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Can George Inholo solve the Kamonkoli gridlock and permanently keep Uganda Clays on a growth path?

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When George Inholo arrived at Uganda Clays Limited (UCL) at the fold of 2014 – August to be exact, it was literally a company with a feet of clay.

A new $15m Kamonkoli plant, on the outskirts of Mbale town (now Budaka District), which was opened in April 2009 amidst fanfare and mega optimism, had become a problem child, threatening to sink the entire company.

Although UCL’s turnover in the first year of the Kamonkoli factory’s opening grew 6.6% from UGX16.7 billion in 2009 to UGX17.8 billion and then by 45.5% to UGX25.9 billion in 2011, higher costs of operation and repayment of loans for the project saw net losses widen by above five times from a loss of UGX707 million in 2009 to a loss of UGX3.9 billion in 2010, easing slightly to a UGX604 million profit in 2011.

A cost-cutting exercise by then Chief Executive Officer, Charles Rubaijaniza in 2012, which saw 89 staff retired, brought in a one-time profit benefit. That year, the company posted UGX2.8 billion net profit, even when turnover dropped by 7.3% to UGX24 billion.

In 2013, things didn’t improve either; turnover further dropped to UGX21.1 billion while the 2012 profit mutated into a UGX3.3 billion loss.   

But that was not all; by the time Inholo arrived, the company had huge debts, as it had borrowed heavily to finance the Kamonkoli project. Such was the indebtedness that in 2014 alone interest repayment solely wiped out UGX3.9 billion.

The $15m Kamonkoli plant, which had been fronted as a key project to take the business to the next level, todate remains a problem-child casting a shadow on Uganda Clays’ performance year-in-year out.

The biggest creditors were, Standard Chartered Bank, East African Development Bank and National Social Security Fund (NSSF).

Particularly, the NSSF debt was a major pain. The company had in 2010, taken out an unsecured loan of UGX11.05 billion from the Fund and also largest shareholder with 32.5% shareholding.

Although at less than market rates – 15% – years of none servicing saw the loan balloon to UGX16.7 billion in 2014 – more than half of UCL’s total turnover that year.

Shareholders had started showing open agitation and the board, then led by seasoned businessman Martin Aliker, was not spared either. In 2013, one shareholder, who received some good amount of support during an annual general meeting, had suggested that Aliker, together with his board, step down given that they had failed to cut out the escalating losses.

The debate was heated but Aliker took the day and continued on as chairman until 2018 when he was replaced by Martin S. Kasekende, himself, a long time board member, who briefly served as Uganda Clays acting Managing Director after Rubaijaniza had quit.

Inholo had been tapped from Unilever, the British-Dutch transnational consumer goods company, where he had worked for nearly 16 years, rising to the level of Country Manager for Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

He replaced Charles Rubaijaniza, the Company Secretary turned Managing Director, who served from November 2010 to April 2013 when he was apparently made to resign as pressure for better numbers mounted. 

Rubaijaniza had been at the company for 23 years. He had himself replaced John Waful, the long servicing UCL boss, who led the company to its listing on the exchange. Wafula was also one of the main backer of the troublesome Kamonkoli project.

A house built with roofing tiles from Uganda Clays and the perimetre fence touched up with face-bricks from the company. Increasing the share of wallet for business by selling as many of the company’s products from the floor to the roof, could improve the company’s bottomline.

You could therefore easily say, Inholo had jumped in at the deep end, with an urgent need to return the company to profitability, solve its debt obligations and bring back the good old days.

In the good old pre-Kamonkoli days, when UCL listed at the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE), it was a darling of investors, attracting a lot of activity on its counter.

In just two years, the company had between 2006 and 2008 conducted two share splits after its stock had twice skyrocketed to above the UGX10,000-mark. But successive bad years, saw stock prices fall rapidly to below UGX1,000 and later to under UGX100. 

For a long time now, the share price has been hovering around UGX14 and the UCL counter is one of the least traded, among the 17 listed and cross-listed companies.    

Getting down to work

One of the first things Inholo embarked on was a restructuring plan and cost-cutting. About 40 staff were sent home with the company indicating it would outsource some services and eliminating others.

In a two-page notice in April 2015, Inholo informed staff that whereas the announcement had created stress and anxiety, Uganda Clays needed the “exercise for its survival and return to profitability”.

