Botswanas well-managed economy has been hit badly by the downturn in demand for diamonds, contracting by 5% in 2009. But growth is set to bounce back to 6.3% in 2010 and 5.1% in 2011, according to the IMF.
Lorato Boakgomo-Ntakhwana became the new chief executive of First National Bank last July and so far the banks results indicate that there has been a smooth transition. A subsidiary of South Africas FirstRand, First National Bank is the biggest in Botswana by market capitalization, as well as the size of its asset book and deposits.
First National Bank grew profits 9% in 2009 to around $56 million. Its deposits increased by 8% to $1.5 billion, while loans were up 17% to $562 million. The bank maintains a relatively low non-performing loan ratio of 2.6%, compared with a sector average of 5.1%. Its cost-income ratio and ROE are also healthy at 35.4% and 44.2% respectively.
As Ghana readies itself for the benefits expected to come from expanded oil production, the economy is holding up well. GDP growth was 4.7% in 2009.
Nevertheless the profits of Ghana Commercial Bank, one of the biggest banks by assets, halved in 2009. Conversely, Standard Chartered and Ecobank Ghana, slightly smaller lenders, managed to improve their earnings impressively. Ecobank, for example, with earnings of $38.3 million, posted far higher profits than Ghana Commercial Bank or Société Générale, one of the other main banks in the country, while Barclays Ghanaian subsidiary made losses in 2009 that were double those in the previous year.
Compared with Standard Chartered, Ecobank has more assets, a bigger market capitalization, a lower cost-income ratio and, perhaps most important, roughly half the amount of non-performing loans. The NPL ratios at Ghana Commercial Bank and Standard Chartered were around 18% and 8% respectively, while Ecobank achieved a ratio of just 3.4%.
The Ecobank group, headquartered in Togo but listed in Accra, Lagos and Abidjan, has become one of the continents most respected companies and a symbol of Africas growing success.
When political violence broke out two years ago some feared the good days were over in Kenya. But those fears have so far proved largely unfounded, especially in the banking sector, which has held up very well even in the face of the global financial crisis last year, the sector as a whole increased its profits.
With a new undersea internet cable bringing faster telecommunications connections to Kenya last summer, the country looks set for even better things.
Standard Chartered has focused on a higher end of the market than some banks. But it has expanded in consumer lending while managing to keep its costs down. Of the biggest banks in the country, Standard Chartered posted the best profit growth last year. Net profit increased by 46% in 2009 while pre-tax profit grew 39% in the first quarter of this year. In total Standard Chartered made $59 million in 2009.
Profits at Kenya Commercial Bank, the biggest listed lender, fell slightly in 2009, although loans and deposits were up. The banks non-performing loan ratio, however, was 11.2% against a sector average of 9.1%. Standard Chartereds NPL ratio of 4.9% was among the lowest of the major banks.
Barclays, the second-biggest listed lender by assets, reported profits up 12% but its loan book contracted by 14%. Standard Chartereds loans increased by 32% and deposits grew 13%.
At the end of May 2009, Standard Chartered Kenya announced that its board had approved a rights issue for a 30% capital increase.
Morocco has withstood the crisis well growth dipped slightly last year but still reached 5%, although the IMF is predicting less robust figures for 2010 and 2011.
For Attijariwafa, the vagaries of the Moroccan economy are becoming less of a problem as it is diversifying into other African countries, particularly in francophone areas. In the second half of 2009 it completed its acquisition of retail banking assets in west Africa from Frances Crédit Agricole, which has made it the biggest bank in Senegal, for example.
Attijariwafa remains the biggest bank in Morocco ahead of rival BMCE, which has also expanded elsewhere in Africa indeed, Attijariwafa is now one of the largest banks on the continent.
Attijariwafa has performed better in terms of profitability than BMCE over the past year. BMCE saw its profits halved in 2009 while Attijariwafas net profits increased by 26.2%. Attijariwafas total assets were up 12.1% to $32.6 billion. In Morocco, its loans to households and corporates increased by 11.1% and 8.4% respectively, and its deposits rose 1.8%. The bank added another 92 branches in Morocco, taking its total network in the country to 793.
Economic growth prospects are benign in Nigeria but the countrys banking sector got a shock last summer when the new governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria announced that nine banks had failed an audit of the systems health. The central bank appointed new managers of the affected banks and, as part of an effort to recapitalize the firms, sent out letters requesting expressions of interest from local and international banks.
This year things are looking better, particularly on the stock market, which was up 30% by the end of April. But 2009 was in many ways a disastrous year for the financial sector: Nigerias stock market was one of the worst-performing in the world.
The hope is that the events of last summer will prove to be a watershed and that the system will improve, margin lending against stocks will not be such a problem and banks will improve their corporate governance, risk management and transparency.
Other reforms by the central bank included the introduction of 10-year limits on chief executives tenures, something that has necessitated more management change. But calls for the banks to issue 2009 results to a common, December 31 year-end before the start of the second quarter seem to have been partially ignored.
