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Joint Venture Guidelines under the Competition Act No. 12 of 2010

The Competition Authority of Kenya to Clarify the Rules and Filing Requirements of Joint Venture Arrangements

The Competition Authority of Kenya (the CAK) has published draft joint venture guidelines (the Guidelines). The Guidelines aim to provide clarity, transparency and predictability about joint venture arrangements that require CAK approval. The Guidelines specifically clarify the CAK’s position on what consists of a Full Function Joint Venture, a Greenfield Joint Venture; and lays out the process for notifying and filing a joint venture with the CAK, as well as how the CAK reviews a joint venture’s impact on competition.

The Guidelines are still open to review and amendment, with the CAK inviting comments by Friday, March 5th, 2021. However, the following are the main implications of the proposed Guidelines:

Full Function Joint Venture

The Guidelines define a Full Function Joint Venture as a joint venture undertaking that performs all the functions of an autonomous economic entity for ten (10) years or more including:

i. operating on a market and performing the functions normally carried on by undertakings operating in the same market; and

ii. having a management dedicated to its day-to-day operations and access to sufficient resources including finance, staff and assets in order to conduct for a long duration its business activities within the area provided for in the joint-venture agreement.

Full Function Joint Ventures constitute a merger under the Competition Act and will require notification and filing with the CAK. However, it should be noted that a joint venture established for a purposefully finite period (e.g. a ten (10) year construction project) will not be viewed as having a long duration and will not qualify as a Full Function Joint Venture.

Greenfield Joint Venture

The Guidelines set out Greenfield Joint Ventures as joint venture undertakings in which local or foreign entities collaborate with other locally domiciled entities to develop a new product separate from the products and services provided by the parent entities. Typical distinguishing features of a Greenfield Joint Venture include: a new joint venture vehicle formed by the parties for the purpose of the transaction, undertakings in new areas for the parties in the joint venture, and the transaction entailing entry into a new business area or enhancement of an existing business.

The Guidelines recommend that parties potentially entering into a Greenfield Joint Venture should seek the advisory opinion of the CAK as Greenfield Joint Ventures are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Process for Filing a Joint Venture With CAK

The Guidelines set out the registration requirements for a Full Function Joint Venture. The CAK requires the parent entities to separately submit documents relating to the transaction by filling the Merger Notification Forms (MNF) as Joint Venture Parents, and if a joint venture vehicle exists as a part of the undertaking it will also be required to file the MNF. In situations where the joint venture parties have no separate joint venture vehicle, (e.g. a contractual relationship or have acquired existing shares in an existing undertaking that results in a joint venture) the parent entities will only need to separately submit documents by filling the MNF as Joint Venture Parents.

Determination of Impact on Competition

The Guidelines specify how the CAK determines the competition impact a Full Function Joint Venture transaction is likely to have in a market. The CAK considers the turnover and asset figures of all the parents to a joint venture, including the entities directly or indirectly in the control of the joint venture parents and the joint venture vehicle where applicable. In addition, the CAK looks at the terms of the joint venture agreement(s), public interest factors (e.g. the effect of the joint venture on the labour market) and whether the efficiency benefit of the joint venture brings more economic gains compared to the competition detriment. If the CAK makes a finding that a joint venture transaction has negative competition and public interest impacts, it may engage the joint venture parties to come up with remedies to mitigate against the harm. Additionally, the CAK will direct on which of the joint venture parties as well as the joint venture vehicle will be impacted by the mitigating factors.

The draft joint venture guidelines aim to further clarify the rules and reduce the confusion surrounding the competition regulations on joint ventures. Pursuant to the Guidelines, the CAK is committed to further its mandate on fostering competitive markets through transparency.

For further information please contact Walid Khan or Benedict Nzioki.

Transfer pricing considerations in your post M&A integration

By Samuel Kisuu, Director at Africa Law Partners.

At the core of any M&A transaction is the fundamental scaling and growth of the integrated business unit at a macro level or tapping into and accessing the potential of the economies of scale of the target entity at a micro level.

As such, parties to the M&A transaction often spend a bulk of the transaction phase considering and negotiating the post-transaction integration of the transacting entities with respect to matters around optimising human resource, fine-tuning management and management functions, shareholder rights (typically when there is an acquisition of minority control), exploitation of intangibles (such as intellectual property and goodwill) and a business growth strategy.

It is common that the acquiring parties to M&A transactions in Sub-Saharan Africa be entities controlled and managed from different jurisdictions. M&A transactions in Sub-Saharan Africa generally involve off-shore domiciled private equity funds or multinational entities as the acquirers and a local entity as the target. The outcome of these transactions bring the integrated unit or group within the purview of transfer pricing.

Transfer Pricing Basics

The concept of transfer pricing under Kenyan law is provided for under:

  1. the Income Tax Act (Cap 470) (the Income Tax Act);
  2. the Income Tax (Transfer Pricing) Rules, 2006; and
  3. the respective double tax treaties that Kenya is a party to.

