Nairobi opens second derivatives market in sub-Saharan Africa

Nairobi Securities Exchange stockbrokers (photo credit: Nation Media Group)

The Nairobi Securities Exchange says the first trades on its new derivatives market NEXT went smoothly on 4 July, according to media reports. The NEXT market is set up to trade equity index futures and single stock futures. Initially trading is offered in 5 single stock futures and futures on the NSE 25 Index.

The NSE is the second exchange in sub-Saharan Africa after Johannesburg to launch derivatives trading. According to a Business Daily news report, this week’s launch is a soft launch restricted to a few investors, and the market will open to all investors after a week of trials.

Xinhua news agency reports a statement from NSE: “The NSE NEXT derivatives market has successfully conducted its first futures trades. The initial trades were executed by Standard Investment Bank and Kingdom Securities who cleared through the Co-operative Bank of Kenya.”

The market is mostly for individual and institutional investors looking to better manage risks, hedge, arbitrage and speculate over the future value of the participating stocks and the index.

Regulator approves

The Capital Markets Authority (CMA) regulator gave approval to the NSE to launch and operate the “Derivatives Exchange Market” in an announcement on 29 May. This paved the way for Thursday’s launch.

Paul Muthaura, CMA Chief Executive, stated: “‘The approval granted to the NSE to operationalize a derivatives market marks the achievement of a flagship project under the economic pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030. The derivatives market will facilitate deeper and more liquid capital markets and position Kenya closer to becoming the heart of capital markets investment in Africa, as envisioned in the Capital Markets Master Plan”.

Other financial and commodity derivatives will be introduced later.

The launch follows a successful 6-month derivatives pilot test phase in July-Dec 2018, and resolution of key issues that arose. Stanbic Bank and the Co-operative Bank of Kenya have been approved by the banking regulator Central Bank of Kenya to provide clearing and settlement for the derivatives market.

NSE has been working with CMA and other stakeholders for years to prepare for the launch, as reported in this blog in December 2014.

What can you trade?

Investors are initially offered single stock futures targeting 5 liquid stocks: Safaricom, East African Breweries, Equity Holdings, Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and BAT. They can also trade equity index futures based on the NSE 25 share index, that represents the performance of 25 blue-chip listed firms. The index was launched by the bourse in October 2015 as part of preparations for the NEXT derivatives market.

Initially 7 stocks were targeted but the NSE requires that they have a minimum KES 50 billion ($487 million) market capitalization and minimum average daily turnover of KES7m.

According to a report on 4 July in Business Daily, state-run Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) with a market cap on 3 July of KES 39bn and Bamburi Cement (KES 41bn on Wednesday) have been excluded from futures trading after failing the minimum capitalization test.

The newspaper reports NSE chief executive Geoffrey Odundo’s statement: “All futures contracts listed on NEXT will have quarterly expiry dates; this will be the third Thursday of March, June, September and December of every year. All NEXT futures contracts will initially be cash settled.”

Trading fees have been pegged at 0.17% of the total value for single stock futures and 0.14% for index derivatives, compared to trading fees on equities ranging from 1% to 2%. According to an earlier Xinhua report, Rufus Kariuki, manager of derivatives at NSE, said that the derivatives will be settled at the end of each trading day to reduce risk of default by investors.

One contract will be equivalent to 1,000 underlying shares for stocks trading below KES 100 (Safaricom, KCB, Equity and KenGen), while for those trading above KES 100 (BAT, EABL and Bamburi), a contract will equal 100 underlying shares. One index point will equal KES 100 under NSE trading rules for derivatives.

The NSE has set aside KES 130m ($1.27m) for the settlement guarantee fund that will insure investors against counterparty default risk as part of preparations to operationalize the derivatives market.

The NSE expects derivatives trading will boost liquidity. There are 65 listed firms. Telecoms companies and banks are among the most heavily traded.

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