2009 Outlook: Key Questions for the Director-General of the Nigeria Stock Exchange

If you had an opportunity to ask the Director General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange a question, what would you like to know from her?

Some investors, fund managers and equity analysts have sent in their concerns/questions; some of which were addressed by the DG, NSE at the Annual Review held at the Nigerian Stock Exchange on Monday, January 12, 2009.

However, the following questions, submitted by our board of analysts remain unanswered:

1) Bail-Out: Why has the Federal Government refused to provide a concrete bail out plan for the capital market, not just lip service? Do we think this will change with a change in the Federal Ministry of Finance given that other forward looking economies recognised the need to re-build confidence in its capital markets by taking actions that would bring about the much desired liquidity needed, albeit; with much more emphasis on regulatory control and accountability?

2) Alternative Market Strategies: The NSE (an SRO) along with other regulators has been talking about the introduction of simple options to the capital markets for over two years now. Why has this not been implemented?

At the moment, there are only two strategies investors can use in trading the NSE (that is, buy or sell) and in a free fall or in a downtrend as we have currently, there are usually no buyers for willing sellers.

Even with the introduction of market makers and ‘funding providers’, the makers will not be willing to buy shares that they know are fundamentally weak (given that the incidence of corporate governance and believability of financial reporting in the country is subject to risk discounting risk here relates to poor observance of standards and reporting requirements). If options are available or other strategies, investors can play the market even in a downtrend. The limited options/alternatives for traders at the NSE is keeping sophisticated ‘international’ investors from the NCM. The market appears too one directional.

3) Margin Accounts: With banks not providing margin loans to investors, it appears difficult for the Nigerian Stock Market to maintain any upward momentum or traction.

Has the Director General looked into other alternative source of financing for investors and brokerage firms?

Can the Federal Government provide brokerage firms guaranteed loans which can be loaned to investors based on strict guidelines as an alternative to an outright bail-out?

4) Demutualisation of the NSE: How does the NSE intend to conclude this key 2009 internal goals during a market cycle where most investors are not able to fully participate? The conversion of the NSE into a listed company appears desirable and precedents in Eqypt, J’borg and New York support the viability of such a proposition but to do so in a year where strategic management changes and movements have taken place, and will take place, as well as the governance and process capacity issues/challenges taking place will require a broad range of investor support.

We are interested in knowing more about the conversion of the not-for-profit organisation to a value and profit driven one in such a way as to allow each willing and able investor to participate.

5) New Products: The NSE recently launched five new indexes (including the NSE 30) working with reputable firms that have a history of creating such. We believe it is a welcome development that forward looking firms may create products around.

When will this be introduced in the market and does it not portend a dire signal for firms not included in the index or their sector not considered profitable enough to have a sectoral index?

Is it possible for the criteria or/and weighting of the index be made available for equity analysts?

6) Dealing with Current Challenges: in the last few weeks, there has been a spate of occurrences, not on such a large scale as to pronounce it a major crisis but it is a crisis itself, given that it is occurring in a market with confidence at its lowest ebb. Dud cheques have been issued to investors and fellow fund managers alike. What does the aggrieved receiver of such cheque have to do and what measures are in place to address these challenges given that it goes to the heart of the ‘confidence’ question?

7) Investor Enlightenment: The astounding reality of the market and indeed our larger economy was best summed up by the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who in a departure from the less than believable comments of the CBN Governor, declared that the current crisis will visit the poor and rich alike.

If you consider the yearning of the hard working employee, market trader, artisans, aspiring manager, church goer and widower, who in the heat of the capital market boom were plastered all over with offers and media blitz on the viability and security of investments in the NCM, and who now have to worry about the expected income due from the market to meet obligations but cannot access it; you will know that the current meltdown will affect people differently.

Hope is a casualty in this market, so also is the believability of the operators because of their silence. Investors have simply been told to wait and allow ‘nature to take its course’. The caveat emptor that should have been ringing out in the first place now becomes breaking news at this tail end of market downturn.