In addition to these laws, the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and Tax Administrations (the OECD Guidelines) provide persuasive guidance on the application of transfer pricing principles in:

  1. the preparation of transfer pricing policies for taxpayers;
  2. which jurisdiction taxing rights lie; and
  3. dispute resolution between taxpayers and tax authorities.

At its most basic, transfer pricing may be defined as the concept whereby a fair price (the transfer price) is determined for transactions amongst related entities of different tax residency. From a taxation context, the transfer price will affect the accounting profits of the respective entities and subsequently the taxable profits of each single entity. Section 18 (3) of the Income Tax Act provides the basis for transfer pricing as follows:

“Where a non-resident person carries on business with a related resident person or through its permanent establishment and the course of that business is such that it produces to the resident person or through its permanent establishment either no profits or less than the ordinary profits which might be expected to accrue from that business if there had been no such relationship, then the gains or profits of that resident person or through its permanent establishment or from that business shall be deemed to be the amount that might have been expected to accrue if the course of that business had been conducted by independent persons dealing at arm’s length.”

For ease of explanation:

The transfer price set for the transfer of products from Entity 1 to Entity 2 will not affect the group’s overall/combined profit but will affect the taxable profit of Entity 1. Therefore, where Entity 1 is located in a relatively higher tax jurisdiction, there is incentive within the group to reduce the transfer price in order to decrease Entity 1’s taxable profit in that high tax jurisdiction.

M&A Context

Following an M&A transaction the following factors (list not being exhaustive) tend to materialise within the integrated entities:

  1. The adoption of minority rights by the acquirer. This typically occurs where an acquirer acquires a significant minority of the target entity and obtains control in the target business and is a common acquisition strategy adopted in private equity transactions.
  2. The integration of intangibles such as intellectual property rights and goodwill. Intellectual property rights of the integrated group may be farmed out from one jurisdiction to another or assigned over various jurisdictions.
  3. The post-transaction financing of the integrated group taking the form of shareholder loans spread across multiple jurisdictions.
  4. The integration of a new management group or the involvement of the acquiring entity’s management group in the affairs of the target entities and the centralisation of certain functions such as procurement.

Inter-company agreements from the legal and commercial foundations of these post-transaction matters and relationships. Consequently, there is the natural possibility of complex financial flows between these group entities which would affect the tax base in each respective jurisdiction. A post-transaction transfer pricing analysis allows for the optimisation of the group’s tax strategy to achieve the most efficient and fair tax structure and is achievable by taking the following steps:

  1. Preparation of the inter-company agreements: being the core document establishing the legal and commercial relationship between related entities, it is vital that these agreements clearly define the roles of each party and delineate the respective group transactions.
  2. Internal restructuring: this involves the reallocation of group entity roles, the movement of real and intellectual property ownership and reorganisation of senior management.
  3. Reallocation of commercial risk: this involves the identification of economically significant risks (strategic, marketplace operational, financial and transactional risks) and the contractual or transactional reallocation of these risks to group entities that are able to absorb the risk for the benefit of the integrated group.

Together, these steps would provide for a conclusive functional analysis (the foundation of a transfer pricing policy) of the group and subsequently provide an opportunity to adopt the most appropriate transfer pricing methods with a view towards tax optimisation of the entire group.

Whereas this write-up provides a brief overview of the salient issues to consider in your post M&A transfer pricing considerations, parties to M&A transactions ought to keep these factors as talking points at the negotiation stage of the M&A transaction on a specific and case-by-case basis.

Should you require any more information or assistance kindly contact Samuel Kisuu or your relationship partner at Africa Law Partners

This alert is for general use only and should not be relied upon without seeking specific legal or tax advice on any matter.

Opening the Floodgates to Islamic Finance in Kenya

By Walid Khan, Head of Real Estate and General Finance at Africa Law Partners.

In recent years, Islamic Finance has grown rapidly across the world. By conservative estimates, Islamic finance is estimated to have over $2.88 trillion of assets globally. It is offered in over 80 countries and is estimated to grow at around 10-15% a year. Despite a significant slowdown in 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the market is expected to grow to $3.69 trillion by 2024.

Islamic finance also commonly referred to as Sharia-compliant finance, involves the delivery of financial services in conformity with the principles of sharia law. The fundamental principles that govern Islamic finance include the prohibition against riba (interest), gharar and maisir (contractual uncertainty and gambling), and haram industries (prohibited industries such as those related to pork products, pornography, or alcoholic beverages). Other central principles to Islamic finance include compliance with the Shariah (Islamic law), segregation of Islamic and conventional funds, accounting standards, and awareness campaigns.

Islamic finance deals with most financial services, including banking, insurance and capital markets. While it has been used to finance huge infrastructure projects, it has also been used to fund small and medium-sized enterprises thus having a positive impact on smaller businesses. In view of the massively important role played by small businesses to developing nations, Islamic finance has a far-reaching impact on the economy. Other advantages of Islamic finance include:

   1. Financial inclusion

World Bank defines financial inclusion as ‘Financial inclusion means that individuals and businesses have access to useful and affordable financial products and services that meet their needs – transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance – delivered in a responsible and sustainable way.’ (Worldbank.org, 2017)

The conventional banking system is based on paying/receiving an interest which is strictly prohibited by Shariah Law. As such, Muslims refrain from conventional banking. This has resulted in many Muslims remaining unbanked and unable to access financial products and services. Islamic finance permits Muslims to participate and benefit in the financial system.

