be 17 percent smaller than its 2014 peak of $542 billion. Only two years ago, McKinsey & Co. said Nigeria had the potential to grow 7.1 percent annually until 2030 and build a $1.6 trillion economy.
As Nigeria lags, other countries in sub-Saharan Africa have gotten more appealing. Last month, Nigeria fell from first to fourth, behind Ivory Coast, Kenya and Tanzania, in a ranking of business prospects by the research unit of Nielsen Holdings Plc.

Portfolio investors including Aberdeen Asset Management Plc and Ashmore Group Plc, which together oversee about $450 billion of assets, have retreated from Nigerian markets. The main stock index is down 10 percent this year, while the MSCI Frontier Markets Index has lost 2.8 percent. Nigeria’s local-currency bonds are the only ones among 31 emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg to have generated aloss this year. Foreign direct investment this year is set to be the lowest since the 2008-09 global financial crisis, according to data from the central bank.

For now, President Muhammadu Buhari and Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele say they aren’t budging from their strong-naira policy. While both acknowledge that businesses are struggling to source enough dollars, Buhari says that a devaluation and easing of capital controls would be akin to “murdering” the naira and send prices up. That’s already happening as manufacturers struggle to buy foreign inputs, with inflation accelerating to a three-year high of 11.4 percent in February.

Markets are betting Nigeria will be forced to follow oil exporters from Russia to Kazakhstan and Mexico and let the currency weaken. While the naira has been all but pegged at 197-199 per dollar since March 2015, forward prices suggest it will drop 29 percent to 280 in a year. The black market rate has weakened to 320.

Bruno Witvoet, the Africa President of Unilever, whose Nigerian subsidiary has seen its shares plunge 31 percent since Buhari came to power, said it would be “very insane” for the country to persist with the currency policies. Nestle SA says its local unit, which has fallen 18 percent in that period, has had to widen the number of banks it uses so that it can access enough foreign exchange.

Not all companies are gloomy. In January, Coca-Cola Co. agreed to pay about $240 million for a 40 percent stake in Chi Ltd., which is based in Lagos, and makes fruit juice and dairy products. Boston Consulting Group this month opened its first office in Nigeria.

“It’s an immense market,” said Geoffrey White, CEO for Africa at Kuwait-based Agility Public Warehousing Co K.S.C., which plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars building four warehouse and logistics parks in Lagos and the capital Abuja by 2020. “You can’t really have an African policy without having Nigeria high up on the list.”

For Frontier Strategy Group’s Lion, Nigeria is too important for foreign companies to exit en masse.

“But a lot will depend on what happens with the currency,” she said. “For now, the opportunity cost of not being there is too high. That could change if the currency situations worsens. It’s definitely a pivotal time.”

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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MTN Nigeria Joins FG Delegation at the 2021 Edition of UNIIS to Woo investors!

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Karl O Toriola - Investorsking.com

MTN Nigeria is participating at this year’s edition of the US-Nigerian Investment Summit scheduled to hold on the 17th and 18th of September, 2021 in New York City. The participation is in furtherance of the company’s  commitment to partner with the Federal Government,  through the  Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, to attract investors and investment to Nigeria.

Themed “Nigeria: The Future of Global Business”, the event builds on the success of the 2018 maiden edition. The Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Olutokun Toriola as well as Chief Financial officer, MTN Nigeria, Modupe Kadiri will be in attendance at the summit. Toriola will be speaking at the summit, highlighting opportunities in Nigeria with MTN Nigeria’s success story as a reference.

“We are passionate about the development of our economy. This can be seen in our unrelenting efforts in working with   Government and institutions in different sectors to advance economic growth in our nation. We believe in the many opportunities Nigeria avails investors, and our 20 year journey is a testament to the promise the country holds,” said Toriola.

The US-Nigeria Investment Summit plays a vital role in attracting and facilitating business investment and job creation by raising awareness about a range of opportunities, and enabling vital direct connections between investors and the Nigeria economy. The investment summit features senior government officials, C-Suite business executives, and other thought leaders.

MTN Nigeria continues to advance its Good Together philosophy through strategic interventions, working  with the people and government of Nigeria. Recently, the company announced a series of activities as part of its milestone anniversary celebration including participating in the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Programme (RITC) for an opportunity to reconstruct the Enugu – Onitsha expressway in South-Eastern Nigeria, building a world-class campus in Nigeria and selling down up to 14% of its equity to Nigerians.

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SEC In plans To Embrace Crypto Investment, Set Up Fintech Unit For Regulations

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has set up a fintech division to study crypto investments and products in order to come up with regulations, the Director-General of the commission, Lamido Yuguda said on Thursday.

“We are looking at this market closely to see how we can bring out regulations that will help investors protect their investment in blockchain,” Yuguda was reported to have said by Reuters in a virtual interview in Abuja.

He did not provide a time frame for issuing regulations but said the SEC will step in with regulations once crypto is allowed within the Nigerian banking system.

The SEC has sought to regulate crypto on the grounds that they qualify as securities transactions.

Nigeria is one of the biggest markets for crypto trading, but in February the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) banned banks from transacting or facilitating deals in cryptocurrencies.

