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Coronavirus – Is the Worst over for Nigeria or Just the Tip of the Iceberg?

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By Lukman Otunuga, Senior Research Analyst at FXTM

Africa’s largest economy expanded by 1.87 percent in the first quarter of 2020, bucking the global trend of recessions triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. For comparison’s sake, the performance represented a contraction by 0.68 percent compared to the 2.55 percent growth rate recorded in the Q4 2019 and 0.23 percent, when compared to 2.10 percent growth witnessed in Q1 2019.
What does this performance mean?
Nigeria rolled with a succession of devastating punches in the first quarter. The country’s resilience against tumbling Oil prices and the negative impacts of COVID-19 not only beats expectations, it wins a round during which other larger and developed economies lost growth and confidence on a massive scale. 
The US economy contracted by minus 5.0 percent while GDP in the UK shrank by two percent. In the Eurozone, the economy declined by minus 3.8 percent. Tragically, all those regions had high infection and mortality rates along with forced and extensive lockdowns.

While Nigeria has not escaped the spread of coronavirus, at 8,915 infected and 259 deaths at the time of writing, the virus’ economic impacts were constrained relative to other regions.  

Could the worst be over for Nigeria as global Oil prices recover and economies relax lockdown measures amid gigantic stimulus from central banks? As the worldwide economy slowly gets back on its feet, Nigeria could be strongly positioned for a quicker-than-expected recovery, at least on the basis of Q1 data.  

On the downside, uncertainty abounds. The negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, low Oil prices and slowing global growth may be felt across the economy for the rest of the year. 

The Naira remains exposed to negative shocks, foreign exchange reserves have fallen to $33.4 billion and inflation has jumped to 12.34 percent in April 2020, the highest since April 2018, meaning the Central Bank of Nigeria may have little room for maneuver.

Concerns over a coronavirus driven economic recession has prompted the CBN to reduce the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) to 12.5 per cent, from 13.5 per cent in May. Although lower rates may promote economic growth, this may come at the expense of rising inflationary pressures. Given the current uncertainty around Oil prices, the priority may be to boost consumption and continue diversifying the economy.

Oil prices going sub-zero earlier this year should be another major wakeup call about the importance of diversifying away from Oil dependence to other sustainable sources of growth. 

Economic data over the coming weeks will be critical in assessing whether Nigeria was able to weather the tornado of domestic and external risks in Q1. I’m watching for data from the banking sector on credit reports in June. Inflation and labour force numbers are also set for release and are significant benchmarks of economic health. Any serious deterioration or unexpected strengths in these numbers could set the tone for the second half of the year. 

The country’s outlook will also be affected by developments around the 2020 state budget which was already revised down to 10.52 trillion Naira. 

It’s important for investors to avoid either irrational euphoria or unreasonable negativity under the circumstances. While the Q1 GDP data may offer some semblance of hope, especially in comparison to other major economies, Nigeria is certainly not out of the woods yet. 

Fears around a second wave of coronavirus rattling the global economy may put Oil prices underwater again, rekindling recession fears. Then again, as the virus curves flatten in key economies, growth and recovery are just around the corner. 

In conclusion, one thing is for sure; any recovery scenario would be supported by Nigeria’s resilience and growing economic diversification.
 

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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University.

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Customers to Access up N3m in New UBA Credit Card, Flexible Repayment Plans

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United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, Pan African financial institution, has introduced the new UBA Naira Credit Card to its teeming customers in fulfilment of its promise to ease accessibility to funds and improve the overall standard of living.

Customers to Access up N3m in New UBA Credit Card, Flexible Repayment Plans

Kennedy Uzoka

With the new UBA Naira Credit Card, customers whose salary accounts have been domiciled with the bank for a minimum of three months and are employees of corporates under UBA’s approved counterparty list with minimum net monthly income of N250,000 are in for a stress-free business and personal lifestyle.

They will be qualified to access up to N3m credit, with extremely flexible repayment plans of as low as 10% of their monthly outstanding due.

Specifically, these customers aged between 18 and 57years who apply for the UBA credit card will also enjoy easy access to funds with a revolving line of credit and up to 45 days interest free credit, flexible repayment options; amazing discounts at select merchant locations including Restaurants, Boutiques, among other mouth-watering benefits.

The UBA credit card also allow ATM withdrawals in Nigeria or abroad wherever the Visa logo is displayed while allowing ease of payment of goods and services locally and Internationally on POS/WEB terminals where the Visa logo is displayed.

Sampson Aneke, group head, Digital Banking, UBA, said that as a bank that is interested in the welfare of Nigerians, UBA is always on the forefront of developing products and services aimed at creating wealth, easing living conditions and meeting the needs of its customers all over the world.

