Canadian rare diamonds powerhouse Lucara has posted positive revenue figures from its third quarter sales tender, well within the company’s projections. The BSE listed top gem producer this week said figures were thus far looking impressively good for the company when taking into account current global rough diamonds slow market performance.
Lucara through its wholly owned subsidiary, Lucara Botswana runs and owns Karowe Mine, as the sole shareholder. Karowe is located in the outskirts of Letlhakane Village in the Boteti district of Botswana. On August 29th Lucara closed its third diamond tender sale of the year. The company says despite challenging market conditions, the tender was extremely well attended with a total of 123 companies attending and 47 companies winning one or more tender lots.
In the three completed tenders of the year a total of 19 diamonds sold for in excess of $1 million USD, including 7 for more than $ 2 million USD and one for over $ 8 million USD. Lucara Diamond Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer, Eira Thomas said revenue received was in line with expectations and in line with the Company, meeting the yearly guidance of $ 170 to $ 200 million USD in revenue.
Thomas said her company continues trading on positive trajectories with continued strong performance of Karowe mine as well as the consistent recovery of large, high quality diamonds that contribute more than 70% of Lucara’s total revenues. “Attendance at our sales remains high, a testament to our well established client base and Karowe’s production profile, which continues to be well regarded and sought after in the marketplace,” she observed.
CLARA – THE DISTRUPTOR
The Vencuvour , Canada based Executive added that Lucara’s digital diamond trading and sales platform Clara continues to disrupt the gem sales space “Our performance is further evidenced by our growth with the client base for Clara which has grown from 4 to over 20 customers since the beginning of the year. Ramp up continues on plan, with transactions now occurring bi-weekly.” She said.
This week US based global business media house Bloomberg reported that Lucara’s Clara Diamond Solution is set to transform the diamond supply value chain. Bloomberg says modern technology has been making serious inroads into the diamonds traditional industry. “Advances in software, scanning and now block chain are disrupting long-established business practices” noted the US based media outfit.
Clara Diamond Solutions is a secure, web-based, digital sales platform. It uses proprietary analytics, combined with cloud and block chain technologies to completely modernize the diamond supply chain. Eira Thomas says feedback on the Clara Diamond Solutions platform has been overwhelmingly positive. “Customers return after their first experience, having saved considerable time and money,” shared Thomas.
Thomas explained that Clara’s approach transforms current sales practices, driving efficiencies and unlocking value for producers and manufacturers alike. The platform operates under an exclusive collaboration agreement with Sarine Technologies, a well-established service provider of diamond scanning and planning technologies used by the diamond manufacturing companies globally.
She elaborated that for the producers, Clara helps reach a broader customer base and allows for continuous sales, which helps smooth out cash flows. “By sidestepping purchasing in batches, manufacturers don’t have to finance unwanted inventory and resell unwanted diamonds. All of this means more certainty, transparency and profits for producers and manufacturers,” she said. Thomas says Clara will continue to help maximize the value Lucara receives for Karowe diamonds, as demand is increased, and will because it is a completely scalable offering ,be opened up to other producers to try as well.
ANOTHER TOP GEM RECOVERY
On Wednesday Lucara announced yet another high value recovery from Karowe, this time around the underground terrains of the magnificent Karowe open pit birthed a 123 carat gem quality top white Type II diamond. The high value precious stone was recovered from direct milling ore sourced from the EM/PK(S) unit of the South Lobe. The EM/PK(S) has also delivered several other high value diamonds including the 1,109 carat Lesedi La Rona, the 813 carat Constellation and the recently recovered 1,758 carat Sewelô.
The Botswana Stock Exchange listed diamond outfit says the EM/PK is an important economic driver for the underground feasibility study which is currently underway and scheduled for completion in Q4 later this year. A 375 carat gem quality diamond was also recently recovered at Karowe from the processing of historic DMS recovery tailings, generated prior to the incorporation of Lucara’s XRT diamond recovery circuits.
Karowe continues to have strong production performance year to date, with recovery from direct milling ore of 22 individual, +100 carat diamonds, including 6 greater than 200 carats. “Reprocessing of historic DMS recovery tailings (pre-XRT circuit) is ongoing. Processing of these tailings does not displace direct feed ore, but rather supplements overall production.”
