Monday, September 27, 2010

Markaz: Review of Kuwait Investment Sector

 Renovation of Yet Another Proven Business Model In Progress
(Or, Perhaps, A Half Built Mega Project)

Markaz has issued “Kuwaiti Investment Firm Sector Taking Stock Two Years After the Crisis”. The report is an update to one they issued in June 2009.

As usual, good analysis and commentary.

You can obtain a full copy of the report by sending an email to referring to the title above.

In the interim, some key points from the report.

Let’s start with Markaz’s Conclusion:
“The investment sector in Kuwait has a long way to go on its path towards health especially in light of the Central Bank’s increased oversight on the sector, which may lead to reduced activity among some firms that need to clean house. Given how unpredictable and difficult the sector’s assets are to value, it is difficult to predict the future performance of the sector, especially given the wide variance in case-by-case health.

We are optimistic that 2010 will show a further narrowing in bottom line losses, though we remain skeptical of a return to profit. Not only will companies be looking to offload more of their investments, booking impairment losses in the process, but regional/global equity markets have shown lackluster performance for the year, which may have an adverse impact on both the firm’s quoted investments in addition to the AUMs (thereby reducing fee income), all of which will put downward pressure on the bottom line.”

Historical Performance

I’ll start by noting that the report does not cover all investment companies in Kuwait. It is based on a set of 34 listed companies of which only 28 have reported for 2009. The missing reports include The Investment Dar – which hasn’t issued a financial since 31 December 2008. Nonetheless as with many such studies, it gives a good macro picture.

Earnings in KD millions.

  1. The graph in Markaz’s report gives a good pictorial sense of the variance.
  2. In lieu of a graph, let’s look at statistical measures. All of which are rounded to the nearest integer. The Mean Income over the five-year period is KD97 million. The Standard Deviation (Sample) is 852 and the Standard Deviation Population (762). The SD is between 8x and 9x the Mean. That gives an idea of the variability of income. 
  3. During the first three heady years of hefty profits, no doubt equally hefty bonuses and dividends were paid based on reported income -- largely non cash capital appreciation. Many of these payments also no doubt financed by “wise” lenders - who are now left holding the proverbial bag.
Asset Classification

IFRS 7 requires that companies disclose the basis for the valuation of assets held for sale (similar to FASB 157).
  1. Level 1: Based on quoted market prices in active markets for identical or similar securities. 
  2. Level 2: Based on observable market data – either direct or derived. 
  3. Level 3: Inputs into valuation models are not observable market data.
Markaz’s set of companies assets are distributed as follows. Amounts in KD millions.

Level 1264   535   799  34%
Level 2213   365   578  25%
Level 3236   708   944  41%
% Total Investments31%  69%100%  ----

As Markaz notes, the IASB allowed companies to “move” assets from the then inconvenient FVTPL (Fair Value Through Profit and Loss) classification to FVTE (Fair Value Through Equity) which neatly “solved” earnings problems in a time of decline in values.  And, no doubt, achieved its goal of fooling more than a few "wise" investors and lenders.

It would be interesting to see how many Kuwaiti firms availed themselves of this exception to manage their apparent earnings.

It’s not surprising that overall there is a concentration in Level 3 assets given business models. And one could point to firms in the “Developed West” with similar concentrations. But out of national chauvinism I won’t point but merely link.

Appendix 1 lists the ratio for some 32 firms. There’s wide variance.
  1. Gulfinvest International and Al Qurain have 100% of their assets in Level 1.   Noor 85%.  Bayan 84%. Coast 72%. 
  2. On the other hand, National International Holding has Level 3 assets at 87%, First Investment at 70%, Al Safat and Al Mal at 67% and Global at 55%.
The Kuwait Investment Firm Sector in the GCC

Markaz notes that the KIFS dominates the rest of the GCC. No one is bigger. No one fell with a larger thud except two Bahraini-based firms in 2009. Markaz provides some income statement data for Fiscal 2008 and 2009 plus 1H10. What would be even more illuminating would be sector balance sheet size.


The new Central Bank of Kuwait regulations impose a maximum 2x leverage ratio on the sector. Even after the debacles in 2008 and 2009, the KIFS’ leverage ratio (Total Liabilities/Total Equity) is a “comfortable” 1.84. It’s only when one starts drilling down into the details that one sees the variance.

Below my calculations based on FYE 2009 financials as in Appendix 2.

Kuwait Finance and Investment8.32x
Aayan Leasing and Investment5.96x
The International Investor5.88x
Global Investment House4.12x
International Investment Group3.57x
Aref Investment Group2.78x

Note: I have not adjusted the above for minority interests – so these are not strictly speaking Central Bank leverage ratios as will become apparent later when we review Markaz’s calculations, though the number of firms with significant minority interests is limited.

When Aayan’s substantial minority interests of KD42 million are eliminated from the calculation the Leverage Ratio jumps to an eye popping 14x (using the financials reported on the KSE).

Asset/Liability Mismatch

Details are on page 7 of the report. Briefly, conventional firms are more balanced than “Islamic” ones. The former with S/T debt of 40% versus S/T assets of 49%. The latter with S/T debt at 79% versus S/T assets at 36%. But this is largely due to the greater progress made in restructuring conventional firms. (Also note this data excludes The Investment Dar).

Review of the Top Five

Markaz then reviews the top five firms: Global, Aref, IFA, TID (using 2008 data) and Aayan.

Here in tabular form are the results of Markaz’s review of these firms’ compliance with the newly imposed Central Bank of Kuwait regulations.

Global Investment House  4.11x17%
Aref Investment Group  2.78x16%
IFA  3.28x  9%
The Investment Dar*  4.97x   2%
Aayan Leasing and Investment13.90x  7%
CBK Regulations  2.00x10%

*TID calculated using 2008 financials.

Markaz then discusses these five firms’ financial position.  If you want a quick insight into them and the investment firm sector in general, this report is a must read.


Anonymous said...

DO not miss this in todays alqabs:

: "من جهة اخرى، عبر عدد من الدائنين خلال الاجتماع عن استيائهم من قرارات اتخذها رئيس مجلس الادارة عدنان المسلم. فهذا الاخير حضر الاجتماع وتلا كلمة ابلغهم فيها انه «استخار الله ثم اصدر اوامره في تأسيس شركة تحوي بعض الاصول».
وبعد فترة من النقاش المغلق، غادر المسلم القاعة ولم يكمل الاجتماع
A messenger from God to TID creditors or its the new Science of Decision Making

Abu 'Arqala said...


Thanks I'm on the road right now and initially missed the AlQ article.

I've put up a separate post.

It would seem that if indeed Brother Adnan did speak with God about founding TID, he didn't follow up to ask for advice on investments and management.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much. Your analysis was very helpful and quite useful. I appreciate it