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Power firms owe banks N820bn, sector’s problems persist

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The debt owed to Nigerian banks by operators in the power sector rose by 11.85 per cent in one year to N819.97bn in August this year amid the lingering problems plaguing the sector since it was privatised over eight years ago, according to the Central Bank of Nigeria data.

The PUNCH had reported in July last year that the core investors in the distribution companies were looking to restructure the loans advanced to them by banks for the acquisition of the power assets.

In November 2013, the nation’s distribution and generation companies were privatised, fetching about $3.2bn for the Federal Government, as the Discos and Gencos were sold for $1.7bn and $1.5bn, respectively.

Power generation firms and independent power producers increased their total debt to N500.12bn in August 2021 from N418.01bn in the same month last year, data obtained from the CBN show.

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Transmission and distribution firms owed banks N339.39bn as of August, up from N311.54bn a year earlier, according to the CBN data.

“Several banks made loans to the power sector during the power sector privatisation in 2013. If power sector loans become impaired, this leads to an increase in the cost of risk for these banks. These loans include significant sums lent to purchase power generation and distribution assets.” analysts at CSL Stockbrokers Limited said in a note on Friday.

Last week, it emerged that the United Bank of Africa Plc, which provided the loan used for the acquisition of majority shares in Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, had taken over the majority stake in the Disco.

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The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission and the Bureau of Public Enterprises disclosed in a joint statement that there was a dispute with UBA over the inability of AEDC’s core investor, KANN Utility Company Limited, to service its debt to the bank.

“It then became apparent that decisive steps were required to address the matter and BPE agreed with the lender’s request to exercise its powers as receiver/manager over KANN by exercising its power over the 60 per cent equity in AEDC as a means of recovering the acquisition granted by the bank,” they said.
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CSL Stockbrokers Limited noted that UBA had in 2016 confirmed exposure to Ughelli Power Plant, Ikeja and Abuja Discos.

It said, “As of H1 2021, UBA reported nine per cent of its gross loans to the power and energy sector, which comes roughly to about N245.4bn.

“Since the conclusion of the privatisation process that took place in 2013, Discos have remained the weakest link in the electricity value chain, as they have been grappling with enormous operational challenges.”

According to the analysts, the most obvious challenge has been the perennial issue of the absence of cost-reflective tariffs, a condition that has hindered their ability in fulfilling their financial obligations to the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc, leading NBET to default in its contractual obligation to Gencos.

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They said, “The overall impact is that the power sector has continually suffered a cash crunch, forcing the government to inject funds to avert a total collapse. Despite a series of government interventions, the problems in the power sector prevail.

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“Although we acknowledge that the challenges in the nation’s power sector run across the entire value chain, we believe the distribution companies are the most troubled.”

All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.

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Chain Reactions in 7 star performance at 2024 SABRE awards

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It was a seven-star performance for Chain Reactions Africa (CRA), one of Africa’s leading Public Relations and Integrated Communications Consultancy as it took home seven African SABRE trophies, more than any other public relations firm in Africa in the 2024 competition.

The awards which were held at the end of the annual African Public Relations Association (APRA) Conference, were presented by Provoke Media, organizers of the awards in Basam, Abidjan, Cote D’Ivore on May 16th 2024.
The work covered campaigns for the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), and its Lagos Blue Rail, 9mobile’s The Hack – Expand Your Hustle’, ‘Taming the Bull’ for the Presidency, ‘Next Era of Happiness’ for leading biscuit company, Pladis Foods Nigeria Limited.

Receiving the awards on behalf of Chain Reactions and its clients, was its Managing Director/Chief Strategist, Israel Opayemi, who noted that this is a seven-star performance by Chain Reactions Africa at the 2024 SABRE Awards.

In his comments, Opayemi said “To emerge as the highest winner at the 2024 edition of the award with seven SABRE Awards is humbling as well as exciting for us at Chain Reactions Africa. We are immensely proud to be honoured on such a global platform like the SABRE awards which is the holy grail of Public Relations globally as the awards programme is dedicated to benchmarking the best PR works across the globe.”

