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Aviation Sector Stable amidst Challenges - THISDAY

JUNE 02, 2017

Although Nigerian airlines faced daunting challenges in the last two years of Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, there was some measure of stability in the sector despite the hiccups, writes Chinedu Eze

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There were two key incidents that defined the aviation sector in the last two years. One was the protracted scarcity of aviation fuel, known as Jet A1, which price rose as high as N280.00 per litre and the second was the resurfacing of the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, which forced the relocation of air operations in the capital city to Kaduna airport for six weeks.

While the rehabilitation of Abuja airport runway was a big plus for the Buhari administration; it received heavy knocks for the scarcity and high cost of aviation fuel.

 

But beyond what the administration could do or could not do, the domestic airlines lost over N2.3 billion during the peak Christmas season last year when hundreds of flights were cancelled at different airports in the country due to harmattan haze.

Forex Scarcity
The high price of aviation fuel was caused by the low value of the naira. As the dollar began to rise in value against the naira, prices of imported goods and services spiralled. This was what caused the scarcity and high price of aviation fuel. Marketers faced difficulty sources foreign exchange at lower price below the parallel market price to import the product.

The airlines faced further challenges because they could not source the scarce dollar to import spares, send their pilots to simulator training overseas and even take their aircraft overseas for routine maintenance checks.

But after a long outcry by the airlines to the federal government to give them access to FX, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) created a special window for them and manufacturing concerns to access FX. But the modalities were still cumbersome and the airlines could not withstand the long wait as airline business is critical about time. An aircraft engine that suffered bird strike cannot wait for three months before the engine could be replaced and for the aircraft to become airborne again. The airline would suffer heavy financial losses and may not be able to meet its flight schedules and financial obligations when one aircraft is left as aircraft on ground (AOG).

In late 2016, the Managing Director and CEO of Medview Airline, Alhaji Muneer Bankole summed the CBN policy on FX to the airlines thus: “The CBN came out with a design which they call future, forward, spot; what it means is that you put your money for the next two months, three months, four months and you will be given allocation. In doing that you commit all your operational cash so everything has to cease until that two months; that is what it means. But we are hoping that things will improve. So when you look at the business of aviation it is all in dollars and I believe we are now looking at government to tell them what to do. Somebody right there needs to advise them to see aviation as a priority.”

Things really improved by 2017, when government began to supply dollars to ease the tension on the naira. But the airlines still faced problem sourcing the dollar at a good price.

Abuja Airport
When in March the federal government closed the nation’s busiest airport, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja for the repair of its runway, which had become a death trap, many Nigerians were not happy about it because they believed that there could be an alternative to closing the airport, as examples began to emanate where airport runways were rehabilitated while they were still in service.

The closure of the airport led to loss of economic activities in the Federal Capital Territory but the runway rehabilitation saved lives and improved the safety of flight operations to the capital city. Above all, what made the rehabilitation of the runway memorable was the fact that government delivered as promised. The Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika kept to his promise and etched his promise that he would resign his job if the airport was not reopened at the targeted date in the memory of many Nigerians. The airport was closed on March 8 and reopened officially on April 19, 2017.

To prepare Kaduna airport as an alternative to Abuja for the six weeks the closure of the later would last, government had to upgrade many facilities at Kaduna airport at huge costs. That became a win-win situation because the obsolete facilities at the airport and uncompleted passenger terminal, which the six weeks relocation of Abuja flight operations facilitated their completion, was akin to killing two birds with one stone.

“It is no longer news that the federal government made considerable financial provision to ensure that the Kaduna airport was adequately prepared to play this alternate role including the provision of adequate aids and other relevant infrastructure that the airport did not have. The Minister of State, Aviation, who has been in the forefront of driving this difficult transition, met with initial challenges associated with the movement, but one after another, those challenges were dealt with appropriately in the last four weeks,” said an official of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN).