Karowe is the only mine in recorded history to have recovered two diamonds larger than 1,000 carats. The Sewelô was an unbroken 1,758 carat near gem-quality diamond recovered in April this year. It was the largest diamond from the Karowe mine so far, and one of the largest diamonds in the world, while being the largest ever from Botswana. Since 2012, Lucara has recovered 14 diamonds above 300 carats, with two surpassing the 1,000-carat threshold. To date, the company has sold 10 diamonds above USD$10 million each.
Year to date, from all processing, the mine has produced 29 diamonds weighing more than 100 carats, including 8 diamonds gauging over 200 carats. Karowe has open pit reserves allowing for a mine life that will reach 2026. However, robust output since mining began in 2012 has management excited about organic growth. Studies are underway to assess the feasibility of extending Karowe’s mine life for at least another ten years to 2036 by expanding the mine underground.
The Company’s $14.9 million program for 2019 consists of ongoing drilling, sampling and geotechnical studies. Included in this effort is an updated resource statement, which indicates higher grades and potentially coarser diamond size-frequency distribution at depth. Moreover, test pumping, modelling and outfitting of new de-watering wells have helped significantly de-risk the underground mining potential. Thomas says the Feasibility Study results for an underground mine are expected in Q4 this year, and a construction decision should be made by H1 next year, “so investors can anticipate continued updates regarding mine potential,” Thomas concluded.
This week, Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL), the country’s only listed telecoms company, released its annual report for the financial year ended 31st March 2021.
The company, listed on the local bourse in a historic IPO in 2016, has been grappling with the uphill task of transforming from a wholly state-owned organisation to a fully commercial publicly listed entity. This excise has seen some financial years registering a decline in both revenue and profits.
On Tuesday, BTCL reported a significant rise in profits, attributable to a slight pick-up in revenue and serious cost containment measures. The beginning of the fiscal year saw the implementation of the company’s new three-year strategy, which is focused on strengthening the core business, optimising efficiencies and return on assets, and pursuing growth opportunities.
The start of the financial year coincided with the implementation of the national measures to contain the COVID-19 virus, leading to national lockdowns, which placed pressure on the BTCL performance for the first half of the year. “However, we have since seen a decent recovery in our financial performance year-on-year,” said BTCL Managing Director Anthony Masunga
BTCL Group, which comprises among other business segments: mobile, fixed and broadband, has reported revenue of P1.43 billion, which is a 1% increase over the prior year. According to BTCL directors, this increase in revenue was driven by the monetisation of significant investments in fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure in support of high-speed internet service at homes and offices across most parts of the country.
“We delivered a strong double-digit growth in profit after tax of 16% when compared with the prior year, driven by the slight increase in revenue and robust cost reduction strategies that improved EBITDA to P463 million, leading to an increase in cash,” Masunga explained. Cash and cash equivalents significantly increased by 20.4%, from P120 million in the prior year to P364 million at the end of March 2021.
The increase was driven by a positive cash conversion ratio of 52% and favourable working capital resulting from debt collection measures during the year. Masunga explained that the healthy cash balance enabled the BTCL to finance further expansion of its mobile data network and replace traditional copper connections with fibre to better support the needs of its customers.
“The uptake of our data products has been growing steadily, with the improving quality of service leading to increased revenues even as voice revenues declined,” he said. The cost of services and goods sold reduced by 3% from P612 million to P594 million when compared to the previous year, leading to an increase in gross profit for the year by 3%, an increase of P27 million to P832 million, translating to an improvement in gross profit margin from 57% to 58%.
Despite the increase in the top line, which would have led to a rise in the cost base, the Group Continued with its robust cost containment measures, leading to a slight increase in all other operating costs by P3 million. The control of costs led to an overall increase in the earnings before interest, depreciation, taxation and amortisation (EBIDTA) by P55 million, with a margin expansion of 370 basis points compared to the previous year.
The operating margin increased by 2% to 13%, coming from the earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) to P186 million, a P24 million increase compared to the prior-year figure of P163 million. Net interest increased significantly, driven by the new accounting treatment of the IRU liability. All the above led to an overall increase in the profit before tax of P27 million, which increased to reportable gain to P166 million.
