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De Beers Sales down P12bn in 2019

The year 2019 presented a difficult sales path for diamond mining giant De Beers Group, the lucrative industry behemoth has to date sold about $ 1.2 billion less worth of polished diamonds this year. 

During the first half of the year, sales portrayed steeper downward trajectory in the wake of muted manufacturing sector resulting in a backlog of polished diamond inventories in the midstream and weaker trading conditions. The company which ethically sources about 60 % of its diamonds in Botswana through Debswana, a 50-50 partnership with Government of Botswana conducts 10 cycles in a year at its high rise magnificent Global Sight Holder Sales block in Gaborone.

Ten times a year, sight holders descend Sir Seretse Khama International Airport from Belgium, United States, India, China & the Gulf amongst others markets for about a week long auction sale of rough diamonds from Botswana, Namibia & Canada and South Africa. De Beers Global Sight holder Sales relocated from London to Botswana in 2011.

In the year 2018 De Beers’s rough diamonds sales amounted to US$5.39 Billion, approximately P54 Billion, this was a slight pickup from the 2017 sales value of US$5.31 Billion. For the year 2019 nine (9) cycles have only gathered total sales provisional value of US$3.60 billion, way below the 2019 value of the same period by over $1.2 billion. The slow start was evident right from the beginning of the year with 2019 Cycle 1 registering actual value of US$544 million , US$128 million less than the 2018 cycle 1 which hit heights values of US$672 million.

The first quarter of the year showed slight upward trajectory with cycle 2 sales a bit higher than cycle 1 and cycle 3 showing improvement from cycle 2 as well, however still below the same cycles in the previous year 2018. Right from after cycle 3 De Beers Rough diamonds sales graph started showing steeper downward gradient with Cycle 4 registering US$416 million compared to $US554 million recorded in 2018. De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer attributed the low performance to macroeconomic uncertainties as well as the period‘s seasonally slow trends owing to Indian factories closing temporarily for the traditional holiday period.

A major decline was registered at Cycle 6, which only managed to sell rough diamonds worth US$250 million, way below the 2018 cycle 6 values of $533 million. This was the lowest amount earned from a sale since December 2015, spilling over from cycle 5 value which were also below the 2018 corresponding cycle by about 32 %.  De Beers explained that the trend was attributable to sluggish rough diamond trading circumstances in China, the second largest economy and one of its major markets

“While overall retail sentiment for diamond jewellery in the US remains solid, a more challenging environment in China and higher than normal polished diamond inventories in the midstream resulted in a cautious approach from rough diamond buyers during the fifth cycle of 2019," said Bruce Cleaver De Beers Group Chief Executive in June this year. For cycle 6 the group explained that sales were significantly low also because of persisting macroeconomic uncertainty, with retailers managing inventory levels, and polished diamond inventories in the midstream continuing to be higher than normal.

FLEXIBILIY OFFER

De Beers Group then provided customers with additional flexibility to defer some of their rough diamond allocations to later in the year. Rough diamond sales continued to be very slow in August (cycle 7) with sales revenue totaling to US$287 million, a slight increase from cycle 6 but still significantly lower that the corresponding cycle in 2018 mirroring 44 % decline when gauged against 2018 cycle 7 value of $503 million.

De Beers continued with its flexibility offer into cycle 7 and 8 giving its clients the opportunity to leave up to 50% of available goods on the table to lower the pressure on buyers without lowering their prices. The company announced in an  internal communiqué to sight holders in August  De that it would buy back up to 20% by carat weight of customers’ purchases instead of the typical 10%, specifying that they could not use both options on the same box of goods.

The company offered  several options to increase the flexibility for manufacturers and traders struggling with an oversupply of rough and polished: in addition to the higher level of buybacks – whereby customers purchase the diamonds and then sell them back to De Beers at an agreed price, while having those purchases count toward their 'demonstrated demand' which determines future allocations. De Beers also enabled buyers to make additional deferrals of goods to later sights, and set an earlier date on the annual opportunity for customers to reschedule their purchases. 

When commenting in August after cycle seven Bruce Cleave said “With midstream participants continuing to work down polished diamond inventory levels and reduced levels of manufacturing in the key cutting centers, De Beers Group provided customers with further supply flexibility during the seventh cycle of 2019.”  To further respond to market pressures De Beers decreased its rough diamond production in Q2 by 14% to 7.7 million carats and revised its full-year guidance downwards to 31 million carats in response to a backlog of polished diamond inventories in the midstream and weaker trading conditions.

INCREASED MARKETING SPEND

In November De Beers Group announced that its marketing spend in the entire 2019 will be totaling to $180 million (around P1.9 billion). This was revealed by De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer Bruce Cleaver on the sidelines of the Diamond Conference held in Gaborone. Bruce said the $180 million dispatch is De Beers largest marketing spend in 10 years.