He also implemented an existing plan to switch furnace oil for firing the baking chamber at the Kamonkoli plant to the much cheaper coffee husks. Continued use of furnace oil was eating into the margins by UGX 5.7 billion (2013) to UGX 4.2 billion (2014).

However, these and other changes were a little too late to save 2014 – although turnover went up 4.7% to UGX22.1 billion at the end of 2014, losses still grew to UGX5.2 billion.   

Giving dividends to dividend-starved shareholders

Thanks to these changes, the company in 2015 made a 5% saving on overheads. With more spares imported for, especially Kamonkoli, there was reduced breakdown at the factory and therefore more production for, especially roofing tiles, which are the cash cow, contributing for about 62% turnover.

For the first time, raw tile (green) production at Kamonkoli, which accounts for nearly 50% of the roofing tiles, was 125% above projections and 101% above targets for finished tiles.   

On the debt front, the commercial debt with Standard Chartered Bank and East African Development Bank was settled. NSSF had, through protracted negotiations, agreed to cap interest and principle at UGX20.6 billion as negotiations for a debt-equity swap went on. This would reduce the cost of financing from UGX4.2 billion to UGX121 million.

With these gains, and a 9% growth in turnover from UGX22.1 billion in 2014 to UGX24.1 billion, the year 2015 turned out much better – losses reduced from UGX5.2 billion to UGX1.2 billion.

2016 was even much better – turnover further grew by 7.8% to UGX26 billion and UCL became profitable again – turning in some UGX2.4 billion.  

Uganda Clays shareholders vote at a recent July 26th AGM at Kampala Sheraton Hotel. Having sampled them on 3 years of straight dividends, George Inholo should know better than doing less than that.

The company also for the first time in years, announced a UGX 1 per share, a total of UGX900 million to dividend-starved shareholders.

In 2017 turnover improved slightly by 4.6% to UGX27.2 billion but profit did not change, remaining at UGX2.4 billlion.

Again, the company paid out UGX1 in dividend per share – another UGX900 million in total.

2018 was good on the turnover front, experiencing a 10.7% growth to UGX30.1 billion and for the first time in years, revenue registered double digit growth!

However, the profit side took a 16.7% hit dropping to UGX2 billion.

Inholo, in the annual report, attributed this to reducing margins of 35% in 2018 compared to 39% in 2017, due to “the high cost of production which included importation of factory spares and high coffee husks prices during the coffee off-season.”

He also said, there had been an “increase in overheads attributable mainly to distribution because of the introduction of incentives to agents and a few selected corporate customers as a strategy to increase sales”, perhaps in a bid to counter the cutthroat competition in the business.

Nevertheless board recommended another UGX1 dividend per share – again UGX900 million.

Kamonkoli keeps taking and taking

The news last week that for the half year to June 2019, the company had posted a UGX722 million loss must be bad news; very bad news to shareholders and management alike.

Bad news, especially if you consider that turnover grew marginally by 3.5% compared to 10.7% in 2018 full year results – from UGX14.4 billion to UGX14.9 billion.

In a profit warning issued by the company, Inholo blamed the bad half year performance on the Kamonkoli factory, which had “closed for the annual maintenance for approximately one-and-half months which was longer than expected” and that “during this period, the revenue collected was consumed by the fixed costs.”

Board Chairman, Eng. Martin Kasekende (2nd right), George Inholo (right) together with the rest of the board at the July 26th AGM at Kampala Sheraton Hotel.

He also said that this was exacerbated by reduced “firing capacity occasioned by scarcity of the main fuel source-coffee husks due to the current offseason in the country”.

The prolonged closure of Kamonkoli for example meant that in the period running from January to June 2019, Uganda Clays failed to deliver on orders worth UGX3.3 billion thus failing to realize its UGX17.5 billion revenue target for the period.

As a result, Kamonkoli as a unit of the business, suffered a UGX618m loss (86% of entire company loss) with the factory’s after cost of sales superseding generated revenue.

At least UGX5.5 billion was spent in production during the period but the factory, which Uganda Clays had anchored much of its hope before it was launched, returned revenues of only UGX4.9 billion.

This put pressure on the Kajjansi factory, which contributed the bulk of the company’s revenues, pulling in UGX10 billion against a UGX5.6 billion expenditure.

The business overall, also saw sales costs in the period increase by 30% to UGX11.2b from UGX8.6b in the same period last year as the company sought more innovative ways to ward off competition from within and without the clays segment.

