In 2.25 billion Dollar Bond Debate
Financial Analyst and Member of Parliament (MP) for the Bolgatanga Central Constituency, has lashed out the Managing Director of Stanbic Bank and President of the Ghana Bankers Association, Alhassan Andani who had taken on people with concerns about the US$2.25 billion bond issued by government few week ago.
Isaac Adongo, revealed that Alhassan Andani sees nothing wrong with the US$2.25 billion dollar bond bought Franklin Templeton, because the investor is a client of his bank; Stanbic Bank, therefore, too compromised to profess an opinion on the matter.
He insisted Mr. Andani is an individual with an overwhelming interest in the transaction embroiled in heavy web of conflict of interest involving families, spouses, their friends, their companies and their managements which intrinsically connected.
Many economists including Dr. John Gatsi and Kenneth Thompson of the Dalex Finance had described the financial arrangement as shady, expensive, unlawful and heavily laden with conflict of interests.
The US$2.25 billion bond appears cooked by family and friends of Finance Minister Ken Ofori -Atta. His two companies Data Bank and Enterprise Insurance, his friends and business partners; Keli Gadzekpo and Trevor G. Trefgarne; Chairman of the Enterprise Group, his wife Dr. Angela Ofori-Atta have all been mentioned in connection to the money with the Minority calling for a full scale investigation into the controversy.
Speaking to The Herald via phone from Constituency, Mr. Adongo charged “I’m very surprised that Stanbic Bank who are the trustees or custodians of FT are hiding behind fear mongering to defend their high value client. Who will not defend a client with a portfolio of US$4 billion”,
The Minority group in parliament, led by a former Deputy Finance Minister, Mr. Cassiel Ato Forson insists the issuance of the bond was done in secrecy, denying other investors an opportunity to participate in the bond transaction.
The Minority further alleged that the transaction was “cooked” to favor a particular investor, Franklin Templeton, while the transaction did not receive parliamentary approval.
But responding to the issue in an interview with Citi Business News, Mr. Andani described the accusations as unhealthy and has the potential to hurt Ghana’s reputation on the international capital market.
“It’s absolutely unhealthy. My caution is that when a nation decides to play on the international capital market we have to know that the participants and the people we go to for resources on these international markets are very monstrous companies. They are huge companies and have wide international reputations and therefore we have to be extremely careful if we are making any comments that is going to impugn any wrongdoing, to especially the people we go to raise capital from,” he warned.
“It’s about country reputation, so those of us who report on those transactions let’s make sure we are well informed otherwise if we just touch these people, they will give anything up for their reputation. Whether Templeton or any other global investor. They will give anything up for their reputation, and therefore we should be very careful the kind of commentary that we are running around,” he added.
Pointing to several bonds issued on the international debt market, Mr. Andani maintained that the major players will always be there when Ghana hits the market to mobilize funds.
“This will not be the first time or the last time we are going into the international debt capital market. We are not just hurting Templeton but we are probably passing on a message to other serious players, which I don’t want to say, suffice to say let’s be careful,” he stressed.
He rebutted claims that Stanbic Bank is part of the Book runners hence the defense, pointing out that there are international best practices which guide the issuance of such bonds, which Templeton did not flout.
“It is in the interest of the country to treat our partners in the international debt capital market with a lot of respect and a lot of professionalism. They don’t play around with their reputation. They take years and years and great investment to build that reputation so if you want to say something about them be sure that you must. I can tell you confidently from where I sit that the must to criticize is not correct”, he warned.
In a rebuttal, Mr. Adongo insisted that “the role played by major financial institutions in doubling as both book runners and primary dealers for FT provides a serious route to dubious US$2.25billion bond issue.
According to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP, Franklin Templeton’s juicy relationship with book runners and the Finance Ministry is cancerous.
Barclay’s bank which acted as the book runner also engaged in bidding for FT. This makes it a referee and a player at the same time’ he pointed out.
He insisted “we must investigate whether this role and the deliberate strategy of the Minister of Finance and his team to shroud this bond issue in secrecy is not a broader scheme of collision to dupe the people of Ghana”.
The Bolgatanga Central MP, added that “it is quite clear that the lack of transparency and competitiveness conspired to deny the people of Ghana the benefits of an efficient pricing of this bond”.
He could not understand how “a country in which all the factors driving down interest rates such as inflation and stability of the cedi locked itself in a ridiculous interest rate of 19.75percent for 15 years”, adding “I’m very surprised that Stanbic Bank who are the trustees and custodians of FT are hiding behind fear mongering to defend their high value client. Who will not defend a client with a portfolio of US$4 billion?
He told this paper that “it is common knowledge that Africa bleeds from shoddy deals of major multinational companies running into billions of dollar.
“If by demanding transparent and a competitive process that delivers value for money to our people and halt the current create, loot and share schemes of this Government will scare them, they better leave in a hurry. We will deliberate those who are genuine partners in our long tedious journey to a prosperous Ghana”, he defiantly told The Herald.
The Ministry of Finance had issued a press statement saying that “the issuance was not shrouded in secrecy nor was it “cooked” for any particular investor”.
“The Bookrunners, (Barclays, Stanbic and SAS), on behalf of the Ministry of Finance have been mandated since 2015 to issue these domestic bonds on a regular basis as per the debt issuance calendar which Ministry of Finance (MoF) puts out every quarter”.
“Also the book runners announce and publish every impending bond issue to the market, the week of issue and provide price guidance to the market. This particular bond issue was no different and was done in conformity with the established process. It was announced by the Book Runners to the market on March 30, via email and same published on MoF and Bank of Ghana (BoG) websites with settlement on April 3,” the statement said.
It rebutted that FT was not the only participant, as there were over 25 other buyers including other foreign entities, who all brought in dollars to convert to cedis to buy the bonds.
“This bond issue, like all the others done prior could not have been designed to favour any single investor. The conventional processes for the issue of bonds using the book building approach were adhered to in this particular issuance. It is our understanding that the said investor engaged various market participants and other key institutions including the IMF before deciding to participate in the bonds. It is worth noting that local investors also participated”.
It clarified that the said investor participated in the issuance in the manner they have always done since 2006 through their local Primary Dealer, Barclays Bank and their local custodians, Standard Chartered Bank and Stanbic Bank.
“To have obtained preferential treatment, all the above mentioned institutions would have had to conspire to do so, a situation which is unfathomable. The investor in question, FT, has held Government of Ghana bonds of up to USD 2 Billion prior to this transaction. Indeed FT has been buying and investing in government bonds since 2006,” it argued.
On the issue of parliamentary approval, the statement maintained that this issuance, like all other domestic bonds issued under this bond program since 2015, did not require Parliamentary approval.
“Approval was given under the initial application to Parliament in the 2015 Budget Statement and Economic Policy document, to run such a bond issuance program. The Ministry of Finance has the mandate to fund the deficit as contained in the budget approved by Parliament through the issuance of debt instruments and to manage the countries debt stock”.
The statement claimed that the issuance brought in significant amount of foreign currency, which was converted into cedis to purchase the bond, helping to strengthen the value of the Cedi and providing much-needed respite for the citizens of Ghana.
It added that “the transaction will also lengthen the maturity periods of government debts thereby reducing the short term redemption and rollover pressures on government”.
According to the statement, the proceeds from the bond issue are to be used for liability management and for the re-profiling of our domestic debt stock by repaying more expensive short-term debt as it matures, as such it shall not add to the total debt stock of the nation.
“This deal is a positive move in the current debt management strategy being pursued by government and should be applauded”.