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Lucara Q3 report card

Lucara Diamond Corporation, a multiple listed mining company which operates the world‘s premier top gem producer Karowe Mine, has registered revenue of $136.5 million or $436 per carat for its sales in the first nine months of 2019, yielding an operating margin of $254 per carat.

This is contained in the company‘s 2019 Q3 performance results released on Monday. Starting in September 2018, Lucara moved to a blended sales tender, combining the sale of exceptional stones with the balance of run of mine production into one tender, held quarterly. According to the Vencouvor headquartered gem diamonds outfit change was made to decrease the inventory time for large, high value diamonds and to generate a smoother revenue profile that better supports price guidance on a per sale basis.

During 2019, diamonds recovered between November 2018 and July 2019 was sold either in blended sales tender or through the Clara digital sales platform. “The one exception to this new practice was the retention of the 1,758 carat diamond named Sewelô.  Lucara says due to the unique and complex nature of the Sewelô, additional analysis of the diamond is being undertaken while the Company considers how best to maximize value from this unique and rare diamond.

 In the first nine months of 2019, a total of 313,189 carats were sold compared to 240,245 carats sold in the previous year achieving a year-to date average sales price of $436/carat against 2018 figure of $564/carat. The number of carats sold was 30% higher than in the comparative period driven by better recoveries in the smaller, lower value sizes.

Lucara says the significant increase in carats is due to the continued strong performance of the plant which processed 2.16 million tonnes during the nine months ended September 30, 2019 compared to 2.03 million tonnes milled last year. “An improved mine call factor also contributed to higher recoveries of diamonds” Explains Karowe mine management.

While most of Karowe’s diamond production is sold through blended sales tender, beginning in late 2018 certain stones from Karowe’s production sized between 1 and 4 carats and of better quality were offered for sale on Clara, Lucara’s revolutionary, web based, digital sales platform that allows customers to purchase rough diamonds individually, based on specific demand.

The first sale through Clara took place in December 2018. Five sales were completed on the platform during the first six months of 2019 and a further five sales through Clara were completed in Q3 2019, with $2.4 million in value transacted in Q3 2019 and a total of $6.0 million transacted since sales began.

Lucara President and Chief Executive Officer, Eira Thomas observed that the continued growth of Clara is expected in the fourth quarter based on increasing demand from a growing customer base, which expanded from twenty to twenty-seven participants in Q3 2019. “The Company’s objective is to begin adding third-party production to the platform before the end of the year in order to meet anticipated demand,” she said.

On financial performance Lucara posted operating expenses increase from $50.0 million in the nine months ended September 30, 2018 to $57.1 million in the nine months ended September 30, 2019 mainly due to a combination of an increase in the average cost per tonne mined which is related to the new mining contractor and lower volumes of total tonnes mined as well as higher volumes of total tonnes processed.

An increase in carats processed and sold resulted in a decrease in the operating expense per carat sold from $208/carat in the nine months ended September 30, 2018 compared to $182/carat in the nine months ended September 30, 2019. Depletion and amortization, a non-cash expense, increased from $20.1 million in YTD 2018 to $38.1 million in year to date 2019 due to a combination of factors including a 30% higher volume of carats sold with 313,189 carats YTD 2019 vs. 240,245 carats YTD 2018.

The increase in this expense has been driven by several things amongst others a larger number of fine diamonds recovered following improvements to the processing circuit implemented in late 2017, a higher mineral property balance from the waste stripping campaign between 2017 and 2018, and a corresponding increase in the rate of unit of production depletion from a change to the reserve base in Q3 2018.

With depletion and amortization expense almost double what it was in the same period last year Lucara posted that net income decreased to $4.1 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2019 as compared to net income of $17.9 million in the same period in 2018. Earnings per share decreased to $0.01 as compared to earnings per share of $0.05 for YTD 2018.

Lucara President & CEO said her company continues to deliver solid results and strong margins on the back of strong operational performance at Karowe in Q3. “With operating margins at Karowe approaching 60%, and no long-term debt, Lucara is well positioned to continue to weather the difficult diamond pricing environment that has prevailed since the beginning of the year,” she said.

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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona

22nd March 2023

Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.

The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.

Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.

This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.

In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.

Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.

The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.

“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said

In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.

The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.

Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.

Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.

Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.

Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.

“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.

LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.

The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.

An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.

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Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW

20th March 2023

Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.

The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.

“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.

In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices.  Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.

“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.

Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy,  Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.

“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.

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Food import bill slightly declines

20th March 2023

The latest figures released by Statistics Botswana this week shows that food import bill for Botswana slightly declined from around P1.1 billion in November 2022 to around P981 million in December during the same year.

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