Monday, 30 March 2020
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has inaugurated a fund-raising initiative through its Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) that would enable it provide additional debt service succour to its poorest member nations.
 
As a unit of the IMF’s operations, the CCRT is duty-bound to provide grants for debt relief in favour of poor and vulnerable countries during monumental natural disasters and critical, “fast-spreading public health emergencies” like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The IMF said the aid, if properly channelled, would afford the countries the opportunity to concentrate on medical spending and other urgent necessities in the challenging economic environment, where steep income depreciation, lost revenue and increasing expenditure are rife.
“The IMF’s revamped Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust can now provide rapid debt service relief on IMF debt obligations to more of our poorest and most vulnerable members. This will help them to channel more of their scarce financial resources to their vital emergency medical and other relief efforts,” said Kristalina Georgieva, the organisation’s chief.
She equally enjoined member countries of the fund, who economically stronger to contribute to the CCRT’s pool of funds, “which had $200 million available for the world’s poorest countries.”
While the UK has made a pledge of $183 million, countries like Japan and China are planning to make reasonable donations to the fund.
Ms Georgieva also said “furthermore, we are calling on donor countries to replenish the Trust’s resources to help boost our ability to provide additional debt service relief to our poorest member countries.”
Published in Bank & Finance

Moscow, Russia’s capital is imposing a citywide quarantine starting March 30 until further notice for all residents regardless of their age, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said in a statement.

“(Since restrictions were imposed) movements in the city decreased by two-thirds, which this is very good,” Sobyanin said. “Although it is obvious that not everyone heard us.”
Residents will only be able to leave their houses to get urgent medical help, go to a nearby grocery store or pharmacy, and to walk their pets in the proximity of 100m from their residence. The exception will be made for essential workers.

City officials will deploy a “smart monitoring” system to enforce these restrictions, Sobyanin said, and the city will develop a special pass system for people to get permission to leave their homes.

Public and private transportation, as well as leaving or entering the city, is still allowed, according to the statement obtained by Press.

Published in World

African governments set to see decline in revenues; Exploration projects put on hold; Thousands of local jobs at risk if nothing is done.

While the short-term effects of Covid-19 on world economies are already being felt and put millions in a situation of economic distress, their long-term ones are yet to be fully grasped. In sub-Saharan Africa, the impact will be felt even stronger because the pandemic is being combined with a historic crash in oil prices, putting pressure on state budgets and testing the resilience of the continent’s strongest energy companies.

The immediate effect of Covid-19 for the sector has been on the demand for crude oil, and on its prices. Most analysts and operators now agree that 2020 could see a negative demand growth for oil globally as industries shut down and countries around the world go on lock down. The effect on prices has been nothing short of devastating: they have reached their lowest levels since 1991 and currently stand at below $25 a barrel.

For Africa, this means an immediate pressure on state budgets and macro-economic stability. Apart from South Africa, the continent’s biggest economies rely heavily on oil revenue to fuel state budget and public spending and ensure macro-economic stability. All sub-Saharan Africa’s producers had budgeted 2020 with an oil benchmark well above $50, from $51 in Equatorial Guinea all the way up to $57 in Nigeria. With predictions that oil prices won’t go anywhere above $30 for the rest of the year, most budgets need to be re-adjusted and public spending needs to be drastically cut.

According to the Atlantic Council, major African producers could expect multi-billion dollar losses in state revenues this year. Congo-Brazzaville could take the hardest hit, with a loss representing 34% of its GPD, in a country where debt-to-GDP ratio is already around 90%. The same applies to Angola, where oil prices at $30 would generate a revenue loss of almost $13bn, or 13% of GDP.

Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Chad could see losses of almost 10% of GDP due to the ongoing crisis. Nigeria finally would suffer the biggest lost with $15.4bn, still according to the Atlantic Council. While it would represent only 4% of its GDP, the impact on marginal producers and local jobs would potentially be devastating. Newer producers would also suffer revenue losses: in Ghana, the the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP) estimates a potential revenue loss of 53% down to $743 million instead of the $1.567bn the country expected to receive this year.

“Thousands of Africans and expats are going to be laid off in oil-producing countries as companies shut down their drilling rigs and planned projects. We need to face the reality as these times are unprecedented.