These are the first death throes. The question is what sort of market will remain?

Yet, one heard not one expression of real remorse or accountability from any of them. They had nothing to offer except the time-worn counsel of confidence men: trust me. Instead of protecting our market or at least preparing the investors and players alike for the possible challenges, we did what we have always done best as a nation…deploy self denial as a shield from the truth.

Maybe not everyone was playing the ostrich game, at least not brazenly. While the CBN Governor embarked on a self effacing trip on being nominated to attend the world deliberations on the crisis, the Ministry of Finance was silent, shooting down everything pushed forward to ameliorate the situation without providing an alternative. The Director General of the NSE, to her credit, continued to show empathy, and spoke consistently about her heavy burden and desire to see that the ordinary citizen/investor is assisted to overcome the current challenge.

The question she has to provide now is: how do we hope to achieve this? What should the investor do from tomorrow?

Source: Proshare Nigeria

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OCEANIC BANK, BANK PHB AND STERLING BANK GET CBN LIFELINE

L-R, Cecilia Ibru, Oceanic; Francis Atuche, BankPHB; Yemi Adeola, Sterling

L-R: Cecilia Ibru, Oceanic; Francis Atuche, BankPHB; Yemi Adeola, Sterling

Nigeria’s version of the global credit crunch might have crystalised into a reality that may not be easily wished away. Reports from sources inside the Central Bank of Nigeria asserted that three banks in Nigeria have been given lifelines to shore up their liquidity standing. These banks according to the source are; Oceanic Bank Plc, Bank PHB and Sterling Bank. With the exception of Sterling Bank that secured a N90billion lifeline, the other two got N100billion funding in what banking industry analysts said is akin to a financial bailout for the banks.

This is coming on the heels of a meeting of chief executives of banks held on Tuesday, 15 October 2008. The high point of that meeting was the decision by the banks’ chief executives to formally request the Federal Government to intervene in the nation’s financial sector to forestall the effect of the ongoing global financial crisis on the system.

The committee of banks chief executives also agreed at the meeting to request the Federal Government to intervene in the nation’s financial market through a package of measures similar to those introduced in developed countries and that the Central Bank (CBN) should continue to support the interbank money market.

Reports indicated that the bankers would have preferred the United States of America and Europe’s option where government directly intervened to inject funds into selected crisis ridden banks and, in some cases, nationalizing the financial institutions that were strategic to the main-stream banking public but whose liquidity profile had become moribund.

Sources inside the Central Bank of Nigeria informed that the CBN Governor rather opted for the fiscal management approach. The CBN, had, before the meeting of the banks chiefs, granted the banking industry a concession through a circular directive of October 2, 2008 to restructure some of their capital market exposures to December 31, 2009. Interpreted, this concession allows banks not to make provision for non performing loans and other facilities that had gone into the nation’s capital market that had taken a dive for the deeps since March, 2008.

“Apparently, the concession was not enough to stave off the simmering threat of illiquidity banks were experiencing.” The CBN source said. “In response to the appeal of the banks chiefs, the CBN offered the option of an expanded discount window operation. The key elements of the expanded discount window operation provided the opportunity for banks that need to assuage their liquidity problems to use short term financial instruments, like overnight standing facility, treasury bills, federal government bonds and non-federal government securities as collateral to secure long term funds from the CBN. You know the CBN conducts liquidity mop up of the money market by selling treasury bills and also sell bonds to financial institutions, normally, treasury bills are due in 30 days while bond are due in period ranging from 90 days to 180 days. Now, to help the liquidity problems in the banking sector, the CBN, with the expanded discount window, allows the banks to present these short term instruments which the CBN will use as collateral to provide funds for them for repayment period of 365 days.” The source explained.

This option does not seem to have been effective, the Nigeria Inter Bank Official Rate, the rate at which banks lend themselves money, have continued to increase, spiking to as high as 21 percent last week. This may not be unconnected to the fact that just a few banks are in the position to lend money to needy banks. Fortune&Class Weekly reported last week that many banks chief executives continued to troop to First Bank Plc, to negotiate and secure funding to keep their operations going.

