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Ice cold local market still unperturbed by election hangover

Latest market observation depicts lukewarm local bourse with less action amid hangover from the seemingly unpredictable and uncertain polls. A general notion is that foreign investors are not yet ready or treading carefully not to pop out money and pour it into the local market yet.

The local market has been dogged by illiquidity and this year of elections has been referred by market specialist as “worse than other years,” prompting belief that the issue of former President breaking ranks with his successor before joining opposition could spell the highest political uncertainty for this country, a huge scare for foreign investors.

The market has been shaking at a small movement days before the general elections, just as it has since the beginning of 2019. Stockbroker Motswedi Securities recently said, when opening the week (this after coming from the polls) the market wasted no time getting into the groove of things. The stockbroker further said as volumes traded amounted to 12.6 million shares with a market value of P16.1 million – of which traded across 10 stocks on the domestic main board.

“Leading the trades was Letshego, claiming the bulk of session's liquidity with 10.25 million shares in the name changing ownership, with a worth P8.2 million. The stock's demand has been increasing exponentially, since the price stepped down to where it is now, i.e. its lowest valuation in its history of being listed on the exchange,” said Motswedi.

On Monday only a slight price movement was registered by Barclays bank whose stock climbed 4 thebe in the session to P5.45/share as 71,728 shares moved across the board as investors booked profits. However, the Barclays price rise has no links to the elections aftermath, the slight share price upswing was merely the investors’ reaction to the company’s rise in profits for its current financial year and payment of a net dividend of approximately 12.94 thebe per share.

According to market statistics, just a week coming from elections and last week’s public holidays, 12,591,498 traded on Monday while a turnover was P16 090 407. Just a day before the elections, Motswedi Securities said the market was thrumming with activity jumping from trading 2 121 448 shares on the second week of October to 4 140 699 shares.  

A day before the national polls (22 October 2019), a general observation by Motswedi Securities was that, “investors were trying to make up for the lost next couple of days as the national elections commence. The local equity market traded volumes just above 4.14mn, to get to a turnover of just under P13.83, moving across 14 stocks.”

After the polls, this week, shares in the Botswana Stock Exchange increased its trading by three times, hopping from 4 140 699 to 12,591,498. This could mean investor confidence is slowly being recovered by the local bourse. But market experts remain skeptical of the local market saying it continues to be “slow and inefficient” and illiquid. A lot of experts did not expect the local market to shake much after the elections because it has always been synonymous with illiquidity and it is a very small market.

When making an analysis on African capital markets titled ‘Driving liquidity in African capital markets’, the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) Chief Executive Officer Thapelo Tsheole, highlighted limited foreign investor participation as one of the factors contributing to the continent’s susceptibility to illiquidity.

Stockbrokers Botswana recent market commentary, which was done out of the research carried out a day before the elections is that; the Domestic Company Index was flat at 7526.85 points, a similar for the Foreign Company Index which was also flat closing at 1564.54 points. In the elections week, Stockbrokers Botswana said the short trading week saw turnover coming in at P20 845 806 as 6 262 147 shares traded. In that week, the largest contributors to turnover were FNBB (39 percent), Sechaba (25 percent) and Barclays (11 percent).

A previous week before the elections Stockbrokers Botswana said, the Domestic Company Index ticked up by 0.16 percent to close the week at 7472.45. The Foreign Company Index has remained flat for weeks as it closed at 1564.54 points. BTCL was the biggest gainer this week, up 4 thebe to close at 105 thebe. Total turnover for the week amounted to P14 961 093 as 1 846 272 securities exchanged hands. For the ET, NewGold held the lion’s share of turnover with 82 percent. BTCL’s share was 4 percent while Letshego’s was 3 percent.

How the markets fared in a quarter (Q3) towards elections

According to Stockbrokers Botswana’s latest released research on market performance during a quarter before election, Quarter 3(Q3) the Domestic Company Index depreciated albeit at a slower rate, losing 2.12 percent compared to a contraction of 3.34 percent in Q2. ‘’The Domestic Company Index reached a 12-month low of 7397.77 points in August, however, it recovered over September to close Q3 at 7460.95 points,” said Stockbrokers Botswana Q3 research.

