The ten indigenous universal banks in Ghana are calling for an extension of the deadline to pay up their GHS400 million minimum capital requirement.
They have petitioned President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to appeal to the Bank of Ghana and the Economic Management Team (EMT) for at least five years to pay up the new minimum capital requirement.
Following a vote by the EMT, chaired by Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the central bank announced last September that all 34 banks in the country have up to December 31, 2018, to increase their minimum capital from GHS120 million to GHS400 million.
This means all banks, foreign, local-foreign partnership and wholly-Ghanaian-owned (indigenous) have only one year, three months to raise an additional GHS280 million each to meet the requirement.
Some of the big foreign banks have announced that they are ready to pay way ahead of the deadline, but the smaller banks, mostly the indigenous ones are asking for more time otherwise they face either eventual collapse, buy outs by foreign banks or mergers that will reduce local stake in the financial industry.
The ten indigenous universal banks are Prudential Bank, Royal Bank, Unibank, Beige Bank, OmniBank, GN Bank, Sovereign Bank, Heritage Bank, Premium Bank, and Construction Bank.
In their 11-page petition to the president, the indigenous banks stated that they are willing to pay the GHS400 million but it beats their minds that the BoG would give them the same deadline as the bigger banks.
The new policy, therefore, is seen by the indigenous banks as out of the norm.
In 2003 for instance, when BoG raised the minimum capital requirement, banks were given almost four years to pay up, and in 2008 they were given almost five years to settle.
At other times, the payment period was even flexible for existing banks, while new entrants were required to comply immediately.
The indigenous banks have, therefore, proposed a payment schedule of annual instalments over a period of five years ending 2022 when they would each have finished paying the GHS400 million.
In that schedule, they propose that by December 2018, the will raise the minimum capital to GHS170 million each; December 2019, GHC220 million; December 2020, GHC280 million; December 2021, GHC340 million to make up the GHS400 million will be done by December 2022.
While the petition of the indigenous is still before the President and a committee has been set to take a look at their plea, the Bank of Ghana has said its decision is final.
They cited poor corporate governance practices at several of the indigenous banks, leading to the collapse of two, the takeover of two by assigns of the Central Bank, and indeed speculation of even others facing grave liquidation problems.
The central bank is, therefore, suggesting the smaller banks should either go into mergers or roll back into lower-tier financial service companies to bring some sanity into the banking sector.
“Government is pursuing a laudable One District One Factory policy p, which promises to create and grow local industries and provide jobs; meanwhile, the regulator of the financial sector is pursuing a policy that threatens to collapse local industries and create unemployment,” he said.
He noted that if the indigenous banks merge, it will reduce the overall Ghanaian stake in the mainstream financial sector and or push Ghanaians to the fringes while foreigners run the sector and dictate the health of the economy.
“It is not a secret the many of the foreign banks are not committed to supporting informal sector, which make up over 60 percent of businesses in the country. Foreign banks steer clear of the informal sector and any other high-risk investment that has a positive implication for the economy, but that is where the indigenous banks focus to help drive the economy, grow businesses and create jobs,” he noted.
Issah Monney said the suggestion that indigenous banks should roll back to a lower tier in the banking sector is not the best because they have used their banking licenses to support SMEs to grow and it would be rather disappointing for them to roll back to a lower tier where they are restricted from offering the level of support they are offering now with their banking licenses.
“And there is no guarantee that the indigenous banks will merge or move to a lower tier – what is likely to happen is for them to sell to foreign investors and that will harm the economy in the long run because we cannot have a successful financial sector owned by foreigners in Ghana,” he said.
Meanwhile, some analysts have raised several concerns about the entire policy, one of which is the quantum of the minimum capital requirement (MCR) itself, GHS400 million ($88.5million), in an economy like Ghana where GDP is just a little over $46 billion.
They noted that in neighbouring Nigeria, where GDP for 2017 was more than $400billion, MCR for universal banks is $70million; In Kenya MCR is $50 million, meanwhile, GDP is over $75 billion.
Moving outside of Africa, in India MCR is $77.5 million; in Australia MCR is $50 million; in Switzerland it is $10.2 million, in Luxembourg it is only $8 million; in Canada is is as low as $5 million, and in the fabulously rich countries of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, MCR is just $14 million each.
All those economies are much much bigger than Ghana so analysts have been questioning what informed the pegging of MCR at $88.5 million in Ghana beyond the accusations of poor corporate governance, and if not calculated to collapse indigenous banks to please Breton Wood institutions as being speculated.
Meanwhile, rumour also has it that some foreign investors are lining up to take over the indigenous banks and indeed some have started contacting those banks with either buy out or majority stake offers.