The Group ended the year with a P135 million profit after tax compared to P117 million for the same period last year with a tax expense of P31 million in the current year, which is higher when compared to the P22 million reported in 2020. Therefore, the Group delivered an impressive 16% increase year-on-year with a 9% net profit margin, compared to 8% in the prior year.
BTCL continues to dominate the fixed-line business despite a continued reduction in the demand for fixed lines globally and locally. Trends continue to show an increased shift of consumer preference to mobile communications, a direction according to Anthony Masunga is due to his company’s “increased flexibility, convenience, and innovation.’
BTCL’s mobile phone market also continued to grow during the year, with many consumers owning multiple SIM cards from the three mobile network operators. Smega, BTC’s Mobile Money Services, saw significant growth in subscriptions during the year, and we expect to attract more customers as the Group continues the Visa card rollout.
Masunga boasted that Smega could interact with traditional banking systems, offering more convenience to BTCL customers. “The platform supports greater financial inclusion for the country’s sizeable unbanked population,” he said. BTC Board Chair Lorato Ntakhwana said that in the future, the 51 percent government-owned telecom giant will bank on its new 3-year strategy for growth paths.
She revealed that the new strategy would build on the great foundation set by its predecessor, enabling BTC to reap the full benefits of its digital infrastructure investment to drive the growth of the business.
Ntakhwana explained that the digital transformation of the business underpins the strategy to realise enhanced efficiencies and continue to maximise the utilisation of its technologies. “We remain committed to transforming BTC into a digital services company, leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution to create maximum shareholder value. We see technology and digitisation as a vehicle to the provision of solutions to the nation’s challenges,” she said.
First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) has released its audited summarised consolidated financial statement for the year ended 30 June 2021. According to the statement, the balance sheet reduced by 6% year-on-year primarily due to declining gross advances to customers. Credit risk remained heightened amid the prevalent economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bank said it continued to apply a prudent approach to lending to ensure responsible and manageable consumer exposure, which resulted in a decline in gross customer advances by 7% while gross market advances increased by 4%.
Retail advances experienced a sharp decline of 7%, while the Botswana retail market increased by 9%. According to the bank’s financial statement, the decline was driven by competitive pressures, with the market extending loan tenures, resulting in increased market debt. However, the bank maintained its existing affordability criteria and a selective approach to retail exposure.
The corporate segment experienced remarkable growth of 19% year on year. In comparison, the commercial advances portfolio reduced 19% because of a cautious lending risk appetite, a reduction in the Non-Performing Loans (NPL) and the overall lack of growth in the market.
The combined result of FNBB’s commercial and corporate advances was a decline of 7% against the overall comparable decrease of 3% in the market. While actively looking for the opportunities arising out of the anticipated recovery pattern, the bank said it would continue to be cautious in maintaining the quality of its credit book.
NPLs, according to FNBB financial declined by 11% year-on-year from P1.2 billion to P1.09 billion, resulting in a NPL/gross advances ratio of 7.3% as of 30 June 2021. FNBB stressed that reduction in NPL was primarily due to a recoverability assessment of long-outstanding NPL loans resulting in the write-off of irrecoverable loans. The closing provision levels remain appropriate.
The June 2020 deposit portfolio experienced significant growth following the reduced spending commensurate with the lockdown restrictions and deferred capital expenditure cycles by corporates. In the June 2021 results, deposits declined from P23.2bn to P21.4bn (8% decline), driven by an increase in activity following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the normalisation of the market liquidity.
Investment securities declined by 17% year-on-year following the normalisation of market liquidity to pre COVID-19 levels. The decline was driven by the drop in short term assets at the back of the decrease in demand deposits.
FNBB indicated that it had demonstrated a resilient performance amid COVID-19 uncertainty shown by maintaining the profit before tax despite the significant reduction in the Bank Rate. This was underpinned by the normalisation of credit losses and a resilient non-interest revenue (NIR) base. Return on equity of 18.2% (2020: 20.1%) has declined due to the conservative level of capital held over the financial year, as well as the 2% reduction in profit after tax.
The past year has presented itself as a real and severe economic test, and FNBB has shown that its income streams are resilient while a critical focus has been on strengthening the balance sheet. A decrease of 15% in interest income was driven by the reduction in the Bank Rate, the decline in the advances book, and a change in the advances portfolio mix.
