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Mascom: BPOPF, Masiyiwa in stalemate

In one morning of 2017, Boitumelo Molefe Chief Executive Officer of Botswana’s largest pension fund (BPOPF), and third largest in Africa got a demanding correspondence from one of her service providers Capital Management Botswana (CMB) that she signs an offer to purchase a minority (7%) of Mascom shares owned by Strive Masiyiwa through his company Econet by the aftyernoon on of the same day.  

CMB wanted to purchase the shares from Masiyiwa on behalf of the BPOPF.  CMB as an investment manager to the Fund one, and on the face of value would say there is nothing wrong with that. Sources close to the events state that, “There were problems on many fronts. BPOPF was given not only a subjective valuation of the shares, but there were also obscenely overpriced. 

CMB was requesting that the shares to be purchased don’t come from their allocated portion of money that they managed, but that BPOPF inject more money to them in order to buy the shares.  The timeline in which the CEO of BPOPF was to sign and accept the offer was impossible.  She literally had a few hours not to consider the offer but to agree to it.   Surely being put in the shoes of the BPOPF CEO Boitumelo Molefe, I would smell something sinister about this offer,” said the source.

“Fast forward two years down the line, the same would-be seller being Strive Masiyiwa at a joint Youth Leadership conference with government recently wants to buy more of the same shares he wanted to sell prior, and then list the company.  One might say, there’s nothing wrong in a man changing his mind.  But that’s not the point here.  Industry insiders and pension activists say the country should read a lot on the intentions of Strive Masiyiwa on Mascom.”

They decry that Masiyiwa may not be ideal for the 250,000 plus members of the BPOPF.  “BPOPF portion of shares have long been of interest from various groups.  First it was the usual ‘Big Men’ of town who wanted to take the Fund’s shares.  MTN then followed in wanting to consolidate their holdings.  Then Cater Morupisi claiming to represent government also got involved,” states the source.

Boitumelo Molefe is thought to have refused flat out to entertain the hostile purchase of Masiyiwa’s portion of shares in 2017 by CMB on behalf of BPOPF.  And this is one of many decisions that caused her relationship to go sour with her then Chairman Morupisi.  At the time BPOPF had valued Mascom at P3.5 billion pula, and yet CMB requested P700 million to purchase the 7% of Masiyiwa’s Econet shares.  At that amount it put the valuation of Mascom at P7 billion, which was way too high. 

Directly, or indirectly one then has to question the integrity of CMB.  Like any entrepreneur, Strive would have wanted maximum return for his shares.  But unfortunately for him the would-be transactors being CMB had questionable motives. “He needs to tell his side of his story, but one thing for sure he can’t fault us for wanting so desperately to question his renewed interest in Mascom.  “Once beaten, twice shy as the English language says.

At the Youth Conference, Econet Founder Strive Masiyiwa spoke of his intentions of buying MTN shares in Mascom, and then floating the company on the Botswana Stock Exchange.  He further went on to say that he would like Batswana and Mascom employees to actively participate in the IPO (Initial Public Offering).  This IPO media houses reported the listing could actually come within this year. BPOPF is thought to have had first refusal, and purchase the MTN shares but opted not to.

Said an analyst, “my considered view is that the same Strive Masiyiwa returning years later to buy more of the very same shares he wanted to sell should be put to a serious ethical test.  “More so that the actors whom he was perceived to be in cohorts with haven’t necessarily disappeared. The investment analyst continued to say hard questions should be asked of BPOPF why they didn’t exercise their right to buy more shares of Mascom. 

“Yes, a very lazy and easy excuse is that they are not in the business of telecommunications, or something along the lines that will increase their risk in the investment by buying more shares of the company…. blah blah…. blah.  “Mascom is no just a telecommunications company.  “It is a pride of the nation, just like Letshego, or a Kgalagadi Breweries. 

“What stopped BPOPF with each huge cash reserves doing exactly what Strive is going to be doing, buying the MTN shares and then listing them to reduce their concentration investment risk on the company?  “Strive Masiyiwa and his company are the only ones going to be smiling all the way to the bank.  “My gut feeling is that everything relates to this So called “Youth Conference” which was actually attended by adults, wanna-be CEOs of town. 