He said, “At UBA, we recognise that access to credit is fundamental to the creation of wealth and value in the economy.  Unfortunately, the country has been challenged in this regard with only about 2% of the population presently having access to bank loans.

“It is in addressing these developmental and household challenges that the bank has in recent times developed and introduced a number of unique lending products to the market, with the latest being the innovative UBA credit card.”

Aneke who spoke glowingly about all the benefits that the banks’ customers stand to enjoy from the credit card explained that the UBA Credit card is currently available as Visa Gold card with a card limit of between N75,000 to N1,000,000 and Visa Platinum card with a limit of between N1,000,001 to N3,000,000 and can be used locally and internationally at any ATM or POS outlet which has the Visa logo, WEB (online), and POS terminals.

“There is an interest free period  of 45 days on POS/Web transactions provided 100% repayment is made on the repayment due date and customers are entitled to 30% (annualized) of their monthly salary as credit card limit subject to the existing Debt Service Ratio (DSR).  The monthly repayment cycle will run from the 15th of every month to the 15th of the next month and the credit card statement showing transactions details within the period and the amount due for repayment will be sent to the cardholders’ registered email address,” Aneke said.

He explained that to get the card, customers can walk into any UBA branch or visit the bank’s website at www.ubagroup.com to download the credit card application form, fill it and submit to the Customer Service Officer at any UBA branch nationwide.

United Bank for Africa is a leading pan-African financial institution offering banking services to more than twenty million customers globally.

With footprint in 20 African countries and presence globally in the United Kingdom, the USA and France,

UBA is connecting people and businesses across Africa through retail, commercial and corporate banking, innovative cross border payments and remittances, trade finance and ancillary banking services.


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Access Bank in Discussion For Acquisition Of Zambian Bank

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Access Bank Plc has entered into exclusive discussions with Cavmont Capital Holdings Zambia Plc on the acquisition of Cavmont Bank Limited.

In a regulatory filing at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Access Bank said the discussions bothered on a potential transaction between Access Bank Zambia and Cavmont Bank Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cavmont Capital.

“The potential transaction relates to the sale of 100 per cent of Cavmont Capital’s interest in Cavmont Bank to Access Bank Zambia. There can be no certainty that a transaction will be agreed, nor as to the terms of any such agreement”.

According to Access Bank, the completion of a transaction would be subject to formal regulatory approvals.

“Access Bank will update the market as appropriate and in accordance with its’ disclosure obligations,” it said.

Accordingly, shareholders are advised to exercise caution when dealing in Access Banks securities until a full announcement is made.


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Record US COVID-19 Cases Can’t Halt the Equity Rally

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By Hussein Sayed, Chief Market Strategist at FXTM

Equity markets have pushed higher in Asia following an impressive last hour rally on Wall Street yesterday. The record daily increase in US COVID-19 infections and the sharp rise in deaths has proved no barrier to the bulls. Rises in Apple and Amazon stocks sent the Nasdaq Composite to a new record high of 10,492, while the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 0.78% and 0.68% respectively.

The current environment has led to the closure of the $2.8 billion Lansdowne Partners’ flagship equity long/short hedge fund. The lack of short winning strategies may even force more hedge funds to follow Lansdowne’s footsteps. The stimulus-driven market has made life for long/short strategies extremely difficult as relying on traditional valuation metrics to find short opportunities have failed throughout the latest bull market, and even throughout much of the previous 12 years since the Great Financial Crisis.

Fundamentals and valuations appear to be of limited influence on investor’s decision making. The fear of missing out, or “FOMO”, monetary and fiscal policy actions, low yields, lower interest rates for longer, are some of the factors that have led to this structural change in markets. If the Fed can keep zombie companies alive by keeping the lending taps open, why wouldn’t investors profit from these actions? However, the Fed cannot keep running these measures forever, and for many corporates relying on debt to stay afloat, sooner or later they will fail if they can’t return to profitability.

As always there is the good and the bad news. Depending on where investors put more weight is what drives asset prices and that is what leads to extreme highs and lows. Looking at where US stocks stand at the moment, it seems lots of the good news is already priced in. So even if bulls decide to keep pushing higher, the upside is likely to be limited from current levels unless we learn that an effective vaccine will hit the markets before year end and will be available for most of the population. If investors truly believed that the economy was returning to pre-pandemic levels soon, Gold wouldn’t be standing today at 9-year high, so it’s evident that investors who are participating in this risk-on rally are also hedging their positions by adding safe havens for their safety net.


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