On January 30, 2018 Viceroy Research released our report on Capitec (JSE:CPI) citing a need for large impairments and regulatory intervention.
The issues expressed by Viceroy have been reflected in a letter from Benguela Global Fund Managers to Capitec also raising concerns about Capitec’s lending practices. This report presents the results of Viceroy’s further investigation into Capitec and a rebuttal of Capitec’s responses to Viceroy and Benguela.
- Since the publication of our last report, Capitec has disclosed that an extraordinarily large portion of its subprime, highly indebted customers who miss payments on their loans are somehow able to find the money to “catch up” or “cure” their arrears. This is suspicious.
- Numerous former Capitec staff and 5 prominent debt counselling firms with proprietary datasets on South African unsecured lending support our thesis that this “curing” method is how Capitec hides the disastrous underlying performance of its loan book. If a borrower in arrears is able to beg or borrow the funds from a secondary lender to pay down their arrears and make themselves “current”, Capitec immediately offers them a new, larger loan. The borrowers use this new, larger Capitec loan to pay off the secondary lender used to cover the arrears.
- Analysis of tens of thousands of Capitec borrowers’ datasets within debt counselling firms show consumers were able to get new loans after paying down their arrears the day prior. Thus, we can state empirically that this practice is still occurring. We contrast this with the lending criteria of a Standard Bank or Absa where there is a “cooling off” period before a borrower formerly in arrears can seek a new loan – to prevent exactly this behavior. By offering upsized loans to people who have just cleared their arrears, Capitec management is able to say with a straight face that they do “not lend into arrears”. This is TRUE in fact – but not in substance.
- While the borrower is getting more and more indebted and is still unable to pay their debts, lending to people who were immediately prior in allows Capitec to artificially generate “cures”, unsustainably increase its loan book, charge massive initiation fees and create a façade of quality within its consumer base.
- Well over half (70% – 80%) of Capitec consumers in debt counselling were issued new loans prior to repaying their existing loans.
- Viceroy have obtained communications from Capitec Head Office dated 8 February 2018 to local branches advising that it has amended the number of allowable loans per customer. Reading between the lines, Capitec appear to be tightening or relaxing lending rules in order to achieve the greatest possible return as opposed to the consumers ability to repay those loans.
- Viceroy has obtained evidence of Capitec intentionally abusing the debit order system to ensure its debits take priority ahead of other lenders.
- Following the publication of our last statement several media outlets have reported on CEO Gerrie Fourie’s purchase of ZAR 1.5m of Capitec shares on the open market, presenting this as a show of faith in the company. We believe this is intentionally narrow-minded when viewed in the context of the net market sale of ZAR 49m worth of Capitec shares by Fourie in 2017. Collectively, directors sold ZAR 406m Capitec shares on market in 2017 alone.
- We respond systematically to Capitec’s poorly constructed rebuttal of our prior report.
Capitec’s behavior has led to material overstatement of the quality of the book and substantial under-provisioning. We note the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) described Capitec as being liquid and solvent on the basis “of the available information”. Evidence suggests the available information is being deliberately distorted by Capitec management and we believe that as a matter of prudential supervision the SARB must investigate the lending practices at Capitec. We are providing this data to SARB and the NCR.
Viceroy continues to believe that Capitec is fundamentally uninvestable and reiterate our recommendation that an investigation by an independent body is launched in the face of the evidence presented in our research.