Archive for the 'Innovation' Category

South Africa’s securities exchange war goes to court

Court is the next battleground in a war to redraw the securities exchange landscape in South Africa. New exchange 4AX has launched a High Court application to set aside both the decisions of the FSB regulator and its Appeals Board to give a licence to new exchange ZAR X, according to Moneyweb .
Last September South Africa’s Financial Services Board awarded licences to ZARX (Pty) Ltd (ZAR X) and 4 Africa Exchange (Pty) Ltd (4AX) (see our story here) .
The JSE and 4AX appealed against ZAR X’s licence but in February 2017 the FSB Appeals Board dismissed the appeal, saying the FSB had complied well with the Financial Markets Act 2012 (FMA), and awarding ZAR X full costs (see another Moneyweb article). ZAR X settled its first trade in February 2017, delayed from an initial September launch date. Its first listing was agribusiness Senwes.
In February Donna Nemer, JSE Director of Capital Markets, said the JSE will fully respect and abide by the decision: “We are still very committed to the market and the participants in this market, and will cooperate fully in the debate on how we should be evolving going forward,” she said. “We will continue the work we are doing with the regulator and all the market participants, including the new exchanges, to maintain the high quality capital markets for which South Africa is really well known.” The JSE is not joining the new court case.
Also in waiting is exchange A2X, which has a licence application with the FSB. For more background on 4AX see our story.

Why another exchange?
The new bourse has 3 listed securities and 7 authorized market participants or brokers, according to its website. It says many listings are set to come.
According to Geoff Cook, cofounder and director of ZAR X, writing in Business Day newspaper this month: “Nowhere is radical change more desperately needed in SA than in the capital markets. The model that has dominated for more than 60 years is stagnant, with no broadening of the capital markets. It is also hopelessly skewed against the private investor.”
Volumes had grown of trading over the counter (OTC) in shares in black economic empowerment schemes for big companies such as MTN, Vodacom, Multichoice, Sasol and Imperial. Other OTC schemes were being operated as restricted shareholder platforms such as large agricultural cooperatives Senwes, TWK and KWV, while a few other companies sought liquidity at low cost for a limited spread of shareholders.

Geoff Cook, ZAR X Head Markets and Regulations (credit ZAR X)


ZAR X co-founder and CEO Etienne Nel created a platform called Equity Express for the OTC market. In July 2014 the FSB issued Board Notice #68 which effectively compels the OTC equity trading market to alter methodology and operate through a licensed exchange in terms of the FMA.
ZAR X works with a prepayment model, so that cash is prefunded (deposited into the system before a trade) and a seller’s shareholding is pre-cleared before concluding a transaction. Securities are held in a segregated depository account at a central securities depository (CSD), as required in the FMA. with a CSD participant facilitating clearing. The trade settles on t+0 or real time.
According to Cook: “Only severe disruption will return the financial markets to any sense of reality and social relevance. That disruption has arrived. Brokers can now execute a R1,000 order profitably through a world-leading T+0 prefunded execution model that does not require settlement risk capital, in which trading and administration applications are provided at minimal cost and where live data is free to all. Safe custody fees are zero and fees are only paid on transactions.
“The equity market is too concentrated and the debt market remains inaccessible and opaque. Despite there being nearly 1,300 collective investment schemes as well as many broker-managed discretionary portfolios, allocations are nearly all aligned to a limited number of old economy securities. Passive investment products such as index trackers simply compound the concentration.”
Cook says that regulation and the funding imbalance towards collective investment schemes means innovative small and medium and medium-sized companies to raise capital from asset managers. They need direct access to retail investors or bespoke asset managers who can invest in smaller companies. Asset managers are restricted to investing in securities with large market capitalisation.
He says the new exchange will mean that listings of less than R100m will become more common.
Cook claims that on average less than 0.5% of daily market volume on the JSE is retail-driven with less than 300,000 active retail clients, across all brokers, loaded within the JSE’s broker deal accounting (BDA) system. He says 30% of trading volume comes from brokers who collocated or moved their trading systems physically closer to the JSE trading engine in order to profit by millisecond time advantages. According to its website: “No high frequency trading, derivatives or short selling will be allowed. ZAR X has deliberately structured fees in such a manner that we wish to encourage investing rather than trading.”
“Nearly all equity listings are now done by way of private placement, which requires a minimum investment of R100,000 per subscriber. Offers to the public are rare as brokers cannot facilitate smaller retail client transactions profitably. With high costs and insufficient order flow brokers focus on providing discretionary managed portfolios, which attract higher fees but have higher financial entry requirements.
“The “uninvested” retail investor is therefore totally excluded from directly participating in the capital market. Their only access is indirectly via a collective investment scheme that, if they did, would further perpetuate the shrinking of our capital market.
“The concentration of order flows to fewer institutional brokers is detrimental to efficient and transparent market pricing. With thin net margins, institutional brokers use their balance sheets to secure revenue flow by engaging in principal trading, high-frequency trading (HFT), and facilitation trading, including dark pools.”

