Monday, September 20, 2010

NSE on track for a 4,800 finish

As previously mentioned, I believe that barring another drought, the NSE will reach 6,000 in 2011 before a slight dip in 2012 to allow for the general election. To do so, it'll have to hit and stay above 4,800 during 2010.
Up to now the NSE has been driven by a combination of emotions primarily derived from the political theatre; economic fundamentals which are driven by rain or no rain and foreign interest which tends to be driven by how Western economies are performing.
  • With the katiba referendum successfully out of the way, the only other chink in the political armour might be the ICC investigations, but I see those getting bogged down mainly because this GoK doesn't have the cojones to deal with impunity. Thus no nervous investors.
  • Economic fundamentals: The structure of our economy is such that domestic demand plays the key role in the economy's outturn. Domestic demand is driven by disposable income and credit build-up. Disposable income is derived from income less taxation (which is fairly constant) less BAU spend. This BAU spend can be very volatile especially if prices of daily supplies go up. They did in 2008 and the NSE tanked. Once it started raining, Kenyans could spend more on investing and savings. More importantly manufacturers could see returns on their investments, thus economy starting growing again. Should rains continue in later 2010 and early 2011, NSE will search 5300 by March 2011.
  • Western economies: Are set for a low growth until 2012 at least. This maybe to NSE's advantage as many fund managers such for alpha will have to go beyond over-priced commodities and buying bonds from heavily indebted sovereigns.
  • IPOs: This is not really a driver but tends to be a firm signal that the NSE is buoyant and on the up. So far, KenGen's OSF, NSE IPO, the IPo by the baker, NBK's OSF have all been talked about but not delivered. By my reckoning, the NSE needs 75 counters to really catch the imagination of joeblogg type of Western funds. Nobody wants to pay a P/E of 15+ and having a few more counters will drive P/Es to attractive levels.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Charterhouse bank - the money-launderer's dream bank

Charterhouse bank cost a CBK governor (Andrew Mullei) his job. It also led his obvious successor, Jacinta Mwatela missing out on the job. Several people involved in investigating the bank either had to flee for their lives or their careers were ruined. Its crimes:
  • Money laundering: In any story you read about money laundering in Kenya, one of the best examples you get is that of Crucial properties which held a foreign currency account with Charterhouse bank. The company owned by among others Humphrey Kariuki (Wines of the World; Dalbit Petroleum and I think former proprietor of Green Corner in Nai) was investigated by CBK after it received $25m from either Leichstein or Jersey (depends who you ask). CBK reckoned this was drug money. Charterhouse refused to provide details and the whole thing went to court. The judge allowed Charterhouse to go scot free. In the meantime, the CBK team doing investigations discovered that Charterhouse had like 200 customers with 20,000 accounts. Many lacked basic know-your-customer information, but were clearly opened for the the purpose of layering where you disguise the source of your money by making multiple transactions into different accounts. That money-laundering only became illegal in Kenya this year is neither here nor there. When CBK delved it discovered the following other crimes none which have ever been successfully prosecuted because CB and related players pay well.
  • Tax evasion: Charterhouse helped Nakumatt (had a 10% stake in CB), to effectively under-declare it sales which meant that its tax payments to GoK were something like Ksh50m compared to Ksh500m for the smaller Uchumi! Effectively, Nakumatt and associates had not paid taxes amounting to Ksh18bn going by the CBK findings. How? Suppliers were paid into their CB accounts where they would either ship the money abroad or shift into several other accounts within CB. When KRA came, it started chasing the account holders. Those cases are still pending.
  • Large exposure breaches: Means nothing to most of us, but most banks that have either been conduits of crime or played with the idea of collapsing always do so because they breach larg exposure requirements. In layman terms, no one customer should more than 25% of a bank's loans or deposits. Reason being, if the customer collapses and goes to heaven tomorrow, the bank will more or less follow (though presumably not to heaven). Nakumatt and associates probably did something like 50% of all CB's business. CB also broke banking rules on lending to employees;
Why did Charterhouse survive to awake now as its threatening to do? The owners of CB are well connected characters.

Fuller details here.

Monday, September 06, 2010

County Kenya - making your county viable

I see counties working only if they tick 4 boxes:

Financial control:
The world over local governance fails because for a whole host of reasons they spend more than they get from central govt or can collect locally. As of now, I'm aware of any financially solvent municipal or city council in Kenya. Its not Kenyan either. In the US, very few states are able to balance their books. In Kenya, the chief issue is not corruption but lack of financial control. Corruption is a by-product of this. Add politics and the cocktail is potent. Apart from the kind of auditing that is being done on CDFs, the second part has to come from the locals themselves. Seek accountability from your county by electing men/women of integrity and professionalism. Ksh2bn can look like a lot of cash but if your county has 1m population that is only Ksh2k each. Its not cash to be pilfered but to put into projects that will generate returns. Proper accounting, budgeting, project management and procurement processes will seal loopholes. Although, new Katiba doesn't have it, I expect some revenue raising powers for counties eventually. In any case, revenue and job creation measures will become a key differentiator between viable and non-viable counties. Hence,