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He continued, “I am making a three-fold dedication of these multiple trophies to our clients who believe in us, my team members who do the brave works relentlessly and our dear country Nigeria. Ten years ago, we were at the SABRE Awards in Miami, Florida in the United States watching and applauding as winners took turns on stage. Ten years ago, we were asking for a seat at the table. Today, we are sitting in creative resplendence at the head of the table. Today, we are flying the Nigerian flag on the global stage. We are now a territory of reckoning and relevance in the global PR space.”

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It seems winning awards is just a Chain Reactions thing, chuckled Arun Sudhaman CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Provoke Media, organizers of the SABRE Awards as Opayemi rose up seven times to receive the awards. The PR consultancy also picked up four Certificates of Excellence in recognition of its work launching the Nigerian Youth Trend Report 2024 known as ‘ARAMANDA’, ‘Next Era of Happiness’, ‘Lagos Blue Rail’, ‘The Hack – Expand Your Hustle’, and ‘Taming the Bull’.

In his reaction, the President and Chairman of the Council of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) described the awards by Chain Reactions Africa as “a harvest of honours for Nigeria”. He thanked the Chain Reactions Africa team for their outstanding work saying, “Thank you for making us proud.”

Chain Reactions Africa has over the years won several prestigious SABRE awards and has been awarded more than 15 Certificates of Excellence. At last year’s award, the company won CEO of the Year category for the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu for the use of public relations to tell the story of his administration’s achievements and scooped two Certificates of Excellence in the Corporate Image category for the ‘Momentum Campaign’ for Cellulant, a flagship payment solution provider; and ‘Marketing to Consumers’ category for ‘The #NaijaHighlandah Campaign’ for William Lawson’s, Scotch Whiskey brand.

The 2024 Africa SABRE Awards shortlist included more than 120 campaigns, selected from over 500 entries in this year’s competition, which recognizes Superior Achievement in Branding, Reputation and Engagement. The campaigns were evaluated by a jury of industry leaders.

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Port Harcourt refinery begins operation July

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The 210,000-barrel-per-day Port-Harcourt refinery may finally commence operations by the end of July after several postponements.

The new date was disclosed on Monday by the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu.

He stated that the development would stimulate economic activities, reduce the price of petroleum products and ensure adequate supply.

Last year in December, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Heineken Lokpobiri, announced the mechanical completion and flare start-off of the biggest crude refinery in Port Harcourt.

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The refineries comprise two units, with the old plant having a refined capacity of 60,000 barrels per day and the new plant has 150,000 BPD.

The refinery shut down in March 2019 for the first phase of repair works after the government secured the service of a technical adviser of Itay’s Maire Tecnimont to handle the reviews of the refinery complex, with oil major Eni appointed technical adviser.

On March 15, 2024, it was reported that the Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, stated that the Port Harcourt refinery would commence operations in about two weeks.

The NNPC boss disclosed this during a press briefing after he appeared before the Senate Ad hoc committee investigating the various turnaround maintenance projects of the country’s refineries.

He said, “We did a mechanical completion of the refinery that was what we said in December. We now have crude oil already stocked in the refinery. We are doing regulatory compliance tests that must happen in every refinery before you start it, and I assure you that this Port Harcourt refinery will start in two weeks.”

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However, the machinery had yet to begin operations two months after he made the promise.

In an exclusive interview on Monday, the IPMAN official stated that the work done represented a complete turnaround, not just rehabilitation, emphasising that every effort would be made to meet the July deadline.

Ukadike said, “Yes when we visited the place, the MD told us that the refinery was almost ready and by the end of July, they would start producing. It has been turned into a new one they changed all the armoured cable to brand new and everything there is almost like a brand-new refinery.

“The turnaround on maintenance is very massive and the job is being done day and night. All hands are on deck to make sure that they meet that target. By ending of July the refinery should be ready.”

When reminded of several promises by the government to kick start the project, Ukadike replied, “Yes, there have been delays but they didn’t tell us any reason for the delay of the last deadline given in April.

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“They are not facing any challenges at all; I can say the refinery is 99 per cent ready.

“What we want is competition. I am very sure that with the two refineries, the price of petrol will be reduced. Dangote is coming soon and the Port Harcourt refinery is almost ready too and that is very good. We need that competition for the benefit of the nation.”