FINANCE MINISTER PETITIONED OVER CBN REVERSAL OF BANKS’ UNIFORM YEAR END

A corporate lawyer, Mr. Roy Bassey Ukoh and a forensic accountant, Mr. Ori Adeyemo, have, in a joint petition forwarded to the Minister of Finance, protested the reversal of the adoption of common year end by commercial banks as earlier directed by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The two petitioners said they were compelled to write to the Minister in the overall interest of the banking public and asked for the reversal of the cancellation of the uniform accounting year end for banks in Nigeria which, according to them should have started in December 2008.

Describing the earlier directive contained in CBN Circular No. BSD/DIR/CIR/GEN/VOL2/008 issued on August 25, 2008, as laudable, the petitioners insisted the CBN Governor made an unpardonable somersault of his laudable policy of making December 31 of each year, the uniform accounting year end for each bank starting December 31, 2008.

Stating that such change of policy is not in the best interest of the general public but a compromised attempt to serve the parochial interest of the banking cabal, who are the Managing Directors of the 24 banks operating in Nigeria in other to cover their apparent lapses, the petitioners argued that CBN rationalizing the cancellation of the directive to the desperate mobilization of deposits and which led to the hiking of interest rates by banks, according to the two petitioners is not accepted and grossly untenable.

“We consider both excuses given by the CBN Governor as totally unacceptable and crassly untenable. It further goes to confirm our unassailable conviction that the Nigerian banking industry is not only weak, in dire state of distress but also desperately needing surgical operations to survive irrespective of the spurious splendid financial results that these fraudulent banks churn out from time to time (in active collaboration with the CBN) all in order to continually deceive the gullible unsuspecting Nigerians to invest their hard-earned money in the thrash shares of these sinking banks.” The petitioners reasoned.

Making further assertions on the impropriety of the cancellation of the common year end for banks, the petitioners asserted that: “It is a classic endorsement that the consolidation of the banking industry which the CBN carried out on December 31, 2005 has irredeemably failed if after telling Nigerians that it now has mega-banks; these same banks are still in hot pursuit of deposits at whatever costs not also minding the fact that these same banks had gone to the capital market times without number to mobilize funds. The question now is: what has happened to all the billion of Naira mopped up by Nigerians banks from the capital market from year 2004 to date? Nigerians need to know.”

“The CBN Governor has always been aware that Nigerian banks have been defrauding their customers through the passage of spurious and illegal bank charges into the accounts of innocent customers thereby leaving behind unpaid debts leading to the deceitful foreclosures of collaterised assets of the customers or the settlement of bogus debts at extremely high costs. For the unfortunate ones, it has always been a tale of woes leading to the collapse of businesses, ill-health and sometimes paying the ultimate price of untimely death. To worsen matters, whenever a report of the nefarious and illicit actions of the banks is brought to the attention of the CBN; an illegal referral is made by the CBN to the committee of Ethics & Professionalism which is a sub-committee of the Bankers’ Committee made up wholly and exclusively of bankers with nobody protecting the interest of bank customers thereby making banks judges in their own case.” The petitioner further asserted.

Making further allegations, the petitioned observed that: “Another very important point to deliver is the fact that the CBN Governor is in the knowledge that banks have surreptitiously been stealing Federal and State Governments funds through non-remittance of 10% Withholding Tax on declared dividend as well as interest on deposits, 5% Value-Added-Tax (VAT) as well Personal Income Tax yet have blatantly refused to call them to order knowing fully well that by virtue of Section 3.2.5 of the CBN Monetary, Credit, Foreign Trade & Exchange Policy Circular No. 37 of January 02, 2004, it is the responsibility of the CBN to collect these deductions from the banks for and on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria within seven days of collection. The various excess and spurious bank charges clandestinely laid into the accounts of both arms of government all in a bid to defraud in billions of Naira cannot also be wished away.”

