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Reps Probe Nigeria’s Debt Profile

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  • Reps Probe Nigeria’s Debt Profile

The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the rising debt profile of Nigeria, especially with the conflicting figures issued by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and other government authorities.

The resolution was reached at the plenary on Thursday following the adoption of a motion moved by Mr Yusuf Tajudeen, entitled, ‘Need to Investigate Nigeria’s Alarming Debt.’

Granting the prayer of the motion, the House resolved to mandate the Committees on Aids, Loans and Debt Management, Capital Market and Institutions, and Banking and Currency to carry out an investigation into the matter and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.

Moving the motion, Tajudeen said, “The House notes with concern the alarming rise of Nigeria’s debt profile which has led to growing economic instability, stifled growth and stunted development, as well as impacting negatively on various sectors of the economy.

“There have been continued controversies about the true state of the nation’s debt profile, such that there is a glaring disparity in the figures given by the Federal Government and some fiscal policy monitoring organisations.

“While the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, who is the Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Council, stated that the nation’s debt profile stood at $10bn in the last three years, the figures given by economic and budget experts as well as economic policy monitoring bodies ranged between $13bn and $47bn, from May 2015 to June 2018.

“Further analysis of Nigeria’s external and domestic debts reveals that the external debt grew to $17.83bn in June 2018 from $10.49bn in 2015, while domestic debt, which was N8.39tn in June 2015, has risen to N12.15tn as of June 2018, representing an increase of N7.6tn in three years.”

The lawmaker said the House was concerned that aside from the rising national debt profile, there was a sharp increase in sub-national borrowing in the last three years, such that the domestic debts of state governments rose from N1.69tn in June 2015 to N3.4tn in June 2018.

He noted that though external or domestic borrowing was an important and necessary strategy to reflate the economy and stimulate national growth and development, “the positive impact of Nigeria’s borrowings since June 2015 has yet to be seen.”

Tajudeen added, “Unlike global practices where borrowings are tied to specific projects mutually agreed by respective organs of the government, various borrowings by the Federal Government since June 2015 have not been transparent, a situation which gives room for doubts, misconception and prone to manipulations.

“Nigeria’s revenues are sharply declining, which makes it increasingly difficult to attract and sustain higher debts, ultimately portend micro and macro dangers to the national economy amidst numerous developmental challenges.”

Meanwhile, the Committee on Aids, Loans and Debt Management on Thursday recommended that the House should approve that two states be paid N90bn while five contractors be paid N43.5bn.

The recommendations were contained in an interim report presented by the committee on the ‘Request for Establishment of a Promissory Notes Programme and Bond Issuance to Settle Inherited Local Debts and Contractual Obligations.’

The committee recommended “the issuance of promissory notes and bonds in the sum of N90, 236,461,031.08 as payment of refunds to the listed state governments for federal highway projects executed on behalf of the Federal Government.

“Taraba State Government, N22, 254,062,330.08; Delta State Government, N67, 982,398,701.28.”

The committee also recommended the House to “approve the issuance of promissory note programme and bonds in the sum of N43, 586,007,252.69 as payment to contractors.

“Setraco Nigeria Limited, N37,432,400,000; Bouygues Nigeria Limited, N4,636,815,486.20; Simidia S & I International Limited, N346,191,766.49; Hamdala Homes & Agency Limited, N210,600,000; and Lejmej Limited, N960,000,000.”

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Finance

GTBank Takes 60 Bank Executives to Court Over N17bn Loan Dispute

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Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) has initiated legal proceedings against 60 top executives from 13 commercial banks in Nigeria.

The action stems from an ongoing dispute involving a N17 billion Anchor Borrowers Programme loan granted to AFEX Commodity Exchange.

The executives, including chairmen, chief executive officers, directors, and company secretaries, are facing contempt of court charges for allegedly failing to enforce a No-Debit-Order on AFEX Commodity Exchange’s accounts. The legal battle, which has drawn significant attention in the financial sector, is being closely monitored by industry stakeholders.

Details of the Case

The Federal High Court in Lagos, presided over by Justice CJ Aneke, signed an order to hold the executives accountable for disobeying its ruling dated May 27, 2024.

The court’s decision mandates the executives, including those from prominent banks such as Access Bank, Citibank, Jaiz Bank, Union Bank, Fidelity Bank, and First Bank of Nigeria Plc, to comply with the directive or face jail time.

The case, registered as FHC/L/CS/911/2024, involves GTBank and AFEX Commodity Exchange. The court had previously ordered 20 banks to transfer funds from AFEX’s accounts to GTBank until the outstanding N17.81 billion loan is repaid.

This sum includes the principal amount of N15.77 billion and additional recovery costs and expenses totaling N2.04 billion.

Contempt Proceedings

The legal notice, titled ‘Order to Serve Notice of Disobedience to Order of Court via Newspaper Publication,’ was published in national dailies, signaling the gravity of the situation.

The notice serves as a warning to the bank executives about the consequences of failing to adhere to the court’s order.

In addition to the commercial banks, the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), acting as the liquidator for Heritage Bank, has also been cited for contempt.

The matter is set for further hearing next Thursday, where the court will decide the fate of the implicated executives.

Background and Implications

The dispute originates from a loan facility extended to AFEX Commodity Exchange under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Anchor Borrowers Programme.