Stokvels – South Africa’s $3.8bn savings pool
Cook claims there is huge potential for retail investors to buy securities: “Stokvels, whose members are active savers and investors, have more than 2m members. The Zion Christian Church has about 4-million contributing members. The potential size of the ’uninvested’ retail market is unknown, but I would suggest it is in excess of R700bn. The market system has ignored it.”
ZAR X also hopes to work with other exchanges “particularly in Africa”.
Stokvels are a big part of life in South Africa, with estimated 810,000 stokvels and 11.5m members, with a stokvel economy worth R49bn ($3.8bn), according to the National Stokvel Association of South Africa. There is even a comedy show called Stokvel on DSTV’s Zambezi Magic.

Stokvel comedy, Zambezi Magic DSTV.

Latest on developments in African capital markets

Presentations from the exciting Building African Financial Markets (BAFM) seminar are now available on the Internet. The 6th edition of BAFM was hosted the first time in North Africa by the Casablanca Stock Exchange (CSE) in Morocco on 18-19 May, 2017. The seminars are organized with the African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA).

The theme of the event was “Global Best Practices to Enhance the African Capital Markets”, I was compere and there were many top presentations which you can download here. It provided a great platform for sharing information and discussing best ways the exchanges can support Africa’s needs for long-term capital.

According to the host, Karim Hajji, Deputy President of ASEA and CEO of the Casablanca Bourse: “The Casablanca Stock Exchange is more than ever before convinced of the important role of African exchanges in mobilizing the means for financing the continent’s growth. BAFM is indeed an opportunity to consider new paths of cooperation and enhance synergies so as to improve the role of Exchanges in financing the African economy.”

BAFM is a capacity-building initiative designed to promote growth in African financial markets. The Casablanca meeting attracted more than 100 delegates from within and outside Africa. There were very many top speakers including: Abimbola Ogunbanjo (First Vice President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange), Ronald Webb (Director – Financial Services, Safaricom Ltd), Riccardo Ambrosini, (Climate Finance Specialist, IFC World Bank Group) and Selloua Chakri (Head of Market Structure Strategy MEA Region, Bloomberg L.P.).
This high-level meeting provided a.

Oscar N. Onyema, President of ASEA and CEO of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, said; “Building the African financial market is our collective responsibility, hence we must seek out knowledge that empowers each of us to remove impediments to the advancement of our market.”

To view the presentations as well as the pictures of the Seminar, please visit http://www.african-exchanges.org/sites/default/files/publications/building_african_financial_markets.pdf and http://www.african-exchanges.org/en/media#contentCarousel/gallery respectively.