“As investigative accounting consultants, we are in the knowledge that the books of these Nigerian banks have all along been cooked and spiced accordingly in order to present fake excellent performances. A veritable way of doing this is to aggressively mobilize deposits at the adopted scattered year ends and also to temporarily put a stop to lending when the accounting year end of banks is near.

“The banking cabal has also made it a point to be shifting deposits among themselves in order to help out each other and they are aware that a uniform accounting year-end will put a final stop to this unwholesome malpractice.

Alluding to one of the reasons the common year end would have done the banking industry some good the petitioners observed that: “Nigerians will recall that prior to the announcement of the uniform accounting year end for banks; every bank in Nigeria was always celebrating any achievement that they can think of from the mundane to the unimaginable. At that time, it was commonplace to find banks celebrating best bank with highest deposit base, the first bank to deploy certain banking software in Nigeria, the first bank to hit the trillion Naira asset base, the bank with the highest turnover and all what not. However, we note that with the announcement of the common accounting year-end, all this rubbish has stopped.

“We must not forget the so-called compromised ratings given to banks by the foreign rating agencies based on the falsified financials published, which these banks would then celebrate as if they have won the football world cup. It was either the banks were awarded A+++++ or AAAAA or some stupid figures by their collaborating foreign rating agencies without looking at facts behind the figures published.

“We wholly support this uniform accounting year-end for banks since it will enable Nigerians and the whole world to be able to separate the chaff from the grains but this laudable and well-thought-out policy by the CBN is being killed before it is born and therefore every attempt must be made to stop the unwarranted and self-serving shift or cancellation of the uniform account year-end.”

“It cannot be disputed that the capital market in Nigeria has lost over N3.5 trillion due to depression with the Nigerian banks accounting for over N2 trillion thereof. You will also admit that this was what led the CBN to issue a guideline allowing the banks to reschedule margin accounts by at least one year. We sadly note that even with this understanding, the CBN is yet to fully inform Nigerians as to the extent of the loss incurred by the banks as a result of their participation vide gambling with depositors and investors monies in the capital market.

“Our submission is that with the full implementation of this uniform accounting year-end policy by the CBN; Nigerians will be able to know the healthy banks from unhealthy or dead-woods because as things currently stand, the adopted scattered year-ends gives latitude for fraudulent and creative accounting manipulations, which undoubtedly amounts to corrupt malpractices which the CBN is now advocating and encouraging through the back door.

“It is an understatement to say that if you are allowed to have your way by shifting or out-rightly canceling the uniform accounting year-end of these banks, you would have succeeded in postponing the doomsday, which would eventually come considering the whole lots of unwholesome and unprofessional malpractices being daily perpetuated by these banks unrestrained.

“We cannot but state once again that the financial state of these banks is in sordid state and the earlier that the CBN and the banks come clean to tell Nigerians the truth the better.” The petitioners concluded.

SENATE CAPITAL MARKET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN, GANIYU SOLOMON, CARPETS SEC, NSE AND CBN FOR LACK OF COORDINATION

very serious

Senator Solomon: very serious

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Capital Market, Senator Ganiyu Solomon has no soothing description for the nation’s capital and money markets regulatory authorities. In an interview monitored on AIT, Senator Solomon said the Securities and Exchange Commission have been at cross purpose with each directing and dispensing policies that are parallel to each other.

 

Senator Solomon said despite the easy excuse provided by the global financial market meltdown, it was obvious the Nigerian market was headed for trouble with the independent manners the regulatory authorities were conducting their supervisory roles in the markets.

“It is obvious that they are not coordinated” Senator Solomon said. “The three regulatory bodies are expected to consult with one another and agree on common ground before they make pronouncements on policy direction for the capital market and other related activities. But what you see is CBN saying one thing today and the SEC saying another tomorrow while the NSE takes another position the other day. It confuses investors and market operators.”

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Capital Market also questioned the surveillance capacity of the regulatory authorities:

“It is apparent that the surveillance capacity of the regulatory authorities is limited. It takes time before they react to issues and when they do, they react haphazardly.”

