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Expect Better Things

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There is a Swahili saying that goes; ‘a good day is known in the morning’. Is 2015 a good year for the Kenyan investment environment? All indications suggest it is.

The World Bank has reviewed its prediction about Kenya, predicting GDP growth at 6%. While I am happy that the New York-based economists think so highly of the country, I highly doubt if this will be the case.

The World Bank has missed its growth predictions for Kenya for three consecutive years, being forced to adjust mid-year from 2012. Beyond that, the country’s economy is still not out of the woods and growth will remain slow.

For this year, I would trust their adjusted statement given in June 2014, stating that the economy would grow at around 4.7% both in 2014 and 2015. I would place the figure at between 4.9% and 5.2%, two to four percentage points above Mckinsey’s growth figures for Africa.

To make accurate predictions, you need to look at the past.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) performed averagely in 2014. The NSE 20 Share Index delivered price gains of 4.9% compared to 19.2% the previous year. On the flipside, the NSE All Share Index (NSEASI) delivered a price gain value of 19.9% compared to 44.1% in the previous year.

It’s worth noting that the NSEASI is driven by speculative trading on the smaller counters, mostly in the agricultural sector. The large caps in the NSE 20 are mostly attractive to large investors who prefer long term to short term benefits, hence minimal price gains.

While the price gains were average, most of the companies registered the anticipated major profits. Safaricom reported a net profit of $256 million, a 31% increase, while Equity Bank reported a profit of $211 million for the year ended December 31, 2013. Better news arrived when the bank announced its third quarter results in October to stand at 124 million, a 26% rise from the previous year.

It was not all rosy though. Kenya Airways reported a loss of $87.9 million, which coincided with the rising insecurity in the country, the Ebola pandemic in West Africa and poor tourism numbers driven by travel advisories in the west. The other companies that reported losses were Mumias Sugar, suffering the after effects of dishonest management, and Transcentury which posted a half year loss of $17.8 million.

The country’s economy grew 2.7% in the first quarter, 5.8% in the second and 5.5% in the third. While better performance is expected for the fourth, I believe Kenya’s growth figure for 2014 is still within the region of 4.7%.

With this information, one can authoritatively talk of a better performance in 2015.

I expect continued activity from the traditional movers like Safaricom, Equity Bank, KCB, EABL and Kenol Kobil. I also expect Mumias Sugar to make a comeback after shedding off 33% last year. There will also be significant activity from the growth counters; Centum Investment, Britam, and Car and General.

In essence, the sectors to watch will be agriculture, insurance, banking and oil which will benefit from the lower crude prices. We may even see a breach of the 6,000 mark for the NSE 20 Share Index, with the risks being poor implementation of the capital gains tax and insecurity.

The decision by the ICC to drop charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta is good news for the country, but terror attacks are derailing progress in Kenya, having eroded the robust tourist industry last year. While there is confidence in the government efforts to curtail the attacks, the risk still lingers in 2015 and might affect business significantly.

I expect government economists to take a conservative approach in setting both the fiscal and monetary policy. The Vision 2030 flagship projects will offer liquidity to the economy and spur growth, thus there will be no need to induce additional government spending in the next budget. In addition, the spending will send interest rates downward and the Monetary Policy Committee is likely to lower the Central Bank Rate when the economy has responded positively to the aggressive fiscal spending.

With this in mind, I can say it’s a good year to invest.

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