Thursday, April 29, 2010

Make voting mandatory

I am ashamed when I read people of my generation who say they won't bother voting. I worry when I read that only 55-60% of people vote in Kenya and less in developed countries. Part of it is a lack of history. Most of the people who died or were detained without trial in the 80s and early 90s in Kenya did so while agitating for the right to be able to vote for people they wanted to lead this nation. That is the emotional part.
If you work, run own business, invest or own property, you pay tax. That is unless you are not on the tax avoidance thang.
If you pay for your groceries, you check they are green enough. If you pay for your car, you check steering, brakes, accelerator, cromes et al. And you pay more in your ta,x (30% every month of your income) than for all these other things part from may be your home. Its not just intelligent, but right that you care about how what you've earned with your sweat is spent. Your vote may even change how and when you are taxed. Vote because whoever you choose will decide how your money is spent.
After 2007, some may say your vote was stolen. It wasn't because everybody in Kenya is in GoK and we have all now learnt a few things. Like? Most politicians in Kenya are the same and it'll require us to reassess whether its presidents/tribes/personalities we vote for. Or ISSUES. The katiba debate is encouraging in that respect. Your vote is your way of saying you are engaged in what is happening in your country.
For those of us who are prayerful. Paul spoke about how prayer alone may not be enough without action which represents our faith in something happening. If you have faith that God will give us good leaders, put it into practice by voting for those good leaders!

Monday, April 26, 2010

NSE @ 6,000 a possibility in 2011

In 2007, when the NSE last reached 6,000, Kenya's economy was growing at around 7%. 2008 was 2-3% and 2009 was similarly anaemic. This year, God's favor in form of good and continuous rains mean that we are almost guaranteed 4-5% growth this year. Next year, with God's favor with the rain, we can touch 7% again assuming that we don't get into any early 2012 political skirmishes.

Because we never entered a recession in 2008-9, the economy has continued to grow and thus I believe we are poised higher in the NSE.

The private sector manufacturer and service firms should be announcing firmer or better than expected results for Q1 2010. By extension, financials which took non-performing loan hits due to PEV in 2008 and drought in 2009, will now see the upside in their balance sheets for which they've been restrained in growing.

All the above, plus the artificially lowered lending rates portend a higher NSE.
The key supporting point is 4,800 which we need to touch in 2010 so we can launch higher in 2011.

Which stocks?
Equity- we all acknowledge the step into IB was unclever. Not so Uganda and South Sudan businesses. Uganda ofcourse has oil and despite M7's re-election in 2011, its economy will continue a north-bound journey. South Sudan goes for a certain independence referendum in 2011. Both will support the upturn in Kenya's economy still Equity's bread and butter.
Centum- I think its a transformative time for this investment firm and James Mworia hasn't put a foot wrong yet. Getting into Carbacid when he did and breaking its logjam to allow trading resumption at NSE was a masterstroke. Exiting RVR and writing off the investment in advance all mean good thangs for full year 2009/10 (announcement due soon) and going forward.
I also fancy some manufacturing exposure to the likes of Crown Berger, Carbacid all which do well in an upturning economy.

Downside risks: as mentioned, any early 2012 campaigns will remind investors (specifically foreigners) that a new leader is due in 2012 and create tension. Another drought will have a similar impact to 2009.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Greece debt mess from unbalanced economy- can Kenya learn?

Greece's debt crisis which may lead to a complete economic collapse is as much about profligate spending as it is is about an unbalanced economy.

A balanced economy is made up of 3 key pillars whose relationship can be summed by this equation;

a - b + c = flourishing economy

a - is the private sector whose growth is a must as it effectively generates the required tax revenue that is taken by the
b - government/public sector and used to finance various types of infrastructure from judiciary to roads
c - is the external flows in form of investments; loans/grants and aid

From the above equation, its clear that if you have a huge or growing public sector then the either financing will come from either external flows or a faster growing private sector. In any case, whether the cash is coming from the private sector or external flows, in a recession, neither will be able to sustain the huge or growing public. Even in normally growing economy (neither too fast nor too slow), a huge or public sector will eventually stall the economy. A time will therefore come when massive cuts in the pubic sector spending have to be undertaken. But, typically, the public sector employee unions tend to be the most well organised and resistant to change. Public sector can be used as a patronage system rewarding supporters of current regimes with jobs.

Greece is a typical case of the above happening. The public sector accounts for 40% of its GDP! In effect this is almost non-productive resource being used without concurrent growth in the economy. In a recession, public spending would need to be reduced and this can be a problem where the unions are well organised.

While Kibaki's govt has made giant strides in reducing govt spending by for example privatising various parastatals, its also clear that since 2007, spending has gone awry with deficits recorded every year and the 42 heavy cabinet doesn't help in this respect.