The uncertainty is even more frustrating for oil companies and the workers. Forgive me but there is blood on the streets, in the water and the air has the coronavirus,” said NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber and Petroleum industry lobbyist. “Petroleum-producing countries need to come together and work with the private sector in order to get us through the COVID 19 crisis and mitigate the economic fallout as much as possible. When the US and Europe are talking about a recession, most African countries and the common man on the streets have likely already entered a depression,” added Ayuk.

The long-term effects that Covid-19 will have on the sector in Africa depends on what happens this year and in the following month. Cuts in exploration spending and cancellation of drilling plans today could potentially mean years of delay in new discoveries, reserves replacement and new fields being brought on stream.

The biggest international oil companies operating in the continent are all cutting spending by an average of 20% globally, which is set to impact exploration and projects in Africa. While ExxonMobil considers several reductions in spending, Shell has already announced a reduction of underlying operating costs by $3 to $4bn and a reduction of cash capital expenditure of $5bn. Total’s organic capex is being cut by more than $3 billion, representing 20% of its planned 2020 capex. Chevron is also reducing capital and exploratory spending by 20%, including a $700 million cut in upstream projects and exploration.

These IOCs were expected to take major final investment decisions this year or in the near future on multi-billion dollar projects in Africa. These include Shell’s Bonga South-West project, ExxonMobil’s Bosi, Owowo West and Uge-Orso projects, or Chevron’s Nsiko project. regardless of how close each of these were to FID, they are very unlikely to get sanctioned this year. Recent statements from independents are going in the same direction. Woodside Energy for instance is currently reviewing all options to preserve and enhance the value of its Sangomar Offshore Oil Project in Senegal, whose first oil was expected in 2023.

Beyond oil, natural gas and LNG projects are also already being delayed. ExxonMobil’s announcement that it would postpone the green-light on Mozambique’s multi-billion dollar Rovuma LNG project is sending worrying signals for instance. Similarly, BP and Kosmos are already working to defer the 2020 Tortue Phase 1 capital spending for their multi-billion dollar FLNG project in Mauritania and Senegal. Together, Rovuma LNG and Greater Tortue Ahmeyim represent the biggest hopes Africa had to strengthen its position as a new global LNG export hub. Delaying such projects will have significant consequences on forecasted economic growth in each country.

Finally, the long-term impact of Covid-19 is taking shape right now, as exploration programs are put on hold. Much-awaited drilling like FAR’s plans in The Gambia this year have been suspended. Other planned seismic acquisition projects have also already been cancelled, such as EMHS’ CSEM Survey offshore Senegal and Mauritania for BP which was set to begin this month, or Polarcus’ 3D seismic acquisition project offshore West Africa.

Meanwhile, most licensing rounds that were set to confirm Africa as a global exploration frontier this year will most likely not live up to expectations. South Sudan for instance has already announced the suspension of its oil & gas licensing round this year.

While African nations grapple with the crisis brought by Covid-19 and the OPEC price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the initiatives they take today will determine the future of their oil & gas industries for years. Local companies, be they producers or services providers, are at the frontline and need all the possible support they can get to avoid cutting jobs and survive the crisis. As Shoreline Energy CEO Kola Karim recently phrased it, “when the elephants fight, it’s the smaller producers that suffer.” Supporting these smaller producers and their local contractors should be a priority to preserve the long-term future and prosperity of Africa’s oil & gas sector.

Published in Engineering

A chartered medical evacuation flight on Sunday crashed during takeoff in Manila Philippines.
The plane carrying emergency medical supplies to Japan amid the coronavirus outbreak crashed and exploded.

According to the Manila International Airport Authority, the WestWind 24 aircraft was taking off from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport when it burst into flames and crashed.

Manila International Airport Authority added that it killed all eight persons on board.

“The flight, which was on a med-evac mission to Haneda, Japan, was carrying two passengers and six crew members.

“Unfortunately, no passenger survived the accident.
Two passengers were a 63-year-old Canadian man and a 58-year-old Filipino-American woman.
The airport authorities said the six Filipinos were three pilots, a flight mechanic, a doctor, and a nurse.