Despite being based on Shariah, Islamic finance is not restricted to Muslims only and is available to non-Muslims. In fact, there have been innumerable occasions where an Islamic finance product has been attractive to potential investors, even when they are not motivated by religious reasons.

   2. Financial Justice

Financial justice is a fundamental requirement in determining whether a product is shariah-compliant. Islamic finance requires that risk is shared between the bank and the customer. A lender must therefore carry a proportional share of the loss of a project if it expects to receive profits from the project. This brings about equitable distribution of income and wealth.

   3. Discourages speculation

Due to the fact that speculation is prohibited, investments are approached with a slower, insightful decision-making process with thorough audits, analyses and due diligence. This has resulted in reduction of risk and greater investment ability. This was evident during the global financial crisis when Islamic finance products proved less volatile.

While Islamic finance has been vibrant in Muslim-majority countries particularly in South-East Asia and the Middle-East, it has, in recent times, gained traction throughout the rest of the world particularly in the United Kingdom since the UK Government took a keen interest in the industry. Noting the benefits of Islamic finance, the UK Government developed a work programme to make the UK’s financial services regulations compatible with Islamic Finance. One such way was to accommodate Islamic finance products in existing legislation and regulations governing conventional financial instruments and putting Islamic products on the same tax footing as their conventional counterparts.

The latest Islamic Finance Country Index (2019) ranks the UK 17th of 48 countries in terms of its overall Islamic finance offering. This puts it in first place in Europe and in first place among non-Muslim-majority nations. Many firms, Islamic and non-Islamic, see London as an important Islamic finance global centre to such a great degree that products developed in London are being marketed in Muslim majority countries in the Middle East.

Kenya’s Islamic finance industry is regarded as somewhat developed with immense potential for growth. Kenya has made some legislative amendments and new regulatory frameworks that have brought about the development of Takaful Retirement Benefits Schemes, shariah-compliant finance products and taxation exemption for Islamic finance products. However, it seems that Kenya needs to do more to further stimulate the market. Per the Islamic Finance Country Index 2019 rankings, Kenya ranks 24th of the 48 countries. This is a drop from the 2018’s rankings which had Kenya at 21st. This appears to be a noteworthy setback as Kenya, East Africa’s largest economy, would want to position itself as the region’s Islamic banking hub to profit from its apparent benefits and provide its 5.2 million Muslims with better access to Islamic finance services.

Further, in order to meet the Big 4 Agenda and Vision 2030, Kenya should hasten structural, legal and regulatory reforms to further enable Islamic finance services and also begin issuing sukuks at the earliest possible time. Sukuk also referred to an Islamic bond, is an instrument for raising capital and is tradeable on the securities exchange. Sukuk may be used to finance projects around Vision 2030 and the Big 4 Agenda, such as infrastructure and health projects.

Enabling an Islamic finance environment will enable Kenya consolidate its status as the leading trade hub in the region and the gateway to East Africa. Kenya has already made significant strides at enhancing the ease of doing business in the country. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2020 ranked Kenya at number 56. This is an improvement from 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 where Kenya was ranked 61st, 80th, 91st and 108th respectively. Mauritius (13), Rwanda (38th) and Morocco (53rd) are the only African countries ranked ahead of Kenya.

There is need to open the floodgates to Islamic finance in Kenya. Industry stakeholders and regulators ought to collaborate to demystify Islamic finance by way of regular training and workshops on Islamic finance concepts. Kenya also requires supportive Government policies to create a fiscal and regulatory framework to broaden the market for Islamic finance products.

Africa Law Partners is well placed to advise on Islamic finance matters. For any assistance, please contact Walid Khan.

The Nairobi Securities Exchange Launches New Trading Platform

On 17 December 2020, the Nairobi Securities Exchange (the NSE) launched an Unquoted Securities Platform (the USP). The USP will function in accordance with its operational guidelines (the Guidelines) published on 11 December 2020. The Guidelines are available here.

The USP is an over the counter securities platform that utilises broker-dealer networks for the trade of securities. It has less stringent listing requirements and issuer obligations have opened a viable alternative for unlisted companies to access capital markets and long-term funding as issuers are enabled to raise finance through private placements. The USP also provides a boost to institutional and retail investors as it provides investors on the platform an accurate free-floating price of the securities of unlisted companies.

Key Considerations for Issuers

For admittance onto the USP, prospective issuers of the USP securities must meet the eligibility requirements of the Management Committee appointed by the NSE. The eligibility requirements are listed in the Guidelines, with the key requirements being, among others, the incorporation status of the issuer, articles of association amenable to USP securities and details of the board and management of the issuer. However, the eligibility requirements are non-exhaustive and the Management Committee may request further criteria as deemed necessary.