Einstein said intelligent is measured by how well you learn from mistakes and it is hoped Kenyans can do so from the Greece debt crisis.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Equity/HFCK boardroom myths; Mpesa in the UK

Despite all the talent and research time at their finger tips, both DN and Standard seem to have missed out on the fact that the Equity/Britak/Jimnah Mbaru fraternity owns 35%+ of HFCK. Basically, the 3 hold a controlling interest in HFCK. That they'd seek to have a BoD that is more amenable to their interests is no surprise. Is it wrong to do so? Not in Kenya. Note that unlike in the West where there are clear guidelines on the composition of Board of Directors and corporate governance generally, in Kenya, CMA/CBK/NSE are all silent on BoD. Hence, a lot of what happens in Corporate Kenya in terms of composition and BoD rules is copied from the West purely in the same way that we have democracy without the context. However, there should be rules that state that of the third non-executive directors, some should be non-shareholders.

Mpesa is in the UK. Not quite in the same, all path-blazing way that it has been in motherland, but more in an experimental manner. Of the 8 or so publicised agents in Greater London, only two were working the other day, and neither had a float to sustain a £250 send. Contrast that with Western Union or general banking presence. However, assuming you are sending school fees plus lets say farmer workers salary and need to do so urgently, then its recommended you use the Mpesa service. It costs £4 for anything upto £150 (compared to £21 with Western Union and £2 via normal bank) and will be with recipient's phone in Khayega in minutes (compared to 3 days for banks). Provident Capital have licensed some agents (the only operative one is E2 East Ham).

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

What lending rate should we be seeing from Kenyan banks?

The last 6 months have seen wailing pleas from CBK governors and media types calling for lower bank loan rates. Much have of it has been emotive/subjective.

Although there are many factors that are considered when deciding on the the correct loan rate, 3 are key. Cost of borrowing; return on capital; loan quality.
  1. Cost of borrowing: Quite simply, a bank is gets its money from 3 sources in order of quantity; depositors, lenders and shareholders. The lenders will typically charge some internationally priced rate and shareholders are covered below. If you look at a typical Kenyan bank's balance sheet, you'll note that the largest two single items are deposits and loans. While we are can talk about the desirable type of depositor (i.e. raia like you and me who are seen as far more stickier than corporate or other financial entities), the key consideration here is the rate depositors require before they can deposit with a typical Kenyan bank. That is, the rate they lend to the bank. Per CBK, the current average deposit rate is 4.89%; typical savings rate is much lower at 1.81% and finally the interbank rate is 2.17% (its unusual for the interbank rate to be so much lower than the CBK rate in itself a sign of some dysfunctional issues). So Kenyan banks are paying 489 basis points for deposits. They are then not going to charge bank loans at anything less than 4.89% and possibly more if their borrowing from abroad (i) attracted higher interest rates and (ii) is a significant portion of their borrowing. We've overlooked the maturity mismatch issue i.e. the bank is borrowing short (you as a depositor can withdraw your funds at any time) but lending long-term (a bank can't take back its loan tomorrow). So lets say 5.5% to breakeven against cost of borrowing. But is this real cost of borrowing? What about staff costs, administration costs (IT, branches) et al. I'd say add 50bps. Thus arrive at 6%.
  2. Return on capital: A bank has many stakeholders, but the shareholder is the key one as they can guarantee continuity from a regulatory and financial perspective. The bank's lending rate must therefore reflect the shareholder's desired rate of return on his/er capital to keep their capital with the bank. Straightaway, you'll note that the shareholder wants the regular income in form of dividend and eventually in form of capital gains. A potential shareholder (note not a speculator), will want to keep his/er capital with a bank share for say 2 to 3 years. He/she doesn't know what may happen in those 2/3 years i.e. the risk is high, but at the end of it they'll want a return on the principal and reward in form of gains or income for keeping the cash there. The alternative would be to stick the same cash in a t-bill and earn minimum 8.75% per year with guaranteed principal protection. The bank has to deliver an annual income of no less than 8.75%, guarantee the shareholder's principal by ensuring growth in shareprice and reward the shareholder for sleepless nights. Lets say we are now at 10%.
  3. Loan quality: In Kenya, a bank historically relied on quality of collateral in form of a clean title deed. Many banks have learned painfully that (a) title deed may not be legit (b) may not mean much if there has to be recourse to the courts where you are asked to form an orderly queue at case number 900,001. Other forms of collateral such as shares; guarantors are costly to enforce. Secondily, the other way you judge the quality of your loan book is to have borrowers that don't already have 5 other loans. In Kenya, its not possible to tell this because credit scoring started this year and of course banks didn't share customer information. The risk of lending and guaranteeing that the loan will not go bad has to be rewarded. Add another 300bps to the 10%. Therefore 13% borrowing rate.