Published in World
People’s Bank of China(PBoC) on Monday cut interest rate on loans to banks by the largest margin in five years, to help the world’s second-largest economy weather the effects of coronavirus.
The bank also injected 50 billion yuan ($7 billion) into the financial system.
PBoC said it launched a 50-billion-yuan reverse repurchase operation and lowered the seven-day reverse repurchase rate from 2.40 percent to 2.20 percent.
It was the “largest cut since 2015 and takes the 7-day reverse repo rate to its lowest on record”, said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics.
The deadly coronavirus has claimed almost 34,000 lives worldwide, hitting businesses and consumers.
Its global spread has dampened hope of a quick recovery in export-dependent China, where the pandemic first erupted in December.
The latest move comes as governments and central banks around the world ease monetary policy and unveil titanic stimulus measures worth around $5 trillion to counter the economic impact of the pandemic.
Forecasters warn the pandemic will cause a deep recession.
However, Monday’s move appears to have had little impact on market sentiment.
Shanghai’s key stock index was one percent lower in the afternoon.
Published in Bank & Finance

The African Development Bank has raised an exceptional $3 billion in a three-year bond to help alleviate the economic and social impact the Covid-19 pandemic will have on livelihoods and Africa’s economies.  

The Fight Covid-19 Social bond, with a three-year maturity, garnered interest from central banks and official institutions, bank treasuries, and asset managers including Socially Responsible Investors, with bids exceeding $4.6 billion. This is the largest dollar denominated Social Bond ever launched in international capital markets to date, and the largest US Dollar benchmark ever issued by the Bank. It will pay an interest rate of 0.75%.

Landmark transaction, largest US dollar denominated Social bond transaction to date in capital markets

The African Development Bank Group is moving to provide flexible responses aimed at lessening the severe economic and social impact of this pandemic on its regional member countries and Africa’s private sector.


“These are critical times for Africa as it addresses the challenges resulting from the Coronavirus. The African Development Bank is taking bold measures to support African countries. This $3 billion Covid-19 bond issuance is the first part of our comprehensive response that will soon be announced. This is indeed the largest dollar social bond transaction to date in capital markets. We are here for Africa, and we will provide significant rapid support for countries,” said Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group.

The order book for this record-breaking bond highlights the scale of investor support, which the African Development Bank enjoys, said the arrangers.

“As the Covid-19 outbreak is dangerously threatening Africa, the African Development Bank lives up to its huge responsibilities and deploys funds to assist and prepare the African population, through the financing of access to health and to all other essential goods, services and infrastructure,” said Tanguy Claquin, Head of Sustainable Banking, Crédit Agricole CIB.

Coronavirus cases were slow to arrive in Africa, but the virus is spreading quickly and has infected nearly 3,000 people across 45 countries, placing strain on already fragile health systems. 

It is estimated that the continent will require many billions of dollars to cushion the impact of the disease as many countries scrambled contingency measures, including commercial lockdowns in desperate efforts to contain it. Globally, factories have been closed and workers sent home, disrupting supply chains, trade, travel, and driving many economies toward recession. 

Commenting on the landmark transaction, George Sager, Executive Director, SSA Syndicate, Goldman Sachs said: “In a time of unprecedented market volatility, the African Development Bank has been able to brave the capital markets in order to secure invaluable funding to help the efforts of the African continent's fight against Covid-19. Not only that, but in the process, delivering their largest ever USD benchmark. A truly remarkable outcome both in terms of its purpose but also in terms of a USD financing”.

The Bank established its Social Bond framework in 2017 and raised the equivalent of  $2 billion through issuances denominated in Euro and Norwegian krone. In 2018 the Bank was designated by financial markets, ‘Second most impressive social or sustainability bond issuer” at the Global Capital SRI Awards.

“We are thankful for the exceptional level of interest the Fight Covid-19 Social Bond has raised across the world, as the African Development Bank moves towards lessening the social and economic impact of the pandemic on a continent already severely constrained. Our Social bond program enables us to highlight our strong development mandate to the investor community, allowing them to play a part in improving the lives of the people of Africa. This was an exceptional outcome for an exceptional cause,” said Hassatou Diop N’Sele, Treasurer, African Development Bank.

Fight Covid-19 was allocated to central banks and official institutions (53%), bank treasuries (27%) and asset managers (20%). Final bond distribution statistics were as follows: Europe (37%), Americas (36%), Asia (17%) Africa (8%,) and Middle-East (1%).

Published in Bank & Finance
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