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Rand Merchant Bank (RMB): African Risk is not Fairly Priced – Governments Should Take Advantage (By Miranda Abraham)

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RMB's Miranda Abraham says investors in Africa deserve to be fairly compensated for the risk they take

Rand Merchant Bank (RMB): African Risk is not Fairly Priced – Governments Should Take Advantage (By Miranda Abraham)

African banks and investors are desperate for assets and are very comfortable assessing and understanding sub investment grade African risk.

Yield-chasing investors have poured money into the continent but an emerging, recent challenge for Africa is that in a now higher interest rate environment, investors don’t need to come to Africa to find higher returns.

RMB's Miranda Abraham says investors in Africa deserve to be fairly compensated for the risk they take

Even US treasuries are now yielding far more attractive yields than just a month ago: 3-month government bonds offer 5.32% and while 2-year bonds offer a yield above 5%. Yields have risen in part in response to Fitch’s recent downgrade of the US from AAA to AA+, echoing S&P’s move in 2011.

African bond issuers, spooked by the high-interest rate environment and refusing to issue bonds above the psychological barrier of double-digit yields for Sub-Saharan African bonds, continue to wait it out on the sidelines.

But with interest rates continuing to climb, the wait-and-see strategy is no longer looking like a sensible approach. Issuers are running out of cash and the more stable and resilient syndicated loan market – with its heavily relationship-driven pricing, is increasingly proving to be an alluring alternative to the bond market.

African governments should therefore bring forward planned borrowing before the capital shifts away, as it is already starting to do, and the cost of borrowing rises further still.

The syndicated loan market is dominated by relationship banks, who will consciously and willingly price a loan at very low yields, in order to secure a lead mandate and lock in the ancillary opportunities and revenues that come with being a core relationship bank.

Banks do this knowing that they will also be able to persuade other relationship banks to join the deal as well. This is why syndicated loans always tend to price at a subsidized level when compared to bonds – where investors are more agnostic and definitely less loyal – focusing instead on the relative value of opportunities across the market.

However, while bond prices have skyrocketed, the loan market has hardly moved in terms of pricing. Yes, base rates are higher, resulting in higher all-in costs for borrowers, but on an all-in basis, when compared to bonds, issuing a syndicated loan is definitely the cheaper option for borrowers.

But why have African issuers managed to price debt at such attractive levels for so long?

There are three main reasons:

  • Finite supply: There is a limited supply of investable assets in Africa and those banks with an African focus are eager to support their key clients and to get exposure to the African market, which is seen as having strong growth potential.
  • Difficulties in assessing risk: It can be difficult to assess the credit risk of African borrowers. This is because there is less historical data available, and the political, legal and regulatory environment is often complex. Joining a syndicated loan or bond that has been oversubscribed and so carries the stamp of endorsement from the market can be an attractive solution to this challenge.
  • Those issuers that are active in the loan market tend to bring with them an array of other ancillary opportunities (e.g. IPO, Eurobond, and Advisory mandates), in a region where businesses that are succeeding are usually experiencing high growth.

So finite supply leads to fierce competition for these prestigious African clients and the fact that these credits are complex and difficult to understand exacerbates the problem.

As a result of these factors, African risk is often not being priced fairly. South Africa is a good example of how African risk can be underpriced. Despite losing its investment grade rating in 2017, South African corporates and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) continue to price their debt like they are in Western Europe. This is because there is a limited pool of opportunities for those banks that prefer to lend in ZAR to invest in.

Relationship pricing works for the banks because they are able to use the revenues from ancillary business to subsidize their commitment to the loan, but for regular investors (who are typically looking on an asset play basis) they can end up being short-changed. This means that investors may be taking on more risk than they realise, for a relatively low return.

However, instead of adjusting pricing upwards, the imbalance is being addressed another way – by adjusting risk.

Reducing the risk keeps pricing low and so address issuers concerns around paying double-digit yields.

Risk mitigation tools (in the form of ECA wraps, DFI guarantees or insurance wraps) are being embedded into loans and so while pricing remains low, investors improve their returns through adjusting the risk.

These type of credit risk mitigated deals, result in investment grade ratings, but with a substantial African premium. In the EUR 1bn Bank of Industry deal, BOI/AFC pays a yield of about 200bps versus an average yield of 75ps for an A3 rated credit in Europe. It is the only way for many international and European banks – who typically shy away from low BB or single B African risk – to fill their African buckets.

These investors have a whole world of investment opportunities available to them, from AAA through to single B risk, usually across the globe, so they can pick and choose their deals.  Consequently, in order to attract their investment into Africa, pricing on these credit enhanced deals has to be highly attractive relative to other similarly opportunities globally.

However for those emerging market investors or African banks focused on Africa, their return hurdle requirements mean that the credit enhanced deals do not work for them.

Instead, they are obliged to find African opportunities that represent real, uncovered African risk.  However, the market paralysis created by a difficult credit environment, combined with the fact that a large proportion of those deals that do come to market include some form of credit enhancement, means that the pool of deals offering pure, uncovered African risk is now much smaller.

And this is where supply and demand dynamics take over.

African banks and investors are desperate for assets and are very comfortable assessing and understanding sub investment grade African risk. However this dynamic of fewer deals but strong investor demand has led to plentiful pent up liquidity down the credit curve.

Ironically, once African investors get over the hurdle of higher return requirements (often driven by higher cost of funding) there is such relief that pricing works from a returns perspective, that they can then end up effectively under-pricing the actual credit risk. So we end up with BB- loans paying only 450bps versus BB average bond yields of 12%.

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BANKING

Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) works with World Bank in closing first to market MIGA guaranteed short-term sovereign loan

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Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) works with World Bank in closing first to market MIGA guaranteed short-term sovereign loan

Through collaboration with MIGA and the Minister of Economy and Finance for Côte d’Ivoire, RMB facilitated a short-term loan to support crucial trade related initiatives

Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) (www.RMB.co.za), a division of FirstRand Bank Limited, has achieved a significant milestone in Africa by partnering with the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), a member of the World Bank, to extend short-term funding support on a trade-backed facility for the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire.

Through collaboration with  MIGA and the Minister of Economy and Finance for Côte d’Ivoire, RMB facilitated a short-term loan to support crucial trade related initiatives.

Said Ben Bechet from RMB’s Trade and Working Capital, Structured Solutions team: “While RMB has a proud history of supporting sovereigns on the continent with their funding and capital markets requirements, this is a first of its kind facility for an African sovereign. This transaction will pave the way for further MIGA guaranteed short-term facilities across the continent to assist with developmental initiatives, critical projects and the importation of crucial goods such as food, fertilizer and medicines alongside other resources.”

Clarine Stenfert, Global Trade Finance Head and Head of UK for MIGA, said: “Through deep collaboration with RMB and MIGA, the teams were able to successfully structure and execute a process we hope to scale and introduce to other African countries. MIGA’s Trade Finance Guarantee Framework seeks to support sovereigns or sub-sovereigns across emerging markets with their trade financing requirements, alleviating the current liquidity constraints imposed by the current high inflationary environment and the retreat from markets by private sector players.”

MIGA provides political risk insurance guarantees to private sectors and investors in a broad range of sectors in developing  economies. MIGA promotes foreign direct investment into developing countries to support economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve people’s lives. MIGA fulfills this mandate by offering political risk insurance guarantees and credit enhancement to private sector investors and lenders.

“RMB’s strategy entails forging partnerships with insurance, guarantee and export credit agency providers to extend meaningful funding support to our clients across Africa. Collaboration with development financial institutions and multilaterals remains key to truly unlocking new opportunities to support our clients, concluded Bechet.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Rand Merchant Bank.

About RMB:
Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) is a leading African corporate and investment bank (CIB) and part of the largest financial services group (by market capitalisation) in Africa – FirstRand Bank Limited (which is wholly owned by FirstRand Limited). We offer our clients innovative, value-added advisory, funding, trading, corporate banking, and principal investing solutions.
With a presence in 10 African countries, we have a significant footprint on the continent. We also have access to a network of retail banks, representative offices and branches across Africa, the UK, India and the US.

At RMB we are passionate about solving problems for our clients by asking the hard questions. We challenge accepted thinking. We analyse and seek solutions beyond the obvious. We are innovative in our thinking and turn challenges into opportunities, while delivering on Traditional values. Innovative ideas. Our ability to think differently, our collaborative spirit, our client-centric solutions and our belief that great minds don’t always have to think alike, is what sets us apart.

For more information visit: www.RMB.co.za

About MIGA:
MIGA was created in 1988 as a member of the World Bank to promote foreign direct investment in emerging economies by helping to mitigate the risks of restrictions on currency conversion and transfer, breach of contract by governments, expropriation, and war and civil disturbance; and offering credit enhancement to private investors and lenders. Since its creation, MIGA has issued over $76 billion in guarantees across 123 developing countries, supporting more than 1,000 projects. Over the past decade, MIGA’s guarantees have generated more than 156,000 jobs in developing countries.

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Equatorial Guinea and Ghana Accede to the Establishment Agreement for Afreximbank’s Fund for Export Development in Africa (FEDA)

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The Fund for Export Development in Africa (FEDA), the development impact-focused subsidiary of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) (www.Afreximbank.com), has announced that the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Ghana have recently signed the FEDA Establishment Agreement.

This important milestone is the result of several months of cooperation between Afreximbank, FEDA and government officials in Equatorial Guinea and Ghana.

As Afreximbank member states, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana have taken another step towards closer collaborations with FEDA by signing the FEDA Establishment Agreement. This milestone marks the countries’ support for Afreximbank’s efforts to extend FEDA’s impact investing objectives across the continent.

New memberships are crucial to broaden the scope of FEDA’s interventions and its mission of delivering long-term capital to African economies with a focus on industrialization, intra-African trade and value-added exports.

Professor Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank and Chairman of the Boards of both Afreximbank and FEDA, said: “We heartily welcome the signing of the FEDA Establishment Agreement by the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Ghana. The signing of the FEDA Establishment Agreement lays the groundwork for an enhanced and more effective cooperation with better access to the full range of interventions offered by Afreximbank and FEDA. This milestone builds on the solid partnership already established with both Equatorial Guinea and Ghana. The aim is to support transformative investments in these countries in the near future.”

About FEDA:
The Fund for Export Development in Africa (“FEDA”) is the impact investment subsidiary of Afreximbank set up to provide equity, quasi-equity, and debt capital to finance the multi-billion-dollar funding gap (particularly in equity) needed to transform the Trade sector in Africa. FEDA pursues a multi-sector investment strategy along the intra-African trade, value-added export development, and manufacturing value chain which includes financial services, technology, consumer and retail goods, manufacturing, transport & logistics, agribusiness, as well as ancillary trade enabling infrastructure such as industrial parks.

About Afreximbank:
African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) is a Pan-African multilateral financial institution mandated to finance and promote intra-and extra-African trade. For 30 years, the Bank has been deploying innovative structures to deliver financing solutions that support the transformation of the structure of Africa’s trade, accelerating industrialization and intra-regional trade, thereby boosting economic expansion in Africa. A stalwart supporter of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Afreximbank has launched a Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS) that was adopted by the African Union (AU) as the payment and settlement platform to underpin the implementation of the AfCFTA. Working with the AfCFTA Secretariat and the AU, the Bank is setting up a US$10 billion Adjustment Fund to support countries to effectively participate in the AfCFTA. At the end of September 2023, Afreximbank’s total assets and guarantees stood at over US$33.4 billion, and its shareholder funds amounted to US$5.8 billion. The Bank disbursed more than US$104 billion between 2016 and 2023. Afreximbank has investment grade ratings assigned by GCR (international scale) (A), Moody’s (Baa1), Japan Credit Rating Agency (JCR) (A-) and Fitch (BBB). Afreximbank has evolved into a group entity comprising the Bank, its impact fund subsidiary called the Fund for Export Development Africa (FEDA), and its insurance management subsidiary, AfrexInsure, (together, “the Group”). The Bank is headquartered in Cairo, Egypt.

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Financial Analysis: A Comprehensive Study of The Well-Being of A Country 

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Financial Analysis: A Comprehensive Study of The Well-Being of A Country

Understanding the financial stability of a country requires a thorough understanding of financial analysis. In order to offer insights into the overall financial stability and overall wellness of the country, it entails evaluating a range of economic indicators, financial performance, and market movements.

In this article, we will delve into the fundamentals and importance of financial analysis in evaluating a country’s economic situation.

THE HISTORY ABOUT FINANCIAL ANALYSIS

Ancient Beginnings:

The roots of financial analysis can be traced back thousands of years. The ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, and Greeks were among the pioneers of documenting financial transactions, creating basic records of assets and liabilities. These early attempts laid the groundwork for the concept of financial analysis through the study of financial statements and ledgers.

Medieval Europe:

During the Middle Ages, Europe witnessed the rise of merchant guilds and the emergence of double-entry bookkeeping. Italian mathematician and Franciscan friar, Luca Pacioli, is often credited with formalizing double-entry bookkeeping, publishing his seminal work “Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalita” in 1494. The concept of balancing debits and credits within financial records formed the basis for modern financial analysis techniques.

Industrial Revolution:

The Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries revolutionized business and the need for financial analysis grew rapidly. As companies expanded and diversified, investors began demanding more comprehensive financial reports to assess the potential risks and returns of their investments. The birth of limited liability companies further accelerated the need for financial analysis, as shareholders sought transparency in the performance of their investments.

Modern Era:

The 20th century witnessed significant advancements in financial analysis techniques. The advent of electronic computing in the mid-1900s enabled the processing and analysis of vast amounts of financial data, leading to the development of sophisticated financial models and ratios.

The Great Depression of the 1930s laid the groundwork for modern financial analysis as regulators sought effective ways to prevent future economic crises. The establishment of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1934 brought about standardized reporting requirements, including the filing of audited financial statements. This increased transparency and standardized financial reporting provided analysts with a more accurate and consistent basis for their analysis.

The Rise of Quantitative Analysis:

In the latter half of the 20th century, the growth of computing power and the availability of large data sets propelled financial analysis into new territory. Quantitative analysis, utilizing statistical models and mathematical algorithms, started gaining prominence. Financial analysts began incorporating complex mathematical methods to assess investment opportunities, risk management, and portfolio optimization.

Modern Financial Tools:

With the advent of the internet and the digital age, financial analysis has become even more accessible and data-driven. Sophisticated software programs, data analytics tools, and artificial intelligence have revolutionized the way financial data is analyzed and interpreted. In recent years, technologies like machine learning have been leveraged to develop predictive models that can assess future trends and make accurate financial forecasts.

MEANING

Financial analysis is the process of evaluating businesses, projects, budgets, and other finance-related transactions to determine their performance and suitability. Typically, financial analysis is used to analyze whether an entity is stable, solvent, liquid, or profitable enough to warrant a monetary investment.

Financial analysis is a fundamental tool that allows organizations and individuals to assess the past, present, and future financial health of a business or investment. Through a systematic examination and interpretation of financial statements, ratios, and other key indicators, financial analysis helps in making informed decisions, optimizing resources, and improving overall financial performance. In this article, we will delve into the meaning of financial analysis, its prominent components, and its significance across various sectors.

Financial analysis involves scrutinizing financial data to evaluate the performance and profitability of an entity. It assists in quantifying the effectiveness of financial decisions, identifying trends, predicting future outcomes, and benchmarking against industry standards. By analyzing financial statements, investors, analysts, and other stakeholders gain valuable insights into the financial position, liquidity, solvency, and operational efficiency of an organization.

FUNDAMENTALS OF FINANCIAL ANALYSIS IN A COUNTRY

  1. Gross Domestic Product (GDP): GDP is a primary indicator used to gauge the economic performance of a nation. Financial analysts analyze GDP growth rates and its components, such as consumer spending, government expenditure, investments, and net exports. This analysis helps in determining the overall strength of the economy and identifying areas of potential growth.
  2. Trade and Balance of Payments: Trade analysis focuses on a country’s imports, exports, and balance of payments. Evaluating trade patterns helps identify sectors driving the country’s economic growth, trade imbalances, and potential risks to the economy from external factors such as changes in global demand or disruptions in supply chains.
  3. Inflation and Interest Rates: Analyzing inflation rates and interest rates provides insights into the stability of a country’s economy. High inflation erodes purchasing power, while high-interest rates can impact borrowing costs, affect consumer spending, and investment behavior. Financial analysts assess the impact of inflation and interest rates on an economy’s overall competitiveness and economic growth potential.
  4. Government Debt and Fiscal Policy: Analyzing a country’s government debt levels and fiscal policy is crucial in understanding its financial sustainability. A high level of government debt may lead to increased borrowing costs, reduced investor confidence, and potential risks to economic stability. Evaluating fiscal policies helps determine whether a country is managing its finances effectively and implementing sustainable economic growth strategies.
  5. Stock Market Performance: The stock market reflects investor sentiment and provides valuable insights into a country’s economic outlook. Analysts evaluate key stock market indices, such as the country’s primary exchange, sector-specific indices, and market capitalization trends. Monitoring stock market performance allows for an understanding of investor confidence, economic growth expectations, and potential risks to the financial system.
  6. Banking Sector and Financial Institutions: A robust banking sector is essential for economic stability. Financial analysts assess the health of the banking system by evaluating indicators such as non-performing loans, capital adequacy ratios, and the overall stability and soundness of financial institutions. Understanding the well-being of financial institutions helps gauge the potential risks to the overall economy, including credit availability, liquidity, and financial contagion.
  7. Regulatory Environment and Governance: The regulatory environment and governance play a critical role in attracting investment and fostering economic growth. Financial analysts assess the effectiveness of regulatory frameworks, transparency in financial transactions, and the overall credibility and efficiency of institutions responsible for enforcing regulations. Evaluating the regulatory environment aids in understanding potential risks and opportunities for sustainable economic development.

SIGNIFICANCE OF FINANCIAL ANALYSIS IN A COUNTRY

Financial analysis plays a vital role across various sectors, serving the following purposes:

  1. Evaluating Financial Performance: By conducting a comprehensive financial analysis, companies can assess their performance, profitability, and financial stability. This, in turn, helps in identifying areas for improvement, developing strategic plans, and making sound financial decisions.
  2. Assessing Investment Viability: Investors rely on financial analysis to evaluate the profitability and risks associated with potential investments. Through detailed scrutiny of financial data, investors can determine the financial health and growth prospects of a company, aiding in making informed investment decisions.
  3. Facilitating Lending Decisions: Financial institutions utilize financial analysis to assess the creditworthiness of loan applicants. By analyzing financial statements, evaluating ratios, and assessing the risk profile, lenders can ascertain the borrower’s ability to repay loans and make sound lending decisions.
  4. Supporting Strategic Decision-Making: Financial analysis aids in strategic decision-making, such as expansion, diversification, or mergers and acquisitions. Understanding a company’s financial position and performance provides a foundation for evaluating the feasibility and potential outcomes of such decisions.

CONCLUSION

Conducting a comprehensive financial analysis provides valuable insights into the economic landscape of a country. By evaluating indicators such as GDP, trade patterns, inflation rates, government debt, stock market performance, banking sector health, and regulatory environment, financial analysts can gauge the overall financial health, identify potential risks, and recommend strategies for sustainable economic growth. Accurate and timely financial analysis acts as a compass, guiding policymakers, investors, and businesses to make informed decisions and contribute to the overall prosperity of the nation.

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