“This illustrates how difficult the market was in 2019 , and contrary to what many may think ,when the global demand  is subdued we may cut down any expenditure for  cost containment but not the marketing spend ,that is actually when  you have to increase  the marketing budget,” he said.

REDUCED PRODUCTION FORECAST FOR 2020 & 2021

When giving a business update in London this week Group Chief Executive Officer of Anglo American, De Beers’s parent company Mark Cutiffani said during 2019 the diamond industry didn’t have it easy, trade wars sparked uncertainty, depressing manufacturing inventories and slowing down the polished diamonds market uptake.

Anglo reported that De Beers sales fell 26 percent this year amid challenging market conditions adding that this will result in the company lowering its lowering its sights on production in the near future.

Following its revised full year guidance Anglo noted that De Beers is expected to mine approximately 31 million carats of diamonds in 2019, down 11 percent from 35 million last year.

Prices on a full-year basis have dropped about 20 percent while the diamond price index is down about 5 percent. De Beers’ mix is down in terms of quality (by price) about 15 percent, due in part to the company holding back some higher-quality goods in hopes market conditions improve.

Anglo has cut its diamond production forecast for the next two years. In 2020, it expects De Beers will mine 32-34 million carats, down from its previous outlook of 33-35 million. For 2021, the forecast was cut from 35-37 million carats to 34-36 million carats. Production guidance for full year 2022 is 33 to 35 million carats.

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Business

Choppies back to profitability

21st September 2021
Choppies CEO - RamachandaranOttapathu

Choppies Holdings Limited, Botswana’s largest Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) retail group, is back to its glory days of profitability.

On Wednesday, Choppies signalled its shareholders in a circular published on the Botswana Stock Exchange website that a massive comeback is in the offing. The retail giant, which trades on both Botswana and Johannesburg Stock Exchange, notified its investors that it is currently finalising its financial results for the 12 months ended 30 June 2021 (FY2021).

As per the Listings Requirements of the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange Limited (JSE), that requires companies to publish a trading statement as soon as they become reasonably certain that the financial results for the period to be reported on next will differ by more than 10% (in the case of the BSE) or more than 20% (in the case of the JSE) from the financial results reported for the previous corresponding period, Choppies notified the market about the expected financials.

In the circular, Choppies said it expects the consolidated Profit after Tax, including discontinued operations for the period FY2021, to be between 106% to 126% better than the Loss after Tax of BWP 370.6 million reported for the period FY2020, representing a Profit after Tax of between BWP 22.6 million and BWP 96.7 million.

The Profit before Tax for FY2021 is expected to be between 1% and 21% higher (BWP 105.7 million and BWP 126.7million) than the Profit before Tax of BWP 105.0 million reported for the period FY2020. The Choppies come back is against the backdrop of a devastating past three(3) financial years where the company endured some of the worst headwinds ever since its establishment over two decades ago.

Following reports of internal boardroom wars, the crisis exploded to fireworks. The retail giant was suspended on both Botswana and Johannesburg Stock Exchange for failing to publish its audited financials as per the regulatory requirement for all publicly listed companies. Following suspension from trading, Choppies’s value deteriorated to record low levels, triggering massive governance restructuring before reconfiguring its portfolio, divesting and exiting some markets, retreating to regroup in its spiritual home ground of Botswana.

In the process, the retailer stayed on news headlines for all the wrong reasons, boardroom infighting, shareholder tussles and disagreements between founders and back to back conflicts with its external auditors. At some point, Choppies founder, Chief Executive Officer and talisman, Ramachandran Ottapathu, was suspended and later reinstated in a dramatic turn of events. Furthermore, the fallout saw the longest-serving Chairperson, former President Dr Festus Mogae, resign as board chair.

The delayed 2018 year-end financial results, released a year and a half later in December 2019, delivered a shock to shareholders, with many pundits announcing Choppies’s funeral. Choppies registered a whooping BWP 445 million loss for the full year ended June 2018. Another shocking loss of BWP170 million for 2017 was initially reported as a BWP 74. 6 million profit when KPMG was still the auditor.

The Choppies loss-making crusade spilt over to 2019, registering in loss BWO 428 million before drowning again into a loss of BWP 370.6 million for the full financial year ended June 2020. In July this year, Choppies biggest individual shareholders Ramachandran Ottapathu and Farouk Ismail, revealed they would be levelling a lawsuit against former Choppies auditors Price Water Coopers (PWC).