Regional integration tops 2017 agenda for Africa’s exchanges

Stock exchanges across Africa should be working towards regional integration, says Prime Minister of Rwanda Anastase Murekezi. He was guest speaker at the 20th African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA) annual conference. The conference’s action agenda would see the regulated stock exchanges driving industrialization and economic transformation.
Panel discussions highlighted the opportunities for African exchanges, provided they adapt to meet the needs and demands of local investors and issuers. They must also find the balance between local context and environment, and alignment with global best practices.
Government support and engagement are keys to the success of exchanges and to providing the capital to grow economies. Governments should continue to create enabling environments that encourage investment, economic growth and development. Regulation should follow market needs and focus on supporting development as favourable regulatory frameworks are essential for sustainable economic growth.
Other challenges the exchanges should continue to work on include: financial inclusion or letting more people access the capital markets for investing and for raising long-term risk capital for their enterprises; financial literacy and investor education; product innovation including using technology and creating innovative platforms for new products; and finding ways to finance the missing middle of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.
Exchanges should encourage greater emphasis on environmental, social and governance components to enhance corporate transparency and performance.
Celestin Rwabukumba, CEO of the Rwanda Stock Exchange, said innovation and technology would enable Africa’s capital markets to harness resources to fuel structural transformation: “Currently, less than 5% of the African populace participate in the capital markets; this means that there is a huge opportunity to widen the base of African capital markets by incorporating new models based on technology and other creative innovations that target provision of direct linkages with the ordinary citizens in order to bring them in the loop of resource mobilization and utilization”.
The 20th ASEA conference brought together 300 delegates, including securities exchange CEOs, regulators, ministers, investors and others. It was held in Kigali on 28-29 November 2016. The theme was “Road to 2030: Making the African capital markets relevant to the real economy”.
Speakers included Claver Gatete, Rwandan Minister of Finance, and Prime Minister Murekezi delivered a message from the President of Rwanda, His Excellency Paul Kagame, in which he commended ASEA for its role in deepening the capital markets as a way of addressing the challenges that hampered Africa
Other speakers included Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, (former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria), Tonye Cole (founder of Sahara Group), Staci Warden (Executive Director, Milken Institute), Sandy Frucher (Vice Chairman of Nasdaq), Paul Muthaura (CEO Capital Markets Authority Kenya), David Grayson (Co-founder and CEO of Auerbach Grayson & Company), as well as CEOs from ASEA member exchanges.

SADC stockbrokers linking for cross-border investment

Stockbroking firms across Southern Africa are invited for networking on 7 December 2016 to learn more about investment opportunities in neighbouring capital markets. The Committee of SADC Securities Exchanges (CoSSE) aims to implement SADC ideals of close linkages between the region’s capital markets and to support cross-border capital-raising and investments.
First steps are to encourage information flow between the markets and to establish networks so that brokers can route trading to other local exchanges by working with a local broker in the target exchange.

cosselogo_about-cosse

On the agenda for the 1st SADC Brokers’ Network Session will be to facilitate and provide a platform for SADC brokers to meet each other, agree to enter into a SADC database, agree on a standard counter-party agreement which will be used when brokers trade for each other in their respective jurisdictions, and share information about their respective markets.
Every firm is invited to send representatives to meet other broking firms and learn about their activities. After the networking session, brokers will be encouraged to keep each other informed on local opportunities such as initial public offers (IPOs) which brokers in other countries and their clients may be interested in. Brokers will be able to share trading commissions on such deals when two firms are working together.
There are increasing linkages between the financial systems in the region’s capital markets, including the SADC Integrated Regional Electronic Settlement System (SIRESS) which was successfully launched in 2013 and has been growing fast since then.
The networking session will last all day from 8-5 and it will be at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in Sandton, South Africa. It will be followed by a cocktail. Brokers wishing to attend should contact their national stock exchange.
Other information can be obtained by emailing CoSSEBrokerSession@jse.co.za.

BRVM bourse aims for specialist mining shares platform

The integrated regional stock exchange for West Africa is working with the miners’ favourite global exchange for raising capital in order to build a platform for listing mining shares. Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobilieres (BRVM), based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, aims to have a dedicated section for mining ready for business by 2018.

BRVM General Manager Edoh Kossi Amenounve told Bloomberg in an interview that the new mining exchange will be open for companies exploring or operating mines in the region. He explained that the BRVM is talking with Canada’s Toronto Stock Exchange (TMX Group) to set up a “technical partnership” between the two bourses and will “take inspiration” from the Canadian mining-exchange model. Discussions may be completed by the end of 2016.

He told Bloomberg: “Mining companies operating in the region only raise funds in foreign currencies.. Some of them have approached us to see how they could raise the resources they need in local currency. Some have even asked us for a dual listing with the Toronto stock exchange, but the regulating framework isn’t compatible at the moment.”

