Saturday, May 05, 2007

NIGERIA'S briefcase bankers are finally putting down roots.

Saw this interesting piece..thut I should share ..and una talk say country no good?

Briefcase bankers from JPMorgan, Citigroup build Nigerian roots

Investment bankers who until now had flown into Lagos to do deals then retreated to homes in New York or London are now opening offices in the country as record oil revenue, asset sales and a crackdown on corruption spur economic growth. Nigeria may overtake South Africa as the region's largest economy by 2020.

Nigeria's commitment to democracy and free markets will be tested after the election, which may bring the first peaceful transfer of power from one civilian leader to another since independence from Britain 47 years ago. President Olusegun Obasanjo will step down May 29 after eight years in office.

``We're not waiting on the sidelines to see if the elections are successful,'' says London-based Yvonne Ike, JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s country chief, who is moving back to her homeland to open a permanent office. ``We're trying to end briefcase banking in Nigeria.''

Bankers are warming to Nigeria after record oil prices helped slash the country's international debt to $3.4 billion from $35 billion in two years. The government plans to invest $67 billion in the oil and gas industry and spend $7.3 billion to double power production by the end of next year.

Nigeria is also selling state-owned companies to diversify the economy, which gets 95 per cent of its export revenue from oil. The government is seeking investors for coal mines, power plants and oil-services companies. It is also selling stakes in cement and sugar companies owned with neighboring Benin.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. last year advised China's Cnooc Ltd. on its $2.7 billion purchase of a stake in a Nigerian oil field.

``All indications we're getting are that the reforms will continue after the elections,'' says Craig Bond, chief of African operations outside South Africa for Johannesburg-based Standard Bank Group Ltd., which is buying a Nigerian bank. ``We're going into this market boots and all.''

While Obasanjo has boosted spending on roads, communications and power, a festering insurgency in the oil-producing Niger River delta cost the economy $4.5 billion in oil revenue last year. Poll monitors said that April 14 states elections were tarnished by ballot rigging and violence that left at least 21 people dead, raising concerns about the presidential vote.

``There is a fair bit of turbulence there now because of the elections, and ideally you would like to see that settle down before moving in,'' says Dana Botha, head of African operations at Johannesburg-based Absa Group Ltd. ``The opportunities, however, do exist.''

A ``robust understanding of the risks is critical,'' says Ike, who flies to Nigeria twice a month to meet with clients.

Ike is one of a new breed of bankers who are trading Fifth Avenue and Piccadilly for the streets of Lagos, Africa's most populous city, where vendors weave through miles of gridlock wielding dead rodents to advertise rat poison.

The 40-year-old says she'll miss the things she takes for granted in London, such as well-stocked shops, working telephones and watching television without the hum of a generator in the background. Yet she's upbeat about Nigeria's future, even if she's moving to a city where burning trash blacken the sky.

``Nigeria is delightfully chaotic,'' Ike says. ``You can look at things and think it's terrible, but you can also look at it as an opportunity.''

Deutsche Bank AG, which has seven people in the country, is among the biggest holders of Nigerian government bonds. The Frankfurt-based bank says fees from sub-Saharan Africa, outside South Africa, are growing more than 30 per cent a year, double the rate in Europe.

``Big players are coming to the market,'' says Kayode Akinkugbe, Deutsche Bank's head of global markets coverage for sub- Saharan Africa.

Citigroup Inc., which has rented offices in Nigeria since 1984, will move into its own building on Lagos's Victoria Island in August, says Emeka Emuwa, head of the bank's Nigerian unit.

``It's hard to compete if you're not in the corridors,'' he says.

The biggest U.S. bank is loaning United Cement Co. of Nigeria Ltd., a venture between Lagos-based Flour Mills Nigeria Plc and Switzerland's Holcim Ltd., $205 million to finance a new cement plant in Nigeria.

``In the past we would never have done that much,'' says Emuwa, 46.

BNP Paribas SA, the biggest French bank, opened a representative office in Nigeria last year, helping it win more deals, says Ronke Onadeko-Osayande, the bank's country director in Lagos. Last month it arranged a $1.5 billion loan to Zenon Petroleum & Gas Ltd., which is building an oil-products storage facility and a chain of gas stations.

``We're more on the ground, which makes it easier to spot opportunities,'' she says.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts Nigeria's economy will expand 8.2 per cent this year from an estimated 5.3 per cent growth in 2006. The country's benchmark stock index quadrupled over the past seven years.

Nigeria has proven trustworthy on what it owes. The country last month paid $480 million to Merrill Lynch & Co., the last of its debt to the London Club of commercial lenders.

``The excitement I feel about what is happening in Africa and Nigeria is more about untapped opportunities than about going back to my roots,'' Ike says.


Patricia M. Daboh said...

Your article was intersting, for like you stated in it, "Nigeria is delightfully chaotic . .you can look at things and think it's terrible, but you can also look at it as an opportunity." That is how I felt when I was there a few months back. Most everything about Nigeria seemed chaotic, but yet I saw many opportunities for its modernazation, technological advances, and a better way of living as well. And as was said, we in America and London enjoy the niceties of life without the hum of a generator, and hopefully one day Nigeria will also.

umc said...

The future does appear to be interesting.

lagosbabe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lagosbabe said...

Nice article from Bloomberg. Actually forwarded it to some of my naija peeps that believe there is no hope for that country.

Like Ike said, if we can get past the chaotic scene that naija seems to have, we'll realize that the chaos only creates opportunities for growth and development.

Té la mà Maria said...

irreverent, iconoclastic e liberty in Catalonia - Spain


Anonymous said...

Tosin...i get so optimistic about Nigeria but truth is...YES there ARE great opportunities. AND YES there's AMAZING POTENTIAL.But still so much that is WRONG WRONG WRONG about the way things are going...

While the FSI has opened up in some ways with FDIs...a lot of the FDI is still very opportunistic.And that's becos the business environment that will attract the kind of investment which can build Nigeria the way it has Singapore and SA etc, is yet to come.

But i suppose it's a start. Though P.S "travelbag banking" beats "briefcase banking" i suppose.

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