Airport Terminals
In the last two years, the federal government has continued to work on the new terminals, which were started under the past administration, at the five international airports in the country, including Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Abuja and Enugu and some of them are over 80 percent completed. In fact, almost all of them would be made operational before end of this year.
The government also introduced a policy mandating Aviation Security (AVSEC) of FAAN to carry arms in order to improve security at the airports. It also reinforced the policy on waiver of Customs duties on aircraft parts and efforts are being made to cut down the prices of aviation fuel despite the fact that the product is still being imported.

Arik Take Over
The major upheaval that has taken place in the aviation industry in the last two years was the takeover of Arik Air by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) for its failure to service its debts. Since after the takeover, the new management of the airline seems to be at crossroads about how to turn the airline around amid the challenges of paucity of funds and low passenger traffic occasioned by the current recession. The workers are also in a dilemma about tomorrow, while government is yet to make definite pronouncement on the future of the airline.

But the new management of the airline has brought back some of the aircraft in the fleet on AOG to operations, just as the workers who feared at the beginning of the takeover have continued to retain their jobs.

Airports Concessions
There are three cardinal things this government said it would achieve in aviation in the four-year tenure. One is establishing a national carrier; two is building Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility and the third is concession major airports.
In the last two years, none of these set objectives had been accomplished. However, the government has initiated steps to actualise them through the establishment of transaction advisers. But government explained that the airports would remain underperforming with obsolete facilities until the private sector injects and modernises these airports.
The Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Sirika recently noted that concession might be the only choice government has now to modernise nation’s airports.

“I think the ultimate solution to all of these is to concession these airports. I have maintained this because I don’t know any other way we can go about it. That is the only way to go because government does not have the resources to continue to invest in these airports. We want to make sure that all the things at the Abuja airport are fixed and the airport returns to normal operation.
However, I think that the ultimate end and solution to all of these is the concession of these airports. I have maintained this. It is the only solution, I don’t know any other way we can do it because government no longer have the resources to continue to invest in these airports,” Sirika said.
However, many industry observers are sceptical about the actualisation of these goals, as no concrete action has been taken two years into the four years administration.

Questionable Appointments
The appointment of new directors for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), early this year, had been greeted with severe criticism by the labour unions.
The unions excoriated government for appointing outsiders without experience to do jobs that would be effectively done some people in the industry who have better experience and knowledge of the sector.
But the government was earlier commended for appointing professionals in the industry to head the aviation agencies, including the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), the College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria and the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NIMET).

Funding Challenges
Reviewing the two years of the Buhari administration, a former Commandant of the Lagos airport and the Secretary of Aviation Round Table (ART), Group Captain John Ojikutu (retd) said: “It has opened the decays and the decadence in the sector which for too long have been shielded from the public view. We have come to know that a lot of the private operators have been living on bank loans and government intervention funds yet they remained in acute debts to the services providers. They get concession on Customs duties on aircraft importation and spares and on foreign exchange rate, yet they are indebted to banks, insurance, staff salaries in multiple arrears.
“In all these, they sell tickets on cash basis and not on credit; the question to ask is, what do these airlines do with their earnings?”

Ojikutu said in spite of the indebtedness of these airlines to the government services providers, and invariably the low revenue accrued to government, it has been able to sustain operations in the sector, noting that Abuja that accounts for about 35 percent of air and passengers traffic, whose runway that needed to have been repaired seven years ago was repaired within six weeks. Similarly, many navigational aids and runway approach aids that needed calibration and had exceeded their tolerance emergency were calibrated and have been kept serviceable to sustain operations.

Ojikutu however, did not talk about the high charges levelled on the airlines, the lack of airfield lighting in many airports, which force airlines to operate only six hours and the high cost of aviation fuel, but on airport concession he said: “My advice to government on this path is to concession only the non aeronautical facilities and infrastructure such as the passengers and cargo terminal buildings; aircraft aprons, car parks and toll gates.

“These have little concerns to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). However, government must retain the aeronautical services and facilities including airport security. Others will include air traffic control and information services, runways and taxiways, perimeter and security fences, emergency and rescue services, etc. These are the concerns of ICAO and these are the State’s obligations to the Chicago convention in all its 19 Annexes.”