In response to the question of his personal opinion of the assurances of the insulation of the Nigerian financial and capital market to the global financial market crisis given by the Minister of Finance, the CBN Governor and the Minister for National Planning on the floor of the Senate, Senator Solomon said what the officials were trying to do was to merely calm the nerves and anxiety of Nigerians:

“What they are trying to do is just to allay fears” Senator Solomon said. “We all know that the world has shrunk to a global village so what affect a part of the world reflects in other parts of the world. You can see that oil prices have come down which is a fallout of the global crises this will definitely impact our economy. And again, we domicile our foreign reserve in dollar, this mean that if the value of the dollar falls it will affect the value of our foreign reserve. So there is no way we can be insulated from the global crisis.” Senator Solomon explained.

FRAUDULENT CREDITS HAUNT NIGERIAN BANKS -Industry Sources Warn

Despite continued assurances made by Central Bank of Nigeria’s Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo restating the healthy state of Nigerian banks, reliable banking industry sources have indicated otherwise.

The sources warn that many commercial banks’ risks exposure is quite high, this, the sources averred is responsible for the growing tension in banking operations in the country.

“Of course, most banks keep issuing spectacular financial results, declaring huge profit after tax. But we can tell you that all you see are mere accounts engineering for which financial sector regulatory authorities should be held responsible.

“It is unfortunate that the auditing processes of companies have not been criminalized, if they are, all the shenanigans happening in the banking sector would have been exposed. We can tell you that several banks have lost there shareholders funds. The same capitalised funds that the CBN Governor is hailing as the proactive measure of consolidation that have supposedly saved the Nigerian banking industry.

“But have you ever imagined to the dividends several banks declare at their year-end? If you look at their books properly, they morphed the supposed dividends in their assets account. Yet what the requirement is that funds attributable to dividend should be set aside and, indeed, forwarded to the registrars for onward delivery to shareholders.

What some of the banks do, however, is to transfer some funds to the registrars, which usually are under their direct supervision because they are the banks’ subsidiaries. The registrars just make a show of posting dividends, but then, what you will soon hear is unclaimed dividends. The truth is that the dividend warrants were not dispatched in the first sense.

“Again, So many concerned Nigerians are looking to commercial banks exposure to the stock market as the next likely cause of distress in the Nigerian banking industry, yes, we agree that the stock market may be a possibility, but more than the eventuality we expect from continued worries arising from banks’ risk exposure in the capital market is the heavy exposure to fraudulent credits granted to some highly rated Nigerian and foreign businessmen that have become more or less moribund.

“We can tell you of a celebrated businessman who owes several banks a total of about N412billion debt and as the days pass it is becoming increasingly impossible to recover the sum from him. Besides, there is another gentleman who recently stormed the petroleum products marketing sector. He secured a facility of more than N50billion to finance his diesel supply business and joined other top players in the market to slash price for competitive advantage. But now, the situation have turned bad for him, again it is becoming increasingly bad for him.

“A Nigerian branch of the group of companies owned by an Asian ranked in the list of the world’s ten richest people had on the strength of the track record of the wealthy individual behind the company wracked up about N92billion facility form different Nigerian banks. For this individual, the slide in the global financial market has badly affected his business empire that he is to talking about official bankruptcy. With such a situation what is obvious is that it would become near impossible to repay the facilities secured from Nigerian banks.

“We qualify most of the facilities so secured by these businessmen as fraudulent because the processes of securing are often compromised. We have investigated how conniving accounts officers of some of these banks compromise the whole process of risks and collateral valuation. These account officers are usually promised a percentage of the amount to be loaned out; they forward favourable reports to the management, again, there are members of the management who are insiders to these compromised processes; they easily approve the reports for their personal gains.

“What all these boil down to is that if the CBN Examiners properly conduct the review of the books of most of these banks as required, the revelations will be shocking. On this basis, we want to warn that depositors’ funds with several Nigerian banks are at risk. People should start becoming cautious as they relate with their banks. Just a small slip could cause a lot of damages to depositors’ funds.