The loan was intended to finance smallholder farmers, with repayment expected through the sale of agricultural produce. However, AFEX reportedly defaulted on the loan, prompting GTBank to seek legal recourse.

AFEX has countered by stating that it has repaid 90% of the loan and is in ongoing discussions with the CBN regarding the remaining balance. The commodities exchange has cited economic challenges and macroeconomic policies, such as the naira redesign, which adversely affected the farmers’ ability to repay the loans.

The court has also permitted GTBank to take control of AFEX’s 16 warehouses across seven states, allowing the bank to sell the stored commodities to recover the outstanding loan.

Industry Reaction

The case has sparked concerns about the efficiency and integrity of Nigeria’s banking and financial sectors.

Charles Akinbobola, a senior energy analyst at Sofidam Capital, said, “The challenge of the power sector has not entirely been the scarcity of funds. Several trillions of naira have been pumped into that industry. The sector has been plagued by the shortcomings of its managers.”

Experts like Muda Yusuf, CEO of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, emphasize the need for addressing fundamental issues in the electricity value chain, such as technical and commercial losses, which continue to burden consumers with inefficiency costs.

As the legal proceedings unfold, the financial community will be watching closely to see how this high-stakes battle impacts the involved parties and the broader financial sector in Nigeria.

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Banking Sector

Guaranty Trust Holding Plans N500 Billion Share Offering

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Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc (GTCOPLC) has announced plans to raise up to N500 billion through a new share offering, according to a preliminary prospectus filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

This move aims to support the company’s ambitious growth and expansion strategy.

GTCOPLC’s proposed offering will involve the subscription of ordinary shares of 50 kobo each, although the exact number of shares and the price range are yet to be determined.

The offering includes a concurrent filing of a preliminary universal shelf registration statement, allowing the company to issue various types of securities, potentially raising up to $750 million in multiple currencies.

Purpose of the Offering

The funds raised from this offering will primarily be allocated towards:

  1. Business Growth and Expansion: GTCOPLC plans to invest significantly in technology infrastructure to enhance its current operations. Additionally, the company intends to establish new subsidiaries and make selective acquisitions of non-banking businesses.
  2. Recapitalization of Guaranty Trust Bank Limited: Part of the proceeds will be used to strengthen the capital base of its banking subsidiary.

Target Investors and Structure

The offering is structured to attract both institutional and retail investors. It will be divided into two main tranches:

  • Nigerian Tranche: An institutional and retail offering aimed at eligible investors within Nigeria.
  • International Tranche: A private placement targeting qualified institutional buyers outside Nigeria.

Listing and Trading

GTCOPLC has also filed an application with the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX) to list and admit the new ordinary shares for trading on the NGX Official List.

The company anticipates opening the offering by July 2024.

Financial Strategy

The universal shelf registration will enable GTCOPLC to issue a variety of securities over time, with a total value of up to $750 million (or its equivalent in Nigerian Naira).

This approach provides the company with flexibility to raise capital in different markets during the programme’s validity period. The current proposed offering will be the first issuance under this new programme.

Regulatory Compliance

GTCOPLC emphasized that this notice does not constitute an offer of securities for sale in the United States or to U.S. persons, as defined under Regulation S of the U.S. Securities Act of 1933.

The offered shares have not been, and will not be, registered under the U.S. Securities Act or any state securities laws, and cannot be sold in the United States without proper registration or an applicable exemption.

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Loans

China Maintains One-Year Policy Loan Rate at 2.5%, Avoids Excessive Liquidity

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China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), has decided to keep the key interest rate steady for the tenth consecutive month.

On Monday, the PBOC announced that the rate on one-year policy loans, known as the medium-term lending facility (MLF), will remain at 2.5%.

This decision aligns with the forecasts of a Bloomberg survey, reflecting the bank’s priority to maintain financial stability amid a fragile economic recovery.

The central bank also took measures to manage liquidity, withdrawing a net 55 billion yuan ($7.6 billion) from the banking system.

This action aims to prevent excessive liquidity, which could lead to further depreciation of the yuan. By maintaining a cautious stance on monetary easing, the PBOC underscores its focus on currency stability over lowering borrowing costs.

This move comes as China grapples with mixed economic signals. While exports exceeded expectations in May, inflation rose less than anticipated, and factory activity saw an unexpected contraction according to an official survey.

Despite these challenges, the PBOC’s restraint reflects a strategic choice to prioritize the strength of the yuan, even as calls for a rate cut grow louder.

Last week, the onshore yuan weakened to its lowest level since November, driven by a wide interest rate gap between the US and China.

The PBOC’s decision to hold rates steady is seen as an effort to prevent further devaluation of the yuan, which remains a “powerful currency” according to financial authorities.

Sufficient market liquidity has also influenced the central bank’s decision to refrain from outright rate cuts.

This is evidenced by the declining borrowing costs of popular debt instruments, such as one-year AAA-rated negotiable certificates of deposits, which have dropped to around 2%, compared to the MLF’s 2.5%.

The influx of funds from savings to wealth management products and other higher-yielding assets has bolstered the financial system’s liquidity, allowing the PBOC to adopt a more conservative stance.

China’s economy has experienced a patchy recovery, with government bond sales accelerating to boost infrastructure spending amidst a prolonged property slump.

Despite these efforts, the central bank remains cautious, opting for stability over aggressive monetary easing.

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