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YEAR TO DATE FOREIGN RESERVE MOVEMENT IN USD :CHART - abokiFX

JULY 13, 2017

  • The Naira has been trading below N400/$ for the past four months as the foreign reserves hover above $30bn. 
  • There is the risk of crude oil falling below $40 a barrel which could see the reserves dip below the $30bn threshold. 
  • The chart above shows that a foreign reserve below $30bn will put pressure on the naira, making it slip back above N400/$ in the parallel market.

Abokifx looks at various countries foreign reserves in comparison to Nigeria's foreign reserve - abokifx

JULY 15, 2017

With Nigeria's population at 190 million, Nigeria's foreign reserve needs to be about $100bn to eliminate any pressures on the naira. The chart and table below show why this is necessary.   -    abokiFX research

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Nigeria’s bogus auto policy pushes car prices up 200% - BUSINESSDAY

AUGUST 17, 2017

Prices of brand new vehicles sold in Nigeria have risen by more than 200 percent between 2014 and 2017 and are now out of the reach most individuals and corporate buyers who need them for their business.
The significant rise in the prices of brand new vehicles has been blamed largely on the bogus auto policy, which raised import duty on cars to 35 percent in addition to a 35 percent levy, amounting to 70 percent, as well as a weaker naira.
Analysts say the policy automatically raises the prices of cars by 70 percent, pricing out the middle-class and other low income earners in need of mobility.
Added to this, is the weaker exchange rate of the naira that is compounded by the increase in duties and levies on imported new vehicles.
According to industry watchers, the 70 percent increase in taxes on imported new vehicles, along with the 86 percent fall in exchange rate of the naira from N196 to the dollar, to relative stability at N365 in recent times, including other incidental expenses at the ports and company overhead costs, have combined to force prices of vehicles northwards.
Many individuals who can no longer afford the new cars have resorted to maintaining their old cars for extended periods of time, even as prospects of workable financing schemes remain unavailable.
Many banks accustomed to changing cars for top executives every four years, have suspended the practice, due to high cost of procuring the new vehicles.

The impact has been seen in a sharp drop in the sale of new vehicles in the country, resulting in the closure of many car dealerships and the consequent loss of jobs.
The Federal Government had in 2013 increased the duties and levies on imported new vehicles, to encourage local auto assemblers through some incentives under the 2013-2023 National Automotive Industrial Development Plan (NAIDP) as supervised by the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC).
A sample list of car prices from the Koreans, Japanese and German manufacturers, which come in various engine capacities across model ranges, exclusively obtained by BusinessDay, showed that prices have more than doubled between 2014 and 2017.
In 2014, a brand new Kia Cerato 1.6 litre automatic transmission saloon car sold for N3.96 million but now costs N9.54 million in 2017, while a Kia Picanto 1-liter engine capacity, which cost N2.25m three years ago, is now sold for N4.95 million in 2017.
Toyota Corolla 1.6 liter GLI automatic transmission fabric sold for N4.45 million three years ago, now costs N18.9 million.
In the same period, a Mercedes-Benz C200 luxury sedan, which was sold with a dealership price tag of N10.5 million, costs N25 million in 2017, while a Mercedes G63AMG model which previously sold at N50 million, presently wears a price tag of N78 million.

This shows a price jump of over 100 percent and this applies to other brands of vehicles in the market, apart from those manufactured in Korea, Japan or Germany.
According to Kunle Ade-Ojo, Managing Director/CEO, Toyota Nigeria Limited, the rise in vehicle prices is majorly due to the unfavourable exchange rate of the naira.
Ade-Ojo explained that as the dollar is scarce, so also is the naira pretty much scarce and that bank’s interest rates have gone up.
“Even though the exchange rate has moderated from a high of about N520 to the dollar at a very critical period and trading at about N366 to the dollar and below, from the end of 2016 to 2017, it is still not available.”
Ade-Ojo estimated that the country’s auto industry is expected to import and sell between 8,000 and 10,000 new vehicles this year, which is lower than the 15,000 projected at the end of last year.
The forecast, Ade-Ojo said, was based on the industry’s performance in the first quarter of 2017, adding that at the end of the first quarter of 2017, total import figures in the nation’s automobile industry, from the nation’s ports, came to about 350 units, compared to about 3,500 units that came in at the same period last year.
He said with this statistics, “imports dropped by about 90 percent between 2016 and 2017 first quarter.