The BRVM links eight West African countries in an innovative exchange, including gold exporters Mali, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and the world’s fourth-largest uranium producer, Niger. Many want to boost their mining industries: Burkina Faso is developing new gold and manganese mines, while Côte d’Ivoire is diversifying from agriculture, including cocoa, and aims to develop its untapped mining deposits, including gold and iron ore, according to Bloomberg. The BRVM attracts investors partly because the countries are part of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and so use the CFA Franc, which is pegged to the euro.

Amenounve said: “Most of the countries of the region have significant mining deposits… The development of the mining sector has been extremely important in the last few years. We want to support this development..  We need local, African shareholders to invest in the mining sector.”

The bourse currently dominated by banks and telecommunications shares. It is amending its listing regulations to accommodated the new mining platform. Currently listing regulations require two years of certified accounts. The BRVM exchange aims to list mining issuers, including new companies who are raising money for exploration.

Karma heap-leach project in Burkina Faso (photo:True Gold Mining)

Karma heap-leach project in Burkina Faso (photo:True Gold Mining)

AfDB and stock exchanges group ASEA sign MoU for capital markets projects

Africa’s leading financial institution, the African Development Bank (AfDB), is pairing with the African Securities Exchanges Association (ASEA) to deepen and connect Africa’s financial markets. The partnership aims to help mobilize more resources to drive growth.
The two will work on projects of mutual interest such as developing financial-markets infrastructure, introducing new products, improving market liquidity and participation, information-sharing and capacity-building. AfDB and ASEA signed a 5-year memorandum of understanding on 11 July. This provides “a collaborative framework for harmonizing and coordinating the efforts”, according to an AfDB press release.
The Bank and ASEA have already started successfully collaborating on the African Exchanges Linkage Project, which they co-initiated to improve liquidity and foster greater investments and trading across markets. This aims to link key regional markets and has proposed Casablanca, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Nigerian stock exchanges as regional hubs, according to project documents.

AfDB and ASEA Executive Committee delegation. (From left to right) Stefan Nalletamby (Vice-President for infrastructure, regional integration and private sector, AfDB), Geoffrey Odundo (CEO of Nairobi Securities Exchange), Oscar Onyema OON (CEO of Nigerian Stock Exchange), Akinwumi A. Adesina (President of AfDB), Karim Hajji (CEO of Casablanca Stock Exchange), Edoh Kossi Amenounve (CEO of BRVM) Photo: AfDB

AfDB and ASEA Executive Committee delegation. (From left to right) Stefan Nalletamby (Vice-President for infrastructure, regional integration and private sector AfDB), Geoffrey Odundo (CEO of Nairobi Securities Exchange), Oscar Onyema OON (CEO of Nigerian Stock Exchange), Akinwumi A. Adesina (President of AfDB), Karim Hajji (CEO of Casablanca Stock Exchange), Edoh Kossi Amenounve (CEO of BRVM) Photo: AfDB

AfDB President, Akinwumi A. Adesina says deepening and integrating Africa’s financial markets to mobilize domestic resources to fund African economies is very important to deliver the Bank’s “High 5s” priorities: Light up and Power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialize Africa, Integrate Africa and Improve the Quality of Life of Africans (all part of the bank’s 2030 agenda for attaining the global Sustainable Development Goals – SDGs).
He says there are huge pools of capital available in sovereign-wealth, pensions and insurance funds and these can be used for developing Africa through appropriate intermediation and capital-markets products. He called for “increased mobilization of domestic pools of savings and support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as they constitute the bulk of Africa’s private sector.”
Adesina pointed to the bank’s progress in financial markets development through issuing and listing local-currency bonds in Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa. The bank has also created African Financial Markets Initiative (AFMI) to support domestic bond markets through the African Financial Markets Database. The bank will soon launch an African Domestic Bond Fund building on the success of the AFDB Bloomberg® African Bond Index, which started in February 2015 to combine the Bloomberg South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya local-currency sovereign indices and was expanded in October 2015 by Botswana and Namibia..
ASEA President, Oscar N. Onyema, CEO of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, says the MoU will frame projects focused on the development of exchanges, deepening the stock markets and ultimately fueling African economic growth.

