Heavy Debt Burden: Banks suspend funding for Dangote’s cement project

A heavy debt burden and the anticipation of high profile competition for the share of the Nigerian cement supply side from Femi Otedola may have compelled Alhaji Aliko Dangote to call off investments with intent to expand production lines in his many cement manufacturing plants and to build new ones. Sources in the banking industry indicated that some bank’s exposure to Dangote have become quite high and more discomfiting for the banks in consideration of hurdles they would have to contend with in the effort to get the debt repaid.

Though Forbes Magazine had listed Dangote as the richest man in Nigeria in 2007, financial sector source said his total debt folio drawn from various Nigerian banks may add up to N622billion. According to the source, about N300billion was secured from a bank by Dangote to play in the stock market between February and March 2008 when prices of stocks were at their peak.

“Prices of stocks started falling soon after the investment in the stock market and the fall in prices have become protracted which has resulted in stock prices sliding to historic lows. This, apparently, has affected the repayment traction of Dangote and this had added to the depressing situation of the banks that gave out the fund,” the source explained.

According to the source, Dangote also secured a N75billion loan for Obajana Cement and N240billion for his cement production plant in Ibeshe while also funding his Alheri Engineering, the company that won the 3-G GSM licence and will manage the GSM telephony service provider in the Dangote group.

Dangote’s decision to beat a retreat from cement manufacturing besides Nigerian banks refusing to make their money available for his use, is the wholesale opening up of the supply side of cement through the cement importation scheme of the Federal Government.

Dangote had enjoyed near monopoly status on the supply side of cement in Nigeria, and not a few aspiring builders had protested persistent increase in the price of cement which got to a high of N1,800 mid 2008. The Federal Government under Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua removed the protectionist policy of the Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency which banned the importation of cement into the country and closed down some other Nigerian cement producing companies ostensibly to protect the manufacturing essence of Dangote Cement production subsidiaries and the other players in the sector.

“This did not help price at all, because just a few producers can come together to determine the price of a bag of cement,” an industry player told FORTUNE&CLASS Weekly.

The Federal Government’s bid to beat down the price of cement by flooding the market with imported brands may have started impacting the market as the price of a bag of cement has come down to about N1,500 even as the imported brands are yet to fully land in the country.

Industry buzz, however, suggests that Dangote may also be worried with the licence granted Femi Otedola by the Federal Government to import two million tonnes of cement into the country as part of the effort to crash cement prices.

“The Federal Government had to consciously look out for a Nigerian business that has enough cash to back up the importation. It would not make sense to allow for importation of cement when you don’t have high profile business people that can mobilize enough funds to flood the market in the shortest possible time. That is why I think the Federal Government gave Otedola the licence to be involved in the importation of cement and I think he has a commitment to the Federal Government to sell at very cheap rate to Nigerians,” a source in the Presidency said.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: