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Imminent shake-up in MTN over Nigerian crisis

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MTN Group crisis in Nigeria may cost some high-ranking executives their job. Africa’s largest wireless carrier by sales continues to battle the $10. 134 billion allegation, which is a combination of $2 billion unpaid tax arrears and $8.134 billion alleged funds repatriation out of the country between 2007 and 2015, which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has asked it to refund to government coffers.

Chief Innovation Officer at MTN Group, Herman Singh, is expected to leave soon and will move on to start his own tech venture, according to close sources who asked not to be mentioned as the information hasn’t been made public. The exit will come as the Chief Technology Officer, Babak Fouladi, prepares to join Dutch telecommunications firm, KPN NV, in a similar role next week.

MTN confirmed Fouladi’s departure, which was announced by Rotterdam-based KPN earlier this month. But Singh has declined to comment.

According to Bloomberg, the executives are leaving after a three-year period of considerable turmoil at MTN. The $5.2 billion fine in Nigeria in 2015 embroiled MTN in 10 months of negotiations and prompted a management overhaul. Earlier this year, authorities in Nigeria announced another round of multi-billion-dollar demands.

The stock has halved over the period, valuing the carrier at 169 billion rands ($12.2 billion). That’s even as demand for data services in Africa booms and MTN expands in fast-growing services such as mobile money. The company agreed to a partnership with Orange SA last week to ease payments across the continent, Bloomberg said yesterday.

The shares of MTN Group declined a further 2 per cent yesterday to 88 rands as of 1.13 p.m. in Johannesburg, which is the steepest fall in a week.

MTN Chief Executive Officer, Rob Shuter, was hired from Vodafone Group Plc two years ago in the wake of the first Nigeria penalty, which was eventually settled for about $1 billion. Fouladi was lured from the same company later that year. Singh, formerly with MTN’s crosstown rival Vodacom Group Limited, was appointed in 2015.

Another high-ranking executive, Stephen Van Coller, left MTN at the end of August to take the helm of technology firm EOH Holdings Limited. Originally hired as head of mergers and acquisitions, the former investment banker was moved to run digital services before quitting less than two years into his tenure.

 

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Banking sector gains amidst election uncertainty

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The stock market in the last two weeks remained resilience as investors recorded a gain of N326 billion in banking stocks. Some market analysts had believed investors should trade cautiously in Emefiele the short to medium term, as sell-offs are likely to persist, amidst the growing political and security tension of the general polls.

Checks by New Telegraph revealed that the stocks recorded a gain of N326 billion or 11.94 percent to close at N3.103 trillion in market capitalization in the last two weeks of February 2019 (between 1st and 15th February) as against an opening figure of N2,777 trillion at the beginning of trading on February 1.

Further investigation revealed that activities on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) which opened the trading month at N11.394 trillion in market capitalization and 30.557.20 in index points at the beginning of trading on February 1, 2019, closed on February 15, 2019 at N12.200 trillion and 32,715.20 index points, hence has earned a gain of about N806 billion or 7.07 per cent.

The index fell to 29,336 points last month, its lowest since May 2017, and lost 17.8 per cent last year as uncertainty around the elections and rate rises in the United States triggered fund outflows from Nigeria. Investors, however, have begun to pick up shares to position for a post-election rally, which experts believe could help lift Nigeria’s share index to more than 35,000 points this year from around 32,715.20 recorded last Friday. FXTM Research Analyst, Mr. Lukman Otunuga said that the Nigerian equities market has repeatedly displayed resilience against both external and domestic risks since the start of 2019.

He noted that the combination of bargain hunting and growth optimism are likely to push domestic stocks higher ahead of the presidential elections. Otunga, who stated this in a report sent to New Telegraph, said investor optimism over government spending boosting domestic growth has continued to support appetite for risk in Nigeria with the All-Share Index moving higher. “It has been a positive trading week for the Nigerian stock market with the All-Share Index pushing higher despite U.S.-China trade talks, pessimism denting global risk sentiment. “Away from macro fundamentals, the presidential elections will be in sharp focus. Whatever the election outcome, it will have a strong impact on the Nigerian economy. “Confidence over the health of the nation has the potential to receive another welcome boost if next week’s GDP figures for Q4 meet or exceed market expectations.

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Kuwait to give Africa $2 billion

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The Ambassador of the State of Kuwait to Nigeria, Abdulaziz Albisher, has said that the Emir of Kuwait has approved $2 billion as grants and concessionary loans to African countries.

He said the loans, reserved for investment and development, will be spread over five years.

Besides, the envoy said that Kuwait has initiated another Annual Prize of $1 million for researches and research projects on agriculture, health, and Ebola eradication.

Mr. Albisher, who made the disclosures at a pre-58th National Day interaction with select media in Abuja, urged African nations to take advantage of the loan facility.

He said: “Kuwait has always had Africa at heart, that need not to be underlined, for it fashioned numerous contributions and initiatives meant to enhance Africa’s development. The presence of my government`s developmental efforts is well recognized.

“Let me first of all throw the light on the Arab-African Summit held in Kuwait during which His Highness, the Emir of the State of Kuwait gave his directive to the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development to facilitate grants and concessionary loans to African countries to the tune of $2 billion reserved for investment and development spread over five years.

“It (the $2 billion) is meant to support the efforts of the African countries towards realizing their developmental aspiration in various fields, particularly infrastructure. As this initiative is to be executed through the Kuwait Fund it goes through legal procedures.

“In line with the interest of His Highness on Africa, he attended the 19th African Union Summit held in Ethiopia as a guest of honors where he offered to well equip the then newly built African Union Secretariat.

“The same summit witnessed granting the State of Kuwait membership to the African Union in the capacity of an observer.”

Albisher also informed that Kuwait has set aside another $1 million annually for researches in agriculture, health interventions and Ebola eradication, among others.

He added: “Let me also make mention that the Emir of the state of Kuwait has also announced the intention of his country to grant an Annual Prize of one $1 million U.S. in the memory of late Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sumit.

“This prize is meant for development researches and research projects in agriculture, health and Ebola eradication. This prize is under the auspices of Kuwait Scientific Institution and the theme for the 2019 prize is food security.”

On his assessment of Nigeria, Albisher said it has the potentials of emerging as one of the best economies in the world.

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External reserves hit $43 billion

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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Thursday said it expected further stability in the foreign exchange market in 2019, banking on the decision of the US Federal Reserve not to hike interest rate in the near future.

The apex bank added that the stability currently being enjoyed in the FX market had boosted the country’s external reserves to over $43 billion.

This is coming as the Bankers’ Committee has identified the creative industry and IT sectors as critical sectors to support social and inclusive growth in the country and was considering single-digit credit for the sectors.

CBN Director of Development Finance, Mr. Mudashiru Olaitan, explained that the reports that the US Federal Reserve will not raise rates was particularly good for emerging economies, including Nigeria as it means that the dollar is not going to strengthen against our currency.

“So, when we already have stability in our foreign exchange market, that is good news that is going to help stability,” he said.

Addressing journalists yesterday, alongside other banks chief executives at the end of the 342nd meeting of the Bankers’ Committee in Abuja, he said the committee deliberated on the global slowdown in economy, the downward growth projection by the IMF in 2019, partly as a result of the China, US trade tariffs war as well as Brexit.

However, he said the latest GDP growth figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which showed the economy posted 2.38 per cent growth in the fourth quarter of last year offered some cheerful news for the country, stressing that the country’s economy forecast for the year looked impressive.

Also, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, said the committee identified the creative industry and IT sector as critical sectors to support social and inclusive growth in the country.

He said the nature of financing would be long term debt at reasonable interest rates which could be as low as five per cent.

He said: “The nature of funding will be by way of long term debt at reasonable interest rates- far in single digits, it is not 10 per cent, not nine per cent; it could be within the range of five per cent, which is quasi-equity if you look.

“Again, as part of talent development, and huge population which needs to be educated in IT or movies, people need to pay to use these academies.

“What the industry is going to do is provide soft loans for most of these people, with very little equity at least to show participation because you don’t want to create a moral hazard- so they can use it, pay for these infrastructure, develop their talents and as they work, they can pay back those loans.

“So, that is broadly the mode of intervention, very unusual but enough to ensure that at the end of the day, we will all have huge levels of skills and talent being developed in millions to ensure that at the end of the day, this will affect our GDP growth rate and our earnings.”

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Stock market gains N712 billion

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The stock market has continued to display resilience as investors recorded a gain of N712 billion in seven days of trading.

The market, which declined in 2018 due to negative investor sentiment ahead of the general election and capital flow reversals, had ended January 2019 with negative performance.
However, renewed demand due to investors’ moves to take advantage of low prices led to a gain of N712 billion in seven days. Specifically, the market capitalization, which stood at N11.394 trillion at the end of January, rose to N12.106 trillion on Tuesday. This translated to a gain of 6.2 percent.

The market rally coming few days to the presidential elections, according to experts indicates that investors have ignored the election ‘noise’ to take advantage of low prices to increase their stakes in the market.

Nigerian stocks are significantly lowly priced after a bout of persistent decline that began in February 2018 and lasted to the end of January 2019. As at the end of January 2019, the Nigerian stock market main gauge, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) All-Share Index, was 2.7 percent negative, showing that many stocks were trading below their year’s opening values. But the South Africa market was 2.6 per cent positive, Kenya market 7.0 percent positive and Ghana’s market was 2.6 percent positive also.

The gains posted in the first days of February may not, however, have come as a surprise as some analysts have expected it. Analysts at FSDH Research had said political considerations, rising global yields ad increased yields on fixed income securities in Nigeria led to a reallocation of portfolio away from equities market, hence the decline in January.

But looking into February, FSDH Research they expected some positive performance.

“We expect savvy investors to take strategic positions in the months leading to an expected recovery in the second quarter of 2019. Despite the overall decline in January, we have seen pockets of this positioning over the months and expect to see further examples in February,” they said.

While the stock market comes with volatilities, investors stand to record significant gains provided they understand the market and have good investment objectives.

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