“Those that have long wanted to take Mascom away from us Batswana have now come wearing different clothes because it proved impossible before to do that.  “It is really upsetting that we continuously miss commercial opportunities and rather have foreigners come take what we could have done here.  “The loser here is BPOPF, and Botswana at large.”

“All said and done, we ought to question the Strive Masiyiwa transaction with MTN and Mascom.  Bad experiences unfortunately give us reason to doubt the integrity of the transaction.  “I won’t be surprised in a few years down the line we find that there were some within government that were stoking the fire at Mascom.  “Watch the space”, signed off the analyst. Contacted for comment, Molefe refused to go in detail with the deal saying it was confidential, “safe to say MTN approached them with information that they intend to sell their shares.”

BPOPF PUSHES FOR 73%

But it has since surfaced that BPOPF has taken a hardline approach to the issue and wants to own 73% stake in Mascom. BPOPF is of the view that the proposed transaction by Econet will result in change of controller hence they must be a choice to exercise their pre-emptive rights as the shareholders agreement. Masiyiwa is said to have raised an unsolicited offer to buy the shares currently held by MTN.

It is said that the parties involved in this proposed transaction do not agree with the interpretation of clause 12 of the shareholders agreement that deals with sale of shares and change of controller. The regulator, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) is said to have demanded certain information from Mascom but it is not forthcoming because the parties cannot agree on its release. The Mascom Board, which is made up of three BPOPF representatives and three MTN representatives is expected to meet to discuss the matter, but a stalemate is projected.

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Food prices continue to rise, but at a slower rate

28th November 2022

Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

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Still doing business the old way?

18th November 2022

It’s time to get business done better with MTN Business Botswana’s ICT Solutions.

Running a digital businessMTN Business Solutions Botswana, popularly known as MTN Business is an Internet Service Provider. We are a subsidiary of MTN Group Limited, a multinational telecommunications Group headquartered in South Africa, which operates in 19 markets across Africa and the Middle East.

More and more, clients are looking for ways to keep their staff productive in a dynamically changing business environment. Whether your people are working from home, the office or abroad, there is a growing recognition that digitising your operations can offer unprecedented commercial value in flexibility, productivity and growth. This new, digital reality means that it is more important than ever to stay agile – if there is anything that can slow a business down, it is being burdened by othatld technology.

Having made substantial investments in fibre technology, high-speed terrestrial and undersea networks and new frequency spectrum across the markets wherein it operates, MTN is perfectly positioned to respond to this shift in the market.

A few years ago, MTN also made the decision to build an IP capable radio network for its mobile services, giving its core network the ability to seamlessly integrate with enterprise IP networks. The mobile towers deliver services to enterprise clients absolutely anywhere it has a network, shortening the last mile and removing complexity and cost.

Now there is increasing demand from clients to connect their remote sites in all areas, including rural and semi- rural. MTN has assisted clients with overcoming this connectivity hurdle, enabling their staff to get the job done wherever they are.
MTN’s evolution

For MTN, the focus has shifted from just being a core telecommunications services provider, towards also becoming a technology solutions provider. The service offering now also includes Unified Communications, Data Hosting and Cloud Solutions, Security-As-A-Service and Managed Network Services. The scope has changed to being client and industry specific, so the requirements and service portfolio vary from one client to the next. The expectation is that a company like MTN must respond to these challenges, helping clients to get business done better as they shift from old to new technologies.

As many businesses continue to grapple with a digitally dynamic world, they face new challenges that have to be solved. This environment will benefit those that are more digitally enabled and agile. It is a brave new world that will favour online over on-site, wireless over wired and fluid over formulaic. Businesses will seek out partners and suppliers that are every bit as flexible and forward-looking as they are.
Ultimately, clients need partners like MTN Business that will invest in infrastructure, deliver the services they require, have market credibility, are financially sound and have a long-term commitment to their market presence.

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BIE to vitalize the Dignity of Engineers

9th November 2022

Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in  which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.

The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.

Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.

“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.

He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.

Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.

“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.

He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.

He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc

“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran

Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.

“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.

Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that  the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.

“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.

He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.

“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams

He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .

Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution  said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.

“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.

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