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Nigeria stocks record world’s greatest losses

Nigeria’s stock top the list of world most declining top marker, no thanks to bad loans given to speculators which has pushed bank valuations to an all-time low.

A recently released report by Bloomberg shows that the Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index fell 37 percent this year, the steepest quarterly decline in more than a decade and the worst of 89 benchmark indexes.

Stocks in Africa’s largest oil-producing nation reached a five- year low last week, even as a rebound in crude spurred gains in commodity-exporting countries from Russia and Norway to Brazil.

Investors have been fleeing “the good, the bad and the ugly” of the financial industry since Nigerian regulators allowed banks to delay booking losses on so-called margin loans backed by shares, emerging-markets brokerage Renaissance Capital says. The lack of disclosure left investors unable to identify potential losses. The All Share Index may fall another 9 percent, according to Moscow-based Renaissance and London-based Exotix Holding Ltd.

“Without meaningful disclosure investors will be hesitant to come back, especially in the financials,” said Christopher Hartland-Peel, an equity analyst at Exotix. “No one can really tell how the companies are faring.”

Lenders may be holding as much as $10 billion of toxic assets, equal to about half of their capital, according to Eurasia Group, the New York-based research firm that publishes the Global Political Risk Index with Citigroup Inc. Banks have provided at least 1 trillion naira ($6.8 billion) of margin loans to allow investors to buy shares, Bank of America Corp. said in a report last week.
Slowing Economy

Growth of Nigeria’s economy may slow to 1.5 percent this year because of lower revenue from oil, which accounts for 20 percent of gross domestic product, according to Standard & Poor’s. The naira weakened 20 percent against the dollar since Nov. 26, when the Central Bank of Nigeria began limiting the supply of foreign exchange to banks to protect foreign reserves.
Renaissance and Exotix expect the All Share Index to drop to 18,000 from yesterday’s closing level of 19,851.89.

The market has a daily turnover of between $10 million and $20 million and a total capitalization of $30.1 billion, according to Renaissance and UBA Capital, the brokerage unit of Lagos-based United Bank for Africa Plc. That compares with an average turnover of $30.2 billion a day this year on the New York Stock Exchange and a U.S. market capitalization of $9.26 trillion, Bloomberg data show.

No Bank Failures
Lenders make up about two-thirds of the Nigerian stock market, the largest proportion among the 50 equity indexes worldwide that are grouped in industries by Bloomberg and MSCI Inc. Banks accounted for four of the five worst performers this year among the 20 biggest Nigerian stocks by market value.

Wema Bank Plc, the lender whose chief executive was replaced by the central bank in September, dropped 67 percent, while Stanbic IBTC Plc, the Nigerian unit of Standard Bank Group Ltd., and Intercontinental Bank Plc, the country’s fourth- biggest lender, lost 51 percent. Zenith Bank Plc, the second- largest, retreated 47 percent. African Petroleum Plc, Nigeria’s second-biggest fuel retailer by market value, was the worst performer with a 79 percent drop. All are based in Lagos.

Central bank Governor Chukwuma Soludo said Nigeria won’t allow any lenders to fail. Banks in distress may be given loans, have their management restructured or be forced to merge with another lender, he said in a speech in Lagos on March 30.

Bank Reserves
Nigeria’s lenders have among the biggest cushions against losses in the world, according to the central bank. Their average capital adequacy ratio, a measure of capital against risk-weighted assets, stands at about 22 percent, compared with 18.4 percent on average for financial companies in the S&P 500 Index, according to Bloomberg data.

Festus Odoko, spokesman for the central bank, couldn’t be reached to comment.
UBA Capital says the retreat in stocks creates buying opportunities, including Nigerian Breweries Plc, the nation’s biggest beer maker by volume, and Lafarge WAPCO Plc, a unit of the world’s largest cement company. Nigerian Breweries lost 9 percent this year after falling 16 percent in 2008. Lafarge dropped 42 percent after a 68 percent slide last year.

“It’s a time to be increasing exposure with a long-term horizon,” said Jonathan Harrison, the London-based global head of research at UBA.
Niger Delta
Nigeria’s All Share index surged 454 percent from 1998 through last year, as investors poured money into lenders, brewers and construction companies to gain from an economy that grew at an average annual rate of 7.8 percent.

Stocks began falling a year ago as attacks by militants in the Niger River delta cut oil production. A 68 percent tumble in crude prices triggered by the global economic slowdown spurred more equity losses, prompting the stock exchange to temporarily restrict share-price declines to 1 percent a day in August.

Stocks dropped for 23 straight days in October after the Nigerian Central Bank said lenders have the option to restructure margin loans until December 2009.

The six-month decline extended to 57 percent through yesterday, pushing prices for Nigeria’s biggest lenders to below their breakup value, at about 0.75 times net assets, down from a peak of 4.36 in February 2008, according to Exotix. That compares with a ratio of 1.3 for the MSCI Emerging Markets Financials Index, according to Bloomberg data.

“It’s a very opaque market,” said Francis Beddington, co- founder of London-based Insparo Asset Management, which oversees $140 million in Africa and the Middle East. “There are very good companies, but you don’t know what’s going on with the banks.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Janice Kew in Johannesburg at; Michael Patterson in London at