Chobe Holdings Limited, Botswana’s domestic tourism and hospitality group posted positive results for their financial year ended February 2019 after making several new acquisitions as well as renovations in their existing camps and lodges during the prior year.
According to financial results released by the Botswana Stock Exchange listed group, during the period under review occupancy increased by 5 percent due to growth in available beds following renovations at Chobe Game Lodge and the addition of Dinaka to the Group’s portfolio.
During the financial year, the Group spent, from internally generated cash flows, P82.4 million on the purchase of game drive vehicles, boats, a Cessna caravan significantly improving existing buildings and equipment. Chobe further reports that the acquisition of Dinaka Safari Lodge and the three property owning companies 1st September 2017 by Ker and Downey Botswana, a wholly subsidiary of Chobe, forming the Dinaka Conservancy, gave rise to P26.6 million goodwill.
The lodge was subsequently rebranded and reopened as a Ker & Downey property n 1st March 2018. Furthermore Chobe says during the financial year under review the company commenced the induction and boarding of agents through Dinaka on educational tours to familiarize themselves with the concept of conservancy tourism, a pioneering and otherwise non-traditional Botswana. According to Chobe Executive management height end conservancy tourism is relatively new to Botswana, with currently no existing entities to benchmark with. “We have therefore used currently available booking data and cash flows from existing camps as models, modifying them to estimate future cash flows from cash flows for Dinaka, to assess the goodwill for impairment in accordance with IFRS” explained J M Gibson, Chobe CEO and Deputy Chairman. The assessment according to Gibson indicated that there was need to write down the goodwill by P7.4 million. On the revenue front, figures went up by13 percent after a boost from increased bed night’s old, marginal increase in achieved bed night rates in US Dollar terms and depreciation of the Pula against the US Dollar. When gauged against the financial year ended February 2018 Chobe also attributes increased occupancy figures to enhanced marketing efforts. Group Profit after tax closed the year at 15 percent increase when gauged against the previous year end. Yearend operating cost figures grew by 14 percent, which considered satisfactory in light of increased volumes of business and current inflation levels. During the year under review Chobe distributed P1.5 million to phantom share scheme, a window opened in February 2013 which allows employees participation in the dividend distribution of the Group. The scheme allows all qualifying staff to share equally in a bonus which is calculated to be equal to the value of dividends attaching to three million shares in the Company. Post February 2019 Chobe through its wholly owned subsidiary Ker & Downey Botswana acquired the entire issued stated capital of Nelle Investments ,a property owning holding leases for two game farms in the Hainaveld area for a cash consideration of P15.4 million financed using the Group ‘s internal cash resources . Chobe says the two properties will be utilised to increase the extent of the land holdings currently held by Dinaka Conservancy. Going forward Chobe says it continues to invest considerable resources to improve its marketing strategies, product offerings and cost controls. “The Group’s strong cash position provides us with the opportunities that may arise.” Said Gibson. Tourism in Botswana is earmarked to provide much needed economic diversification away from mining. This diversification drive, according to the World Tourism Organization needs however, to be cautiously applied to avoid “over tourism”, a relatively new buzzword for tourism congestion, management and carrying capacity. “Over tourism” identifies that the true challenge is not so much the number of visitors, but the capacity to manage them. All this whilst preserving the environment. Chobe says the continued underperformance of Air Botswana hinders growth in the sector. “For the tourism industry to grow to its full potential there is need to have other airlines with relatively reliable performance to be introduced to the Botswana skies both domestically and internationally” said Chobe Boss in the financial statement. Chobe Holdings Limited owns and operates, through its wholly owned subsidiaries, eleven eco-tourism lodges and camps on leased land in Northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip in Namibia with a combined capacity of 314 beds under the brands Desert & Delta Safaris and Ker & Downey Botswana. Safari Air, a wholly owned air charter operator, provides air transport services to the group's camps and lodges. Desert and Delta Safaris (SA) (Pty) Ltd, another wholly owned subsidiary operating in South Africa, provides reservation services to the group. The company got incorporated in Botswana in 1983 and listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange in September 29th 1999.
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”