The use of bitcoin, the original and biggest cryptocurrency, has boomed in Nigeria in recent years, driven by payments from small businesses and a weakening naira currency, which makes it difficult to get the U.S. dollars needed to import goods or services.

Yuguda said the commission has been in talks with the CBN, part of which led to the plan by the regulatory bank to launch the country’s digital currency, e-naira.

The commission is seeking to work with fintech firms to boost the marketing of domestic securities to prevent capital flight.

The central bank this month blocked the accounts of six firms for allegedly sourcing funds from illegal foreign exchange operators to buy foreign securities and cryptocurrencies.

He said the SEC is looking to boost savings through investment schemes, which currently have over N4 trillion under management split between public and private fund managers.

Yuguda said the regulator has asked private managers to put in place custody arrangements to protect investors.

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In 4 Years 92 Percent Of Investment Opportunities Lost in Nigeria

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Within the period of 2017 and 2020, Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria has lost over 92 percent of investment available to the country. The loss in investment sums up about $188.29 billion.

According to the report of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) on “Investment announcements versus FDI (Foreign Direct Investments) Inflow in Nigeria, 2017 – 2020” the discrepancies between the FDI announcement and actual FDI inflow were revealed. The commission stated that the actual inflow of FDI into Nigeria was 7.65 percent of the total FDI announcements.

This is an affirmation that the FDI announced by the commission did not materialize or translate to actual investment inflow.

In the period 2017 to 2020, the NIPC FDI announcement stood at $203,89 billion, however, the actual FDI within the same period was $15.6 billion and unmaterialized FDI announced was $188.29 billion.

In 2017, statistics obtained from NIPC revealed a total of $66.35 billion FDI announcement but only $3.5 FDI inflow was recorded. For 2018, 2019 and 2020, $90.89 billion, $29.91 billion and $16.74 billion FDI were announced in each year respectively. However 2018 FDI inflow was $6.4 billion, 2019 inflow was $3.3 billion and 2020 FDI inflow was $2.4 billion.

With this report, the commission asserted that its report was based solely on Investment announcements which may not contain exhaustive information on all investment announcements in the country within the said period.

According to NIPC, the gaps between announcements and actual investments demonstrate investments potentials that were not fully actualised.

The Commission stated: “A more proactive all-of-government approach to investor support, across federal and state governments, is required to convert more announcements to actual investments.”

Reacting to the situation, Director General, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Ambassador Ayoola Olukanni, noted that the gap may not be unconnected to the economic recession and COVID-19 pandemic events within the period, aggravated by policy instability.

Olukanni stated: “Numerous studies have established that Foreign Direct Investment is dependent on the market size of the host country, deregulation, level of political stability, investment incentives, openness to international trade, economic policy coherence, exchange rate depreciation, availability of skilled labour, the endowment of natural resources and inflation.

“You will agree with me that the four years spanning 2017 and 2020 are characterized by the struggle to exit from economic recession, a period of slight recovery, the COVID-19 pandemic, and another period of recession. These circumstances may or may not be responsible for the political and economic reaction that can be witnessed in the uncertainty in the foreign exchange market, increased inflation, increased unemployment, increased political unrest and insecurity and so on.

“What can be established is that Foreign Direct Investment is averse to risk and uncertainty, especially the kind of uncertainty brought about by policy instability and economic policy. An obvious example is the closure of the land borders in 2019, while justifiable through the lens of national security is certain to have a negative impact on Foreign Direct Investment which has a long-term planning horizon.

“In summary, to seek to increase actual FDI is to promote the factors that have been shown, empirically, to positively impact FDI. While the Nigerian economy checks the boxes of most of these factors, economic policy coherence, foreign exchange market stability and insecurity are issues that are currently the bane of FDI inflows.”

Also commenting, an economist and private sector advocate, Dr. Muda Yusuf, who is also the immediate past Director-General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce of Industry (LCCI), said the development reflects the low level of investors’ confidence occasioned by structural problems of infrastructure and worsening security situation.

His words: “It is investors’ confidence that drives investment, whether domestic or foreign. Investors are generally very cautious and painstaking in taking decisions with respect to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). This is because FDIs are often long-term and invariably riskier, especially in volatile economic and business environments. Uncertainties aggravate investment risk.

“Investors in the real sector space are grappling with structural problems, especially around infrastructure. There are also worries around liquidity in the forex market; there are concerns about the accelerated weakening of the currency. There are issues of heightened regulatory and policy risks in many sectors.

“Investors’ confidence has also been adversely affected by the worsening security situation in the country. Meanwhile, the economy is still struggling to recover from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic. These are the likely factors impacting investment decisions.

“Our ability to attract FDI will depend on how well we position ourselves. The critical question will be around expected returns on investment. Overall, it is the investment climate quality that will make the difference. We need to ensure an acceleration of necessary reforms to make Nigeria a much better investment destination. We need policy reforms, regulatory reforms and institutional reforms, among others.

“We should accelerate the ongoing foreign exchange reforms; we need to undertake trade policy reforms to liberalise trade in sectors of weak comparative advantage; we need regulatory reforms to make regulations more investment-friendly. We need to create new opportunities in the public-private partnership (PPP) space, especially in infrastructure. We need to see more privatization of public enterprises.

“It is important as well to quickly fix the ravaging insecurity in the country. All of these are crucial to boost investors’ confidence.”

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