According to the stockbroker, the downward movement of the domestic index can mainly be attributed to Letshego which lost 59 thebe (41 percent) during the quarter. Stanchart was the second biggest loser after it lost 13 thebe (12 percent). “Conversely, majority of counters on the Domestic Company Index recorded prices which either increases or no changes at all. Only 7 counters experienced downward price movements during the quarter. The biggest gainer was Letlole which climbed up 16 percent.’’

Also in the third quarter, BTCL joined the top performers for the first time since 2017, appreciating 13 percent to close the quarter at 101 thebe.  In the ETF board NewPlat (+10.9 percent) and NewGold (+10.2 percent) made the top 5 gainers list once again, as seen in Q1 and Q2. Cresta gained 9.1% to reach 132 thebe, which is its highest price since 2011.

According to Stockbrokers Botswana, Total turnover amounted to P458.2 million (Q2 2019: BWP582.2 million) off of an exchange of 130.9 million securities (Q2 2019: 101.5 million securities). The lion’s share of these figures was held by Far Property Company (FPC), following a related party transaction which accounted for 50 percent of total turnover and 70 percent of total volume, said Stockbrokers Botswana. Just like what observers have been saying about this elections year, StockBorkers Botswana said low trading can only suggest that the market remained starved of liquidity in the third quarter, the period of the polls.

In Q3, Stockbrokers said, the market capitalization declined 6 percent to BWP38.5 billion (Q2 2019: BWP40.8 billion). This was weighed down by losses in Letshego and Stanchart, as well as the Wilderness delisting which occurred in the beginning of July. Stockbrokers Botswana said, weighted P/E Ratio was marginally lower at 11.2x (Q2 2019: 11.3x) while dividend yield was 5.5 percent from 5.3 percent in the last quarter.

Moody’s vindicated or is still early?

While other think tanks predicted BDP to win with a slight margins and elections to be chaotic, the US Moody’s before the polls said Botswana will not head to any political instability. Moodys said it expects limited election-related policy uncertainty in Botswana, Namibia, Senegal and Ghana, “given their track records of political stability.”

While there was no uproar after the election results were released, most in the opposition front are skeptic of how elections were run. Some allege the elections were flawed and unfair, accusing the elections body to have fraudulently swayed election win to the ruling BDP.  A court application against the results is said to be looming, raising much political uncertainty hence further investor fright which has been worse since the beginning of this year. This might dent Moody’s trust on Botswana which calls this country politically stable, this is if things go out of control.

BDP won this year’s elections by 51 percent and this contradicts Africa’s leading bank by assets Standard Bank’s prediction which said while BDP will win, it will be without an outright majority. The bank said an ongoing feud between the current President and his predecessor has wrought political unrest in the country. However the bank was still hopeful of Botswana even before this month’s polls saying: “We view the current political turmoil as temporary; we expect no significant deviation from the current economic policy, even if the BDP lost the election.”

Most surveys and researches predicted that the 2014 elections in which BDP’s 46 percent vote will shrink even further. BDP got a popular vote of 53.3 percent in 2009. According to Afrobarometer survey conducted in July/August 2019, BDP would enjoy a 2-to-1 lead over the opposition UDC 44 percent to 22 percent. Many have been caught by surprise with this year’s elections because many predicted lower than 46 percent lead by BDP, given the damage caused by its former leader Ian Khama. Some even predicted a “hung parliament.” That is why the election results remain debatable and doubtful to some while few accepted results.

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Business

Slight growth in GDP as economy battles return

28th July 2021
Peggy-Serame

Botswana’s economy showed slight growth signs in the first quarter of 2021, following a devastating year in 2020.

During 2020, the entire second quarter was on zero economic activity as the country went on total lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Diamond trade plummeted to record low levels as global travel restrictions halted movement of both goods and people and muted trade.

The end result was a significant decline for the local economy, at an estimated 7 percent contraction, just marginally below the 2008/09 global financial crises.