Industrial base:
Nairobi has grown chiefly because its a magnet for most of the Kenyan brains. And many others. Counties without any employment prospects will become a mere curiosity. A grounded industrial policy should be one of the things each governor should be judged on. Measures to attract some of the industries currently congested in Nai's industrial should be looked at. Counties should consider setting aside 25% of their revenue to attract prospective employers be it via soft loans or even infrastructure development. While industrial development should be pegged on comparative advantages e.g. its no point Turkana setting a tea factory; certain counties may need to create the comparative advantages. As an example, Laikipia can look to set a meat processing concern or even look to aggressively market its tourism potential which is huge (Mt Kenya, Bantu lodge, Solio lunch, Samburu traditional homes etc). Others like Eldoret must look to turn the nearby Moi University into a R&D assembly point where students can come to study and build their lives as they become part of the next Silicon valley and so forth. No industrial base will really take off without...

Many counties have basic infrastructure. A touch of tarmac here; a few homes with electricity; very basic health centres. If a county is planning to become the next base for manufacturing of agricultural produce and other value-adding activities, it'll need power either from the national grid or by supporting solar energy collection. It may need a working airstrip or even airport to either transport produce to JKIA for onward transmission or direct to export markets. Roads will have to be good even for non-perishable produce as bad roads increase fuel costs. Its not just hard infrastructure, soft infrastructure in form of promoting R&D to locate to your county will create the brainpower to attract the employers that are needed. Upgrading and increasing the number of secondary schools (provide subsidised internet); technical schools supporting industries; universities will create a virtuous circle. Planning will also make a difference. Nyeri has had the same buildings and streets since I can remember i.e. late 80s, but also seems like many other towns to have sprang up a slum or two.

Minimise impact of politics:
Unless we get any external influences, competitive politics are here to stay. If Kenyans can't understand or won't play by the rules of such competitions, we'll have bloodshed or the kind of tension we had between 2005-8. Eventually, you find the economy goes backward as ours did in 2008-9 period. County govts that fall prey to negative politics will become like in the council of Nai or even Momba where nothing really progresses because the political animals can't see the big picture. How do you minimise negative politics? This comes back to the local county people electing men and women of integrity. It doesn't matter what you want as a county dweller, if you vote for the guy who builds up your party or pays out most, he'll need to recoup that outlay or party line up. Secondly, CDFs seem to have elicited more involvement by constituents in their affairs and this level of involvement will need to be there for county governance to work. Finally, the foundations and the future of your county will be laid by the first county government in 2012. Electing the right leaders; having succinct katiba provisions for counties and central govt involvement (via annual audits) will ensure that strong county institutions are in place to ameliorate politics.

In short, County governance is here to stay. If it can build on the positive aspects of the CDF experience, it'll take Kenya places.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

An analysis of the 2009 Census figures

Well. Its official. China's one child per family has never seemed more appealing. We've increased by a third in 10years. As many couples will tell you, have one child is very noticeable on the budget. Having two or three is even mooore noticeable.
Unlike in Chine were you need permission to have two children, in Kenya, GoK should just say you have to pay for schooling your second. And clearly we need family planning education.

Other highlights?
  • Nai has the highest proportion (14%) of its young going to University. Central is next with 2.6%. Vast gap and I'm pretty sure some of it is explained by the fact that Nai houses more single people than children.
  • 2 of the largest counties (outside of Nai), are in Western. Bungoma and Kakamega with around 1.7m each both have 700k more people than Mombasa. Nyeri has a similar population to Kajiado and Kwale (just under 700k).
  • North Eastern hs the highest proportion of bush toilet users (63%). Unsurprisingly, Nai has the highest proportion of its population (47.7%) with main sewer toilets followed by Coast. With 5.8%. Huge gap. Only 8% of Nyanza households have piped water. Only 2.6% of households in NE (which has the highest), use rain harvesting techniques.
  • Despite (or because) fo their love of mbuzi choma, Central only have 0.5m goats compared to 4m in Eastern and almost 12m in Rift Valley. Human population outnumbers each of its animals even ingoho which are only 25m. There is an economic opportunity here and I think guys need to think harder about the meat business. If you want asali, go to Eastern province where
  • Surprisingly, Central has the highest proportion of households (85%) that own a radio. 62% of Nairobian households own a TV with 40% in Central doing the same. Only in North Eastern do less than 50% of the households own a cellphone. A flattening market? Computer ownership (14% in Nai at the highest and 3.8% in Coast which is 2nd), is paltry although I think cellphones have been a handy substitute.
  • 42% of our population is aged less than 14 years.

Well done to GoK for doing this census because it'll help to guide planning.