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Tafa, Tollmans exit Wilderness

Publishing Date : 11 September, 2018

Author : TSAONE SEGAETSHO

Corporate lawyer, Parks Tafa has finally bowed out of Wilderness Holdings after spending the entire just ended financial period on the sidelines owing to ill-health. Tafa has served Wilderness for the past eight years and has been chairman of the board since 2013. Tafa decided to retire as chairman of Wilderness Holdings by rotation with effect from 30 August 2018.


BusinessPost understands that Tafa has been suffering from ill-health since the past financial year and former deputy chairman Micheal Tollman had to stand in for him for the whole period. Tafa never attended all the required four board meetings of Wilderness. “Unfortunately, the Group’s Chairman, Parks Tafa, has been indisposed for some time and I have agreed to deputize for him in this letter. We wish Parks all the best for a speedy and complete recovery,” said Tollman.


As suggested by his company, Tafa had to take advantage of the company’s constitution which states that a third of the directors retire by rotation each year and are eligible for re-election by shareholders at the annual general meeting. Other directors who joined Tafa in exiting Wilderness Holdings door are the Tollmans; Michael and Gavin Tollman who resigned from the ecotourism company last month. Michael served the board since 2005 while Gavin who only attended one board meeting in the last financial year’s service was for the last eight years.


The billionaire Tollman family which boasts a travel and hospitality empire disinvested from Wilderness as the largest single shareholder in the company through Wine Investment Limited. The Tollman family had 80 697 582 ordinary shares translating to 33.99 percent shareholding. Through Wine Investment the Tollmans sold their entire stake to The Rise Fund. They are estimated to have sold the shares for P472.9 million.


After pocketing an estimated P472.9 million the Tollmans bought an entity called Great Exploration from Wilderness for P16, 8 million. Micheal Tollman was part of the board that sold Great Explorations to his own company Mountbatten. During the transaction Mountbatten was considered to be a related party in view of the fact that Gavin Tollman was a member of board of directors for both Wilderness and Wine Investments which is owned by Mountbatten.


The company that is now owned by the Tollmans, Great Exploration, owns Xigera Camp located in the tourism wealthy Paradise Island in Okavango. Wilderness explained that it sold Xigera because “has performed below expectations in the preceding five years and requires a substantial capital investment for refurbishment.”


In a previous interview with BusinessPost, Micheal Tollman said they are going to turn Xigera into a five star hospitality hub. After the sale of Xigera it was stated in Wilderness reports that “Mountbatten is willing to inject the required capital investment into the Camp.” Also exiting Wilderness with the Tollmans and Tafa is independent director Roux Marnitz who resigned by rotation with effect from 30 August 2018. Martinitz chose not to offer himself for re-election during the company’s AGM.


Tafa and the Tollmans leave the company with increased revenue by 9 percent to P1 209 million (2017: P1 107 million) driven by the increase in bednights sold. According to the Wilderness financial report, overall bednight sales increased by 8 percent to 178 347 (2017: 165 864); excluding Governors’, bednight sales grew by 4 percent. The Group’s occupancy rate was up slightly to 59 percent (2017: 58 percent).


On the low the Pula gained more than 5 percent against the US Dollar over the year impacting negatively on revenue, and this was also the cause of the large foreign exchange losses on conversion of the Group’s foreign currency position. Also, EBITDA margin declined from 19 percent to 17 percent, primarily due to the higher foreign exchange losses as well as lower ‘Other gains’. The financial report also state that these gains primarily comprise insurance proceeds and net profit on disposal of assets, and have declined from P16 million to P1 million in the current year.


According to Wilderness financial report, impairment losses amounted to P9.6 million and relate to the impairment of decommissioned camp assets and camp assets damaged by flooding. Net finance costs were 108 percent higher at P19.2 million (2017: P9.2 million), being a consequence of the inclusion of Governors’ and the increased debt to finance capital investment and acquisitions, according to the financial report.

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