The new timeline coincides with a proposal by the Dangote Refinery to commence petrol production by ending of next month (June).

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The Chairman of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, while speaking at the Africa CEO forum annual summit in Kigali, assured Nigerians that following the laid-down plans of the Dangote Refinery, Nigeria would no longer need to import petrol starting next month.

According to him, the refinery can meet West Africa’s petrol and diesel needs, as well as the continent’s aviation fuel demand.

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With an average monthly consumption of 1 billion litres, Nigeria currently spends approximately N520bn on the importation of PMS every month.

This means the government may cut approximately N6.2tn yearly import bill.

Commenting, the NNPCL Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Femi Soneye, said regulatory approvals from international bodies were the only impediment stalling the operational commencement of the refinery.

Soneye in an exclusive interview with our correspondent on Monday reiterated that mechanical completion had been achieved, and all pipes were operating flawlessly, transporting crude oil supplied by Shell.

He said, “We have said that the mechanical completion has been done and every other thing is done. There is crude oil and all the pipes are working; we are only waiting for regulatory approvals. Like I said, some of our materials and the things we use have to do with nuclear and we need the nuclear authorities to give us approval to use all those things at the site.

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“And some of these approvals come from bodies outside of Nigeria. Until they give us those approvals, we can’t begin operations. We are ready to go but if something happens without it, which would be another issue. Everything has been completed in terms of our work, and once we get those approvals, it will start operations.”

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Real estate firm approves N14.50 dividend

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SFS Real Estate Investment Trust says it will pay N14.50 per share as dividends to its shareholders for 2023.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of SFS Capital Nigeria Limited, Patrick Ilodianya, disclosed this during the company’s general meeting held on Tuesday in Lagos.

According to Ilodianya, the SFS Real Estate Investment Trust, formerly known as Skye Shelter Fund, a subsidiary of SFS Capital Nigeria, witnessed a 70 per cent growth in net income to N317.5m in 2023 from N186.6m in the prior year.

“Concurrently, we observed a growth in dividend payouts of 71.60 per cent, nearly doubling,” he stated.

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The managing director explained that despite encountering challenging market conditions, SFS REIT consistently delivered dividends every year since its inception.

“In 2023, SFS REIT is proposing a dividend of N14.50 per share, marking this the highest dividend ever distributed in the Fund’s 17-year history.

“To contextualise these achievements, consider an investor who acquired SFS REIT shares on January 1, 2023, at a share price of N77.00. This investor would witness a capital appreciation of N24.35 per share (31.62 per cent), with the current share price standing at N101.35 per share.

“The overwhelming demand for shares has rendered them currently unavailable for purchase, as demand far exceeds supply. A dividend payout of N14.50 per share translates to an 18.83 per cent return compared to the share price on January 1, 2023, resulting in an estimated total return of over 50 per cent annually,” Ilodianya enunciated.

He spoke further that SFS REIT had invested in multiple units within organised and efficiently managed residential estates along the expanding Lekki corridor.

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He listed some notable investments, including Milverton Court Estate, Victoria Crest V Estate, Sapphire Gardens Estate, Maben Phase 2 Estate, Bourdillon Court Estate, Victory Park Estate, and Cromwell Court Estate.

He added that real estate returns remain stable while adjusting to inflation and consistently appreciating under skilled fund managers.

“Within SFS REIT, our Average Occupancy rate exceeds 98 per cent, while the average rental default rate remains below 1.5 per cent. Over the years, we have implemented various Proptech initiatives aimed at optimising rent collection, increasing occupancy rates, and reducing default occurrences.

“Leveraging technology, we have streamlined our property acquisition and disposal processes, enhanced tenant sourcing and appraisal procedures, automated entry/access control, and facilitated electricity vending.

“With 17 years of experience under our belt, SFS Capital Nigeria Limited remains exceedingly optimistic about the future. Positioned strategically, we are poised to implement innovative strategies to expand the fund and enhance its yield. While our current dividend payout of N14.50 per share represents the pinnacle in the history of REITs, we anticipate no decline. Instead, we envision SFS REIT continuing to deliver higher dividends in the foreseeable future,” he concluded.

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