“In terms of retail sales, we are estimating, based on the information we have, that the auto market did about 2,000 vehicles, compared to about 5,000 vehicles that was done in first quarter of 2015, a drop of over 50 percent in retail sales.
“Passenger cars reduced more than commercial cars and of course, when you look at the duties on passenger cars also at 70 percent, compared to 35 percent for commercial, the impact is more on passenger vehicles.”
Retail sales went from about 32,000 in 2015 to about 18,000 last year, representing a market drop of about 42 percent.
While giving the status of the implementation report of the NAIDP between October 2013 and June 2017 at a recent stakeholders meeting involving local auto assemblers and other stakeholders in Lagos recently, Luqman Mamudu, Director of Policy & Planning, National Automotive Design & Development Council (NADDC) revealed that the automotive policy is seeing tremendous progress, despite doubts in some quarters and that soon, Nigerians will begin to see positive result.
He disclosed that at the inception of the automotive policy in 2013, the number of approved local assemblers by the NADDC was 11 companies and grew to 53 companies in 2017.

Production capacity rose from 108,380 units in 2013 to 408,870 units in 2017. Actual production size increased from 1665 in 2013; 4776 in 2014; 11,332 in 2015 and started witnessing a drop from to 11, 332 in 2015 to 10,673 in 2016 and 8,473 in 2017.
Reacting on the astronomical jump in prices of new vehicles, Olawale Jimoh, Marketing Manager, Kia Motors Nigeria Limited, stated that for over two years now, the steady increase in the prices of cars in Nigeria has been misconstrued by some industry followers.
He argued that the local assembly of cars will invariably bring a new dawn that will result in affordable “Made in Nigeria” cars.

That expectation should ideally not be out of place, if Nigeria’s economy over the years has been stable.

He lamented that with the fast depreciation in the value of the naira, prices of cars have increased by more than 100 percent, which may still not totally compensate for the drop in the value of the naira.

Jimoh lamented that at this stage of the country’s auto development, assembly plants still import SKD kits to assemble, on account of the dearth of component manufacturers in the country, among the interplay of other factors.

 

MIKE OCHONMA

NBS: Roughly N400bn in Bribes Given to Public Officials Annually - THISDAY

AUGUST 17, 2017
  • Says bribery is an established part of administrative procedure in Nigeria
  • Police, judiciary identified as biggest bribe-takers

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

An estimated N400 billion, or the equivalent of $4.6 billion in purchasing power parity (PPP), representing 39 per cent of the combined federal and state education budgets in 2016, is paid out as bribes to public officials in Nigeria annually, a new report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has revealed.

The National Corruption Report, which covered the period between June 2015 and May 2016 also showed that almost a third of Nigerian adults (32.3 per cent) who had contact with public officials between June 2015 and May 2016 had to pay, or were requested to pay a bribe to such public officials.

 

According to the report, the magnitude of public sector bribes in Nigeria becomes even more palpable when factoring in the frequency of the payments, adding that the majority of those who paid bribes to public officials did so more than once over the course of the year.

Bribe-payers, it added, pay an average of some six bribes in one year, or roughly one bribe every two months.
“Roughly 400 billion Nigerian Naira is spent on bribes each year. Taking into account the fact that nine out of every ten bribes paid to public officials in Nigeria are paid in cash and the size of the payments made, it is estimated that the total amount of bribes paid to public officials in Nigeria in the 12 months prior to the survey was around 400 billion Nigerian Naira (NGN), the equivalent of $4.6 billion in purchasing power parity (PPP). This sum is equivalent to 39 per cent of the combined federal and state education budgets in 2016,” the report said.

It equally revealed that bribe-payers spend an eighth of their salary on bribes, noting that the average sum paid as cash bribe in the country was approximately N5,300, which is equivalent to roughly $61(PPP).

“This means that every time a Nigerian pays a cash bribe, he or she spends an average of about 28.2 per cent of the average monthly salary of approximately NGN18,900.

“Since bribe-payers in Nigeria pay an average of 5.8 bribes over the course of one year, 92 per cent of which are paid in cash, they spend an average of NGN 28,200 annually on cash bribes—equivalent to 12.5 per cent of the annual average salary,” it added.

The report, which is the first of its kind in the country in terms of scope, said Nigerians consider bribery the third most important problem facing their country.

“The above findings could explain why, after the high cost of living and unemployment, Nigerians consider corruption to be the third most important problem facing their country, well ahead of the state of the country’s infrastructure and health services.

“Public sector bribery is not the only form of corruption affecting Nigeria: the prevalence of bribery in relation to selected employees of private companies is 5.5 per cent, meaning that bribery is also significant in the private sector in Nigeria.

“However, the payment of bribes to public officials is the most familiar and widespread form of corruption directly experienced by the population and the one that most affects the lives of ordinary citizens,” it noted.

Giving an insight into how bribery works in the country, the report said public officials in Nigeria show little hesitation in asking for a bribe, noting that the vast majority of bribery episodes are initiated either directly or indirectly by public officials (85.3 per cent), while almost 70 per cent of bribes are paid before a service is rendered.

It stressed that with such a large portion of public officials initiating bribes, which are paid up-front, it seemed that many public officials show little hesitation in asking for a kickback to carry out their duty, adding that bribery is an established part of the administrative procedure in Nigeria.

“While money is by far the most important form of bribe payment in Nigeria, the survey shows that other forms of bribe payment, such as the provision of food and drink, the handing over of valuables or the exchange of another service or favour, also exist.

“Qualitative research shows that such exchanges may sometimes include sexual services, although the actual extent of that particular form of bribe payment is unknown,” the NBS report said.

The survey showed that a large proportion of bribes in Nigeria (42 per cent) are paid to speed up or finalise an administrative procedure that may otherwise be delayed for long periods or even indefinitely, thus making bribery the most effective option for facilitating that service.

According to the report, the second largest proportion of bribes (18 per cent) is paid to avoid the payment of a fine, a frequent request in citizens’ encounters with the police, while 13 per cent of all bribes are paid to avoid the cancellation of public utility services, an indication that the provision of the most basic amenities, including water and sanitation, can be subject to abuse of power by public officials in Nigeria.

On the categories of public servants indulging in bribery, the report said law enforcement and the judiciary were areas of particular concern.

“Police officers are the type of public official to whom bribes are most commonly paid in Nigeria. Of all adult Nigerians who had direct contact with a police officer in the 12 months prior to the survey, almost half (46.4 per cent) paid that officer at least one bribe, and in many cases more than one, since police officers are also among the three types of public officials to whom bribes are paid most frequently (5.3 bribes per bribe-payer over the course of 12 months) in Nigeria. At the same time, the average bribe paid to police officers is somewhat below the average bribe size.

“Although fewer people come into contact with judiciary officials than with police officers over the course of the year, when they do, the risk of bribery is considerable: at 33 per cent, the prevalence of bribery in relation to prosecutors is the second highest, closely followed by judges and magistrates, at 31.5 per cent.

“The experience of corruption in encounters with public officials whose duty it is to uphold the rule of law can lead to the erosion of trust in public authority,” it said.

The report put the prevalence rate of corruption in the public sector at 32.3 per cent, and the average number of bribes paid to public officials by bribe-payers at 5.8.

The total number of bribes paid to public officials in Nigeria in the 12-month period also stands at 82.3 million, while per capita number of bribes paid to public officials by the adult population was 0.9 per cent.

The contact rate with public officials in the review period was 52.2 per cent; the prevalence rate in the rural setting was 31.0 per cent while 34.8 per cent was posted in the urban setting

On the average number of bribes paid to public officials by adult Nigerians in the period, by zone, the North-west recorded 0.86 per cent; North-east 0.78 per cent; North-Central 1.1 per cent; South-West 1.13 per cent; South-South 1.05 per cent; and South-east 0.60 per cent.

The NBS said the data presented in the report was collected in the National Survey on the Quality and Integrity of Public Services, otherwise known as the Nigerian Corruption Survey, a project funded by the European Union and implemented by the UNODC in collaboration with the National Bureau of Statistics of Nigeria (NBS).

The statistical agency noted that Nigerian Corruption Survey was designed as a large-scale household survey, representative at the level of the Nigerian states, with the aim of collecting baseline information.

The report is the first comprehensive nationwide household survey on corruption to be conducted in Nigeria and in Africa at large, and covers all states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory.

According to the NBS, the report provides very valuable and reliable information, which will support the national efforts at reducing the corruption menace, as well as blocking loopholes in public services.

Investors’ crave for Nigerian mutual funds heighten with AUM all-time high - BUSINESSDAY

AUGUST 17, 2017

The value of assets under management (AUM) in the Nigerian mutual funds industry hit all-time high as it surged to N322.99 billion as at week-ended July 21 2017, latest data from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has shown.

The SEC data showed that AUM value rose 11.03 per cent from May 26 2017. Industry stakeholders say that the increase is caused by the increased interest of investors who have been flocking towards Nigerian mutual funds recently.

Analysts hinge the resurgent interest on such factors as the current state of the Nigerian economy, stock market and interest rate fluctuations as well as much improved mutual funds offerings.

This assertion is further backed by a recent report by Quantitative Financial Analytics which estimated that Nigerian mutual funds attracted the sum of N42 billion inflows in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the N49 billion inflows recorded in the entire 2016 fiscal year.

Mutual funds’ assets in Nigeria also grew to N318 billion as at the beginning of the first half of 2017, 42 per cent spike since the beginning of the year. AUM stood at N223.6 billion as at the end of 2016.

It is against this background the Coronation Asset Management Limited (CAM) recently launched its two mutual funds with a view to leveraging its capacity and experience to help investors realise better returns and minimise risks of their investments.

“No one can doubt the capacity and expertise of Coronation Asset Management to deliver competitive returns to investors in the Coronation Mutual Funds,” said Emeka Okolo, senior fund manager and head of Coronation Asset Management at the launch of one of the funds. “The level of professionalism and quality of investments will be difficult to match by other mutual fund managers in Nigeria and the West African sub-region. This, coupled with the proposed investment mix and the fund structures, distinguish these Mutual Funds.”

Okolo noted that active portfolio management by experienced professionals offer investors better prospects on their investments especially in periods of market volatility and economic downturns as is being experienced in Nigeria, making mutual funds an optimal choice.

He said that the recently launched Naira-denominated, open-ended mutual funds by CAM, which witnessed a high subscription rate by individuals, retail and institutional investors, has continued to elicit excitement.

The Mutual Funds, which include the N1.5 billion money market fund, the N400 million fixed income fund, and the N200 million balanced fund, were all offered at par of 1 Naira each.

Tunde Folawiyo, chairman of Coronation Merchant Bank, said that the funds offer all strata of investors, individual and corporate alike, an opportunity to diversify their investment portfolios backed by the strength of the Coronation brand and managed by a team of experienced professionals at CAM.

The money market fund and the fixed income fund have been rated “A- (NG)(f)”  and “AA-/FV4 (NG)(f)”by Agusto & Co, a foremost Nigerian rating agency. The ratings indicate low to medium risk characteristics of the funds.

The initial public offering (IPO) for the funds came on the back of a strong financial year for the premium financial institution.

Coronation Merchant Bank, the parent company of CVAM, had grown its profits by 128 per cent from December 2015 to December 2016. The Group’s financial strength, sound risk management, prudent investment strategies, tradition of excellent value delivery to all stakeholders, attracted investors to the IPO for the mutual funds.

The Coronation mutual funds are being overseen by institutions with strong track records of providing superior financial services. CAM acting is the Fund Manager, Citibank Nigeria is custodian, and United Securities Limited is registrar to all three funds.

Stanbic IBTC Trustees Limited will acts as Trustee to the Balance and Fixed Income Funds while United Capital Trustees will act as Trustee to the Money Market Fund.

 

INNOCENT UNAH

Cautious tone from central banks sends global stocks lower - REUTERS

AUGUST 17, 2017

BY Alasdair Pal

LONDON (Reuters) - Global stocks fell on Thursday as investors trimmed their exposure to riskier assets after central bank minutes revealed a wary take on the economic outlook from ratesetters on both sides of the Atlantic.

The European Central Bank expressed caution about removing monetary stimulus too soon following a recent bounce in the euro, the record of its last meeting showed - hitting the single currency along with the region's equity markets.

U.S. shares were set to follow suit, extending losses a day after a similarly downbeat message in minutes from the Federal Reserve, where some policymakers cautioned against rate rises while U.S. inflation remained weak.

As money market futures FFF8 cut their expectations of a U.S. rate hike by December to 40 percent from just under 50 percent before the Fed's minutes, futures for the blue-chip S&P 500 ESc1 shed 0.2 percent in pre-market trade.

The NASDAQ index was set to open 0.4 percent lower after technology giant Cisco (CSCO.O) reported weak results after Wednesday's close.

In Europe, the broad Stoxx 600 index was down 0.1 percent, snapping a three-day winning streak.

The UK's FTSE 100 .FTSE fell 0.4 percent, Germany's DAX .GDAXI 0.1 percent and France's CAC 40 .FCHI 0.2 percent.

U.S. President Donald Trump's decision on Wednesday to disband two business councils after a number of its members quit in protest over his comments about white nationalists also continued to weigh on stock valuations.

"Trump dissolving his major business groups makes the investment community even more pessimistic because this sets the stage for even more failure for him," said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets in London.

The dollar erased much of its overnight losses, however.

It jumped 0.4 percent against a trade-weighted basket of other currencies .DXY and 0.8 percent against the euro, which hit a three-week low following news of the concern about its gains from within the ECB.

"The euro has shot down as a result. It is a good question of how much further we will go. The reality is the ECB is definitely more concerned than the market gave it credit for," said Simon Derrick, chief market analyst with Bank of New York Mellon in London.

"I think it is entirely possible you could see further downward pressure on the euro."

In commodities, palladium hit a 16-year high, tracking a rally in other base metals.

 

London copper, aluminum and zinc were just off multi-year highs on expectation that a reform of the metals industry in China will curb supply against a backdrop of robust demand.

Oil prices were steady after U.S. data showed a fall in crude stockpiles but also an increase in production, taking crude output to its highest in more than two years.

For Reuters Live Markets blog on European and UK stock markets see reuters://realtime/verb=Open/url=http://emea1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/cms/?pageId=livemarkets

Reporting by Alasdair Pal, additional reporting by Patrick Graham in London; editing by John Stonestreet

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Forex turnover declines at investors window - BUSINESSDAY

AUGUST 17, 2017

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The foreign exchange daily turnover declined by 20.58 percent to $93.21 million on Wednesday from $117.36 million recorded on Monday at the investors and exporters window.

The data obtained from FMDQ show that naira gained N2.68k to close at N359.69k per dollar compared to N362.37k traded the previous day at the window.

Naira also strengthened at the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Fixing (NAFEX), and the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Fixing (NIFEX), gaining N1.33k and N0.38k respectively. It closed at N362.33k on Tuesday from N363.66k on Monday at the NAFEX, while it closed at N326.37k per dollar on Tuesday from N362.75k per dollar on Monday at the NiFEX window.

At the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) official market, the local currency remained stable closing at the rate of N305.65k per dollar, data from FMDQ revealed.

However, naira closed at N367 per US dollar which show a depreciation in value compared to between N362.50k and N363 per dollar traded in the previous week at the black market.

 

HOPE MOSES-ASHIKE

Nigeria has $41bn plan to diversify away from oil, Amaechi - BUSINESSDAY

AUGUST 17, 2017

Nigeria has started a $41 billion railway expansion to reduce dependence on oil and diversify its struggling economy by improving transport links to allow the movement of goods around the country and to ports.

“The plan we have now will go to every nook and corner,” Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi, 52, said in an interview in the capital, Abuja.

Africa’s biggest oil producer is going through its worst economic slump in 25 years following a plunge in the price and output of crude, which accounts for more than 90 percent of foreign income and two-thirds of government revenue. President Muhammadu Buhari’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, presented in March, seeks to boost agriculture and manufacturing by developing the country’s transport network and power infrastructure.

Key projects include building a second railway line connecting the nation’s two biggest cities, the commercial capital, Lagos, and Kano in the north. The 1,100-kilometer (680-mile) line will carry freight and passengers. The government also wants to construct a coastal railway that connects Lagos to the eastern city of Calabar.

The two new railways are expected to cost $20 billion, with most of the funding coming from the Export–Import Bank of China, which has so far released $5.9 billion. China’s Civil Engineering and Construction Co. is building the project and both railways should be ready by the end of 2019, Amaechi said in an interview last week.

General Electric Co. is leading a group that’s rehabilitating Nigeria’s 3,505 kilometers of century-old, narrow-gauge railways linking the coastal cities of Port Harcourt and Lagos with the north. The group, includingSinoHydro of China, South Africa’s Transnet SOC Ltd. and the Netherlands’ APM Terminals BV will fund, revamp and operate the railways for a period to be decided in negotiations with the government, the minister said. They won the concession in May.

The group plans to invest $2.2 billion, Sabiu Zakari, permanent secretary in the Transport Ministry, said at the time. Nigeria will then have two links between Lagos and Kano, with the new Chinese-built one allowing trains to travel twice as fast as they can on the existing link.

The West African nation is opening up its rail system to private investors following decades of government control. Years of neglect while the nation was in political flux during military rule cut freight-rail capacity to 15,000 metric tons a year in 2005, from 3 million tons four decades earlier, according to the Transport Ministry. Most goods are now transported on worn-out and congested roads. By comparison, Transnet has the capacity to move more than 70 million tons of coal to one South African port annually.

“The rail in Nigeria was neglected for too long,” said Oke Maduegbuna, managing partner at transportation and logistics consultancy Pete, Moss & Sam Ltd. “There’s a new awareness among government officials of the economic benefits of a good rail network,” the Abuja-based expert said by phone, adding that the new projects would succeed only if there is consistency in their planning and execution.

Another $16 billion will be invested in additional rail routes to link up all the country’s state capitals and extend across the northern border into neighboring Niger’s southern city of Maradi, according to the Transport Ministry. Amaechi said it was too early to share a timeline or funding details as the government is still talking to investors for this public-private project.

The government is also trying to complete a $3 billion line from Abuja to the southern oil hub of Warri by 2018, the minister said.

With rail links to the existing and planned deep-sea ports, Nigeria hopes to substantially reduce logistics costs and facilitate exports and imports. The GE concession will provide rail infrastructure that will decongest roads and improve cargo traffic, Nigerian Ports Authority Managing Director Hadiza Bala Usman said in an interview last month.

W. Africa Crude-Angolan trade slows, Nigerian diffs fall - REUTERS

SEPTEMBER 14, 2017

LONDON, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Activity was muted on Thursday with cargoes lingering after being on offer for some two weeks, with levels falling for Nigerian grades.

ANGOLA

* About eight cargoes were still available from the October schedule, one trader said.

* Total was still showing Girassol and Nemba. Chevron was also still offering a cargo of Cabinda.

* Unipec offered a cargo of Pazflor at dated Brent plus 45 cents and a cargo of Sangos at dated Brent plus 35 cents a barrel.

NIGERIA

* About 20 October-loading cargoes were still available.

* Unipec offered a cargo of Okwori along with Ghanaian Jubilee and Congolese Djeno.

* Offers for Forcados have sunk from close to dated Brent plus $2 a barrel to just above dated Brent plus $1 a barrel, one potential buyer said.

TENDERS

* Indian refiner BPCL is looking for West African grades in a tender it is running this week. The tender closes on Friday. (Reporting by Julia Payne; editing by David Clarke) ))

 

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