Diversified energy and coal exploration outfit Maatla Energy has closed in a deal to acquire majority shareholding in Jindal BVI Ltd from Jindal Steel & Power Limited, a Mauritius conceived global energy conglomerate owned by Indian Billionaire Industrialist Naveen Jindal, Weekendpost has established.
Maatla Energy is a multibillion pula mid-tier coal mining company in Botswana wholly owned by Maatla Resources Limited. The company is currently developing a coal export mine in Mmamabula Coal Fields, 145 kilometers north of Gaborone. The Mmamabula Coal Project contains over 90Mt of high-grade thermal coal. Maatla Energy is also currently conducting feasibility study to explore setting up Coal- Liquefaction Plant in around the operation.
On the other hand Jindal BVI is an investment company incorporated in accordance with the Laws of the British Virgin Islands. It is controlled by Jindal Steel & Power Limited; an investment company registered in Mauritius.Jindal BVI is involved in the mining and metallurgy industry with subsidiaries in Barbados, Bahamas, Mauritius and Botswana. In Botswana, Jindal BVI is present through Jindal Resources (Pty) Ltd a coal exploration and mining company, Trans Africa Rail (Pty) Ltd a railway construction company and Jindal Energy Botswana (Pty) Ltd a power and energy Management outfit.
Jindal BVI ‘s other subsidiaries in Botswana are Meepong Group of Companies encompassing Meepong Resources (Pty) Ltd a mining and management company , Meepong Energy (Pty) Ltd power station operation company in Mmamabula, as well as ,Meepong Services (Pty) Ltd and Meepong Water (Pty) Ltd focusing on infrastructural and water abstraction respectively. All these subsidiaries under Jindal BVI were set up as operation companies for the Mmamabula Coal projects.
Reports from global media outfits indicate that Maatla Energy has put a price offer of $150 million for the acquisition of 97.44% of issued share capital in Jindal BVI a holding company housing all the above subsidiaries. In March this year Competition Authority Botswana as a regulatory requirement floated a merger notice in the market calling for expression of any opposition against the proposed acquisition.
Reports confirming Jindal Steel & Power Limited (JSPL) divestment from Jindal BVI suggests the transaction is predominately motivated by JSPL‘s quest to pare debt at group level.JSPL is reported to have a total outstanding debt of Rs 40,000 crore(over $5.6 billon) as on March 2019.
Company Executives have confirmed that JSPL has entered into a share purchase agreement to divest its stake in the Botswana project for a consideration of around $150 million as part of its international portfolio rationalization, an undertaking focusing at disposing some of JSPL mines and minerals assets across Australia, Asia and Africa.
“The assets are being rationalized and monetized keeping in view their long-term viability, the raw material security for JSPL and the profitability of each of these businesses. The Group has been combing each asset, with a view of either exiting it or building it, to add to the bottom-line,” disclosed JSPL on various market platforms.
Jindal Africa, a subsidiary of JSPL, bought the coal explorations which are also around Mmamabula from CIC Energy for $116 million in 2012, as part of its global expansion. The project plan also included setting up a 1,200-Mw power plant in the area. The company has investment and business ventures in other Southern African markets such as Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania and Madagascar. However, with rising debt and global slowdown in the coal and steel market over the past few years, JSPL is selling off its international ventures to reduce its debt burden.
Maatla Energy exploration parameter, Mmamabula is one of the main coalfields in Botswana and contains more than 90 million tonnes of high grade thermal coal. Maatla’s Mmabula flagship mine has a life in excess of 25 years and is targeting initial production of 50 000 t/m, ramping up to 100 000 t/m within the first year of production. Currently site establishment and construction activities are underway with first coal sales expected in 2019.
There is an upward movement in the international coal price and an increasing demand for the high grade sized coal in the Southern Africa inland market. The Mmamabula coal mine will produce high grade coal for cement and lime producers, paper mills, chemical industries, brick works, breweries, sugar estates, hospitals and for general boiler applications in Southern Africa.
Maatla Resources says its mission is to develop the coalfields of Mmamabula to generate and supply coal which will power Botswana’s economy and assist in achieving energy security in the long term. With this acquisition Maatla Energy now stands to be a major player in the Mmamabula Coal exploration rush and Botswana’s coal industry as a whole.
Botswana’s Coal Industry
Botswana has over 200 billion tonnes of coal deposits underground, though the world is moving to green technology experts say the lucrative deposits cannot go unnoticed and be left untapped. Briton Billionaire Global Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson also shared the same sentiments when headlining the 2017 Global Expo. He urged Botswana to explore coal deposits for industrialization, economic diversification and most importantly creation of much needed jobs as well as GDP growth in the interim while the country seeks environmental friendly energy generation alternatives.
Amongst international companies who are exploring the coal business and its value chain in Botswana are Tlou Energy, Shumba Energy, and Minergy all which are listed on Botswana Stock Exchange. Currently the only operating coal mine is Morupule Colliery founded by mining giant Debswana Diamond Company. Morupule is now wholly owned by government through Mineral Development Corporation (MDC).
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”