Nevertheless, Guaranty Trust Bank (GT Bank), Zenith and UBA reported earlier than the rest. Of these, GT Bank was the most profitable in 2009, making $169 million, compared with $110 million at Zenith and $11 million at UBA.
Over the same period, GT Bank increased its deposit base by 45% while deposits at UBA and Zenith were slightly down year on year. GT Bank also expanded its balance sheet by 11%, while UBAs remained static and Zeniths assets shrank slightly.
Zenith has a larger overall deposit base $7.85 billion compared with $4.25 billion at GT Bank but its cost-income ratio of 60% compares unfavourably with the latters 47.1%, well below the sector average of 59.4%. GT Banks ROE of just under 15% is also far ahead of Zeniths ROE of just 1%. The sector average ROE is 5.5%.
In investment banking, Stanbic IBTC was sole issuing house on a $150 million rights issue for Cadbury Nigeria one of only three equity deals in Nigeria in the 12 months to March 31, according to Dealogic. Other prominent deals included assisting Lagos and Imo states to issue local-currency bonds for equivalents of $330 million and $122 million respectively, and advising on an $11.3 million merger in the beverage sector. The bank also expanded its local fund management business, listing money market and bond funds.
Stanbic IBTC is helping the central bank find suitable investors in the nine banks that failed the systemic audit, alongside Deutsche Bank and local investment firm Chapel Hill Denham.
BEST INVESTMENT BANK
None of South Africas biggest banks posted a loss last year, despite the country experiencing a 1.8% contraction in GDP. Nevertheless, as one-off gains from sales in 2008 were not repeated and as hundreds of thousands of job losses translated into defaults in the retail sector all of the main banks profits fell. Trading losses and losses in private equity also had an impact on profitability.
Absa and the South African operation of Standard Bank have the largest retail loan portfolios. FirstRand and Nedbank are more focused on the corporate sector, where there were no serious defaults.
Nevertheless, with profit down 7% Standard Bank reported the smallest decline in earnings in 2009, while Absas and FirstRands profits dropped by roughly one-third. Nedbanks profits fell by only 9%, but at $354 million its absolute return is much smaller than that of Standard Bank, which remained the most profitable bank, earning $1.07 billion in 2009. Standard Bank is also the biggest bank by assets and has the highest ROE and the lowest cost-income ratio of the four biggest banks, at 26.6% and 57.5% respectively.
One of Standard Banks achievements in the period was the further extension of banking services to those on low incomes and in the informal sector. It has also invested more in affordable housing.
At a group level, the banks links to China enabled it to access a $1 billion loan from four Chinese banks. It also raised $800 million from two bond issuances during the period. In addition, Standard Bank extended its reach into other emerging markets when it received approval in the autumn for an alliance with Russian securities firm Troika Dialog, in which it has taken a 33% stake; and it broke new ground at home when it announced in November that Fred Phaswana would become its first black chairman.
In investment banking, JPMorgan is the market leader in South Africa. Only Barclays, Citi, JPMorgan and Standard Bank have top-10 positions for both equity and debt in the Dealogic league tables for the 12 months to March 31. Citi, however, ranks below JPMorgan in both DCM and ECM, and Barclays failed to secure any advisory mandates in M&A, while JPMorgan has both the highest volume and number of completed M&A deals.
In DCM, Standard Bank just pips JPMorgan to the post for both number and volume of deals. But JPMorgan gets the nod for its role in bringing the biggest non-governmental bond of the year to market for paper firm Sappi and in raising a record $2 billion for the sovereign, ahead of Standard Banks later $2 billion sovereign mandate. JPMorgan is also well ahead of Standard Bank in the equity and M&A markets in terms of deal number and volume, according to Dealogic.
In equity, JPMorgan acted alongside Morgan Stanley and Rand Merchant Bank as joint bookrunner on the $209 million listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange of Optimum Coal Holdings, the countrys only IPO last year. In addition, the bank advised South African telecommunications firm Telkom on the disposal of shares in local mobile telephone operator Vodacom and subsequently acted as bookrunner for Vodacoms Johannesburg listing.
JPMorgans M&A deals included the sale of Czech food distributor Nowaco to South African holding company Bidvest for $356 million. The bank also advised Swedish Match on the $222 million sale of its South African operations to US tobacco firm Philip Morris, as well as Australia-based mining firm Coal of Africa on its $85 million purchase of South African coal miner Nucoal.
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Uganda is another African economy set to benefit from new oil discoveries. But the country is already growing fairly rapidly, partly because its economy is well managed.
Following its acquisition of Uganda Commercial Bank in 2001, Stanbic has controlled the largest portion of the Ugandan banking market and last year posted a 21% increase in profits to $43 million. However, Standard Chartereds results were even better, with profitability up 24% to $34 million.
Standard Chartereds non-performing loan portfolio is next to nothing in Uganda, but the bank grew its loan book by 20% last year and the momentum has carried on into the first quarter of this year.
Last year Standard Chartered expanded its ATM network and rolled out new savings and remote-banking products, as well as revamped services for small and medium-sized enterprises.
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