Citigroup targets rapid Middle East, Africa growth in 2018

The investment bank expects bond sales, mergers and acquisitions and public share sales to pick-up. (Reuters)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Citigroup targets rapid Middle East, Africa growth in 2018

ABU DHABI: Citigroup expects 2018 to be its best year for investment banking in the Middle East and Africa in at least a decade, likely led by Saudi Arabia, a senior executive at the US bank said.
Nigeria, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates would also be the main growth drivers as bond sales, mergers and acquisitions and public share sales pick-up, Miguel Azevedo, Citigroup’s head of investment banking, Middle East and Africa, said.
“The pipeline in the Middle East and Africa is as good as we have seen since the global financial crisis of 2008,” he told Reuters in an interview, adding that emerging markets represented a larger weight of Citi’s earnings than for others.
“GDP growth for advanced economies this year is between 2.5 and 3 percent, while for emerging markets it is between 4.5 and 5 percent. For investment banking, the growth should maybe be even more,” Azevedo said.
In the Middle East and Africa, getting deals done would depend on market stability, but swings in global stocks in recent days represented a correction and were not “enough to put any of these transactions off.”
Citigroup said last month it had won formal approval from Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority to begin an investment banking business there, enabling its return after an absence of almost 13 years.
Several international lenders are seeking to build a Saudi presence as opportunities emerge from reforms to wean the economy off a reliance on oil revenues. Those include privatizations such as the planned listing up to 5 percent of Saudi Aramco.
Citi was among those invited to pitch for a role in the stock market listing, sources told Reuters last month and the bank has already hired former Saudi Fransi Capital executive Majed Al-Hassoun to head its Saudi investment banking business, which it is developing with further hires.
“There is a very significant privatization push ... this could create the opportunity for investors to deploy capital to develop the industrial base and infrastructure,” he said.
The bank also expects significant opportunities in Nigeria, which has low debt levels and was expected to return to the bond markets in 2018, while Nigerian companies were also forecast to issue bonds and launch initial public offerings, Azevedo added.
Nigeria issued a $3 billion two-part international bond in November, a deal managed by Citigroup and Standard Chartered.
Egypt’s outlook was also positive after the 2016 currency devaluation and IPOs were slated in sectors such as industrial and manufacturing and financial services and consumer, he said.


India’s small renewables firms fighting consolidation wave

Updated 21 August 2018
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India’s small renewables firms fighting consolidation wave

  • With many smaller operators being gobbled up or offering themselves for sale, the number of projects being developed could fall
  • Besides loans, other funding options have been dead ends for the smaller companies, further limiting growth opportunities

MUMBAI: Small to mid-sized renewable energy companies in India are starting to look like attractive takeover targets as lenders and investors withhold funds, worried by the stiff competition, weak bond markets, low tariffs and high debt besetting the sector.
The small companies’ difficulty in raising cash is keeping them away from government power project auctions, restricting their growth and crippling their ability to refinance loans, said a consultant from a top global consultancy firm.
With many smaller operators being gobbled up or offering themselves for sale, the number of projects being developed could fall, potentially keeping India from its renewable energy targets, said the consultant, who did not wish to be named as he is directly involved with a company that canceled a bond issue.
“India’s solar industry is becoming a big boys’ club,” said Rahul Goswami, managing director of Greenstone Energy Advisers.
In a few years, there may be only a few big companies and a few regional firms active in India’s renewable sector, he said.
The trend goes back at least to 2016, when Tata Power bought solar and wind company Welspun Renewable Energy, but the pace is expected to pick up.
“Smaller players are being squeezed out ... due to two main factors: cost of equipment and ... financing,” said Alok Verma, executive director at Kotak Investment Banking, an arm of Kotak Mahindra Bank.
One of India’s largest renewables companies, Greenko Group, said in June that it was buying 750 megawatts (MWs) of solar and wind assets from Orange Renewables, because the Singapore-based company saw few opportunities for growth. The deal has yet to be closed.
Essel Infra, with a renewable power capacity of 685 MWs, and Shapoorji Pallonji Group’s 400-MW solar arm are also in talks to sell off their assets, one firm and two banks doing the due diligence for these companies have said.
Besides loans, other funding options have also been dead ends for the smaller companies, further limiting growth opportunities.
ACME Solar postponed an initial public offering (IPO) announced in September last year as the proposed share issue did not generate enough interest from investors, confirmed a banker who was directly involved in the listing attempt.
Mytrah Energy, a major mid-sized renewables company, called off a $300 million to $500 million bond issue earlier this year as that option also went dry for the sector, and it canned IPO plans as well, said a separate banker directly involved there.
The companies have all declined to comment.
This dearth of financing and trend toward consolidation could be a significant threat to India’s target of 175 gigawatts (GWs) of renewables capacity by 2022, up from 71 GWs now, some analysts said.
Others said a concentration of bigger players, with more cash and better financing, could mean things move faster.
“Consolidation in the renewable energy industry augurs well for the overall success of the program ... Large players have access to required capital at reasonable rates and can procure the latest technology,” said Debasish Mishra, head of Energy, Resources and Industrials at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India.
Tata Power, one of India’s largest power generators, said in May it plans to invest $5 billion to increase its renewable capacity in India fourfold over the next decade to 12 GWs.
More than doubling India’s renewables capacity by 2022 will require $76 billion, including debt of $53 billion, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy said in July.
Another problem in India’s renewable sector is debt.
“Many mid-sized firms have taken debt to fund their equity,” the partner of an investment firm said, adding that many such companies will need financial restructuring or have to put themselves up for auction.
This model of financing debt through equity is called mezzanine financing and tends to involve high interest rates and an option to convert debt to equity in future.
Both ACME and Mytrah are funded by Piramal Finance Ltd. via mezzanine financing, according to statements by the companies at the time of funding.
For lending banks, this quasi-equity is seen as debt, making the liabilities of these companies look higher than usual, said the partner, who asked not to be named. The investment firm handles all kinds of financing, including mezzanine.
When companies with mezzanine financing go to banks for funds for upcoming projects, banks ask them for higher collateral or offer less cash in loan, said Kotak’s Verma.
Fitch Solutions said in a note last week that India would likely miss its renewable capacity targets due to “risks stemming from bureaucratic, financing and logistical delays.”