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FOREX: CBN Stops Banks From Utilising Naira Devaluation Gains

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has asked deposit money banks (DMBs) to stop utilising gains from the revaluation of the naira to pay dividends or finance operations.

CBN said a review of the foreign exchange (FX) regime change showed the banks are in a position to profit from the policy because of its potential to significantly increase the naira value of banks’ foreign currency (FCY) assets and liabilities.

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The apex bank gave the directive in a letter, titled: ‘Impact of Recent FX Policy Reforms: Prudential Guidance to the Banking Sector,’ which was dated September 11, 2023, and signed by Haruna Mustafa, CBN’s director of the banking supervision department.

A revaluation of a currency occurs when the value of a currency is increased relative to another currency in a fixed exchange rate regime.

On June 14, the CBN officially unified the multiple FX rate systems, collapsing all FX windows into the investors’ and exporters’ (I&E) window.

The policy resulted in the depreciation of the local currency by about 63 percent, causing significant levels of volatility in the FX market.

In the letter, the financial regulator said the transition from the multiple exchange rates regime to a single rate could result in varying levels of FX revaluation gains.

The apex bank, however, said the policy could also lead to losses across the industry.

“Additional implications of the FX policy reforms may include breaches of single obligor and net open position limits, possible increase in asset quality risks and pressure on industry capital adequacy,” the statement reads.

The CBN also issued guidelines on how banks can manage the impact of FX reform.

“Treatment of FX Revaluation Gains: Banks are required to exercise utmost prudence and set aside the FCY revaluation gains as a counter-cyclical buffer to cushion any future adverse movements in the FX rate. In this regard, banks shall not utilize such FX revaluation gains to pay dividend or meet operating expenses,” the CBN said.

“Single Obligor Limit (SOL): Banks that inadvertently breach the Single Obligor – Limit (SOL) due to the FX policy will be granted forbearance upon application to the CB. The forbearance shall apply only to existing facilities as at the effective date of this policy. Such banks shall be exempted from the regulatory deductions on the excess above the SOL limit in their CAR computation.

“Net Open Position (NOP) Limit: Banks that exceed the NOP prudential limits due to the FX revaluation shall be granted forbearance for the breach upon application to the CBN.

“Existing prudential regulations on capital adequacy, dividend payments and FCY borrowing limits shall continue to apply.”

The apex also directed banks to immediately implement the measures.