Naira devaluation bets’ surge before Nigeria unveils new policy


Naira forward contracts surged to a record as traders anticipated Nigeria’s central bank would devalue the currency on Wednesday as part of a new foreign-exchange policy.

Governor Godwin Emefiele will make a televised announcement from around 2 p.m. in Abuja, the capital, according to Isaac Okorafor, a central bank spokesman.

Twelve-month non-deliverable naira forward contracts surged 3.3 percent to 352 per dollar, a record on a closing basis, as of 11:27 a.m. in London, suggesting traders see the currency weakening to near that level.

Three-month forward contracts climbed 1.9 percent to 310 per dollar, also a record.

Emefiele has faced calls for more than a year to devalue the currency, as other oil exporters from Russia to Kazakhstan and Angola have done, amid a rout in crude prices since mid-2014 to around $50 a barrel.

Investment into Nigeria has shriveled as foreigners are put off by capital controls needed to defend the currency’s peg of 197-199 per dollar, while local businesses have struggled to import raw materials and equipment.

Analysts including those at Renaissance Capital Ltd. and Standard Bank Group Ltd. have said they expect the central bank to allow the naira to weaken in the interbank market, while allocating dollars at a fixed, subsidized rate to industries the government deems strategic.

The central bank may also reinstate a minimum holding period for foreign investors buying naira bonds, according to a person who attended a meeting between Emefiele and bankers on June 9.

Rate Increase?

Emefiele said last month the central bank would implement a “flexible” exchange-rate policy to help alleviate a dollar shortage that has strangled the economy.

Gross domestic product contracted in the three months through March for the first time since 2004 and inflation accelerated to 15.6 percent in May, the highest rate in more than six years, as manufacturers struggled to import raw materials and equipment.

As well as devaluing the currency, Emefiele will probably have to remove restrictions on trading foreign-exchange and increase interest rates if Nigeria is to attract inflows from bond and stock investors, according to Standard Chartered Plc.

With inflation at almost 16 percent and the main interest rate held at 12 percent by the central bank last month, real rates are negative.

“Investors will initially be cautious,” Samir Gadio, head of Africa strategy at Standard Chartered in London, said by phone. “They’ll want to see how it works and whether it’s sustainable.”

The naira will probably trade in a range of 280 to 350 against the dollar after the central bank implements its decision, analysts at Johannesburg-based Rand Merchant Bank said in a note on Wednesday.

Egyptian Lesson

Nigeria’s officials should learn from the example of Egypt, which devalued its currency in March, but not by as much as investors wanted, according to Stephen Bailey-Smith, a strategist at Denmark’s Global Evolution Fonds A/S, which holds $3 billion of frontier-market assets.

“If they do what Egypt did, it won’t work,” Bailey-Smith said.

“Egypt didn’t allow the currency market to clear and investors for the most part still haven’t re-entered the market. That’s also the concern with Nigeria: that they won’t go far enough.”




Source: Bloomberg