February 1, 2024

CBN clamps down on banks, pegs trade, assets in forex

CBN clamps down on banks, pegs trade, assets in forex

CBN Governor, Yemi Cardoso

By Babajide Komolafe, Emma Ujah, & Elizabeth Adegbesan

In a move to further boost liquidity in the foreign exchange market, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has ordered banks to limit the Net Open Position, NOP, of their foreign currency assets and liabilities to 20 per cent of shareholders’ funds.

NOP defines a bank’s risk exposure to its foreign exchange-denominated assets.

The order was contained in a January 31, 2024, CBN Circular referenced: TED/FEM/PUB/ FPC/001/ 001, issued yesterday.

The directive is expected to shore up the fortunes of Naira in the foreign exchange market while curtailing excessive trading and possible abuses by dealers.

But the Naira traded sideways yesterday, depreciating in the parallel market while appreciating in the official market. The development resumes the growing spread between the two markets which has drastically bridged two days ago.
The circular which was signed by the Director of Trade and Exchange, Dr. Hassan Mahmud, as well as, Mrs. Rita Sike, for Director of Banking Supervision, was titled, “Harmonization of Reporting Requirements on Foreign Currency Exposures of Banks”.

According to the new CBN prudential requirements, “Banks whose current NOP exceeds 20 per cent short and 0 per cent long of their shareholders’ funds unimpaired by losses are required to bring them to prudential limit by today, February 1, 2024.

“Banks are also required to have adequate stock of high-quality liquid foreign assets, i.e. cash and government securities in each significant currency to cover their maturing foreign currency obligations. In addition, banks should have in place a foreign exchange contingency funding arrangement with other financial institutions.”

Other requirements include: “Banks should borrow and lend in the same currency (natural hedging) to avoid currency mismatch associated with foreign currency risk.

“The basis of the interest rate for borrowing should be the same as that of lending i.e. there should be no mismatch in floating and fixed interest rates, to mitigate basis risk associated with foreign borrowing interest rate risk.

“With respect to Eurobonds, any clause of early redemption should be at the instance of the issuer and approval obtained from the CBN in this regard, even if the bond does not qualify as tier-2 capital.

“All banks are required to adopt adequate treasury and risk management systems to provide oversight of all foreign exchange exposures and ensure accurate reporting on a timely basis.

“Banks are expected to bring all their exposures within the set limits immediately and ensure that all returns submitted to the CBN provide accurate reflection of their balance sheets.

“Please, note that non-compliance with the NOP limit will result in immediate sanction and/or the suspension from participation in the foreign exchange market.”

Basis of new requirements

The CBN said that the new requirements have become necessary due to the growing foreign currency exposures of banks through their NOP.

It said that the development had created an incentive for banks to hold excess long foreign currency positions, which exposes banks to foreign exchange and other risks.

The apex banks also issued a new guideline for rendering monthly returns on Net Foreign Assets.

It includes: Holding of foreign currency; in their various denominations; balances held with foreign banks, placement with foreign banks; balances held with branches and offices abroad; treasury securities of foreign governments; and other financial instruments in foreign currency, as well as, other foreign assets not captured above.

Analysts speak

Giving insight into the new forex policy, analysts at Commercio Partners, a Lagos based finance and investment house, said it has potential to tame the current pressure on the exchange rate while bridging the supply and demand gap.

They stated: “The circular emphasizes that banks exceeding the specified Net Open Position (NOP) limits need to adjust their positions by February 1, 2024. This adjustment could lead to a sudden influx of forex into the market as banks liquidate their net long positions. The increased supply of foreign currency may put downward pressure on its value in the short term.

The circular intends to discourage speculative activities and encourage banks to sell forex into the market. If banks comply, it could lead to an immediate reprieve for the forex market and potentially trigger currency appreciation. Investors might witness a strengthening of the local currency against major foreign currencies, including the dollar.

“Banks in Nigeria have been profiting from forex revaluation gains. The new regulations may impact their profitability, especially if they are holding significant net-long positions that need to be liquidated. Banks may need to adjust their strategies to comply with the guidelines, affecting their revenue streams.

“Currency appreciation resulting from banks complying with the circular could contribute to overall economic stability. A more stable forex market enhances predictability for businesses, investors, and consumers, fostering a favourable economic environment.

“In conclusion, the CBN’s circular is a significant regulatory intervention aimed at curbing speculative practices in the banking sector. The impact on liquidity and the economy will depend on the extent to which banks comply with the guidelines and how swiftly the market adjusts to the new regulations.

“In the coming days, it is crucial to closely monitor market monitor market reactions, compliance levels among banks, and any potential ripple effects on broader economic indicators.”

Naira falls to N1,490/$ in parallel market

Meanwhile, the naira which has been under pressure since last week hit a new low yesterday depreciating to N1,490 per dollar in the parallel market from N1,470 per dollar on Tuesday.

However, the naira appreciated to N1,455.59 per dollar in the Nigerian Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEM).
Data from FMDQ showed that the indicative exchange rate for NAFEM fell to N1455.59 per dollar from N1,482.57 per dollar on Tuesday, indicating N26.98 appreciation for the naira.

Consequently, the gap between the official and parallel market exchange rates widened to N34.41 per dollar yesterday from N12.57 per dollar on Tuesday.