A prospective issuer will also need to appoint a registrar, to maintain a record of beneficiary holders of securities, and a custodian (licensed by the Central Bank of Kenya) for the safekeeping of USP securities, cash and other assets on behalf of the investors. Once the application documents have been submitted, the Management Committee will relay their decision to the prospective issuer within twenty-one (21) days.

If an application is accepted by the Management Committee, the issuer will have continuing obligations to the NSE, including disclosure requirements, which entail the disclosure of all material information in relation to the issuers business, financial statements and copies of notice of AGMs and EGMs. Additionally, issuers will be under an obligation to avoid the events of default under the Guidelines, such as: failure to distribute declared dividends and non-payment of interest of USP securities in accordance with the published timetable. Failure to meet continuing obligations may result in the suspension or expulsion of the issuer from the USP.

Key Considerations for Investors

To start trading on the USP, investors must be registered to an NSE authorised USP Trading Participant Agent (broker). In order to register with a broker, individual investors will be required to provide the broker of their choice with their full name, identity documents, contact details and passport (if they are foreign nationals). Investors that are entities will need to provide the broker with documents, such as, among others, the legal status and constitutive documents of the entity, board resolutions allowing the entity to invest and the identities of the directors.

Each investor authorised to trade on the USP is furnished with a unique USP securities trading account with a unique Trade Identification Code. The USP is open for trading on working days from 0900Hrs to 1500Hrs and investors can trade freely within this period. Trades made after the closing of the USP will be transacted at the next opening of the platform.

Investors will need to consider the maximum order size as trades over this limit will require prior disclosure with the NSE. In accordance with the Guidelines, trade volumes that exceed 20% of the total free float of an issuers USP securities will have to be disclosed to the NSE a day prior to the transaction.

For further information please contact Benedict Nzioki or Walid Khan.

Effect of COVID-19 Pandemic on Nigeria’s Dispute Resolution Practices

What areas of law have you been predominantly working on over the past 12 months?

During this period, we advised various clients on the effect of force majeure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown (“the lockdown”) on existing commercial obligations. We also advised our foreign clients on the legal framework of business opportunities which the COVID-19 pandemic (“the pandemic”) has sprang up in Nigeria.

Our clients benefit from our experience on ways to renegotiate terms of their contracts which have insulated them from litigation risks and prevent them from running at a loss as a result of the shutdown of their businesses during the lockdown period that inhibited them from carrying on business and fulfilling their obligations under such contracts.

Litigants are now more willing to settle out of court. We have negotiated with counsels of adverse parties who commenced various litigations against our clients and reached amicable settlement with them. The terms of settlement were adopted by the parties and entered as consent judgment.

Ailing businesses are looking for ways to inject fresh capital. This has led to a growth of our debt collection portfolio. International clients retain our services to collect business, hospital and school debts against Nigerians and Nigerian businesses. We have also collaborated with our foreign partners to recover outstanding debts for Nigerians and Nigerian businesses against foreign debtors abroad.

Inevitably, the pandemic has led to many foreign businesses rebuilding by seeking new markets abroad, including the huge Nigerian market. We advised firms – especially in Europe and Asia – on the most suitable business entities to form and the permits and certifications they require in order to carry on business in Nigeria. We have registered more trademarks, patents, designs and franchise within this period.

How do you determine which method of litigation or dispute resolution is most suitable on a case by case basis?

Business disputes are inevitable. Dispute may arise from the interpretation of the provisions of a contract, ascertaining the obligations of the parties, failure to fulfil obligations under the contract, or even breach of the contract itself. In order for the parties to settle their dispute and possibly continue their business relationship, it is important to ascertain when to litigate a matter at conventional courts or employ other disputes resolution mechanisms such as negotiation, mediation and arbitration or a blend of the mechanisms.

In recent times, both legal practitioners and judicial officers have come to appreciate the role which mediation play in the dispute resolution process. For instance, in franchise law, mediation is increasingly becoming popular. Parties agree to settle their franchise disputes by mediation by including mediation provisions in their contracts. Mediation offers both parties the opportunity to resolve their conflict in a non-adversarial way so as to maintain their relationship in future.

As a result of the acrimony and the delay in resolving commercial disputes by litigation, it is better for disputes in sectors such as construction, maritime, telecommunications, manufacturing, oil and gas, finance, where time is of essence to be resolved by arbitration.

What strategies, techniques or conflict management tools can be employed in order to achieve consistent results?

Conflicts can either arise as a result of scarce resources, personal and cultural differences, underperformance, unrealistic expectations, stress, ambiguous work roles, poor communication amongst other human factors.

Conflicts must be timeously managed so as not to impact negatively on an organisation and result in poor results. The management of any organisation should employ the following good conflict resolution techniques:

Proper communication: Every organisation should encourage proper communication across different cadres of its set-up. There should be increased dialogue among groups and sharing of information. This will help the group know more about each other, eliminate suspicion and encourage teamwork.

