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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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Gambling Authority tender dangles as a jittery lottery quandary

30th November 2020
SEFALANA MD: CHANDRA CHAUHAN

Lucrative and highly anticipated national lottery tender that saw several Batswana businessmen partnering to form a gambling consortium to pit against their South African counterparts, culminates into a big power gamble.

WeekendPost has had a chance to watch lottery showcase even before the anticipated and impending national lottery set-up launches. A lot has been a big gamble from the bidding process which is now set for the courts next year January following a marathon legal brawl involving the interest of the gambling fraternity in Botswana and South Africa.

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The uncertainty of getting the next meal in Botswana

30th November 2020
uncertainty of getting the next meal

Households representing more than half of Botswana’s population-mostly residing in rural areas- do not know where their next meal will come from, but neither do they take into consideration the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume.

This is according to the latest Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Botswana report which was done for the 2018/19 period and represents the state of food insecurity data even to this time.
The Prevalence of Food Insecurity was released by Statistics Botswana and it released results with findings that the results show that at national level 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity in 2018/19, while 22.2 percent of the population was affected by severe food insecurity only.

According to the report, this translates to 27 percent of the population being food secure that is to say having adequate access to food in both quality and quantity. According to Statistician General, Burton Mguni, when explaining how the food data was compiled, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is custodian of the “Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU)” and “Prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in the population based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)” SDG indicators, for leading FIES data analysis and the resultant capacity building.

“The FIES measures the extent of food insecurity at the household or individual level. The indicator provides internationally comparable estimates of the proportion of the population facing moderate to severe difficulties in accessing food. The FIES consists of eight brief questions regarding access to adequate food, and the questions are answered directly with a yes/no response. It (FIES) complements the existing food and nutrition security indicators such as Prevalence of Undernourishment.

According to the FIES, with increasing severity, the quantity of food consumed decreases as portion sizes are reduced and meals are skipped. At its most severe level, people are forced to go without eating for a day or more. The scale further reveals that the household’s experience of food insecurity may be characterized by uncertainty and anxiety regarding food access and compromising the quality of the diet and having a less balanced and more monotonous diet,” says Mguni.

The 50.8 percent of the population in Botswana which was affected by moderate to severe food insecurity are characterized as people experiencing moderate food insecurity and face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food. These people have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume according to the report on food insecurity.

Those who experience severe food insecurity, the 22.2 percent of the population, are people who have typically run out of food and, at worst, gone a day (or days) without eating. According to the statistics, rural area population experienced moderate to severe food insecurity at 65 percent while urban villages were at 46.60 percent and cities/town were at 31.70 percent. Those experiencing the most extreme and severe insecurity were at rural areas making 33.10 percent while urban villages and towns were at 11.90 percent and 17.50 respectively.

According to a paper compiled by Sirak Bahta, Francis Wanyoike, Hikuepi Katjiuongua and Davis Marumo and published in December 2017, titled ‘Characterization of food security and consumption patterns among smallholder livestock farmers in Botswana,’ over 70 percent of Botswana’s population reside in rural areas, and majority (70%) relies on traditional/subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods.

The study set out to characterize the food security situation and food consumption patterns among livestock keepers in Botswana. “Despite the policy change, challenges still remain in ensuring that all persons and households have access to food at all times. For example, during an analysis of the impacts of rising international food prices for Botswana, BIDPA reported that food prices tended to be highest in the rural areas already disadvantaged by relatively low levels of income and high rates of unemployment,” said the study.

According to the paper, about 9 percent of households were found to be food insecure and this category of households included 6 percent of households that ranked poorly and 3 percent that were on the borderline according to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) definition of food security.

Media reports state that the World Bank has warned that disruption to production and supply chains could ‘spark a food security crisis’ in Africa, forecasting a fall in farm production of up to 7 percent, if there are restrictions to trade, and a 25 percent decline in food imports.

Food security in Botswana or food production was also attacked by the locust pandemic which swept out this country’s vegetation and plants. The locust is said to have contributed to 25 percent loss in production.

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Solid demand for diamonds towards the ‘gift’ season

30th November 2020
Diamonds

Global lockdown have been a thorn in diamonds having shiny sales, but a lot of optimism shows with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the precious stones will be bought with high volumes towards festive season. The diamond market is however warned of the resurgence of Covid-19 in key markets presents ongoing risks amid the presence and optimist about the new Covid-29 vaccines.

The latest findings published as De Beers Group’s latest Diamond Insight ‘Flash’ Report, which looks at the impact of the pandemic on relationships and engagements, has revealed that in the US that more couples than ever are buying diamond engagement rings. Bridal sales is mostly the primary source of diamond jewellery demand in recent months, De Beers said.

According to De Beers, interviews with independent jewellers around the US revealed that the rate of couples getting engaged has increased compared with the period when Covid-19 first had an impact in the US in the spring.

“In addition, despite challenging economic times, consumers were spending more than ever on diamond engagement rings – often upgrading in colour, cut and clarity, rather than size. Several jewellers speculated that with consumers spending less on elaborate weddings and/or honeymoons in the current environment, they had more to spend on choosing the perfect ring,” said De Beers.

According to De Beers, a national survey of 360 US women in serious relationships, undertaken in late October in collaboration with engagement and wedding website, The Knot. This survey is said to have found that the majority of respondents (54%) were thinking more about their engagement ring than the wedding itself (32%) or the honeymoon (15%), supporting jewellers’ hypothesis that engagement ring sales were benefiting from reduced wedding and travel budgets in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

When it came to researching engagement rings, online was by far the predominant channel for gaining ideas/inspiration at 86% of consumers surveyed, with 85% saying they had saved examples of styles they liked, according to De Beers. According to the survey, only a uarter of respondents said they had looked in-store at a physical location for design inspiration.

“For many couples, the pandemic has brought them even closer together, in some instances speeding up the path to engagement after forming a deeper connection while experiencing lockdown and its associated ups and downs as a partnership. Engagement rings are taking on even greater symbolism in this environment, with retailers reporting couples are prepared to invest more than usual, particularly due to budget reductions in other areas,” De Beers CEO Cleaver said.

According to De Beers Group, its Diamond Insight Flash Report series is focused on understanding the US consumer perspective in light of Covid-19 and monitoring how it evolves as the crisis evolves. Also, the company said, it is augmenting its existing research programme with additional consumer, retailer and supply chain touch-basis to understand the pain points and the opportunities for stakeholders across the diamond pipeline.

Demand for diamonds is as hard and resilient as the precious stone itself. De Beers pocketed US$ 450 million in its recently held ninth rough diamond sales cycle, and the company says it is more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the ninth sales cycle of 2020, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.

“Steady demand for De Beers Group’s rough diamonds continued in the ninth sales cycle of the year, reflecting stable consumer demand for diamond jewellery at the retail level in the US and China, and expectations for reasonable demand to continue throughout the holiday season. However, the resurgence of Covid-19 infections in several consumer markets presents ongoing risks,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver recently.

High expectations are on diamonds being a sentimental gift for holiday season or as the most fetished gift. However the ninth cycle was lower than the eighth which registered US$ 467 million. For the last year period which corresponds with the current one, De Beers managed to raise US$ 400.

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