According to figures released by Statics Botswana this week, the country’s nominal Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter of 2021 was P47.739 billion compared to a revised P45.630 billion registered during the previous quarter.

This represents a quarterly increase of 4.6 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.

During the quarter, Public Administration and Defence became the major contributor to GDP by 18.4 percent, followed by Wholesale & Retail by 11.4 percent. The contribution of other sectors was below 6.0 percent, with Water and Electricity Supply being the lowest at 1.6 percent.

Real GDP for the first quarter of 2021 increased by 0.7 percent compared to a contraction of 4.6 percent registered in the previous quarter.

The improvement in the first quarter 2021 GDP reflected continued efforts to reopen businesses and resume activities that were postponed or restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The real GDP increased by 0.7 percent during the period under review, compared to an increase of 1.2 percent in the same quarter of 2020.

The recovery in the domestic economy was observed across majority of industries except Accommodation & Food Services, Mining & Quarrying, Manufacturing, Construction, Other Services and Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing.

The overall slow performance of the economy was mainly due to the impact of measures that were put in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Non-mining GDP increased by 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 4.0 percent increase registered in the same quarter of the previous year.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry decreased by 2.0 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, relative to a contraction of 5.2 percent registered during the same quarter of 2020.

The main driver of the unfavorable performance stems from a decrease in real value added of Livestock farming by 3.0 percent.

Mining and Quarrying registered a decrease 11.4 percent in the real value added, this was mainly influenced by the drop in the Gold and Diamond real value added by 17.5 and 12.5 percent respectively.

Diamond production in carats went down by 12.1 percent while the tonnage of Gold produced went down by 17.5 percent.

The poor performance of the diamond sub-industry is attributed to the reduction in production due to a lower grade feed to the plant at Orapa in response to heavy rainfall and operational issues, including continued power supply disruptions.

With regard to Gold is due to diminishing resource base which affect production.

The Manufacturing industry recorded a decline of 7.4 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, compared to a decrease of 2.3 percent registered in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The deep low performance in the industry is observed in the two major sub-industries of Beverages & tobacco and Diamond cutting, polishing and setting by 57.0 and 38.5 percent respectively.

The reduction in Beverages is attributed to alcohol sale ban imposed during the quarter under review in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On the other hand, exports of polished diamonds went down by 24.9 percent compared to a decrease of 11.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year.

The construction industry recorded a decline of 4.8 percent compared to an increase of 4.3 percent realized in the corresponding quarter in 2020.

This industry comprises of buildings construction, civil engineering and specialized construction activities. The industry is still showing signs of the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. The industry recorded a negative growth of 7.4 percent in the previous quarter.

Water and Electricity Water and Electricity value added at constant 2016 prices for the first quarter of 2021 was P506.2 million compared to P378.2 million registered in the same quarter of 2020, recording a growth of 33.8 percent.

In the first quarter of 2021, Electricity recorded a significant growth of 62.4 percent compared to a decrease of 67.6 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The local electricity production increased by 22.4 percent while Electricity imports decreased by 33.3 percent during quarter under review. The water industry recorded a value added of P231.3 million compared to P209.0 million registered in the same quarter of the previous year, registering an increase of 10.7 percent.

Wholesale and Retail Trade real value added increased by 11.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to an increase of 5.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The industry deals with sales of fast moving consumer goods.

Diamond Traders recorded a significant growth of 112.7 percent as opposed to a decline of 22.7 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter last year. The positive growth is due to improved demand of diamonds from the global market.

The Transport and Storage value added increased by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to a 2.4 percent increase recorded in the same quarter of the previous year.

The slight improved performance of the industry was mainly attributed to the increase in real value added of Road Transport and Post & Courier Services by 4.3 and 2.1 percent respectively.

The slow growth was influenced by a significant reduction in Air Transport services of 69.7 percent due to reduced number of passengers carried. Rail goods traffic in tonnes went down by 6.4 percent and passenger rail transport was not operating during the quarter under review.

