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DDEP: Ghana’s top banks record first significant loss

Two of Ghana’s top banks have suffered their first-ever losses as a result of the West African country’s decision to restructure its local-currency and foreign debt.

GCB Bank Plc, the country’s largest lender by assets, posted a 593.4 million cedis ($50.5 million) net loss for the year to end-December, its first since 1993 when Bloomberg started maintaining data. Standard Chartered Bank Ghana Ltd., the biggest by market value, reported a loss of 297.8 million cedis.

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Banks operating in West Africa’s second-largest economy have taken a hit of about $1.4 billion, according to Bloomberg calculations, as Ghana restructures most of its public debt, estimated at 576 billion cedis. The impairments prompted Guaranty Trust Holding Co., Nigeria’s largest bank by market value, to vow to slow lending and bond trading in Ghana.

GCB Bank took a charge of 1.83 billion cedis after impairing its debt securities, while for Standard Chartered Bank Ghana the amount was 173 million cedis.

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Ghana’s lenders were allowed a month’s extension to release full-year earnings.

The nation’s debt rose after spending pressures from an energy crisis between 2013 and 2015 and a sweeping banking-sector cleanup in 2018 were compounded by shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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As part of the revamp, Ghana exchanged 87.8 billion cedis of local notes that paid an average of 19%, with bonds returning as little as 8.35% — resulting in losses for financial institutions.

President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government has also started discussions with international debt holders as it seeks to finalize a $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF wants Ghana to bring its debt down to 55% of GDP by 2028. Before the government’s interventions, it had been projected to reach 109%.

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