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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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Dark days as Aviation industry collapses

22nd November 2020
Air Botswana

As the Aviation industry takes a COVID-19 pummeling, for Africa the numbers are staggering, Chief Executive Officer of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Alexandre de Juniac has observed.

Speaking recently at the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has been hosting an Annual General Assembly, de Juniac said traffic is down 89% and revenue loses are expected to reach $6 billion. And this figure is likely to be revised downwards in the next forecast to be released later this month. “But the impact is much broader. The consequences of the breakdown in connectivity are severe,” he surmised.

According to de Juniac, five million African livelihoods are at risk while aviation-supported GDP could fall by as much as $37 billion. That’s a 58% fall.

“We have a health crisis. And it is evolving into a jobs and economic disaster. Fixing it is beyond the scope of what the industry can do by itself.”

He said they need governments to act, “And act fast to prevent a calamity.”

“We are in the middle of the biggest crisis our industry has ever faced. As leaders of Africa’s aviation industry, you know that firsthand. Airline revenues have collapsed. Fleets are grounded. And you are taking extreme actions just to survive. We all support efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is our duty and we will prevail. But policymakers must know that this has come at a great cost to jobs, individual freedoms and entire economies,” he said.

de Juniac used the AFRA general assembly platform to amplify IATA’s call for governments to address two top priorities: “The first is unblocking committed financial relief. Airlines will go bust without it. Already four African carriers have ceased operations and two are in administration. Without financial relief, many others will follow.”

Over US$31 billion in financial support has been pledged by African governments, international finance bodies and other institutions, including the African Development Bank, the African Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Unfortunately de Juniac pointed out, in his words, “Pledges do not pay the bills. And little of this funding has materialized. And let me emphasize that, while we are calling for relief for aviation, this is an investment in the future of the continent. It will need financially viable airlines to support the economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The second priority, according to IATA is to safely re-open borders using testing and without quarantines.

“People have not lost their desire to travel. Border closures and travel restrictions make it effectively impossible. Forty-four countries in Africa have opened their borders to regional and international air travel. In 20 of these countries, passengers are still subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Who would travel under such conditions?” de Juniac quizzed rhetorically.

He suggested that countries should adopt systematic testing before departure provides a safe alternative to quarantine and a solution to stop the economic and social devastation being caused by COVID-19.

He admitted that it’s a frightening time for everyone, not least the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on a functioning airline industry. Right now, de Juniac said there essentially is no airline industry. He cited the example that China’s largest airlines sound optimistic, but in a vague way. “They gave no hard data about current yields, loads, or forward bookings, discussing only developments in 2019. Boy, does that seem like ages ago.”

Aviation’s darkest days

The IATA CEO said these are the darkest days in aviation’s history. “But as leaders of this great industry I know that you will share with me continued confidence in the future.

Our customers want to fly. They desire the exploration that aviation enables. They need to do international business that aviation facilitates. And they long to reunite with family and loved ones.”

He said the industry will, no doubt, be changed by this crisis, but flying will return. “Airlines will be back in the skies. The resilience of our industry has been proven many times. We will rise again,” he said.

de Juniac said Aviation is a business of freedom. “For Africa that is the freedom to develop and thrive. And that is not something people on this continent will forget or lose their desire for.”

 

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Inflation increased to 2.2% in October 2020

22nd November 2020

Headline inflation increased from 1.8 percent in September to 2.2 percent in October 2020, but remained below the lower bound of the Bank’s medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent, and lower than the 2.4 percent in October 2019.

According to Statistics Botswana, the increase in inflation between September and October 2020 mainly reflects the upward adjustment in domestic fuel prices {Transport (from -3.9 to -2.5 percent)}, which is estimated to have increased inflation by approximately 0.29 percentage points.

“There was also a rise in the annual price increase for most categories of goods and services: Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (from 6.2 to 6.6 percent); Clothing and Footwear (from 2.5 to 2.7 percent); Communications (from 0.6 to 0.9 percent); Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels (from 6.4 to 6.6 percent); Recreation and Culture (from 0 to 0.2 percent); Miscellaneous Goods and Services (from 0.7 to 0.9 percent); Food & Non-Alcoholic Beverages (from 4.2 to 4.3 percent); and Furnishing, Household Equipment and Routine Maintenance (from 2 to 2.1 percent). Inflation remained stable for: Education (4.7 percent); Restaurants and Hotels (3 percent); and Health (1.5 percent). Similarly, the 16 percent trimmed mean inflation and inflation excluding administered prices rose from 1.8 percent and 3.1 percent to 2.2 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, in the same period.”

[Source: Bank of Botswana]

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BDC injects further P64 million into Kromberg & Schubert

22nd November 2020
BDC

Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) has to date pumped a total of P100 million into the expansion of Kromberg and Schubert, a car harnessing manufacturing company, operating from Gaborone Old Naledi.

At the official ground breaking ceremony of the company‘s new warehouse today, BDC Managing Director, Cross Kgosidiile revealed the wholly state owned investment corporation has pumped P64 million into the expansion which entailed building of the new warehouse.

Kgosidiile explained that this follows another expansion project which was successfully launched in 2017, in which BDC invested P36 million, bringing the total investment into Kromberg at P100 million. The MD also acknowledged Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) as a partner in the project and for having facilitated the acquisition of the land.

 

Giving a keynote address, Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry, Peggy Serame highlighted the importance of infrastructural development in growing the local manufacturing sector and transforming the economy of Botswana.

Serame underscored the value of strategic partnerships between Government and the private sector, noting that when the two work together and pull together in one direction results will be evident and jobs will be created.

“With the prevailing conditions of depressed economy occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic, government is reliant on entities like BDC to bring in revenue and acceleration of private sector development in line with its mandate and strategic plan. This plan is supported by the need to invest in growth sectors and accelerate the implementation of the Economic Diversification Drive,” Serame said.

Minister Serame noted that the partnership between BDC and Kromberg & Schubert begun in 2017 when the P36 million, 4100 square metres factory expansion for the company was launched.

 

She said the launch of the 7320 square meters factory expansion, to be built at the tune of P64 million signals the continuation of the good partnership between the two companies.

 

“I must commend BDC for their continuous efforts to build partnerships with the private sector geared towards contributing to economic development of this country.”

 

Minister Serame also added that BITC through its robust investor aftercare programme continues to provide value added and red carpet to Kromberg and Schubert under their One Stop Service Centre.

 

“In this regard BITC facilitated acquisition of land to enable this expansion. I therefore would like to commend BITC for their timely facilitation to make this expansion possible,” the minister said.

 

Kromberg & Schubert was incorporated in Botswana in 2009; The Company has grown to asset its position as a significant player in the regional automotive industry value chain.

 

The company is also a critical player in the economic development of Botswana, it currently employs 2100 Batswana across its operations. Kromberg exports on average P2.0 billion worth of goods annually, contributing significantly to foreign exchange.

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