Korea Exchange success story with SMEs

This article summarizes a talk by Honghee Shin, Executive Director of Korea Exchange, at the World Exchanges Congress in March 2016, which highlighted the KRX experience and lessons to be learned.
Building an exchange environment for small and medium-size enterprises and hi-tech companies to raise capital on a securities exchange requires strategic coordination and support by many different government agencies. The Korean Exchange (KRX) has grown to be the world’s third biggest stock exchange for listing and trading SMEs by creating a virtuous cycle in each stage of growth generates cash-flows which in turn fuel other stages.

The original Korea Stock Exchange was set up in 1956 and KRX evolved in 2005 to offer comprehensive front-to-end services. It has KSD (depository) as a 70% owned-subsidiary and also owns 76% of >koscom, a technology subsidiary. It offers a full range of products, trading and market data, as well as the central counterparty (CCP) and it is a self-regulatory organization performing its own market surveillance.

In 2015, KRX had 1,961 listed companies, 8th highest in the world, and traded $1,929 billion of securities, achieving the 10th highest level globally, according to World Federation of Exchanges. The main board is called KOSPI market and it has a futures and options market that was rated 12th in the world.

koreaSMEs160719_diagramvirtuouscycle

It has two boards for SMEs:
• KOSDAQ was launched in 1996, and provides funds for well-established SMEs and “technology-savvy” area including information technology (IT), bio technology (BT) and cultural technology (CT).
• KONEX was launched in 2013 exclusively for SMEs and start-up companies to support their early-stage financing and development through the capital market.

The ratio of market capitalization compared to GDP is higher at KOSDAQ in Korea than any other major SME markets in Asia. In global terms it ranks third among world SME markets for market capitalization and daily trading volume and 4th with 1,061 listed companies. Technology has been the main driver of the market – IT, BT and CT companies made up 68% of the market in 2015, up from 63% in 2005. In particular, biotech has grown its share 4 times and forms 17% of the total market.

KONEX had 24 companies in the third quarter of 2013, but increased that 5 times to 128 listed companies by the end of 2015. Market capitalization is up 8x, and daily average trading value is up 4x over the period. It offers a fast-track “ladder system” which 14 companies have scaled to transfer from KONEX to KOSDAQ.

Much of the success of the exchange can be attributed to the coordinated efforts of Government, the exchange and other stakeholders.

koreaSMEs160719_diagramstakeholders

Key supports from Government include:
1. Tax incentives
– Corporate tax exemption for investing in newly-listed shares(within 2 years)
2. De-regulation for M&A
– Between KONEX and unlisted stocks
– Relieving corporate governance structure
– Waiver of obligation on appointment of external director and full-time auditor
3. Eased accounting standard application
– Exemption of K-IFRS accounting standard.

Concessions offered by KRX are:
1. Relaxation of Listing Requirements
– Lightened listing requirements for corporations with 20% of total investment from angel investors and venture capital
2. Modified disclosure obligation
– Reduction of timely-disclosure
– Exemption of quarter and semi-annual reports
– Mitigation of obligation to submit registration of securities
3. Minimum deposit requirement for investors adjusted from $300,000 to $100,000.

The exchange brings together companies from diversified industries, with a convergence of the high-tech companies that are the driving force of the economy. There is a solid investor base, including active retail investors with ample liquidity, and the exchange offers them a new way to find investment opportunities. The KRX itself offers relaxed listing requirements and less disclosure and maintenance costs. Government offers supportive policies towards gradual de-regulation as well as tax incentives and benefits.

The 2 Korean boards, KOSDAQ and KONEX play a critical role in a virtuous circle of growth and investment. Typically venture capital (VC), angel investors and government (through policies as well as funds) invests into start-up companies. These grow to list on KONEX, where professional investors tend to invest in what re now start-up SME companies, and VC investors can take some funds out to re-invest into fresh start-ups. As the company grows further, it can more to KOSDAQ where often non-professional investors may be interested in what have evolved into established SMEs, and the VCs can take more funds to reinvest into the earlier growth stages. The virtuous circle means that each stage adds momentum to the other stages, fuelling further growth – for the diagram see above.

DFIs hunt long-term gains in African financial services

Highlights of the African Financial Services Investment Conference AFSIC 2016, held in London 5-6 May.

