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Mortgage defaults hit Sh70bn, auctions jump

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Mortgage defaults hit Sh70bn, auctions jump


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The Central bank of Kenya, Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Latest Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that mortgages recorded the highest growth in non-performing loans (NPLs) f.om Sh47.5 billion in March last year.
  • Unpaid mortgages increased by Sh9.1 billion or 14.8 percent in the three months to March, a rise that outpaced other segments like manufacturing (three percent), agriculture (10.7 per cent) and personal loans (three percent).

Defaults on mortgages jumped 48 percent to Sh70.5 billion in the year to March, pointing to widespread distress in real estate in the wake of Covid-19 economic hardships as property auctions pick up.

Latest Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that mortgages recorded the highest growth in non-performing loans (NPLs) from Sh47.5 billion in March last year, reflecting the struggle by investors to find buyers for their houses amid dwindling returns.

Unpaid mortgages increased by Sh9.1 billion or 14.8 percent in the three months to March, a rise that outpaced other segments like manufacturing (three percent), agriculture (10.7 per cent) and personal loans (three percent) in growth of default on loans, the CBK said.

The mounting defaults in the property market are a reflection of the struggles that mortgage holders are undergoing in an economy that has witnessed a string of job losses across nearly all sectors since the onset of Covid-19 in Kenya in March last year as corporates intensify austerity measures to protect profits.

This has seen workers who took mortgages on the strength of their pay slips default. The slowdown in real estate is hurting property developers who are finding it difficult to sell units that were built on loans.

Banks that had gone slow on property seizures last year following the pandemic

have stepped up debt recovery efforts to clean up their loan books, leading to a spike in auctions.

Thousands of defaulters have since January been appearing in the books of Kenya’s three CRBs — Metropol, TransUnion and Creditinfo International—after the CBK lifted the suspension of listing for loans that were defaulted after April 1 last year.

The CBK has linked the sharp rise in mortgage defaults — credit that goes unpaid for 90 days — to skipped repayments on covid-19 disruptions.

“The real estate sector registered the highest increase in non-performing loans by 14.9 percent (Sh9.1 billion) as a result of disruptions by Covid-19 pandemic,” said the CBK in the banking sector review of first quarter of the year.

Real estate has been one of the country’s fastest growing sectors in the last 15 years, with returns from property outpacing equities and government securities.

The sector has, however, suffered slow growth in sales and rental prices recently due to a huge stock of unsold units, which has seen developers who tapped loans to build and sell houses default.

Low occupancy rates have meant that developers who were dependent on rent collections to repay loans are also struggling.

Industries and other businesses have since cut down their activities in response to the infectious disease, leading to job cuts and unpaid leave for retained staff as profitable firms move into losses.

Businesses that tapped loans based on their projected cash flows are also struggling to meet the loan obligations.

CBK data to April shows that net domestic credit to the real estate sector grew by 5.8 percent to Sh409 billion, the slowest in nine months.

Auctioneers reckon they are holding more forced sales in 2021 linked to mortgage defaults compared to previous years, with banks moving much faster to seize properties from defaulters since the cap was put in place.

But the auctioneers are not selling as fast as they are repossessing due to the minimum bid price, leaving a glut of repossessed vehicles, land, houses and office equipment as cash-strapped buyers seek to buy the properties cheaply and at outsized discounts.

The Land Act, 2012 bars banks from auctioning seized assets at below 75 percent of the prevailing market value.

This has led banks to eye private settlements.

Under private treaties, distressed borrowers agree with banks to look for the best available price for their properties and sell to repay loans as opposed to relying on the auctioneer’s hammer.

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months


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A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Airways will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
  • The airline in a notice to its customers yesterday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.

The airline in a notice to its customers Monday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

The airline will then resume full operations on the route on September 20, flying three times per week on the Indian route, which is one of the most lucrative destinations on its network.

Passengers on the route will part with Sh46,000 ($419) for one-way air ticket on economy class seats from Nairobi to Mumbai- prices that are relatively the same compared to what it was charging before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Welcome back onboard! Fly from Nairobi to Mumbai starting Thursday 16th September with normal schedules resuming from Monday 20th September 2021,” said the airline in a notice to its customers yesterday.

KQ Suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai on April 30 until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.

The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.

Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.

India has seen soaring infection rates in the recent days, since the discovery of a new virus variant. Last month, India put on lockdown one of the states following a spike in cases of Covid-19.

Other countries that have banned flights to India include France, the UK Bangladesh, Oman and Hong Kong that have banned travel to and from India or asked their nationals coming from the Asian country to isolate themselves in government-approved hotels.

India has so far detected 33,264,175 corona virus cases with the number of deaths hitting 442,874 as at September 13.

A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs


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Man pulls a cart loaded with second-hand clothes at Gikomba Market in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
  • Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
  • Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

The average price of a tonne of second-hand clothing items imported into the country crossed the Sh100,000 mark for the first time last year on reduced volumes in the wake of safety protocols and guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus.

Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.

Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

Last year’s drop was the first dip since 2011 when 76,533 tonnes were shipped in compared with 80,423 tonnes the previous year, the official data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.

The import bill for the merchandise amounted to Sh12.24 billion, a drop of 31.11 percent, or Sh5.53 billion, year-on-year.

TIn imposing the temporary ban on used clothes, Kebs had applied a standard which prohibits buying second-hand clothes from countries experiencing epidemics to ensure disease-causing microorganisms are not imported into Kenya.

Higher quality and relatively lower prices for mitumba has continued to drive demand for used clothes at expense of locally-made products amid higher margins enjoyed by traders largely operating in informal markets.

The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China —a key source market for the merchandise —open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years to cash in rising demand.

Earnings from exports of articles of apparel and clothing accessories fell 5.32 percent to Sh32.92 billion last year compared with 2019, data indicates.

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud


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Cotu boss Francis Atwoli. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
  • Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.

Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of KPAWU. The rival union claimed KPAWU had encroached on its area of workers’ representation.

Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.

He also stated that Kefhau must go beyond its registration and recruit sufficient members from the employers, to be granted recognition and organisational rights.

“Registration on its own, does not afford the claimant (Kefhau) recognition. Until there is proof that Kefhau has satisfied Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, the status quo must be maintained,” said the judge.

“Kefhau must recruit at least 50 percent plus one, of the unionisable employees in the floriculture and horticulture industry, members of the Agricultural Employers Association to be considered for recognition,” he stated.

He noted that there is a Recognition Agreement and CBA, binding Mr Atwoli’s union and Agricultural Employers Association, affecting 73 Flower Growers Group of employers, and over 60,000 employees.

“It is objectionable for Kefhau to be allowed organisational rights, and the legitimacy to receive trade union dues and agency fees, from over 60,000 employees, just on the strength of registration as a trade union,” said the judge.

Kefhau wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s from representing workers in that area.

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