Ghana Fund Hit by Panicked Withdrawals Offers Clients Bonds Instead of Cash

A Ghana money manager hit by a flood of withdrawals from its main fund will ask customers to switch their investments into bonds.

Gold Coast Fund Management Ltd. is in talks with regulators to approve the notes, spokesman Benjamin Afreh said in an interview in Accra, the capital.

The offer may start by the end of the third quarter and the money manager is considering the issue of five-year debt on the Ghana Stock Exchange that could pay a 19% yield, he said. That compares with an average 22% return over the past two decades.

The firm is an unintended casualty of Ghana’s efforts to clean up its banking industry last year when the central bank ordered lenders to almost triple their minimum capital levels to 400 million cedis.

This has tied up investors’ cash in banks, curtailing Gold Coast’s ability to meet withdrawal demands from its 2 billion-cedi ($368-million) structured-finance fund. The fund has about 68,000 customers and accounts for more than two-thirds of Gold Coast’s clients and assets under management, Afreh said.

The situation has been exacerbated by the government, which hasn’t paid some contractors financed by the fund, Afreh said.

The government struck a deal with one of the country’s banks, which has so far paid more than 1.3 billion cedis in contractors’ expenses, Minister of Finance Ken Ofori-Atta said. Some contractors didn’t join probably because they were asked to discount their debt, he said.

Gold Coast has paid out 80 million cedis since the rush started in the middle of last year, Afreh said. Investors who don’t want to move to the bond plan can opt for another product that will pay a targeted return of the 182-day T-bill rate plus 200 basis points, or a diversified equity portfolio, he said. Otherwise they will be paid “as and when the company gets cash.”

The money manager was the country’s biggest in 2016 but has since dropped out of the top 10 after its assets were devalued due to a lack of liquidity, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Gold Coast’s other mutual and provident funds aren’t affected and are still running, Afreh said.