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Ghana’s Shutdown of Second-Tier Lenders Seen Risking 4,000 Jobs

Moses Mozart Dzawu

(Bloomberg) -- Ghana risks losing 4,000 jobs from its effort to clean up the finance industry.

The central bank announced last week it had revoked the licenses of savings and loans companies as well as finance houses and appointed a receiver to manage their affairs. The steps marked the end of an industry cleanse of lenders and second-level financial institutions that started in August 2017 and cost the government at least 12 billion cedis ($2.2 billion) in bonds and cash to cover depositors’ holdings.

The final number of job cuts will depend on what the receiver wants to do with the assets of the companies and the size of the pledged support it receives from the government, Tweneboah Kodua Boakye, executive secretary of the Ghana Association of Savings and Loans Companies, said by phone. The receiver will need some staff of the affected lenders to assist with the liquidation process, “which could take a few years,” according to the central bank.

The closure of GN Savings and Loans Ltd., the biggest lender impacted by the central bank’s directive, could lose as many as 2,700 jobs, Frank Owusu-Ofori, head of corporate affairs for Accra-based Groupe Nduom, the company’s parent, said by phone. The figure includes 400 cleaners who are contracted at the firm’s 230 branches and another 900 employed by a private security company, he said.

The investment-holding company is exploring legal options to challenge the withdrawal of GN’s license, Owusu-Ofori said.

The banking-sector cleanup has seen the number of lenders cut by almost a third to 23, savings and loans companies reduced to 25 from 40, finance houses to 11 from 19, and micro-finance and micro-credit lenders to 168, from 554.

The crackdown also triggered a run on fund managers, which have 4 billion cedis tied up in fixed-term investments with banks rescued during the clean up, as well as savings and loans companies and microlenders. There is another 5 billion cedis locked up in illiquid hard-to-retrieve ventures such as unlisted bonds, direct private equity stakes and related party deals with small- to medium-sized companies.

For Groupe Nduom, the loss of GN’s license comes as a double whammy. The investment firm’s Gold Coast Fund Management Ltd. was compelled to stop taking funds from investors as clients rushed to pull their savings.

Gold Coast stopped taking investments since October, Owusu-Ofori said. The money manager is in touch with the Securities and Exchange Commission to complete a prospectus so it can offer customers bonds of as much as 3 billion cedis ($549 million) to cover investments that are locked up in a structured finance fund.

To contact the reporter on this story: Moses Mozart Dzawu in Accra at mdzawu@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andre Janse van Vuuren at ajansevanvuu@bloomberg.net, Vernon Wessels

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