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INCOME TAX AMENDMENT 2018: Property Companies feel the heat

The 2018 amendment of the income tax regime which took effect from December  last year has caused a stir in the property industry with some companies crying foul and proposing a re-look into the new dispensation.

PrimeTime Properties, one of the leading property companies in Botswana, also operating in Zambia reported this week that the Income Tax amendment 2018 was hurting its investor take home as a company listed on Botswana Stock Exchange. The company further went on to highlight that the current income tax at play paints a blur picture on their business future outlooks. “We cannot talk about the Group’s future prospects without highlighting the effect on our investors of the recently introduced Income Tax Amendment Act 2018.  

As advised in the recent interest payment announcement made in February 2019, this Act limits the deduction of net interest expense in calculating taxable income and will result in the Company suffering income tax on its profits prior to their distribution as debenture interest,” writes PrimeTime executives in its interim financial results released on Wednesday. The company shared that the Act which was passed in December 2018 retrospectively affects the Group current financial period commencing 1 September 2018 as no transitional provisions for its implementation have been imparted.  

New African Properties another BSE listed group owning assets such as Riverwalk mall shared the same sentiment when reporting for their half year financial performance ended January 2019. The company highlighted that following Income Tax Amendment Act promulgated in late December 2018, it has emerged that the extent to which variable rate Loan Stock (VRLS) companies are able to treat debenture interest declared to unit holders as a deduction in determining taxable income will be limited

New African Property further revealed that it has initiated engagement with regulators to investigate avenues for reinstating the VRLS exemption, which retain the principle of VRLS companies being a conduit for net rentals earned in line with globally accepted norms. “We are seeking to reverse or delay the impact of this amendment on the current financial year, especially when considering that it was promulgated five month into the financial period” said NAP in its report released last month.

The BSE listed retail group says they have successfully assessed and qualified the maximum possible impact for the first half to be a loss of P10.2 million from its distributable dividend  in the event that no favorable solution is reached but, given the ongoing engagements referred to above, no provision has been made in these results for this tax charge. “ Should we be unsuccessful in obtaining any revision to the amendment as currently enacted, the tax charge will be recognized in the year results” said NAP.

NAP says its anticipation is that it will be able to fund payment of the initial tax liability for the current financial year from available cash without impacting the current year’s total distributions. However, such an approach will not be sustained in future periods and the amendment will thus impact on the quantum of the future distributions if it remains in force as promulgated.

This week Prime Time Properties shared that its board of directors was currently assessing what options are available to the Group in order to protect the unitholders interests in this regard, as well as working actively with the listed property sector to find a workable long-term solution.

For Prime time which was reporting for their half year period ended February 2019 estimates of the taxation payable have been made in these interim financials and the provisional tax payable of P4.5m for the period has been provided for. The company communicated that the interest distribution already paid for the 4 months to 31 December 2018 was adjusted for the tax cost.

The 2018 Income Tax amendment Bill was passed parliament late last year after an urgent proposition to legislators by Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Matambo with a view to clean Botswana and remove the tax haven tag that was painted about the country worldwide.

When presenting the bill then, Minister Matambo told lawmakers that it was critical that the amended Bill be passed to enable Botswana to meet the requirements with the Forum on Harmful Tax Practices, an initiative of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). “Such amendment is mainly to remove the features that have been identified as potentially harmful by the Forum on Harmful Tax Practices. Based on the commitment to amend the Act, Botswana is scheduled for a final review by the Forum on Harmful Tax Practices in January 2019” he said

He convinced Members of Parliament that the passage of the Bill was a move imperative to put Botswana on the right path, so as to be able to pass the January 2019 review by this Forum on Harmful Tax Practices. Matambo emphasized to parliament that it was important for Botswana to amend the act in order to remove what he termed “the ring-fencing in order to comply with the requirements of the Forum on Harmful Tax Practices” and also to revitalize the sector. The amendment‘s effect was that that the process of offshore trade would still be taxed at 15 per cent, while those of domestic trade will be taxed at the normal rate of 22 per cent.

Ever since the amendment  was announced observers have been sharing different views about the act , Tumelo Rannau a local tax expert and commentator observed in his series of opinion publication on this newspaper that though some developments such as restricting trading to related parties is a welcome development  about move as it is aligned to international practice, the new amendment may result in the country being less competitive compared to countries that we have been competing with such as Seychelles and Mauritius.