Development finance institutions have made $6.5bn of investments in financial institutions. Here are examples of what they are doing:

Proparco, Sophie le Roy, Head of Banking and Capital Markets: “We are 50% invested in Africa and financial services and banking make up 50% of our portfolio. Our aim is to catalyze private investors, we show you can invest and make profit. We have a careful process, we helped create banks in Mauritania, Benin and DRC and they still exist.”

BIO (Belgium), Carole Maman, Chief Investment Officer: “We have Eur600m under management, Africa is about 40% of portfolio, most of it is invested in financial institutions. We work on smaller transactions, our sweet spot is from EUR 6m+. We work mostly with tier 2 financial institution through microfinance, equity and loans. In countries such as Ethiopia and DRC where many people are unbanked, there will be lots of opportunities.”

FMO the Dutch development bank, Bas Rekvelt, Manager Financial Institutions Africa: “We have been investing in developing countries for 45 years, we have been able to catalyze EUR 1bn into the markets last year. We try to ensure the markets where we work are attractive enough for the private sector. Our portfolio is 25% Africa, spread between financial institutions, energy and agriculture.”

SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Christopher Onajin, Loan and Guarantees Partnerships & Innovation: “Our role is to give money and guarantees, covering credit risk and market risk. Our Africa portfolio is $135m, and we encourage banks, microfinance and others to push them to lend to under-served sectors.”

DEG – German Development and investment company, Peter Onyango, Investment Manager, Financial Institutions Group, Africa: “We have about 50 years of emerging markets expertise and Africa is a particular focus. We see more countries becoming bankable. Internally our risk appetite is improving, we see opportunities in more countries. We see opportunities in growing insurance and the nascent leasing markets, which will improve. There is a lot more in fintech. A setback for Africa is an opportune time for long-term investors, including DFIs and private investors.”

Exchange trends from World Exchange Congress 2016

A couple of interesting statements from speakers at the excellent World Exchange Congress 2016, happening 22-23 March at Bishopsgate in London.

Exchanges – back to the information coffee house
Stu Taylor, CEO of Algomi: Fixed-income trading was dominated by banks who use voice trading and support it with their balance sheets. Most banks and their clients prefer this way and are not naturally going to switch to putting limit orders through the exchanges. We try to see how we can help with parts of the transactions, we worked first with the regulated Swiss exchange to put technology components at banks and that can help them sometimes with their trades, the exchange can help them find different counterparts, or with missed trades or, when they are struggling to complete a deal, the exchange can make suggestions. We suggest actions into the existing workflow, rather than trying to change the workflow. Exchanges can connect information sources so the exchange is the place to see what’s going, it can offer “bond dating”, trying to match buyers and sellers into a transaction.

Historically the technology focus for exchanges has been on execution, but now the innovation is that the exchange is about the information itself. Technology is shrinking the world, we used to talk about 6 degrees of separation in the world. Technology such as Facebook has made that number closer to 3 degrees of separation. Exchanges are back to the origins of exchanges as the coffee shops, finding a place to know someone who knows someone. Information and pre-trade are where the next waves of innovation for exchanges are going to come from.

Exchanges role in banks' bilateral bond trading, source www.algomi.com

Exchanges role in banks’ bilateral bond trading, source www.algomi.com

Can technology create liquidity?
Ganesh Iyer, Director of Global Product Marketing at IPC Systems: “Technology has become a facilitator of liquidity. Uber has no taxis but it provides taxi “liquidity”, Airbnb has no rooms but provides accommodation “liquidity”. Technology does not create liquidity on its own but it brings together market participants and that leads to liquidity. In the capital markets it can bring very diverse market participants together, for instance a mutual fund seller with a diverse “buy-side” community including hedge funds, retail, etc.

Move over-the-counter (OTC) trading onto exchanges
April Day, Director, Equities, Association for Financial Markets in Europe: “There is always a need for keep some balance, some trades are not suitable for exchange trading, there is still a time when investors choose to trade off exchange for reasons such as not wanting to share market information, reduce costs, less disclosure, etc.

Sergio Ricardo Liporace Gullo, Chief Representative EMEA BM&FBOVESPA; The Brazil market has reached a big harmony, we have survived many crises and we have a sophisticated system offered by the exchange which offers central clearing and makes all parties’ lives more efficient and offers better use of capital.

