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Investment banks in Africa

09.02.2015Estelle Brack, Economist, Groupe BPCE

Africa represents a small percentage of the global investment banking business, but the activity is expected to expand in the years to come in view of already apparent economic opportunities.

According to Thomson Reuters, the commissions generated by investment banking activities in Africa amounted to $318 million in 2013, of which $232 million was in South Africa alone. This is modest when compared to the levels in the rest of the world, which generated $82.6 billion in commissions in the same year, returning to its levels of 2007. Globally, the five largest investment banks are based in the United States, and their market share increased by 2.5% in 2013. JP Morgan is the leading global investment bank, generating $6.4 billion in commission (7.8% of the total), followed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch ($5.8 billion), Goldman Sachs ($5.1 billion), Morgan Stanley ($4.7 billion) and Citi ($4.2 billion). The investment banks operate mainly with major clients (companies, investors and governments) providing advisory services (mergers and acquisitions), intermediation (loans) and long term financing operations (IPO, issuing of debt in the form of bonds). Here, we distinguish between corporate finance, global capital markets and structured finance operations.

The continent's outlook for economic growth makes it an attractive place for investment banks

The continent's economic growth quite logically feeds financing operations, the development of the capital markets, and advisory services, all areas of which investment banks are actively involved in. Many activities will require the intervention of investment banks with the arrival of multinationals, the restructuring of the banking and telecommunications sectors, the exploitation of new mining deposits and the launch of major public investment programmes.

Africa, like the rest of the world, is experiencing a change in its strategy to financing for development. Traditional donor interventions are often inadequate to meet the financing needs for infrastructure, while the traditional means of mobilising resources at the country level (taxation, etc.) face major challenges. As a result, the continent is increasingly turning towards local and global capital markets to access new financial sources.

The world leaders in corporate banking (BNPP, SGCIB, Natixis, HSBC, Citibank and Standard Chartered) as well as investment banking (Rothschild, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Crédit Suisse) are very active on the continent. Alongside them, local players such as Standard Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, Renaissance Capital, EFG Hermes and Attijari Finances Corp are well established. These are followed by new players who have recently entered the market, including United Bank for Africa (UBA), First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) and Ecobank, all of which have created their own specialised subsidiaries (UBA Capital, FBN Capital and Ecobank Capital). Currently, African banks dominate the mobilisation of funds in local currency.

In order to adapt to market changes and the new opportunities presented, many banks have announced the repositioning of their investment banking activity in markets outside South Africa. Nedbank, for example, merged its corporate and investment businesses, while Standard Chartered Bank redeployed in Africa, and Barclays Africa has announced that it has high expectations of its African markets outside of South Africa, which remains the most attractive location to date.

Today, we observe that the international banks in Africa carry out their investment banking activities in Anglophone and Francophone countries, unlike the retail-banking sector where we see a certain linguistic preference in their regional expansion strategies.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A)

The volume of announced M&A deals in the continent increased by 30% between the first half of 2012 and 2013. According to Mergermarket Group, M&As targeting sub-Saharan African companies totalled $26.7 billion in 2013, an increase of 20% over 2012. The traditionally targeted companies in natural resources, minerals, oil, gas and infrastructure were replaced in 2014 by targets in the telecommunications, media, banking, insurance and consumer goods sectors. 2013 was marked by a record level of operations, with the sale of 28.6% of ENI East Africa to the Chinese company CNPC for $4.2 billion, and the acquisition of 20% of the Rovuma Offshore Area 1 Block (off the coast of Mozambique) by Indian company ONGC Videsh for a total of approximately $5 billion. Alongside conventional industrial investments, private equity operations are expanding through funds such as Helios, Emerging Capital Partners, Abraaj and African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM). In the first eleven months of 2014, the share of M&As carried out inside the African markets reached $29.2 billion for 413 operations, whereas M&A operations targeting Africa amounted to $40.7 billion for a total 730 operations. There were some major market operations in late 2014, such as the takeover of Pepkor, a south African retailing giant, by Steinhoff for $5.7 billion, in Chad, the state bought Chevron assets ($1.3 billion), the takeover of the South African and Nigerian assets of Lafarge by Lafarge Wapco (now known as Lafarge Africa Plc) for $1.35 billion, or the sale of several oil wells to Nigeria for $5 billion by Shell.

A necessary rationalisation

According to Konrad Reuss, in charge of the sub-Saharan Africa department at Standard&Poors, "the heady days of international bonds issued by new players or from frontier markets, such as those of the African countries over the past two years, are over. The periods when we witnessed oversubscription are no longer with us". The reduction of the quantitative easing policy of the US administration is also partly responsible. The new policy is changing the bond issue conditions for countries whose economies are in difficulty, according to S&P, which is anticipating an increase in the cost of eurobonds. For Miguel Azevedo, "The Africa of the past was more a land of pioneers and adventurers. Today, the major players are returning. It is becoming much more mainstream". Recent history has shown that governmental agencies are ready to intervene in Africa (World Bank, AFD, AfDB, EIB, KfW, etc.), as the risks in Africa are not, in the end, much higher than in other places (the United States or Europe). The profitability level remains very attractive for projects to be funded on the continent.

Dr Estelle Brack Estelle Brack is an economist, specialising in banking and finance in developed and in developing countries.

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