Business News of 2013-12-12

Banks worried over next round of BoG re-capitalisation

The 26 universal banks currently operating in Ghana are anxiously awaiting an announcement from the Bank of Ghana (BoG) setting the timeline for the next round of re-capitalisation.

Last week's public reference, by the central bank's Governor, Dr Kofi Wampah, to the planned recapitalisation exercise, originally announced a couple of months ago by his deputy, Millicent Narh, has put the banks on their toes although it is still unclear when the exercise will commence.

However, the re-capitalisation, from the current minimum level of GHC60 million to a new minimum of GHC120 million has already claimed its first two victims and in the process has created tension among the owners of indigenous Ghanaian banks.

The impending increase is already being applied to new entrants into Ghana's banking industry and thus has stalled the commencement of operations by the two latest financial institutions to be granted provisional universal banking licenses by the BoG.

These are First Capital Plus and First National, both of them still currently savings and loans institutions. Both institutions were given provisional licenses last year by the central bank and were expected to fulfill a few last requirements, the most crucial being the meeting of the then minimum capital requirement of GHC60 million before receiving their full operating licenses.

However they have both been caught out by the BoG's decision to double the minimum capital requirement for new entrants which they are hard put to meet. Over the past few months they have been strategizing how to raise the capital now required, having just struggled to raise half of it, thinking that would be enough to start up.

This brings into sharp focus the possible fate of indigenous equity stakes in Ghana's universal banks as the new minimum capital level about to be applied stretches the financial wherewithal of local investors.

Shareholders in the two embattled savings and loans companies that seek to transform into universal banks may have to look towards foreign equity investors to obtain at least part of the other half of the capital they now need; when the new minimum is eventually extended to already operational banks, their own Ghanaian shareholders may be faced with the same prospect.

Of the 26 universal banks, 15 are foreign-owned and 11 areā€¢ Ghanaian-owned. Indigenous ownership is propped up by the state which holds shares in several of the banks, either directly or through the -Social Security and National Insurance Trust [SSNIT].

Between government's direct equity investments and its indirect investments through SSNIT, these account for indigenous majority equity participation in the country's second largest bank, Ghana Commercial Bank [GCB] and the medium sized National Investment Bank [NIB].

Government and the BoG itself between them also own the sixth largest bank, Agricultural Development Bank [ADB].