South A frica’s new kid on the banking block, Capitec, has come under attack from Viceroy Research, a US based investment research house that is known to target businesses with questionable accounting practices. The firms most recent target was Steinhoff International.
In a research note relased today Viceroy brands Capitec as a “Wolf in sheeps clothing” which preys on on low income earners.
Here follows the Viceroy note:
Based on our research and due diligence, we believe that Capitec is a loan shark with massively understated defaults masquerading as a community microfinance provider. We believe that the South African Reserve Bank & Minister of Finance should immediately place Capitec into curatorship.
Capitec Bank Holdings Limited (JSE: CPI) is a South Africa-focused microfinance provider to a majority low-income demographic, yet they out-earn all major commercial banks globally including competing high-risk lenders. We don’t buy this story. Viceroy believes this is indicative of predatory finance which we have corroborated with substantial on-the-ground discussions with Capitec ex-employees, former customers, and individuals familiar with the business.
Viceroy’s extensive due diligence and compiled evidence suggests that Capitec must take significant impairments to its loans which will likely result in a net-liability position. We believe Capitec’s concealed problems largely resemble those seen at African Bank Investments (JSE: AXL) prior to its collapse in 2014.
We think that it’s only a matter of time before Capitec’s financials and business unravel, with macro headwinds creating an exponential risk of default and bankruptcy.
This report will provide underlying information and analysis we believe supports the following conclusions:
- Reconciliation of loan book values, maturity profiles and cash outflows imply Capitec is either fabricating new loans and collections, or re-financing ~ZAR 2.5bn – 3bn (US$200m-$240m) in principal per year by issuing new loans to defaulting clients.
- Legal documents obtained by Viceroy show Capitec advising and approving loans to delinquent customers in order to repay existing loans. These documents also show Capitec engaging in reckless lending practices as defined by South Africa’s National Credit Act. This corroborates Viceroy’s loan book analysis.
- As a consequence of re-financing delinquent loans, Viceroy believes Capitec’s loan book is massively overstated. Viceroy’s analysis against competitors suggests an impairment/write-off impact of ZAR 11bn will more accurately represent the delinquencies and risk in Capitec’s portfolio.
- Legal experts that we have spoken to believe that the outcome of an upcoming reckless and predatory lending test case in March 2018 will be used to trigger a multi-party litigation refund (class action). We believe that, at a minimum, Capitec will be required to refund predatory origination fees primarily related to multi-loan facilities; an estimated ZAR 12.7bn.
- Viceroy’s investigations suggest that Capitec’s prohibited and discontinued multi-loan facility lives on, rebranded as a “Credit Facility”. Former Capitec employees have corroborated this. Despite its perception as an affordable lender, Capitec’s implied interest rates are significantly true of the maximum allowable rates in South Africa.
- South Africa’s microfinancing sector has been the graveyard of numerous Capitec competitors who chased the same meteoric growth Capitec displays, largely due to low acceptance and mass delinquencies. We see no operational difference between Capitec and its ill-fated predecessors, including African Bank.
- Former employees consider the business to still be an outright loan-shark operation, where fees are key. Some former employees believe they were fired for not deceiving borrowers and failing to meet rescheduling targets on impaired/defaulting loans.
- Jean Pierre Verster, chairman of Capitec’s audit committee, is/was indirectly short Capitec through Steinhoff. We believe this is an oversight, and understand Verster to be an excellent analyst on the short side. We encourage Verster to raise the concerns within this report to company auditors and recognize Capitec’s resemblance to his previous African Bank short.
Given what we believe is a massive overstatement of financial assets and income, together with opaque reporting of loan cash flow and reckless lending practices, we believe Capitec is simply uninvestable and accordingly have not assigned a target price.