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Refund of $2.1B Budget Support Loan Will Hurt State Economy – Governors

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Godwin Emefiele CBN - Investors King

Governors have reached out to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele, asking him to halt the plan to start deducting the $2.1 billion budget support loan from allocations due to the states.

“States will collapse if this step is taken. The larger picture is that states won’t be able to pay salaries. Workers will go on strike and everything will be paralysed”, a governor, speaking on behalf of his colleagues, told the media last night.

Emefiele last week said state governments must begin to pay back the Budget Support Loans offered to them by the Federal Government.

He spoke in reaction to the claim by Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki that the Federal Government printed about N60billion to augment the March revenue before it was shared by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) to the Federal, States and Local Governments.

But, from the fact-sheet released by the Progressive Governors Forum, the total distributable revenue for March was N596.94billion.

The forum said due to the shortfall in gross statutory revenues compared to the previous month “an augmentation was made in the sum of N8.65 billion from the Forex Equalization Fund Account.

It said the augmentation brought the total distributable revenue to N605.59 billion.

An investigation by the Nations showed that most governors were shocked by the decision of the CBN to start deducting the $2.1billion loan.

It was learned that apart from personal calls to Emefiele, members of the PGF waded in the controversy generated by Obaseki’s claim.

The PGF statement carpeting Obaseki was said to be part of the rapprochement to the CBN so that the apex bank will stay action on the refund.

PDP governors yesterday gave their backing to Obaseki and chided Emefiele, describing his reaction as “vengeful” and “vindictive”.

A governor, who spoke in confidence with our correspondent, added: “We have already reached out to the CBN governor to stay action on the refund of the $2.1billion. It was apparent that the position of the CBN was a retaliatory action, following Obaseki’s claim.

“Emefiele was obviously angry because Obaseki is in a vantage position to know the truth. At the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) level, Obaseki and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna are in charge of the committee liaising with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and others. They have the vital indices and they have a full grasp of what is at stake. Their contributions have also been helpful to the government and the NGF members. The anger is based on the fact that Obaseki as an insider should not be Mr. Clean.

“It is not in the interest of all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to allow the controversy to linger.

“We are hopeful that Emefiele will look at all the economic indices and defer the refund of the $2.1billion to a timeline when the nation’s economy would have fully recovered from the recession. So far, the economy is fragile and states cannot afford to refund the $2.1billion. The capacity is not just there for us.

“Our total budget is equivalent of about $26billion. The annual budget for the agricultural sector in Brazil alone is about $56billion out of that country’s budget of about $264billion. What the governors are saying is that the Federal Government and the states should collaborate to put the economy back on a sound footing before we start talking of a $2.1billion refund. We all have a lot to do to reset our economy.”

The governor said the CBN is aware that about N120billion (belonging to the Federal Government, the states and the Federal Capital Territory) is being deducted monthly from the cash in the Federation Account for petrol subsidy.

The governor explained that the shortfall from FAAC may linger unless both the Federal Government and the states come together to resolve the issue of fuel subsidy.

The source added: “Despite the increase in oil price, the distributable revenue in the purse of FAAC is not enough for the states because N120billion (belonging to the Federal Government, the states and the Federal Capital Territory) is deducted monthly for fuel (Premium Motor Spirit) subsidy.

“We are already paying about N1.3trillion per annum as fuel subsidy. This means the money we should have used for capital projects is being wasted on subsidies.

“Yet, we hardly consume 60 percent of the refined products. Others are sold in neighboring countries. It is either we remove fuel subsidy or continue to live with the subsidy and shortfall in distributable revenue.”

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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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