The duo blames the auditors for alleged lapses, incompetence, and deliberate sabotage that led to the company’s regulatory non-compliance and subsequent suspension from the Botswana Stock Exchange in 2018 and a massive deterioration in value. In the Annual Report for the financial year ended June 2020, released in November that year, newly appointed Board Chair Uttun Corea announced that Choppies had appointed new auditors, Mazars, regarding FY19 and FY20.

The new board further announced a massive reconfiguration strategy to return the company to glory. The Board Investment Committee recommended disposal of loss-making operations in South Africa and the closure of operations in Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania, which according to Mr Corea, helped return the Group to profitability.

“Our other markets also proved economically challenging with a struggling and volatile Zimbabwean economy, currency devaluation in Zambia, and a lack of economies of scale in Namibia. However, we believe a focused approach in these regions and the numerous opportunities for growth in Botswana present the Group with solid prospects.

This conditions, together with the favourable conditions following the introduction of funds by the founding shareholders, together with additional security, and given the renegotiation of our banking facilities which will see our monthly payments lower, put the Group on a firm going concern footing,” the board Chair said last year.

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Business

Cresta Marakanelo exits Zambia market 

21st September 2021
Cresta Marakanelo

Cresta Marakanelo Limited (CML), Botswana’s most prominent hotels and hospitality group, has decided to exit the Zambian market, the company announced on Wednesday. 

CML, a Botswana version of the larger Southern African Cresta Hotels Group, revealed in a circular to its shareholders on Wednesday that “it will not be renewing the lease agreement with Golfview Hotels Limited for the rental of Cresta Golfview Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia.” The Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) listed hotels group explained it would be withdrawing from the Cresta Golfview Hotel operations on 30 September 2021.

CML explained in the circular that for continuity of operations, the landlord, Golfview Hotels Limited, will be taking over the management of the hotel and will endeavour to absorb the majority of the staff.

“The consideration to not renew the lease came after a review of the financial viability of continuing with the lease agreement. The decision to exit the lease is therefore in the best interests of CML shareholders,” Cresta Marakanelo Board explained on Wednesday.

For the year ended 31 December 2020, Cresta Golfview Hotel accounted for 5% of the CML Group’s revenue and 2% of the Group’s loss before tax. The company said it would continue to operate the 11 hotels in Botswana.

The Board of Directors of Cresta Marakanelo went on express gratitude to its dedicated staff at Cresta Golfview Hotel, “The men and women who personified our Cresta brand essence; Where One Smile Starts Another and lived our Cresta mantra of Hospitality with African Heart and Soul consistently over the years.” The Board further thanked its business partners in Zambia: the valued guests, suppliers, stakeholders, and the Zambian community at large during the time CML has operated in Lusaka.

“We look forward to welcoming you to our other properties under the CML portfolio,” the statement said. Early this year, Cresta Marakanelo attempted to expand its Botswana footprint, nearly taking in Phakalane Golf Estate & Hotels Property under its wing. In January 2021, Cresta Marakanelo announced that it had signed a 10-year lease agreement for the hotel and the golf course, located in the Gaborone high-end suburbs, with an option to renew for a further ten year period.

In addition, Cresta had planned to pay Phakalane P10.7 million as a once-off for moveable assets, including furniture, fittings and equipment, with the amount payable over 24 months. Two months later, CML directors told shareholders that the conditions necessary to finalise the deal had not been fulfilled, and as a result, the transaction could not materialise.

Cresta Marakanelo is the operating company for, until this Zambia exit, the 12 Cresta Hotels in Botswana and Zambia. The company was formed in 1987 with an initial portfolio of fewer than 290 rooms, and until this September end exit, Cresta Marakanelo has been managing over 1000 rooms in Botswana and Zambia.

Since its establishment, Cresta Marakanelo Limited (CML) has maintained its position as the largest hotel group in Botswana. The company was established in 1987 when Cresta Hospitality was awarded the Management contract for the Marakanelo Hotels in Botswana by the Botswana Development Corporation.

Cresta Marakanelo was listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange in 2010. Its largest shareholders are the Botswana Government, through the Botswana Development Company, at 30 percent and Cresta Holdings Botswana at around 29 percent, with other shareholders being Motor Vehicles Accident Fund Botswana, Botswana Insurance Company, amongst others.

Established in 1970, the Botswana Development Company is the investment arm of the Botswana Government. BDC’s main aim is to be the country’s principal agency for commercial and industrial development. The Government of Botswana owns 100 percent of the issued share capital of the Corporation. BDC has interests in industry, property development and management, agribusiness and services.

Cresta Holdings Botswana is ultimately owned by Masawara Plc, a Jersey Registered Company listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market, with an investment portfolio that extends from Botswana to Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Group’s portfolio spans the Hospitality, Insurance, Investment Management and Agrochemical sectors.