Accommodation and Food Services Accommodation and Food Services real value added declined by 31.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a decrease of 4.4 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The reduction is largely attributed to a decrease of 42.1 percent in real value added of the Accommodation activities subindustry.

The suspension of air travel occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering the borders of the country and hence affecting the output of Hotels and Restaurants industry. COVID-19 restriction measures resulted in reduced demand for leisure and conferencing activities, as conferences are largely held through virtual platforms.

Finance, Insurance and Pension Funding industry registered a positive growth of 8.3 percent due to the favorable performance from monetary intermediation and Central Banking Services by 16.4 and 5.4 percent respectively during quarter under review.

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Business

Chobe Holdings secures P16 million for dark days

28th July 2021
Chobe Holdings

It is still tough in the tourism industry — big players in this sleeping giant are not having it easy, but options are being explored to keep the once vibrant multibillion Pula sector alive until the world gets back to normalcy.

One of the primary measures against the spread of Covid-19 is to stay home; this widely pronounced precaution against the global contagion that has claimed over 4 million lives across the world is however a thorn in the flesh of one of the major industries in the global economy — the tourism sector .

This sector is underpinned by travel – an act which is the virus‘ number one mode of spread, especially across borders.

Chobe Holdings Limited, one of Botswana’s leading high end eco-tourism giants said its survival strategies are underpinned by well-crafted stakeholder engagements in the mist of these unprecedented times of muted trading activity.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chobe continued to invest in and strengthen its relationships with key stakeholders in both its traditional markets and the SADC region,” the company directors updated shareholders this week.

To keep the business afloat, the company which owns and operates some of the exquisite tourism destinations along the banks of the mighty Chobe said it has triggered its existing available debt financing avenues.

Chobe revealed that its current overdraft of BWP 25 million has been extended on favourable terms.

The company shared that it has negotiated a further USD 1.5 million (over P16 million) standby loan with a flexible settlement terms and preferable cost implications to the bottom line.

“We are confident that the Group has sufficient cash inflows, cash reserves and un-utilized prearranged borrowing in place to settle any liabilities falling due and support the smooth recovery of operations in the short and medium term,” the company directors said, noting that they will retain the flexibility to vary operations should market conditions change.

Early this year, Chobe announced that the ongoing crisis in the tourism industry forced the company to draw from its prearranged overdraft facility of P25 million to the extent of P11.6 million.

Last year Chobe’s occupancy levels around its lodges and hotels went down 89 percent. This resulted in unprecedented revenue decline of 93% to P27.78 million from the P373.94 million in the previous year ended February 2020.

Operating profits went down 159% with profit after tax down 170%, mirroring a loss of over P67 million.

Chobe management said during the last half of the financial year they have done all they could to contain costs across the company’s operations.

During the last half of the year Chobe’s marketing and reservations teams continued to pursue the “don’t cancel but defer policy”.

“We thus continue to hold advance travel receipts, to the value of about P34 million at the financial year end,” the company revealed early this year.

Chobe said it continues to engage Government, through HATAB and BTO to prioritize the vaccination of workers in the tourism sector.

“Throughout the pandemic we have ensured that employees are trained in and comply with COVID-19 infection mitigation protocols as well as ensuring that all visitors to our remote camps and lodges as well as our staff and contractors are tested for COVID-19 before reaching the camp or lodges,” the company said.

However, the company said vaccinating the tourism staff will provide the best way to ensure that both employees and guests are protected from the virus.

“We continue to manage our cashflow through stringent cost control measures, balanced against the protection of the Group’s physical assets and the wellbeing and retention of its people,” the company said.

Chobe has successfully retained its top management through the pandemic.  To this end the company directors continue to closely monitor the Group’s recovery from COVID-19 and adjust salary reductions to support operations and aid retention.

Domestic and regional travel resumed during the second quarter of the 2020/21 financial year with the Group opening a strategic mix of camps and lodges.

A comprehensive domestic, regional and international marketing plan was put in place to support these openings.

International travel resumed in the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year with occupancies forecast to steadily increase, albeit from a low base, through the second quarter.

