Ghana values State companies for possible sale – Terkper

seth tsepker

Ghana is seeking advisers to value some state-owned companies for a possible sale and wants them to be liable for their own debt to preserve cash needed to fund the budget, Finance Minister, Seth Terkper said.

“We are doing an equity study” to determine the market value of some companies before deciding whether to sell, Terkper, 57, said in an interview at his office in the capital, Accra. He didn’t disclose which companies will be valued.

Terkper is seeking to convince investors that the government can stick to an austerity plan agreed with the International Monetary Fund as part of a three-year loan program of about $900 million. Ghana was forced to turn to the Washington-based lender last year after ballooning debt and falling export earnings triggered a 27 percent plunge in the currency against the dollar.

“We are moving from sovereign guaranteeing of loans to project loans and for the projects to pay for the facility,” Terkper said. State-owned companies “have to strengthen their balance sheets and borrow on the strength of their balance sheets.”

Some of the nation’s state-owned companies include Volta River Authority, the largest power producer, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, which operates and regulate seaports, and Ghana Airports Company Ltd.

Terkper said he is optimistic the government can meet its budget deficit target of 7.5 percent of gross domestic product for this year. The shortfall was an average of about 10 percent in the past three years.

Ghana is West Africa’s second-largest economy and the world’s No. 2 cocoa producer. Oil is the country’s biggest export by value after gold and the nation produces about 100,000 barrels a day from its Jubilee field that’s operated by Tullow Oil Plc.

The IMF loan commits the government to curbing its budget deficit as it heads into an election year in 2016. Ghana failed to stick to expenditure limits before the 2012 election, causing the budget deficit to widen at the same time that cocoa and gold prices came under pressure.

“We wanted to remove that doubt and to show that we are committed to keep that discipline,” Terkper said. “That period of consolidation will lead to robust growth.”

The main risk to the economy’s outlook is a possible fall in commodity prices, such as oil and cocoa, he said. The government is forecasting 3.9 percent growth this year, little changed from 4 percent in 2014.

Ghana “lost fiscal discipline,” Kojo Addae-Mensah, the chief executive officer of Databank Group, an investment bank and money manager with the equivalent of $232 million in assets, said in an interview in Accra on May 11. “We have to get fiscal discipline into shape. The will is there. If it wasn’t, the government wouldn’t have signed the IMF agreement in an election year. Big brother has been brought on board to ensure they do what they said they’ll do.”

Gold has gained 0.8 percent this year while cocoa has increased 3 percent. The cedi fell 1.7 percent against the dollar to a record low of 3.9550 as of 3:50 p.m. in Accra.

The government plans to sell a second Eurobond in two years, with $500 million of the proceeds to be used to refinance debt due in 2017 and $500 million used to pay for capital projects. Ghana will use the same advisers as it did last year, namely Barclays Plc, Standard Chartered Plc and Deutsche Bank AG, Terkper said.

Moody’s Investors Service cut Ghana’s credit rating twice in the past year to B3, six levels below investment grade, and warned in March of further downgrades as tumbling oil prices worsen the government’s budget shortfall.

Source : bloomberg.com