Prompt resolution of conflicts: Management must endeavour to immediately address conflicts because postponing conflict resolution would escalate the issue and affect performance. However, the issues resulting in the conflict should not be addressed too quickly without careful consideration as management’s decisions will directly affect the demeanour and performance of staff.

Emphasis organisational goals: Management should emphasise organisation goals and objectives which should prevent conflicts. If larger goals are emphasised, employees are more likely to see the big picture and work together to achieve corporate goals.

Impartiality: Management must be impartial and be seen to be impartial. Situations should be accessed from all sides for the purpose of arriving at a fair and reasonable solution.

What measures can a company enact to help minimise the cost, damage and disruption of litigation to their business?

The main aim of any business is for profits and not to engage in endless litigations. This is because litigation is time consuming, distracting, expensive and sometimes may be costlier than the amount in dispute. Time spent preparing staff as witnesses takes away business time. The company pays its counsel from its scarce resources to represent the company in court. Disputes can also dampen staff morale and ruin the company’s business reputation. This is why a company should observe the following measures to avoid and minimise the risk and cost of litigation:

Retain the services of a company secretary: In the 21st century, a company secretary is no longer a mere clerical officer but an important member of the board who advises the company on modern due diligence matters, corporate and governance issues and ensures that the company’s practices are in line with extant legislations and international best practices. This will reduce the company’s exposure to litigation.

Proper documentation: A company should engage the services of a solicitor to ensure that all its agreements with other companies, its staff, suppliers, business partners, etc., are properly documented and franked. Variations to the original agreement should be properly documented, approved and executed. Having an agreement which clearly sets out rights, obligations and dispute resolution clause of partnership or business relationship when it breaks down can minimise the cost of resolving disputes.

Proper communication: In order to avoid conflicts which may result in litigation, a company should ensure its clients, customers or associates are well informed about their activities and send timely updates. This could be by informing them about increase in cost, budgets and scheduling. Respecting its customers and keeping them well informed can go a long way to make a company avoid litigation.

Effective customer care service: A company should maintain an effective customer care service which will pacify and attempt to resolve disputes between the company and its customers or business partners. If actions are taken promptly to deal with conflicts as they arise, a company would be able to prevent such conflicts from developing into a major problem. It is not advisable to ignore a problem or complaint hoping that it will go away by itself.

Study profile of potential partners: A company should do proper study and search on their potential clients, customers, employees and suppliers. The company should ensure that they know the individuals or companies which they want to do business with. Some individuals and organisations have a tendency to attract trouble. Businesses should avoid companies or individuals with such profiles.

Being objective: Persons in management positions should think and act objectively for both the short and long time gain of the company. They should, put themselves in the shoes of others and identify the motivation for litigation against the company and negotiate towards an amicable settlement. They should be able to determine if it is simply animosity or the other party has a genuine reason for commencing litigation against the company.

How has COVID-19 impacted the litigation & dispute resolution landscape?

Courts across the globe have rapidly adapted to COVID-19 protocols. The have found new ways to hear cases before them. As restrictions are relaxed in Nigeria, litigants are now faced with a significantly altered dispute resolution landscape. In order to decongest the courts and maintain social distancing, access to courtrooms in most States of the Federation is restricted to one counsel per litigant. The counsels must maintain social distancing in their sitting arrangement.

Many courts now conduct fully virtual hearings, in which the Judge and some parties are present in the courtroom while others attend virtually. The courts provide parties, the public and the media with login details for virtual hearings. This is a drastic change from the requirement that parties and counsels must be physically present at court proceedings.

Electronic processes have been widely adopted and used as a means of filing and serving processes of court. Before now only the National Industrial Act and its rules make provision for this technology. However, the High Courts of some states started test running electronic filing system in their jurisdiction, but the COVID-19 restriction has sped up the process. Electronic filing and service is now an integral part of the justice delivery system in many jurisdictions in Nigeria.

There has been an increased awareness in settling commercial disputes amicably. Financial pressure caused by the pandemic has made many litigants to be more willing to settle disputes to avoid long and expensive court proceedings. Settlements are currently being achieved through virtual meetings, mediation and informal discussions between counsels and the litigants.

Nevertheless, in spite of the increased use of technology in court proceedings, in many jurisdictions, courts are yet to embrace this innovation. This has increased the backlog of cases in those jurisdictions and made litigants to believe more in ADR mechanisms, especially, mediation and arbitration to promptly resolve their disputes.

What new challenges have emerged as a result of COVID-19 and what steps should companies take to remediate these risks?

The pandemic has tested the resilience of most businesses and challenged their financial, operational and commercial framework. In order to survive the rough tides, companies should be ready to adapt to the current strains and market conditions caused by the pandemic. As the situation evolves, companies should expect to see a shift in focus and a reprioritisation of operational and conduct risks as they come to terms with the harsh reality of managing their dispersed workforces. In order to grapple with these challenges, companies must be ready to engage in the following:

Conduct readiness assessments: A readiness assessment is a good place to start when companies don’t know what their business continuity programme should be. Industry and role readiness templates as well as pandemic-specific templates allow a company to evaluate their business continuity programme against a best practice standard and identify where gaps may exist. These readiness libraries break down standards and best practices into actionable pieces so that companies can track progress and adherence.

