By Foster Obi
Following economic recession that almost erased demand for housing loans in Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous country, the state financed mortgage guarantor, Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Co(NMRC) is anticipating that a return to growth will help double its asset base and create a robust platform for mortgage financing.
Set up four years ago to copy the U.S.’s Fannie Mae, NMRC, seeks to deepen the nation’s housing market by financing lenders, which then use the money to provide home loans. The need is extreme. Bloomberg reports that the country of more than 180 million people, has a shortage of at least 17 million houses, with 780,000 units needing to be built a year just to meet rising demand as explained by NMRC Chief Executive Officer Charles Inyangete in an interview in Abuja.
For an economy of $405 billion, Nigeria’s real estate market is small, hobbled by a dearth of mortgages, poverty and interest rates at a record high. It has also been beset by bad debts after gross domestic product shrank 1.6 percent in 2016. At least 55 percent of the mortgage industry’s 94 billion naira ($261 million) of loans last year were classified as non-performing, according to Nigeria’s Deposit Insurance Corp.
Bloomberg said Inyangete is betting on a turn around after three straight quarters of GDP expansion, projecting that NMRC’s 40 billion naira of assets will double this year. As a result, it will also mean the mortgage-refinancer is tapping the bond market for the first time in three years to raise its own funding, the CEO said. “As we come out of recession, we expect to see a resurgence of activity in the housing market,” he said. “We are cautiously optimistic that going forward, we will see significant improvement in demand in the housing market.”
NMRC plans to issue 11 billion naira worth of 15-year bonds through multiple sales as part of a five-year 440 billion-naira program. As rates in the Nigerian market trend lower, the company expects that it will get better yields than the 14.9 percent it paid when it issued 8 billion naira of notes in 2015, Inyangete said. The sales are “driven by the desire to refinance more portfolios and we actually anticipate going to the market more than once this year,” he said. “There is greater interest in liquidity that we provide and the long-term funding that comes with that.”
It is also planning a debut Islamic debt sale, possibly by June, Inyangete said. Underwriting terms for the 1 billion naira sukuk have been set and work with regulators is progressing to “address the issue of a non-interest mortgage,” Inyangete said.