The company is optimistic that forward bookings are strong for the 2022/23 financial year.

“There is pent-up demand from our traditional source markets to travel now, but this is tempered by uncertainty and access constraints,” the company stated.

“Both the domestic and international markets are sensitive to such uncertainty, and it is critical that both the private and public sector work together to develop and publish clear, authoritative and consistent travel information in order to build confidence”

Chobe entered the pandemic with the Shinde camp rebuild in progress — one of its high end camps and this was completed in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year accounting for the majority of the Group’s capital expenditure for that period.

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Business

De Beers Q2 production jumps in response to strong rough diamond demand

28th July 2021
De-Beers -jwaneng-mine

De Beers Group, the world’s leading rough diamonds producer by value and Botswana’s partner in the diamond business, ramped up its production in the second quarter of 2021, in response to stronger demand for rough diamonds in the global markets.

The London headquartered diamond mining giant revealed in its production report this week that rough diamonds output  increased by 134% to 8.2 million carats in the three(3) months  of quarter 2 2021, “reflecting planned higher production to meet stronger demand for rough diamonds”.

This was against the backdrop of curtailed demand in the same quarter last year, mirroring the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns across southern Africa during that period.

In Botswana, where De Beers sources majority of its rough diamonds through partly government owned Debswana, production increased by 214% to 5.7 million carats. The percentage jump mirrored planned low production in the second quarter of 2020 where output was adjusted to market demands and implemented Covid-19 protocols.

Debswana operates four (4) Mines: Jwaneng Mine- being its flagship producer and largest revenue contributor. Jwaneng Mine which is the wealthiest diamond mine in the world by value is envisaged for multi-billion expansion to an underground operation in future to stretch its existence by few more decades.

The underground project which is anticipated to cost a whooping P65 billion will be the world‘s largest underground diamond mine.

The company which accounts for over 65 % of De Beers’s global production also operates Orapa Mine- one of the world’s largest by area, Letlhakane Mine currently a tailings treatment operation and Damtshaa Mine which is under care and maintenance following market shrink in 2020.

Namibia production decreased by 6% to 0.3 million carats, primarily due to planned maintenance of the Mafuta vessel which was completed in the quarter and another vessel remaining demobilized.  In Namibia De Beers sources diamonds both in land and marine through Namdeb and Debmarine respectfully.

In South Africa-the spiritual home ground of De Beers Group, production increased by 130% to 1.3 million carats, due to planned treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the Venetia open pit, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in Q2 2020.

Production in Canada increased by 14% to 0.9 million carats, primarily reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 measures implemented in Q2 2020.

De Beers said consumer demand for polished diamonds continued to recover, leading to strong demand for rough diamonds from midstream cutting and polishing centers, despite the impact on capacity from the severe Covid-19 wave in India during April and May.

Rough diamond sales totaled 7.3 million carats (6.5 million carats on a consolidated basis), from two Sights, reflecting the impact of the reduced Indian midstream capacity on Sight 4, compared with 0.3 million carats (0.2 million carats on a consolidated basis) from two Sights in Q2 2020, and 13.5 million carats (12.7 million carats on a consolidated basis) from three Sights in Q1 2021.

The H1 2021 consolidated average realized price increased by 13% to $135/ct (H1 2020: $119/ct), driven by an increased proportion of higher value rough diamonds sold.

While the average price index remained broadly flat, the closing index increased by 14% compared to the start of 2021, reflecting tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain as well as positive consumer demand for polished diamonds.

Full Year Guidance Production guidance is tightened to 32–33 million carats (previously 32-34 million carats (100% bases)), subject to trading conditions and the extent of any further Covid-19 related disruptions.

When commenting to 2021 quarter 2 production figures, Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of Anglo American- De Beers parent, said the entire Anglo American Group delivered a solid operational performance supported by comprehensive Covid-19 measures to help safeguard the lives and livelihoods of its workforce and host communities.

“We have generally maintained operating levels at approximately 95% of normal capacity and, as a consequence, production increased by 20% compared to Q2 of last year, with planned higher rough diamond production at De Beers” he said.

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