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Sign of Stress: Black Market Is Cheaper Than Official Naira Rate

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Dollar Naira
  • Black Market Is Cheaper Than Official Naira Rate

Nigeria’s new currency market is showing just how severe the country’s dollar shortage is.

The naira is falling to levels weaker than the black-market rate in a foreign-exchange window set up for international investors and hedge funds last month. It’s a signal of how dysfunctional currency markets have become in Africa’s largest economy amid multiple exchange rates and a host of trading and import restrictions.

Funds including Chicago-based Frontaura Capital, South Africa’s Allan Gray Ltd. and Duet Asset Management Ltd. of London have bought and sold the currency at levels as much as 6 percent weaker than where it trades in back-alley shops.

The exchange window for portfolio investors was set up by the central bank April 24 to ease a crippling scarcity of hard currency by allowing the naira’s value to drop beyond its official rate. While investors welcomed the move, there’s still a shortage of dollars amid persistent concerns that the monetary authority, which backtracked on a pledge to float the currency last year, will manipulate the rate within the window.

“Dollar liquidity is still very tight,” said Ayodele Salami, who manages about $450 million of African stocks as Duet’s chief investment officer. “The central bank has not provided that much foreign exchange in the window. People won’t come in to Nigeria until they know they can get out. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation. The market’s not yet that functional.”

He managed to sell less than $1 million of naira last week at 396 per dollar, which compares with the black-market rate of 391 and the official interbank rate of 315. The black market is typically used by individuals and small businesses for transactions of less than a few thousand dollars in cash. Access to the interbank market is tightly controlled as part of the government’s efforts to keep a lid on inflation, which accelerated this year to 19 percent, the highest level in at least a decade.

‘Some Kinks’

Frontaura, a hedge fund with $120 million of assets, was able to buy a few hundred thousand dollars last week at rates of between 414 and 399 as it sought to repatriate dividends.

The new market “has some kinks to work out,” said Tom Egbert, an analyst at Frontaura. “But at least you can trade naira for dollars. There’s a chance in the coming months that this new FX window leads to a properly functioning FX market.”

Cape Town-based Allan Gray, the largest manager of non-government investment funds in Africa, got a rate of around 405 for dollars it sold to buy Nigerian T-bills yielding as much as 22 percent.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the levels we’ve managed to get,” said Nick Ndiritu, a money manager who helps oversee the $276 million Allan Gray Africa ex-SA Bond Fund.

Tempting Aberdeen

The introduction of the window has tempted Aberdeen Asset Management Plc, which manages about $11 billion of emerging-market assets from London, to buy naira bonds for the first time in about two years. It sold all its local-currency debt in 2015 when Nigeria tried to prevent the naira from weakening amid the crash in the price of oil, its main export.

“We’re talking to banks to re-initiate a small position in the local market,” Kevin Daly, a money manager at Aberdeen, said May 5. “I’m confident we could get something around 400. It seems there is some semblance of a two-way market returning, albeit a small one.”

The new window has a fixing rate, known as NAFEX, which is published once a day. It fell to 378.87 per dollar on Monday, its lowest yet.

BlackRock Inc. switched to using NAFEX on April 24 for valuing naira holdings in its iShares exchange-traded fund that tracks the MSCI Frontier Markets Index, while Allan Gray did the same for its $254 million Africa ex-SA Equity Fund at the end of the month, signaling that investors increasingly view the main interbank rate as irrelevant.

“The new central bank policy’s made it clear that foreign investors now have to go to the NAFEX market,” Salami said. “You’re never going to get the interbank rate.”

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.

Markets

SEC To Ban Unregistered CMOs From Operating By Month End

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) says it will stop operations of Capital Market Operators (CMOs) that are yet to renew their registration on May 31, 2021.

This was contained in a circular signed by the management of SEC in Abuja on Monday.

On March 23, SEC had informed the general public and CMOs on the reintroduction of the periodic renewal of registration by operators.

The commission noted that the reintroduction of the registration renewal was due to the need to have a reliable data bank of all the CMOs registered and active in the country’s capital market.

“To provide updated information on operators in the Nigerian Capital Market for reference and other official purposes by local and foreign investors, other regulatory agencies and the general public, to increasingly reduce incidences of unethical practices by CMOs such as may affect investors’ confidence and impact negatively on the Nigerian Capital Market and to strengthen supervision and monitoring of CMOs by the Commission,” SEC explained.

According to the circular, the commission said CMOs yet to renew their registration at the expiration of late filing on May 31, would not be eligible to operate in the capital market.

It explained that CMOs were required to have completed the renewal process on or before April 30, however, the commission said late filing for renewal of registration would only be entertained from May 1 to May 31.

SEC also said that asides from barring the CMOs who failed to comply accordingly, their names would be published on its website and national dailies.