Keisuke Arai, Chief Representative in Europe of Japan Exchange Group: The Japaese experience is that it’s important for the exchange to strike the right balance between market efficiency and investor protection.

Will Interswitch be Africa’s first $1bn tech “unicorn”?

Nigeria’s digital payments and payment card giant Interswitch Ltd could become Africa’s first tech “unicorn” or technology company valued at over $1 billion. Private equity firm Helios Investment Partners (majority owner) is preparing to sell and Citigroup Inc are hired to handle the sale, which could involve an initial public offer (IPO) and listing on the London and Lagos stock exchanges.
Website TechCrunch reported that Interswitch has 32 million customers for its “Verve” chip-and-PIN cards and its Quickteller digital payment app processed $2.4 billion in transactions. It processes most of Nigeria’s electronic bank, government and corporate transactions.
A subsequent report from Bloomberg says Helios paid $92 million for a 52% stake in 2010.
Techcrunch contributor Jake Bright (Twitter @JakeRBright, co-author of The Next Africa: An Emerging Continent Becomes a Global Powerhouse) reports that Interswitch CEO and founder Mitchell Elegbe told him no final decision has yet been made and they are also mulling the option of a trade sale.

Mitchell Elegbe CEO Interswitch (from www.naij.com)

Mitchell Elegbe CEO Interswitch (from www.naij.com)


Bright’s Techcrunch report also cites Eghosa Omoigui, Managing Partner of EchoVC, a Silicon Valley fund investing in African start-ups: “They’ve already selected the ibankers and will likely go public sometime between Q2 to Q4 at (or close to) a $1 billion dollar valuation–roughly two times revenues,”.
Bright points out that there are strong tech opportunities for ventures focused on digital commerce and payments, and cites research by Crunchbase that VC investors put $400m into African consumer goods, digital content and fintech-oriented startups. Helios and Adlevo Capital back ventures such as MallforAfrica (e-commerce) and Paga (payments).
Although Kenya has the spotlight still, because of the runaway success of Safaricom’s M-PESA product, which has 13m customers and generated $300m in revenues for Safaricom in 2014, consumers in Nigeria are projected to generate $75bn in e-commerce revenue by 2020. See this McKinsey report on future consumer spending trends in a youth-driven market.
Interswitch – motto “bills aren’t fun but payments solutions can be” – is still building digital finance market share in Nigeria and in 2014 bought Kenya’s Paynet and also has operations in Uganda, Tanzania and Gambia. The IPO could support plans to expand into more countries – Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghana were mentioned in an earlier Bloomberg article.
Elegbe, age 43 years, founded Interswitch in 2002.
Bloomberg reports that if this goes ahead, it will be one of the few private equity exits at a valuation of over $1 billion. It also cites Bain Capital’s $1.2bn exit from South African retailer Edcon’s private label store cars in 2012, sold to Barclays Absa unit. It says increasing use of e-commerce worldwide makes payments-processing industry a “structural growth market”.
The London Stock Exchange has more than 120 African listings.
In its 2010 press release, Helios described the company: InterSwitch provides shared, integrated message broker solutions for financial transactions, eCommerce, telecoms value-added services, eBilling, payment collections, 2 and also administers Verve, the leading card scheme in Nigeria. The Verve card, which is currently issued by 16 out of the 24 banks in Nigeria, is the first and only chip-and-pin card accepted across multiple payment channels including Automated Teller Machine (“ATMs”), Point of Sale (“POS”) terminals, online, mobile and at banks. InterSwitch has been at the forefront of the development and growth of the epayment sector in Nigeria which is evidenced by its unique position of being the only switching and processing company connected to all banks in the country as well as over 10,000 ATMs and 11,000 POS terminals. In addition, InterSwitch is the leading processor for Mastercard and the market leader in merchant acquiring/POS, a segment which is still emerging and has potential for tremendous growth in Nigeria. Babatunde Soyoye, Managing Partner and Co-founder of Helios added: “InterSwitch is a Nigerian success story having been led by a superb management team and benefiting from the foresight, innovation and support of its founding shareholders, and a supportive regulator in the Central Bank Nigeria.”