This was further driven by the fall in the cash and investment portfolio interest income due to the reduction in risk-free rates and lower yields across investment securities for a portion of the year. Interest expense decreased 22% following an 8% decrease in deposits and the Bank Rate reduction. The deposit mix shifted from overnight deposits to term deposits as clients sought higher yields.
Impairments declined by 43% year-on-year, driven by a 49% reduction in both Stage 1 and 2 impairments, as well as a 40% reduction in Stage 3 impairments. The stage 1 and 2 impairment decline followed a reduction in the gross advances exposure and the normalisation of impairments in June 2021.
The Stage 3 impairments decline, is attributed to a reduction in defaults over the period, with the bank has partnered with clients to help their businesses through the pandemic. The P180m reduction in impairments decreases the credit loss ratio to 1.6% (2020: 2.6%).
De Beers Group on Wednesday announced the value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for the seventh sales cycle of 2021.
Figures show continued growth in rough sales, bolstered by solid demand for polished goods in the key markets of the United States of America and China. The 2021 cycle seven rough sales clocked a provisional figure of $514 million, a slight increase from $513 million recorded in the previous cycle. The jump, however, is a significant increase when mirrored against the 2020 cycle 7 figure of $334 million.
Owing to the restrictions on the movement of people and products in various jurisdictions around the globe, De Beers Group continued to implement a more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the seventh sales cycle of 2021, with the Sight event extended beyond its typical week-long duration.
As a result, the provisional rough diamond sales figure quoted for Cycle 7 represents the expected sales value for 23 August to 7 September. It remains subject to adjustment based on final completed sales. Commenting on the sales results Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group, said sentiment in the diamond industry’s midstream continues to be positive, as reflected in the company’s sales for Sight 7.
Cleaver explained that demand for rough diamonds results from robust demand for polished diamonds in De Beers’sBeers’s key markets of the US and China. He highlighted that the midstream’s optimism for the remainder of the year was also evident at the recent JCK Las Vegas trade show, which was a success despite being held under challenging circumstances.
“As we now head towards a traditionally slower period for rough diamond sales, we remain cognisant of the risks to economic recovery from the global pandemic,” he said. De Beers impressive rough sales run is against the backdrop of performance come back in the first half of the year.
The revenue for the first six (6) months of 2021 demonstrated resilience and an impressive comeback following a devastating 2020. The more significant part of 2020, in particular, the first half of the year, was characterized by low demand across the entire diamond value chain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Countries put measures to curb the spread of the virus that broke out of China in late 2019; this came with travel restrictions that curtailed the movement of goods and people, reducing trade to record low levels. However, this year as crucial markets continue to reopen and exhibit signs of pre-covid demand levels, De Beers total revenue for the first half of 2021 increased significantly to $2.9 billion (Over P32 billion) from $1.2 billion (P13 billion), mirroring a jump of over 141%.
The growth in revenue for the first half of the year was bolstered by continued recovery in global consumer demand for diamonds, as the industry dusts itself from the impact of Covid-19, supported by fiscal stimulus in the US and the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines. Restrictions on international travel and entertainment over the pandemic resulted in higher discretionary spending on luxury goods, including diamond jewellery.
In the first six months of 2021, the cutting centres achieved strong sales of polished diamonds in response to the ongoing recovery of consumer demand. However, the severe Covid-19 wave in India during April and May reduced capacity to cut and polish operations within the critical Indian midstream sector, further exacerbated by polished diamond grading backlogs in critical markets.
The relative shortage of polished supply contributed to a positive, polished price trend in the first half of 2021. The recovery of demand in all parts of the pipeline enabled rough diamond producers to destock at the start of 2021. This robust demand, combined with supply constraints arising from production challenges, created a favourable dynamic in the first half of 2021 that supported higher rough diamond prices.
At half-year, De Beers rough diamond sales had risen to $2.6 billion from $1.0 billion in the half-year 2020, and this was driven by robust rough diamond demand as the midstream pulled through stocks in response to the recovery in consumer demand, with rough diamond sales volumes significantly higher at 19.2 million carats from 8.5 million carats in the first six (6) months of 2020.