Have a risk management plan: Companies should complete a risk assessment on their core business processes to identify and prioritise any new risks or gaps in their existing controls for new scenarios like pandemics, recession, and geopolitical conditions risks.

Conduct business impact analysis: Not all risks within processes or functions within a company should be treated the same way. A business impact analysis allows companies to identify which parts of the business are most critical to its operations.

Have a management policy: As the pandemic lingers and new information arises, policies will need to be revisited, updated and communicated. For example, reviewing and revising a work-from-home policy will be effective only if dissemination of that revised policy is made with governance tracking for adoption across the company. Ascertain staff redundancy benefits: As the pandemic lingers and revenue dwindles, some companies may have to terminate the employment of redundant staff. It is therefore important for the company to ascertain the severance package for its redundant staff so that it does not expose itself to the risk of litigation and other labour related issues.

Have there been any recent regulatory changes or interesting developments?

One of the key provisions is the recently passed Bank and Other Financial Institution Act, (“the BOFIA 2020 Act”) which makes bank staff personally liable for contraventions of the terms of a banking license. This will improve compliance and reduce recklessness by forcing bank management to be more vigilant. The new regulation hopes to avoid events like the toxic asset crisis of 2009, which many people believed that Nigerian banks contributed towards.

These changes have far-reaching implications in the areas of monitoring, and enforcement of safer lending practices. For example, the BOFIA 2020 Act provides that loans in excess of three million naira without collateral will require the Central Bank of Nigeria (“the CBN”) approval. Many small and medium businesses that rely heavily on revenue-based financing will now face an extra hurdle which will further slow allocation of credit in Nigeria’s economy. The increased powers given to the CBN potentially mean that the regulatory bank could become more obstructive in coming weeks.

The BOFIA 2020 Act even gives the CBN authority over the opening or shutting down of bank branches. The law gives immunity to the CBN which limits the redress banks can seek if they feel they have a case concerning any action taken by the regulator. On one hand, the new legislation will certainly make the sector more robust, due to the higher penalties for recklessness. However, the range of things requiring CBN approval may stifle growth, and make banks slower to respond to changes in the banking industry and Nigerian economy.

The BOFIA 2020 Act provides opportunities for Fintech investors to support meaningful innovation in financial services that improves the lives of people. Generally, certain aspects of the Act will be advantageous to local Fintechs, partly because a slight barrier was incorporated to ensure foreign Fintechs localise their operations, giving a degree of protection to home-grown players, and also because the CBN’s powers have been broadened, to the extent of having to sanction even some of the most rudimentary moves by banks.

Furthermore, the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 introduces some new provisions for the purpose of entrenching the ease of doing business in Nigeria and to ensure that the practice of business entities meets international standards and modern corporate governance principles. The new provisions will indeed improve the management and productivity of Nigerian businesses in the coming years.

Are you noticing any trends in industry-specific litigation?

As a result of the numerous problems in resolving international commercial disputes through litigation in domestic courts, in the last few years, international arbitration has grown to become the preferred dispute resolution mechanism for disputes arising from international contracts and investments agreements. In particular, international arbitration has been used to resolve an increasing number of technology and IP disputes. In order to keep up with the explosion of technology investments overseas, companies have spent considerable time drafting arbitration clauses to protect the confidentiality and proprietary nature of the technology and IP they share with foreign partners, manufacturers, and distributors.

Financial market pressures are forcing companies to rely more heavily on ADR mechanisms in an attempt to limit litigation exposure while expanding business interests globally. Companies have become more sophisticated in utilising international arbitration, particularly in emerging markets. This additional corporate sophistication has provided a suitable ground for accelerated competition among various arbitration institutions.

This has led to the development of a variety of driving trends in international arbitration, including new expectations of parties to arbitrations and new competition-driven features offered by international arbitration institutions. Companies choose international arbitration over pursuing judgment in domestic courts for a variety of reasons such as the elimination of perceived bias by domestic courts.

However, a primary and perhaps underappreciated advantage is the flexibility offered by international arbitration. Parties can choose the applicable law, the seat of arbitration, the arbitration institution, the arbitrators, the jurisdictional scope, and the general procedure and conduct of the arbitration, all of which can provide efficiency advantages over domestic courts as well as important legal and tactical advantages customized to the subject matter of the dispute.

A majority of parties who have been involved in international arbitration in the past, however, believe that any negative impact of choosing a particular governing law can be limited by carefully drafting either the original contract or a subsequent agreement to enter into arbitrations with this in mind, businesses can draft an arbitration clause that allows for negotiation of the choice of law provision in order to gain contractual advantages elsewhere in a particular agreement. This flexibility, therefore, increases stability and predictability when resolving disputes internationally.

Have there been any noteworthy case studies or examples of new case law precedent in the past year?

