By Temitayo Jaiyeola
Foreign firms repatriated $5.86bn from the Nigerian economy between October 2022 and March 2023, the Central Bank of Nigeria has disclosed.
About $5.13bn was repatriated as dividends by foreign investors.
In its ‘Economic Report, First Quarter 2023,’ the apex bank disclosed that higher dividend payments to non-residents further widened the deficit in its primary income account. It stated that this deficit widened to $2.69bn in Q1, 2023 from $2.26bn in Q4 2022.
According to the CBN, the primary income account covers the compensation of employees and investment income.
In its Quarterly Statistical Bulletin (Volume 11, Number 3, September 2022), it said, “The investment income component refers to accrued income on existing foreign financial assets and liabilities. This income may be profits, interest, dividends, and royalties received by or paid to direct and portfolio investors. It may also be interest and commitment charges on loans (Other Investment Income).”
Dividend payments to foreign investors amounted to $5.13bn in the six months under review.
Giving a breakdown of payments, the bank stated, “The deficit in the primary income account widened by 18.7 per cent to $2.69bn in 2023Q1, due, primarily to the 34.9 per cent increase in investment income payments, which amounted to $3.09bn, from $2.77bn in 2022Q4.
“Income on direct investment in the form of dividends rose by 12.1 per cent to $2.71bn, relative to $2.42bn in 2022Q4. Similarly, interest payments on portfolio investments rose to $0.09bn, from $0.05bn in 2022Q4. Interest earnings on reserve assets increased by 35.7 per cent to $0.20bn, from $0.15bn in 2022Q4. Conversely, interest payments on loans declined by 0.7 per cent to $0.30bn.
“The compensation of employees’ account maintained a surplus position, increasing by 6.2 per cent to $0.06bn, relative to the level in 2022Q4.”
According to a 2019 report, gotten from the CBN’s website, titled, ‘Current Account Balance and Economic Growth in Nigeria: An Empirical Investigation,’ the primary income account has been in deficit due to increased debt service payments and remittances of dividends, income, and profits by foreign-owned companies.
It stated that the outflow from the account was undermining the productivity of the real sector as foreign exchange resources which ought to have been used to develop the economy were being used to service external debt.
It added, “In addition, the profit, which ought to have been ploughed back to generate increased economic activities, is being remitted to overseas countries by foreign-owned companies in Nigeria.”
The report further noted that the net deficit in the income account has declined in recent years due to lower outpayments of dividends and distributed branch profit and other interest payments.
A recent The PUNCH report noted that foreign airlines repatriated (through ticket sales) $4.66bn from Nigeria in 15 months. It stated that despite this, these airlines were still struggling to get their funds out because of the scarcity of FX supply in the country.
Conscious of the problem investors face with repatriating their funds, the President, Bola Tinubu, in his inaugural address to the country said, “I have a message for our investors, local and foreign: our government shall review all their complaints about multiple taxation and various anti-investment inhibitions. We shall ensure that investors and foreign businesses repatriate their hard-earned dividends and profits home.”
The CBN’s Q1 economic report further disclosed that foreigners redeemed matured investments in Q1, 2023 as their claim on the economy reduced.
It said, “A capital reversal of $0.78billion was recorded in 2023Q1, in contrast to an inflow of US$1.94billion in 2022Q4.”
This development, the bank explained, was due to reversals of portfolio investments and withdrawal of foreign currency and deposits from domestic money banks.
It also noted that uncertainties surrounding the 2023 general elections and the quest for a safer haven by investors contributed to the divestment.
It further stated, “A portfolio investment reversal of $1.17bn was recorded, in contrast to an inflow of $0.34bn in 2022Q4, occasioned by the redemption of investments in short-term debt securities by non-resident investors.”