Behind the paywall: Morocco's DirectInfo portal
This is not to hold Morocco up as a model nation: perceived failures to address corruption were a driving force behind street protests in 2011 and 2012 and a high profile leak that allegedly showed corrupt authorisation of salary bonuses for ministers led to prosecution of the whistleblowers rather than the politicians.
On access to corporate information, recent investments in online services have seen the building of centralised and fairly user-friendly services. While payment is needed to obtain detailed records, the fees are not punitive and Morocco’s registry avoids much of the red tape (such as the need to supply ID card or voter numbers) that can frustrate foreign investigators in other markets. The kingdom was one of only three African nations to obtain a ‘satisfactory’ overall score on last year’s Arachnys Open Data Compass and ranked fifth among MENA countries.
For the purposes of this blog, we’ll take a look at the steps needed to obtain corporate information on the multi-sector conglomerate Akwa Group: a company mainly operating in the oil and gas sector, with additional interests in telecommunications, tourism, hotels and real estate.
Information availability summary
|Data point||Free search||Corporation check||Balance sheet check|
|Cost||None||45 Dh (£3.23 inc VAT)||70 Dh (£5.02 inc VAT)|
|Historical changes and corporate actions||No||Yes||No|
* shareholder information is not available on all records: if unavailable a warning will be displayed before ordering the report reading “Fiche Complete Non existante: Aucune Part associé n’est existante”
The most common business structures in Morocco are the Société Anonyme (SA) and Société à Responsibilité Limitée (SARL) – equivalent to a public limited company and private limited company respectively:
- Formation of an SA requires a minimum of five shareholders and a minimum of either 300,000 Dh (£54,000) if the company does not intend to seek public investment and 3m Dh if they do.
- Formation of an SARL requires a minimum of two members and a minimum capital of 10,000 Dh (£1,800).
Sources of information
The most comprehensive source of company data on Moroccan entities is provided by the DirectInfo portal maintained by the Moroccan Industrial and Commercial Property Office (OMPIC). While companies are registered locally in Commercial Tribunals, the portal allows users to search for registration details across the whole country.
A free search allows an investigator to verify the name and registration status of the company, as well as finding that its company structure is an SA, that it was registered in 1993 in Casablanca, is currently active and has share capital of 65,890,000 Dh.
Registration is required in order to pay for the service, but can be done in less than a minute, is available to non-Moroccans and requires only a name, date of birth, email and password.
The summary table above shows the cost and data provided by the two available reports highlighted in orange. In short, the Balance Sheet Check provides much more detailed information on a company’s current finances and shareholders, whereas the Corporation Check shows the current directors and administrators (and their addresses) as well as a historical record of changes to these posts and corporate actions such as capital additions.
Note that, while director information cannot be searched for free via DirectInfo, the names of the directors at time of registration can be obtained by searching on the respective Commercial Tribunal site. This listing also includes their ID card number and date of birth.
The checkboxes highlighted in the blue section provide the option to download scanned filings in PDF format. It’s important to note that the premium reports are not yet available on all companies listed on the portal, though this is likely to improve with time.
Searching by individual
While DirectInfo provides an option to search for natural persons, the results provided are simply individuals registered as dealers in Morocco: this search cannot be used to establish all the companies linked to an individual through directorships or shareholder status.
In summary, Morocco’s slow but steady progress in building online infrastructure leaves the country in a good position from the perspective of an external investigator. The centralised registry makes company name searches much easier than countries operating on a regional basis such as China or the US. Despite the need to pay for access to more detailed information, fees are reasonable and registration is much simpler for a non-national than in countries that require a local form of identification such as Brazil or South Korea.
Written by Ed Long, Head of Research at Arachnys. Arachnys is a digital platform that consolidates and aggregates business information from sources like the ones featured here to make due diligence research quicker and more effective. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.Among the countries of the MENA region, Morocco has been remarkably stable across measures of GDP, political risk, foreign debt and corruption despite a time of turmoil in wider region. The kingdom edged up two points in last November’s Corruption Perceptions Index and was finally removed in 2013, along with Nigeria, from the list of countries being monitored by the Financial Action Task Force after being deemed to have met its requirements to establish legal and regulatory frameworks to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. The country’s industry has been gradually diversifying out of the formerly dominant agricultural sector and looks to be pivoting towards Africa, the Middle East and China away from their traditional European trading partners.
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