31 Aug

Daily Watch – Addax’s troubles are far from over, Allianz buys Nigerian insurer

  • U.S. authorities are investigating China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation over allegations that the state-controlled oil producer paid Nigerian officials about $100 million worth of bribes to resolve a business dispute, Bloomberg cites unnamed people familiar with the probe. Investigators from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Justice Department are looking into allegations that outside lawyers acting as middlemen for the company, known as Sinopec, funnelled illicit payments from its Swiss unit to the Nigerians through banks in New York and California, said the two people, who didn’t want to be named discussing an active investigation. The alleged payments were intended to resolve a $4 billion dispute between the Chinese oil company’s Addax Petroleum unit in Geneva and the Nigerian government over drilling and other capital costs, tax breaks and a division of royalties between Addax and the NNPC, the people said. In July, Swiss authorities required Sinopec to pay 31 million Swiss francs (₦11.58 billion) in damages after admitting to organisational deficiencies. The matter springs from Sinopec’s biggest acquisition. The Chinese company bought Addax in 2009 for about $7.8 billion to build a corporate presence in Geneva, a commodity-trading hub, and to expand its oil production in Africa.
  • Nigeria has approved the construction of a $5.8 billion hydroelectric power plant by a Chinese state firm, the power minister, Babatunde Fashola, said on Wednesday, the latest in a series of Chinese deals since the project was first envisioned decades ago. The 3,050MW Mambilla hydroelectric plant has been planned for over three decades. Various administrations have pledged to begin work, signing contracts and memoranda of understanding but next to nothing has been done. Nigeria’s cabinet signed off on the award of the contract to build Mambilla to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, Fashola announced. China’s Export-Import Bank will provide 85 percent of the funding and Nigeria’s government will supply the remaining 15 percent for the joint venture, Fashola said, adding that construction should take around six years.
  • Access Bank said on Wednesday it had booked a ₦4 billion ($13 million) impairment on its loan to troubled telecoms firm 9mobile. Access Chief Executive, Herbert Wigwe, said the bank had a direct exposure of ₦11 billion to 9mobile, as well as an exposure of ₦35-39 billion to the telecoms firm’s suppliers. Wigwe told an analysts’ call that Access hoped to recover the debt once 9mobile was sold to new investors. Nigerian banks have agreed on an extension to a $1.2 billion loan made to 9mobile, pending the mobile operator finding new investors. However, some lenders outside the syndicated facility are making provisions. Access Bank said non-performing loans rose to 2.5 percent by the half-year from 2.1 percent as at December, though it posted an 18.4 percent rise in half-year pretax profit to ₦52.08 billion last week.
  • Allianz Group announced a binding agreement Wednesday to acquire 98 percent of Nigerian insurer, Ensure Insurance, from its core shareholder Greenoaks Global Holdings. Ensure Insurance offers life and non-life insurance services and generated 11 million euros in gross premiums written in 2016. “Nigeria is one of the most dynamic economies in Africa. The acquisition of Ensure Insurance Plc. gives us full access to this key insurance market in Africa and marks a major milestone for Allianz’s long-term growth strategy on the continent. This new step of development will allow us to offer the best products and services to Nigerian customers in both personal and commercial lines. In addition, as we grow our excellent African teams, we are laying particular emphasis on hiring and developing local talent,” said Coenraad Vrolijk, Regional CEO Africa of Allianz SE. Pending regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close at the end of 2017.