Thursday, July 7, 2011

Regional Treasury Operations...

A growing number of organisations are turning their attention to Africa seeking to capitalise on this Continent’s favourable economic outlook. Inevitably this brings into focus the question of regional treasury operations. Should these corporates have them and if so where should they establish them? In theory a regional treasury operation makes sense as it allows a corporate to manage foreign exchange, cash and interest rates from one centralised point. It’s not only practical and efficient but avoids duplication, centralises risk and achieves economies of scale. The second question relates to location. In Africa a few countries have positioned themselves to attract regional treasury business. I think if one were to go through a list criteria for a successful location (from no foreign exchange controls and withholding tax, to large negotiated networks of DTAs and IPPA’s, from membership of regional bodies to infrastructure, skilled local staff and consistent, business-friendly regulations) Mauritius emerges as the location of choice. But regional treasuries are not without their challenges. In theory one of the cost savings of a regional treasury operation is the ability to move funds from a cash-surplus operation in one jurisdiction to a cash-deficit operation in another. In practice strict foreign exchange regulations in some African countries make implementation difficult or ineffective. Secondly, what if a local authority in a particular country chooses to ignore the provisions of a DTA and levies withholding tax at the full rate? There’s no doubt you can seek redress but how long will it take and at what cost? I’d be interested to hear what actual challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve overcome them?

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