By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Fitch Ratings has assigned Kaduna State Long-Term Foreign and Local Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) of ‘B’ and a National Long-Term Rating of ‘A+(nga)’. The Outlooks are Stable.
In a statement issued on Friday, Fitch said the ‘B’ ratings reflect Kaduna’s dwindling revenue prospects in line with declining statutory allocations from the central government as a result of weak oil prices. Oil-related revenues account for 70% of Nigeria’s current external receipts and Kaduna’s current revenue.
The ratings also reflect the region’s fast growing debt although servicing requirements will be moderated by government subsidies, concessionary terms and a long grace period. They further take into account the state’s developing economy focused on agricultural activities and low per capita revenue by international standards.
The ‘A+(nga)’ rating reflects Kaduna’s low risk relative to the country’s best risk given strong financial and revenue support from the central government.
The Stable Outlooks factor in Fitch’s expectation that a flexible expenditure framework and a sustainable borrowing capacity will allow Kaduna to weather volatile statutory transfers in the medium term.
According to the statement, the ratings assigned reflect the following rating drivers and their relative weights:
Weak Institutional Framework
As with other Nigerian states, Kaduna’s finances are affected by weak revenue predictability, and by high budgeted capital spending being rolled over into following financial years due to a lack of funding and limited implementation capacity. Waning transfers from Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) amid the oil sector down-cycle provide renewed stimulus for tax revenue diversification but benefits may be visible only in the medium- to long-term.
Long-term Debt Challenge.
Kaduna State is increasing borrowing rapidly to fund capex in core infrastructure to sustain GDP growth and diversify revenue sources. Total debt at the end of fiscal year 2015 totalled NGN73bn and Fitch envisages it will more than double by end-2018 to 160% of current revenue, to finance projects mainly in the power, transport, water supply, education and healthcare sectors.
Fitch expects annual debt service requirements up to NGN8bn-NGN10bn, which will continue to be covered by the current balance and may be balanced with faster growth of internally generated revenue (IGR) in the medium term. Fitch expects Kaduna’s cash position to remain strong at around NGN30bn, hence providing adequate cushion for debt cash calls in the short-term.
FAAC Impacting Fiscal Performance
The FAAC is the primary mechanism for funding Nigerian states. Its process, which determines funding levels allocated on a monthly base, is derived from revenues accruing to the federal government, largely sourced from the oil sector. In line with plummeting oil prices and falling production, Kaduna’s statutory allocations declined to NGN52bn or 66%-70% of revenues, a trend Fitch expects to continue in 2016 with a further 20-25% decline.
Under its base case scenario, Fitch expects Kaduna to partially compensate for lower FAAC revenues in 2016 with a flexible expenditure framework that will see spending decline through the economic cycle. We forecast an operating margin of 10% in 2016, down from 16% in 2015 and a 10-year average of 40%. Fitch believes Kaduna can return to its 40% mark over the medium-term if it is able to raise local taxes.
IGR totalled NGN13bn in 2015 or nearly 20% of operating revenue, having languished at around NGN12bn over the last five years. However, given the low level of tax compliance and slowing growth from an agricultural economy, non-oil revenues should increase slowly as the administration pushes to expand the tax base.
Weak Socio-Economic Profile
Within the context of Nigeria, Kaduna’s fast-growing population and a traditionally strong primary sector contribute to weak socio-economic standards, including growing unemployment. A dominant agricultural sector drives the economy while Kaduna’s 2016-2020 plan is focusing on the state’s rich minerals resources by attracting foreign investors to key industrial projects.
Transparency to Stimulate Investments
To attract private and foreign investments, Kaduna’s administration is committed to improving the state’s transparency and disclosure. Fitch believes that the transition from cash to a more sophisticated accrual-based accounting is a credit positive, as it restricts the scope for discretionary initiatives and human errors visible in the past.
An upgrade could materialise if the operating margin strengthens towards 30% and if the fiscal deficit narrows due to IGR growth or tighter-than-expected cost control.
Conversely, financial debt growth leading to debt-to-current revenue ratios being consistently above Fitch’s expectations could result in a downgrade. Unrest damaging economic prospects or undermining oil-related revenue could also lead to a downgrade.
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