As out table of the Top 25 West African firms show, Dangote Cement remains the biggest company in West Africa and is valued at $22.7bn in this year’s survey, up from $14.5bn last year. As a result, it is now more than three times as big as its nearest rival, Nigerian Breweries, which saw its market capitalisation fall from $7.7bn to $7.0bn over the same period.
As ever, Nigerian banks dominate our regional table, although it will be interesting to see how they manage the introduction of more testing reserve requirements. The central bank has also instructed lenders to cut the fees and commissions they charge customers. Other Nigerian firms have also enjoyed rising values: the market capitalisation of Nestlé Nigeria has almost tripled over the past two years.
Yet is would be wrong to play up international interest in Nigerian companies too much. The Lagos Stock Market trades less than $900m a month, compared with New York’s $12 trillion, so it is a mere dot on the global investment map.
Nigeria should still be the most attractive investment destination on the continent but concerns over the removal of Lamido Sanusi as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, persistent corruption, the eternal delay in the passage of the Petroleum Investment Bill and slow improvement in most forms of infrastructure continue to shake investor sentiment. Uncertainty over the outcome of next year’s Presidential election adds to the doubts.
The sacking of internationally respected Sanusi appears to have prompted foreign investors to avoid Nigeria’s most recent sovereign bond issue. The government offered N180bn ($1.1bn) in early March but most was taken up by domestic investors. In a statement, JP Morgan revealed: “Our February client survey shows investors having moved underweight FX in Nigeria for the first time in over two years.”
While the Ghanaian economy continues to grow at a rapid rate and Côte d’Ivoire seeks to claw back the stagnation of the lost decade, there seems little chance of this situation changing. The highest ranked non-Nigerian firm in the table is telecoms provider Sonatel, with market capitalisation of $4.8bn, up from $3.1bn last year. Sonatel recorded an 11.1% increase in profits in 2013 to CFA 190bn ($400m), on an 11.3% rise in turnover.
However, the company’s finances could be affected by an agreement that it signed with the government of Senegal at the end of March. The country’s main telecoms provider, which is part owned by French firm Orange, has pledged to try to halve government telephone costs.
Ecobank and Standard Chartered Bank Ghana are the only companies to challenge the host of Nigerian banks that make it into our regional table. Given its wide geographical reach, Ecobank Transnational is well placed to prosper from growing trade volumes over the coming years. It operates in 32 African countries, more than any other bank, and has drawn up plans to launch in five more. Ecobank Ghana retains the 25th position in our table that it took last year, despite enjoying an increase in market value from $496m to $535m.
More Ghanaian companies are likely to enter our table over the next few years, if – as expected – the country’s growing oil revenues trickle down into the rest of the economy.
Oil production continues to be ramped up on Ghana’s Jubilee project, while a development plan for the Tweneboa, Enyenra and Ntomme (TEN) project on the Deepwater Tano Area has already been agreed.
The consortium developing the scheme is led by Anglo-Irish firm Tullow. Tullow chief executive Aidan Heavey says: “This is an important project that will give Ghana its second major offshore development. The government of Ghana has set us a number of important targets around local content and supply chain. I have every confidence that we will meet these targets.”
It is also hoped that a development plan for the Sankofa and Gye Nyame oil and gas fields on the Offshore Cape Three Points (OCTP) Block can be finalised in the near future. The consortium that controls the venture comprises Eni, Vital and GNPC.
While oil production of 50,000 b/d will be more than welcome, the government is particularly interested in gas production capacity of 160m cubic feet per day, which will be used to supply the Aboadze power plant and hopefully other onshore customers. First production on both TEN and the Eni fields is expected in 2016.
While oil production will boost government revenues and should generate contracts for local firms, gas supplies should enable much stronger industrial investment than the country has seen in the past. The big question is whether it is Ghanaian companies rather than foreign firms that make use of these supplies.