Enforcement of money judgment in Nigeria is regulated by the provisions of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, CAP S LFN 2004 (“the SCPA”) and the Judgments Enforcement Rules, a subsidiary legislation to the SCPA. The SCPA sets out, amongst other things, the various methods by which successful litigants may enforce money judgments. These are by writ of fieri facias, (“writ of fifa”) garnishee proceedings, a charging order, a writ of sequestration or an order of committal on judgment debtor summons. However, writ of fifa and garnishee proceedings are the most commonly used method.

One major obstacle often faced by judgment creditors seeking to enforce judgments against governments and their agencies is the requirement under the SCPA that a judgment creditor must obtain consent of the Attorney General of the Federation or Attorney General of a State as the case may be, before such judgments can be enforced by garnishee proceedings.

Interestingly, in CBN v Interstella Communications Ltd (2017) All FWLR (Pt 930) 442, the court provided some clarification on the requirement for the consent of the Attorney General. The court stated that the rationale behind this decision is that seeking the Attorney General’s consent is to avoid any embarrassment to the government that may arise from making attachment orders against public funds in the custody of a public officer which has been appropriated for a purpose without notice to the government.

This means a judgment creditor does not require the consent of the Attorney General to attach and secure private funds in the hand of a public officer. It is the owner of the funds that determines whether the holder of the funds is a public officer and not the status of the person who is in custody of the funds.

Looking beyond COVID-19, how is the current litigation & dispute resolution landscape comprised in your jurisdiction?

The year 2020 was undoubtedly a challenging year for many businesses and individuals. The pandemic made parties to a dispute more interested in employing ADR mechanisms to resolve their disputes.

Mediation involves the appointment of a neutral middleman to facilitate a discussion between the parties and their legal representatives. It offers parties the chance to put their respective positions privately to each other in a confidential and conciliatory manner away from the public, so that the mediator can try to settle the dispute. Often, the mediator has a more specialist background befitting of the technical dispute than a Judge at conventional courts.

Parties are bound by the Civil Procedure Rules (“CPR”) to consider taking part in ADR as a way of resolving a dispute and this obligation continues even after court proceedings have begun. This is why mediation is offered at the Multi-door Court House attached to some courts in Nigeria. The social distance protocol occasioned by the pandemic has led both litigation and ADR mechanism practitioners to consider virtual proceedings as a veritable platform to conduct hearings to meet the end of justice.

Virtual mediation will become the mainstay of resolving disputes even when things return to normal. This is because virtual mediations have led to improved efficiencies and prevents parties from needing to travel long hours to attend proceedings. This reduces stress and anxiety for participants. Whilst there was a general reluctance to engage in anything “virtual” in the pre-COVID era, there will be a marked change in how dispute resolution is dealt with in a post-COVID world.

How do judicial shortages pose a threat to the court system?

Lack of or inadequate infrastructures such as deteriorating and ill-equipped physical facilities in some courts severely undermine fair and speedy administration of justice in Nigeria. Justice can hardly be speedy when Judges lack adequate facilities to enable them to function effectively and efficiently. In most cases, the court facilities are overcrowded, badly equipped, and under-funded.

Some litigants do not understand English, the language of the court in Nigeria. Most courts have few interpreters to interpret court proceedings to the litigants. In some cases the interpreters are poorly trained. Court libraries are inadequate. There are few functional computers, photocopiers, or other modern equipment. Judges may even have to supply their own paper and pen to record proceedings in longhand. If litigants need a transcript of proceedings, they would have to pay for the transcript themselves. This encourages corruption which impugns the justice system in many ways.

Also, records of court proceedings and judgments are not stored in satisfactory conditions. This makes them susceptible to damage or intentional destruction by unscrupulous court staff. Absence of modern facilities provides an enabling environment for corrupt and unethical court staff to tamper with evidence and even court records.

Parties are limited in the kinds of technological and visual aids available throughout litigation. The courtrooms are not equipped to handle audio, slide and other visual presentations that assist fact-finding in understanding a case in order to reach a just decision. Where a litigant is unable to present technical evidence because of inadequate infrastructure, he is significantly disadvantaged and left to suffer his fate.

Also, inadequate facilities, especially erratic power supply, contribute to delays as court proceedings are often interrupted or adjourned due to power outages. All these erode public confidence in the court system. This is why the Chief Judge of the 36 states and the Chief Justice of the Federation have taken various steps and made practice directions to address these anomalies in Nigeria’s judicial system.

Brazil – Cost Sharing with Company Domiciled Abroad

1. Characterisation of shared services as reimbursement

The payment of costs and expenses shared between companies of the same economic group, with headquarters in different countries, may be treated as a mere reimbursement without the incidence of a high tax burden on payment or receipt. However, in order for such costs and expenses to be characterised in Brazil as a reimbursement, certain requirements must be complied with.

First of all, to be treated as a reimbursement the costs and expenses must relate to supporting activities rather than core activities of the service provider. Thus, services that are included in the corporate purpose of the service provider may not be shared, and consequently the costs and expenses thereof cannot be treated as a reimbursement.