It added that names of eligible CMOs would be communicated to the relevant securities exchanges and trade associations.

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Crude Oil

A Threat to Revenue As Nigeria’s Largest Importer of Crude, India slash Imports By $39.5B

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Crude oil

Nigeria’s revenue earning capacity has come under threat following the reduction of importation of crude oil by India.

India, Nigeria’s largest crude oil importer, reduced crude oil imports by $39.5bn in April, compared to the same time the previous year, data from India’s Petroleum Planning & Analysis Cell showed.

According to the Indian High Commission in Nigeria, India’s crude oil imports from Nigeria in 2020 amounted to $10.03bn.

This represented 17 percent of Nigeria’s total crude exports for the year according to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, as quoted by OilPrice.com.

As Nigeria’s largest importer of crude oil, lockdowns in India’s major cities from the COVID-19 surge in April had ripple effects on Nigeria’s oil sales.

The NNPC was prompted to drop the official standard price of its main export streams, Bonny Light, Brass River, Erha, and Qua Iboe, by 61-62 cents per barrel below its April 2021 prices. They traded at $0.9, $0.8, $0.65, $0.97 per barrel respectively, below dated Brent, the international benchmark, as Oilprice.com showed.

India had been buying the not-too-light and not-too-heavy Nigerian crudes that suited its refiners.

Reuters reported that the Indian Oil Corporation’s owned refineries were operating at 95 percent capacity in April, down from 100 percent at the same time the previous month.

An official at the IOC was quoted as saying, “If cases continue to rise and curbs are intensified, we may see cuts in refinery runs and lower demand after a month.” Hundreds of seafarers risked being stuck at sea beyond the expiry of their contracts, a large independent crude ship owner reportedly told Bloomberg.

India reportedly bought more American and Canadian oil at the expense of Africa and the Middle East, reducing purchases from members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to around 2.86 million barrels per day.

This squeezed the group’s share of imports to 72 percent from around 80 percent previously, as India’s refiners were diversifying purchases to boost margins, according to Reuters.

India also plans to increase local crude oil production and reduce import expenses as its population swells, according to Bloomberg.

A deregulation plan by the Narendra Modi-led government to boost national production to 40 million tonnes of crude oil by 2023/2024, an increase of almost eight million tonnes, had already been initiated.

According to Business Today, an Indian paper, the country currently imports 82 percent of its oil needs, which amounted to $87bn in 2019.

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Energy

Invest Africa and DLA Piper Partner to Support ESG Best Practice in African Renewable Energy Projects

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Invest Africa - Investors King

The global law firm, DLA Piper, has partnered with Invest Africa, the leading trade and investment platform for African markets, to support the development of ESG best practice in African renewable energy projects.

Clear Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) targets and measurements have become an increasingly important part of fundraising as investors seek to align their portfolios with sustainable growth. For a continent boasting ample natural resources, this presents a significant opportunity for Africa’s green energy sector. However, renewable does not always equal sustainable and developing and articulating ESG metrics can pose a significant challenge to projects as they prepare investment rounds.

The project will assemble experts from the worlds of impact investment, development finance and law. Across a series of online meetings, participants will discuss strategies to improve ESG practices in African renewable projects from both a fundraising and operational perspective.

Amongst those speaking in the inaugural session on Thursday 13th May are Cathy Oxby, Chief Commercial Officer, Africa GreencoDr. Valeria Biurrun-Zaumm, Senior Investment Manager, DEGOrli Arav, Managing Director – Facility For Energy Inclusion (FEI) – Lion’s Head Global PartnersBeatrice Nyabira, Partner, DLA Piper Africa, Kenya (IKM Advocates) and Natasha Luther-Jones, Partner, Global Co-Chair of Energy and Natural Resources, International Co-Head, Sustainability and ESG, DLA Piper.

Veronica Bolton-Smith, COO of Invest Africa said, “Africa is particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change despite contributing very little to global emissions. As the price of renewables fall, they will form an ever more important part of Africa’s electrification. In this context, it is essential that projects be given the tools to apply best practice in ESG not only from an environmental perspective but also in terms of good governance, fair working conditions and contribution to social inclusion. I look forward to working closely with DLA Piper on this important topic.”

Natasha Luther-Jones, Global Co-Chair Energy and Natural Resources and International Co-Head Sustainability and ESG at DLA Piper also commented, “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges companies, and people, face today and when we look at its reduction – whether that be in how we power our devices, what we eat or how we dress, where we live or how we work – all roads come back to the need to increase the amount of accessible, and affordable, clean energy. However, renewable energy companies are not automatically sustainable as sustainability is a focus on all ESG factors, not just environmental. We know the need for renewable energy is only going to continue to rise, and therefore so will the number and size of renewable energy companies. The additional challenge is to make sure they are truly sustainable organisations and that’s what we’re excited about discussing during the webinar.”

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