Its hospitality arm, Cresta Hospitality Holdings, is one of Southern Africa’s largest hotel management groups, managing or operating hotels in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia.  Cresta Hospitality started hotel operations as far back as 1958. Cresta Holdings is a hotel management company registered in Botswana.

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Business

ABSA posts improved results  

21st September 2021
Keabetswe Pheko-Moshagane

Absa Bank Botswana released their condensed consolidated interim financial statements for the period ended 30 June 2021. Profit before tax grew significantly by 125% against the previous year, a material recovery from the June 2020 position.

According to the company directors, the performance was driven mainly by the positive performance of the impairment line together with the positive momentum on cost lines. Pre-provision profit has also grown year on year by 9%.

Consequently, the bank’s Return on Equity (ROE) went up to 19%. Total revenue declined 1% year-on-year. Net interest income fell 8% due to margin compression driven by interest rate cuts in 2020. However, the sales and transactional banking franchise realised impressive recovery rates with volumes going up to almost pre-COVID-19 levels, and fee revenue grew 20% year on year.

Absa boasted that their operating costs remain well contained, on a reducing trend compared to the prior year. On a statutory basis, operating expenses totalled P460 million, representing a 7% decrease year-on-year. This was achieved by an overall reduction in spending as the bank continues to leverage on a leaner, rotational and digitally-led operating model.

Costs in the current year have benefited from the absence of the Voluntary Staff Separation exercise that happened in the first half of 2020, together with a significant reduction in separation expenses as the rebranding exercise has been completed. Cost-to- income ratio declined 4% and ended at 58% for the period under review. On a year-on-year basis, our credit losses decreased materially by 74%.

This significant drop was driven primarily by the better-than-expected performance of the macroeconomic variables, predominantly GDP, which carries a higher weighting in the bank risk models. With improved and stable portfolio performance, the loan loss rate improved to less than 1% for the period ended 30 June 2021.

Absa balance sheet continued on its growth trajectory with an overall growth of 14%. Customer loans and deposits remained key. components of the balance sheet and the key drivers of balance sheet growth. The balance sheet position remains solid at a total financial position of P21.5 billion. Customer loans grew by 9% year-on-year to P14.8 billion.

“We have seen increased momentum in our loan conversion rates, especially in RBB where growth was driven by scheme loans, mortgage loans and Enterprise Supply-chain Development (ESD) loans,” the bank said in a commentary that accompanied the financials.

Directors explained that growth is in line with their strategy to continue to lend a hand to the bank customers who need support during this period and support the initiatives around citizen economic empowerment and economic diversification. Customer deposits have registered good momentum growing 15% compared to last year, reaching P16 billion as of 30 June 2021.

“Although we have seen tightening liquidity in the market, our client penetration, acquisition and retention strategy has borne much fruit, especially in our CIB segment. We have noted a stable upward trend in our deposit book, a momentum which is expected to last into the rest of the months of 2021,” Directors observed.

Directors further noted that the solid balance sheet position and recovery in profitability had further strengthened the bank’s capital position, which stands at P2.9 billion and represents a capital adequacy ratio of 18% against a regulatory requirement of 12.5%. The liquid assets ratio stood at 14.6%, well above a regulatory limit of 10%.

Zooming deep into segmental performances, corporate and Investment Banking (CIB)closed off the first half of 2021 with a year-on-year decline of 3% on total income; this is on the back of the slow recovery in economic activity felt in crucial economic sectors which have previously contributed positively to revenue.

Business sentiment and confidence remain subdued even in 2021 as uncertainty continues due to the impact of COVID-19. However, the profitability of CIB is on the move, on an upward trajectory with 36% growth year-on-year. This performance was supported by the non-funded income lines’ resilience and the impairment lines’ performance.

For the Retail Banking segment the first half of the year, both loans and advances and deposits due to customers grew by 14% and 16% year-on-year, respectively. Overall revenue has remained flat year-on-year. Growth was realised from non-interest income. This is in line with the bank’s strategy to become the go-to transactional and digitally-led bank.

In the future, Absa directors noted the volatile, unpredictable environment that continues to prevail due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which comes with new waves of infections and variants, restricted movement and trade.

” However, we remain resolute in executing our refreshed strategy and focus on offering our employees and customers support in collaboration with the various stakeholders that we have partnered with.

As part of our strategy to provide customer-centric transactional banking solutions, we will continue to roll out enhancements to our existing digital platforms and develop new solutions that offer our customers convenience and safety.” For the period, Absa Bank Botswana Limited Board approved an interim dividend of 9.74 thebe per share, amounting to a total dividend of P83 million.

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