For this reason, it is only possible to recognise as a reimbursement of shared costs and expenses those actually incurred by the service provider. It is therefore not permitted to add any amount or profit margin to the costs or expenses shared and reimbursed.

Moreover, in order for the costs and expenses to be recognised as a reimbursement, it must be shown unequivocally that the services shared are of mutual benefit to the companies that participate in the agreement. Accordingly, all the companies must benefit from the services shared, including those performing the services.

With a view to proving compliance with the minimum conditions required, it is necessary to have, apart from other documents, a formal contract between the companies of the group, showing the total costs of each service incurred and shared, and also the reasonable and objective criteria used for the division.

The minimum requirements of the said contract were set out in Cosit Answer to Consultation no. 8/12 of which, in spite of its technicality, it is worth citing the following:

  • a) the division of the costs and risks inherent to the development, production or obtaining of goods, services or rights must be detailed;
  • b) the contribution of each company must be consistent with the individual benefits expected or actually received;
  • c) the identification of the specific benefit to each company of the group must be clear;
  • d) there must be an agreement for reimbursement, meaning the refund of costs relating to the effort or sacrifice incurred in the carrying out of an activity, without any additional profit;
  • e) the collective nature of the advantage offered to all the companies of the group must be express;
  • f) there must be a provision for remuneration of the activities, irrespective of their actual use, it being sufficient to “put the activities at the disposal” of the other companies of the group;
  • g) the conditions must be such that any company, in the same circumstances, would be interested in contracting.

In short, the contract must state the total cost or expense that benefits the signatory companies; the criteria for its division, each company necessarily defraying only the benefits actually expected or gained, with the possibility of their identification; and further it must state the manner in which reimbursement of the cost or expense will be made, with the supposition that it will be attractive even for independent companies.

Although the amounts classified as reimbursement of costs and expenses do not reflect any financial gain, which is sufficient to justify the non-incidence of taxation, the Brazilian Federal Revenue has still not adopted a firm position to this effect.

2.1. Payments abroad

Generally speaking, payments, credits or remittances abroad relating to the provision of services are subject to Withholding Income Tax (IRRF) of 15%, the Contribution on Economic Activities (CIDE) of 10%, the Contribution for the Financing of Social Security payable by the Importer of Foreign Goods or Services from Abroad (COFINS-Importation) of 7.6% and the Contribution for the Social Integration Programme and Civil Servants’ Investment Programme due on the Importation of Foreign Products or Services (PIS/PASEP-Importation) of 1.65%. The Tax on Financial Operations (IOF) of 0.38% is due in any case. The Tax on Services (ISS), with the maximum rate of 5%, may also be demanded by the municipality.

The IRRF paid in Brazil may be taken as a credit abroad if there exists a double taxation convention with the country in question, or, at least, reciprocity of treatment.

It is worth mentioning that, in the event of a remittance of funds abroad in payment of services, the financial institutions involved are also responsible for the operation, for which reason they tend to confirm the need to pay the taxes due on the operation in order to avoid any risks.

2.2. Cash receipts from abroad

Payments received by the Brazilian company for services shared may be regarded as corresponding to services exported. In this case, the funds received from companies abroad, in the form of foreign currency, would not be subject to PIS and COFINS on the amount invoiced. In any case, if they are recognised as remuneration for services rendered, they would be subject to IRPJ and CSLL. The ISS on the services may also be demanded by the municipality in question.

3. Possible risks and means for their reduction/elimination

As already stated, the Brazilian Federal Revenue has not confirmed its attitude regarding the non-taxation of payments relating to costs and expenses shared and reimbursed. As a result, in operations involving remittances abroad, the financial institutions normally require to see proof of payment of taxes.

If it is intended to avoid paying tax, and with a view to reducing, and even eliminating, possible risks, it is important that the operations be properly formalised. It must be possible to show, by producing solid evidence, that the funds received from, or paid to, the related party refer to the recovery of expenses incurred for the benefit of another, so as not to generate income/earnings for the recipient.

The contracts signed must contain details sufficient to prove compliance with the requirements necessary for characterisation of the reimbursement, with the resulting non-taxation, and all the supporting documentation must be retained.

An alternative, in order to guarantee the position of the Brazilian Federal Revenue, in principle and preferably in favour of the non-incidence of tax, is the submission of a formal consultation with a view to confirming the interpretation applicable to the case.

Specifically for operations involving remittances abroad of sums relating to the costs and expenses shared, it is possible that, even on production of the contract signed between the companies of the group, together with all supporting documentation, and further even presenting the formal consultation to the public authorities, the financial institution may not agree to make the remittance without payment of the tax.

In this event, a declaration may also be produced to the financial institution, in which the company making the remittance assumes the obligation to inform the institution immediately of the result of the formal consultation, as soon as a reply is received from the Federal Revenue, and also to comply with the result thereof, if necessary, with payment of tax on the operation.

We consider that, provided the above requirements are met, the risks may be reduced or even eliminated.

We are available to assist persons interested in any issues involving this matter.

Patrícia Giacomin Pádua
Partner in the Tax Area – São Paulo
[email protected]