Accra, March 15, GNA – The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) said on Thursday that it is restructuring and consolidating its investment portfolios to ensure that it obtains maximum returns on its investment assets.
“It has become necessary to disinvest from some investments and consolidate in other areas that will inure to the benefit of SSNIT, “it said in a statement reacting to allegations made by the Alliance For Accountable Governance (AFAG) over the share of SSNIT in The Trust Bank (TTB).
It said “The Informal Sector Fund has been repackaged to be in conformity with the Tier Three of the new Pensions Act. The Trust Hospital has now been made operationally independent, but still 100 per cent owned by SSNIT with the view of providing superior healthcare to the users of the facility.
“These actions will no doubt enable SSNIT concentrate on its core business of Pension Administration.
“The Trust wishes to assure all contributors and the…public that, the TTB-Ecobank shares swap transaction was done at arms length, above board and all due processes were complied with. No loss has been incurred by the Trust and the transaction itself was at a profit.”
The statement said The Trust Bank (TTB)-Ecobank Ghana transaction was primarily a shares swap transaction under which SSNIT swapped its TTB shares for additional shares in Ecobank Ghana.
“It was not a cash transaction and therefore, there was no money involved at all,” it added.
The statement said contrary to AFAG’s assertion that a loss resulted from the transaction, SSNIT would like to state emphatically that, there was no transactional loss and this investment was in the best interest of the sustainability of the scheme.
Normally, transactions of this nature require the engagement of a requisite firm to do a valuation and this was done.
For SSNIT, Strategic African Securities did the share valuation of the TTB shares and established a range of value per share for TTB as a basis for negotiation with Ecobank.
Ecobank Development Corporation did the valuation for Ecobank and also established a range of values for TTB shares.
“After negotiations, the two parties arrived at an agreed price of GHȼ12.62 per share,” it added.
The statement said PricewaterHouse Coopers (PWC) did not carry out valuation of TTB shares on behalf of SSNIT or Ecobank, therefore, the value of GHȼ14.00 reported by AFAG was pure fabrication.
“We are however, aware that PWC did a buyer’s due diligence for Ecobank. Due diligence and valuation are two different exercises.”
It said as far as the Trust was concerned no Swiss Investment Bank nor Rand Bank of South Africa approached SSNIT to acquire TTB.
“We wish to state that, SSNIT already has shares in both Ecobank Ghana Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI).
ETI is the majority shareholder in Ecobank Ghana. ETI is a Pan African Bank with headquarters in Togo and not Nigeria as stated by AFAG.
“Unlike the other banks mentioned in the statement, SSNIT will benefit from both sides that is as shareholder in both Ecobank and ETI.”
The statement said TTB is a profitable but a growing bank, which would plough back its profit to grow. Ecobank on the other hand is a matured bank.
In respect of the minimum capital requirement of TTB, SSNIT had to inject fresh capital of GHȼ40.9 million together with contributions from other shareholders before TTB was able to achieve the minimum capital requirement.
“AFAG’s conclusion that the TTB sale was unnecessary is unfounded, baseless and smacks of mischief,” the statement said.
It pointed out that given SSNIT’s current situation, it need funds to ensure continuous payment of pensions as they fall due. Therefore, SSNIT more than before now needs constant and regular cash inflows.
The transactions of putting together TTB and Ecobank would provide an opportunity for SSNIT to have the expected cash inflows, “Besides we will have a bigger and stronger bank to do big ticket deals and improve our capacity to honour our financial obligations.”
The statement said with regards to the suggestion that Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) are in danger because of the TTB-Ecobank transaction, SSNIT emphasised that, this transaction would not ‘kill’ the SMEs in any way.
It said rather Ecobank’s strength in corporate and retail banking would synergise with TTB’s strength in SME banking thereby opening up wider opportunities to the enterprises generally to expand their businesses.
SSNIT said the assertion that “Over 200 workers will be sacked very soon” was palpably false because as part of the transaction agreement, no staff of TTB would be laid off as a result of the merger.
It said this was agreed upon with the Bank of Ghana, adding “The strategic plan of the merged entity is to expand operations by opening more branches thereby, creating more employment opportunities for Ghanaians”.
AFAG, a political pressure group addressing a press conference in Accra last Tuesday called for a Parliamentary Enquiry into the sale of Social Security National Insurance Trust (SSNIT)’s 61.14 per cent shares.
The shares cover TTB and ETI.
The group also called for the dissolution of the SSNIT Board of Trustees, the resignation of the SSNIT Managing Director, and the immediate removal of the four organised labour representatives namely; Mr Kofi Asamoah, Mr Robertson Allotey, Mr Dian Okine, and Mr Amo Dako from the SSNIT Board of Trustees.
Dr Nana Ayew Afriye, Spokesperson for AFAG who made the call alleged that the dissolution was necessary because the members had betrayed Ghanaian workers who retire on very low benefits after contributing to SSNIT.
He explained that there were about 850, 000 contributors and 92,000 pensioners, yet people who retired could not boast of comfortable pensions as a result of bad decisions on the part of the Board of Trustees, which inevitably led to poor investments, and eventually worthless pension benefits.
Dr Afriye noted that, the sale of SSNIT shares in TTB had resulted in the loss of GH¢179 million to workers’ investment and questioned why the future of workers should be placed at such a risk, in order to satisfy “The selfish interest of some few persons”.
He noted that there was no need for the sale of SSNIT shares in TTB since TTB was performing well on the market.
Dr Afriye explained that though the Bank of Ghana required a minimum of GH¢60 million as capitalisation for local banks in Ghana, TTB’s capitalisation was GH¢125 million, hence capable of operating two more local banks.
He said TTB’s end on year profit in 2010 was 50 per cent over in 2009 and the net profit in 2010 was GH¢2 million.
The TTB Board set a target of GH¢19 million profit in 2011 and made a profit GH¢23 million.
Dr Afriye claimed that the effect of the sale from January 2012 was that there was management who were wooed by the SSNIT Board of Trustees with lucrative End- of- Service- Benefits in order to co-operate over the TTB sale to ETI, leading to the dissolution of the financial entity.
He said more than 200 workers would soon be sacked.
“AFAG is calling on all workers to join us at forum starting on Tuesday, March 20, in Koforidua to collect signatures from workers and the … public in support of AFAG’s quest at bringing sufficient pressure to bear on the legislature, to initiate a Parliamentary enquiry into the sale of SSNIT shares in TTB; reverse the sale, and indentify all those corrupt men behind the sale for prosecution without fear or favour,” he said.
Dr Afriye said AFAG foresaw a miserable pension benefit in future for retirees because the current SSNIT Board of Trustees aimed aggressively to sell off all their investments.
He said currently SSNIT workers’ shares in First Atlantic Bank had been sold, Trust Hospital had been de-coupled and yet to be sold, investment in Merchant Bank and the SSNIT Guest House was on the market to be sold.
Dr Afriye urged workers to rise against such oppressors of self seeking persons at the expense of their livelihood and challenged the Ghana Trades Union Congress to invite AFAG for a debate over the sale of SSNIT shares in TTB, “Failure to do so in 72 hours, we shall call for the resignation of the TUC Secretary General”.