Inholo was, however, quick to comfort whoever cared to listen that the bad times wouldn’t last long as the company was in the process of addressing the above and “therefore the actual results of the company for the year ended 31 December, 2019 may differ”.   

An optimistic outlook into the future

In a commentary accompanying the 2018 results, Inholo said that in a new 5-year strategic plan (2019 to 2023) all efforts will be deployed to deliver revenue growth, sustainable operating margins, waste reduction, customer satisfaction and increased employee engagement.

“These shall guide all our actions going forward with the ultimate objective of returning value to the shareholders. We will also continue to extensively work to improve standards of corporate governance and strengthening our internal controls,” he promised.

He may not have said it directly, but it is all evident that top on his agenda will be finding a lasting solution to the Kamonkoli gridlock that seems to cast a shadow over company results, year-in-year out.  

Hopefully, the NSSF debt to equity swap will also be completed as the loan is set to mature in 2020.

The board chairman, Martin Kasekende, in a commentary along with the 2018 results, also mentioned that the debt-equity swap will simultaneously be closed with the entry of a “strategic investor”, who the company hopes will be strategic enough, to infuse some fresh equity finance and much more than just cash.  

Fresh and affordable capital will be more important to help UCL explore more innovations both within and without the clay products category but also widen its distribution to take on much larger rivals like Roofings Limited and Uganda Baati.

In short, without cheaper capital, Inholo’s 5-year strategic plan may not go very far.

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Finance

EXECUTIVE APPOINTMENT: Post Bank Uganda appoints Julius Kakeeto as M.D replacing Steven Mukweli

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Post Bank Uganda Limited has appointed Mr Julius Kakeeto as the bank’s new Managing Director.

He replaces Stephen Mukweli who has served in this role for the last 15 years.

Mr Kakeeto has a wealth of banking experience spanning over 19 years in Uganda and the United Kingdom.

He started his career with Ernst and Young before joining Citibank where he served in various capacities.

After Citibank, he joined Equity Bank Uganda as a Finance Director before joining Orient Bank.

His most recent assignment has been Managing Director/CEO of Orient Bank for the last 4 and a half years.

Mr Kakeeto is a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA), a member of the Institue of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda and an alumni of Manchester Business School in the United Kingdom (UK) where he obtained an MBA.

PostBank Uganda is ranked in fourth position in financial inclusion with a network of 43 branches and 12 mobile banking vans serving several customers countrywide.

The bank is looking forward to it’s next chapter that is aimed at promotion to a Tier 1 financial institution.

PostBank Uganda Limited was established in 1997.

It is fully government owned with over 2 million clients.

Post Bank is audited by Ernest & Young.

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SOURCES: Anne Juuko reportedly frontrunner for Stanbic top job

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Ugandan banker, Anne Juuko is said to be the most likely next Chief Executive Officer for Stanbic Bank, Uganda’s largest bank- according to information corroborated with several industry sources.

Juuko, reportedly beat Sam Mwogeza the bank’s current CFO and Kevin Wingfield, the Executive Director and Head Personal and Business Banking, to one of the most coveted and well-paying jobs in corporate Uganda. 

If she indeed does ascend to the role, she will probably be the youngest Stanbic Uganda CEO, the first female and the second Ugandan to head the Stanbic, since South Africa’s Standard Bank acquired a controlling stake in Uganda Commercial Bank in 2001 and subsequently rebranded the bank to Stanbic Uganda.

ALSO READ: EARNINGS OF CEOS AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS OF 23 OF 24 OF UGANDA’S BANKS https://www.ceo.co.ug/exclusive-earnings-of-ceos-and-executive-directors-of-23-of-24-of-ugandas-banks/

Juuko will be replacing Patrick Mweheire, who also according to sources is heading to Nairobi to take up the Regional Chief Executive, East Africa and replacing, a one Greg Brackenridge who was one of the key players in managing the acquisition of Uganda Commercial Bank by Standard Bank.

The Regional Chief Executive is a Standard Bank Group oversight role, based in Nairobi. Brackenridge, the current holder of the role, is 60 years old and his 5 year contract comes to an end this December 2019. The regional role, involves board directorships for Stanbic Bank Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya as well as Standard Bank, Malawi.

