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Central African Republic landed a windfall on Tuesday, at least on paper, when Russian state bank VTB reported it had lent the country 12 billion dollars.
However, the bank then said it was a clerical error and there was no such loan.
The loan was mentioned in a quarterly VTB financial report published by the Russian Central Bank.
The report included a table listing the outstanding financial claims that VTB group had on dozens of countries as of October 1 this year.
In the table next to the Central African Republic was the sum of 801,933,814,000 roubles (12 billion dollars) more than six times the country’s annual economic output.
When asked about the data by media, the bank said the loan to the former French colony did not, in reality, exist.
“VTB bank has no exposure of this size to any foreign country.
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”Most likely, this is a case of an operational mistake in the system when the countries were being coded,” the lender said in a statement.
VTB did not say who was responsible for the mistake or how such a large figure could have been published without being spotted.
CAR government spokesman Ange Maxime Kazagui, when asked about the Russian data, said: “I don’t have that information.
”But it doesn’t sound credible because $11 billion is beyond the debt capacity of CAR.”
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CBN signals end to official rate regime for naira
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) may soon allow the naira to freely find its value, with a possible depreciation on the official rate, usually pegged at about N305/$, an update on its website has indicated.
The development is signaling an end to the most criticised foreign exchange rate window, which has been used mostly for government’s critical businesses that affect the public, particularly the importation of petroleum products.
If the move sees light of day, it will mean that the value of the naira at the official window is depreciated with its concomitant closure of the peg.
Yesterday, the apex bank, as opposed to the usual publication of the fixed exchange rate, opted to publish that “the rate will be market-determined.”
According to a report, the President of Shippers Association of Lagos State, Jonathan Nicol, said the Nigeria Customs Service had allegedly directed importers to pay for duties at the rate of N326 per dollar against the official rate of N306, citing an order from the CBN.
Also yesterday, the interbank rate depreciated by 0.2 per cent to N360.43 per dollar at the close of trading, while the parallel market remained steady at N360 per dollar.
A move toward a market-determined exchange rate would be welcomed by investors, who have long accused government of some level of capital controls and bemoaned multiple exchange rates.
The Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Investment Promotion Council, Yewande Sadiku, was quoted as saying the apex bank was in talks with other agencies to move to a single rate for the nation’s currency.
For an economic analyst at Ecobank, Kunle Ezun, “putting that on the website means the central bank is gradually moving towards a single exchange-rate window. It is making the exchange rate more liquid to attract more inflows.”
U.S blames Iran for oil tankers explosion
The United States blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday that drove up oil prices LCOc1 and raised concerns about a new U.S.-Iranian confrontation, but Tehran bluntly denied the allegation.
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It was not immediately clear what befell the Norwegian-owned Front Altair or the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous, which both experienced explosions, forcing crews to abandon ship and leave the vessels adrift in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran.
One source said the blast on the Front Altair, which caught fire and sent a huge plume of smoke into the air, may have been caused by a magnetic mine. The firm that chartered the Kokuka Courageous tanker said it was hit by a suspected torpedo, but a person with knowledge of the matter said torpedoes were not used.
On Thursday night, U.S. Central Command spokesman Bill Urban released a video of what the U.S. military said was an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp Gashti Class patrol boat approaching the Kokuka Courageous “and was observed and recorded removing (an) unexploded limpet mine from the M/T Kokuka Courageous.
The tanker attack will not affect Japanese energy supply, Japanese Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said, although the ministry issued a warning to Japanese energy companies.
Crude oil prices spiked more than 4% after the attacks near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial shipping artery for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf energy producers. Prices later settled about 2% higher. [O/R] Brent crude LCOc1 was down by 0.4% at $61.06 a barrel in early Asia trading.
The United States, which has accused Iran or its proxies of carrying out a May 12 attack on four tankers off the United Arab Emirates’ coast as well as May 14 drone strikes on two Saudi oil-pumping stations, squarely blamed Iran for Thursday’s attacks.
“It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo here told reporters.
“This assessment is based on intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication,” Pompeo said.
Iran “categorically rejects the U.S. unfounded claim with regard to 13 June oil tanker incidents and condemns it in the strongest possible terms,” the Iranian mission to the United Nations said in a statement on Thursday evening.
It accused the United States and its regional allies, which include Iranian rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, of “warmongering.” Iran called on “the international community to live up to its responsibilities in preventing the reckless and dangerous policies and practices of the U.S. and its regional allies in heightening the tensions in the region.”
U.S. and European security officials as well as regional analysts cautioned against jumping to conclusions about who carried out the attacks, leaving open the possibility that Iranian proxies, or someone else entirely, might have been responsible.
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