Mr. Brackenridge has been with the Standard/Stanbic Bank group for almost 25 years, having worked in several African countries including Zimbabwe, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya where he headed the Stanbic unit there; his last assignment before becoming the Regional Chief Executive.

ALSO READ: UNPLUGGED; ALMOST EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT STANBIC BANK CEO, PATRICK MWEHEIRE https://www.ceo.co.ug/unplugged-almost-everything-you-need-to-know-about-stanbic-bank-ceo-patrick-mweheire/

Mweheire (49) will most likely become the youngest and first black African to take up the role, which reports to group.

The Harvard trained banker, presided over Stanbic Bank’s rosiest 5 years, nearly doubling assets from UGX3.7 trillion in 2015 to UGX6.1 trillion as of June 2019.

The regional role is largely interpreted to mean group’s endorsement of Mweheire’s performance record that has seen the bank become Uganda’s most profitable bank with nearly 30% of industry profitability.  

Who is Anne Juuko?

Juuko, holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and a master’s degree in Strategic Planning from the Herriot Watt Business School in Edinburgh, Scotland.  

In this 2015 photo, Anne Juuko (2nd right) and Patrick Mweheire (2nd left) pict the Primary Dealer Award for 2014- for the fourth time in a row. With them is Prof. Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile; the Governor of BOU (left) and Deputy Governor, Dr. Louis Kasekende (Right). During Juuko’s time as head of Global Markets, Stanbic won the award for 6 time in a row.

Juuko was between April 2009 a VP, Head Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities at Citibank Uganda Limited, before heading to Citibank Kenya as VP, Customer Sales and Derivatives Marketing, a role she served between June 2010 and June 2012. She then returned to Stanbic Bank to take a Head, Global Markets role till December 2017 when she got appointed, Head, Corporates and Investment Banking at Standard Bank, Namibia; a role she took up in January 2018.   

ALSO READ: SALARIES OF CEOS AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS OF 23 OF 24 OF UGANDA’S BANKS https://www.ceo.co.ug/exclusive-earnings-of-ceos-and-executive-directors-of-23-of-24-of-ugandas-banks/

While as head of Global Markets, Juuko is said to have exhibited all-star performance, winning the highly coveted Primary Dealer of the Year award for 6 consecutive years. Juuko’s breadth of treasury and investment banking knowledge is said to have caught the attention of Mweheire, himself an investment banker, who is said to have had a role in seconding her to the Namibia job.

Juuko’s experience fits well within Stanbic’s business strategy whose non-lending income constitutes more about 45% of total income.   CEO East Africa is yet to establish how much Juuko will be compensated, but if Patrick Mweheire’s UGX131,830,596 monthly salary is anything to go by, Juuko’s compensation will be in nine (9) figures.

IN CASE YOU MISSED THIS: MONEY MEN; THE 8 GENTLEMEN WHO CONTROL 77% OF UGANDA’S BANKING INDUSTRY https://www.ceo.co.ug/money-men-the-8-gentlemen-who-control-77-of-ugandas-banking-industry/

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Meet Abdulaziz Mansur, Tropical Bank’s new Managing Director and the task he faces in turning around the bank

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"We fail, when our customers fail," Abdulaziz Mansur, the bank's new Managing Director, told the bank's customers at his inaugural dinner with corporate customers. He needs to rejuvenate the bank’s lending while controlling for exposure to bad loans, thus grow bank revenue and put the bank on the path back to profitability.

Tropical Bank Limited has unveiled Abdulaziz M.A Mansur as its substantive Managing Director.  

Dennis Mugagga Kakeeto, the bank’s Executive Director, has been doubling as Managing Director in acting capacity, since October 2018, following the summary sacking of Sameh M. Krekshi, the then Managing Director, who was fired by the board on orders of Bank of Uganda over apparently consistently overdrawing his salary account.

Abdulaziz M.A Mansur, who has more than 28 years’ experience in the financial services industry, holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Accounting and Finance from the Yeditepe University in Turkey.

For five and a half years (2000-2005) he was seconded by the Libya Foreign Bank (LFB) to work as the head of audit at A&T Leasing Company, in Turkey, a subsidiary of A&T Bank, also in Turkey- itself majority owned by the Libyan Foreign Bank- an investment arm of the Libyan Central Bank.

LFB and the government of Uganda are joint shareholders in Tropical Bank, but LFB is the majority shareholder.

The last 5 years have been mixed for Tropical Bank, largely characterised by slower growth in assets and deposits

Between 2005 and November 2010, Abdulaziz, moved back to Tripoli, Libya and served as the Deputy Manager, Risk Management and Manager HR at Libya Foreign Bank.  From December 2010 to September 2019 he served as the General Manager and one of the key people in starting up Nuran Bank- a joint venture between Libya Foreign Bank and Qatar Holding LLC- the investment arm of the Qatar Investment Authority. 

Righting the wrongs of past management

Although Sameh M. Krekshi, who joined the bank in 2015, was sacked for seemingly overdrawing his salary account, a closer look at the bank’s performance between 2014 and 2018, reveals tells a story of gross performance failure, characterized by imprudent lending and subsequent debt write-offs and losses- perhaps the real reason why the former MD was summarily fired.

Dennis Mugagga Kakeeto, the bank’s Executive Director, has been doubling as Managing Director in acting capacity, since October 2018, following the summary sacking of Sameh M. Krekshi, the then Managing Director

While deposits grew by 28.7% from UGX141.9 billion in 2014 to UGX182.6 billion in 2018, growth in lending was mixed. Between 2014 and 2016, the bank’s loan portfolio grew 22.6% from UGX115.8 billion to UGX142 billion, but during this time the bank got exposed to several defaults, causing Non Performing Loans (NPLs) to jump from UGX8.3 billion in 2014, to UGX14.9 billion in 2015; in 2016, NPLs more than doubled to UGX38.2 billion.

Although the bank slowed down lending, from UGX142 billion in 2016, to 139.1 billion in 2017 and then 128.7 billion in 2018, higher than normal NPLs refused to go away- UGX28.7 billion in 2017 and UGX21.9 billion in 2018. As a result, Tropical bank wrote down UGX11.8 billion in 2016, UGX12.06 billion in 2017 and UGX17 billion in 2018.

The NPLs drag effect combined with reduced lending severely impacted on the bank’s income and profit performance.  Profitability has been mixed- while the bank posted a profit of UGX4.3 billion in 2014 and UGX1.9bn in 2015, in 2016, it was hit by a UGX13.4 billion loss, then another UGX5.5bn loss in 2017 and another UGX5.8bn loss in 2018.

Altogether, between 2016 and 2018, the bank has registered combined losses, amounting to UGX24.7 billion.

Total assets have also grown quite slowly- by 19.8% since 2014, from UGX241.7 billion to UGX289.5 billion in 2018- a compounded annual growth rate of 4%.  

Abdul-Aziz’s job is clearly cut-out!

“I am here to help Ugandan businesses flourish,” Abdulaziz speaks out

Addressing the bank’s corporate customers at a dinner held at Hotel Africana on Thursday 26th September 2019, Mansur said that Tropical Bank’s objective is to support trade and development in Uganda.

“When the Bank was established in 1973 as a joint venture between the government of Uganda and Libyan Foreign Bank, its main objective was to support trade and development in Uganda and provide support in foreign trade with the outside world,” Mansur said.

Higher than normal NPLs and the subsequent debt write-offs have seen Tropical Bank incur 3 years of straight losses between 2016 and 2018- altogether UGX24.7 billion in accumulated losses.

“This is still our objective and I have come here as the new Managing Director of Tropical Bank to reinforce this vision. We strongly want our customers and their businesses to flourish and be successful. If our customers fail, so shall we as a Bank.”

He promised to offer customers unmatched financial services that are designed to meet their business requirements.

“Our doors are and will always be open to you. Just be transparent with us and allow us be the partners that will help you achieve your vision,” he added.

He said that the bank had committed resources to continuous innovation especially in the area of electronic and agent banking so as to make banking simple and easy for customers.

“Our Mobile Banking application and service is up and running. You can now have the bank in the palm of your hands, through your mobile phone. We have also introduced electronic fees payment through the use of School Pay system and in addition we are agents for Bancassurance services. We aspire to provide you with all banking services that you need, from high yield deposit products, to fairly priced lending products, insurance services, trade finance products and electronic banking channels,” he added.

Tropical bank has a network of 15 branches around the country, 8 of which are in Kampala. As at end of 2018, it was the 16th biggest bank (out of 24 banks) by assets (UGX289.5 billion), 17th biggest by lending (UGX128.7 billion) and customer deposits (UGX182.6 billion).

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