“This may lead to loss in revenue in terms of directors’ fees, company secretary fees, legal fees, audit fees, and general business expenses to those that provided support services.  Income that would otherwise be earned through spending on transport and accommodation by foreign investors visiting the country is also likely to be lost. Though it is always good to get accolades from organizations such as OECD, it is important to consider the country’s needs and strive towards ensuring that unemployment is reduced” he said.

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Pula smiles at COVID-19 vaccine

25th November 2020
COVID-19 vaccine

A squeaky and glittering metaphoric smile was the look reflected from the Pula against the greenback this week and money market researchers lean this on optimism following Monday’s announcement of another Covid-19 vaccine which is said to have boosted emerging market economies.

With other emerging market currencies, the Pula too reacted to optimism and fanfare on the new Covid-19 vaccine against the weakening US dollar which has been losing its shine since the uncertainty laden US elections.

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Choppies high on JSE rollercoaster volatility

25th November 2020
CHOPPIES

After bouncing back into the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) last week Friday, following a year of being in the freezer, the Choppies stock started this week with much fluidity.

Choppies was suspended in both the Botswana Stock Exchange and its secondary listing at the JSE for failure to publish financial results. Choppies suspension on Botswana Stock Exchange was lifted on 27 July 2020. On Friday last week, when suspension was being lifted, Choppies explained that this came into fruition “following extensive engagement with the JSE.”

Choppies stock, prior to suspension, hit a mammoth decline in value of more than 60 percent, especially in September 2018. Waking from a 24 month freezer, last week the Choppies share price was at R0.64 and the stock did not make any movement.

However, Monday was the day when Choppies stock moved vibrantly, albeit volatile. Choppies’ value was on a high volatile mood on Monday, reaching highs of 200 percent. At noon, the same Monday, the Choppies share had reached R1.05. Before taking an uphill movement, Choppies stock slightly slipped by 2 cents. But the Choppies share rode up high and by lunch time the stock had reached the day’s summit of R2.00 and that was at 13:30 when investors were buying the stock for lunch.

The same eventful Monday saw gloom on the faces of Choppies rivals, when Choppies gained by 220.31 percent around lunch time its rivals in the JSE Food & Drug Retailers sector were licking wounds. Spar lost 2.94 percent, Pick Pay fell by 2.43 percent, Shoprite 7.52 percent and Dis-Chem 1.98 percent. The only gainer was Clicks by a paltry 0.51 percent.

In an interview with BusinessPost, Choppies sponsors at the JSE PSG Capital Managing Director Johan Holtzhausen explained that the retailer’s stock was in high demand after a long suspension. He said when a company list or a suspension is lifted the market needs to find itself on the pricing of the share.

“Initially when the suspension was lifted there were more buyers than sellers. As far as we could see this created a shortage of shares so to speak and resulted in the price at which the shares traded going to R1.20 and eventually R2.05 before finding its level around R0.80 sent from a JSE perspective.

This is marked dynamics and reflect that there are investors that are positive about the stock in the long run. This is a snapshot over a short period and one requires a longer period to draw further conclusions,” said Holtzhausen in an interview talking about the Choppies stock.

On Monday this week where the Choppies value grew by 200 percent, the stock took a turn looking down, closing the day at R0.87 from a high of R2.00. According to local stockbroker Motswedi Securities on Monday while there was no movement by Choppies in the local stock exchange as the retailer appeared on the board as 141,000 shares traded at P0.60 each.

However in Choppies’ secondary listing the stock price rallied to over 200 percent during intraday trading on Monday before losing steam and declining to around R0.87 share.

Before press yesterday Choppies opened the market with the stock starting the day at R0.80 then went flat for few hours before taking a slide downward, dropping 5 cents in 30 minutes. Choppies then went flat at R0.75 for 50 minutes yesterday before going up at 10:20 am where it nearly recovered the open day price of 80 cents, but was shy of 1 cent. From 79 cents the price went flat until noon.

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Foschini-Jet merger, a class and rivalry conundrum dissection

25th November 2020
Foschini

Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) has revealed that in its assessment of the Jet take over by Foschini, there were considerations on possible market rivalry and a clash in targeted classes.

According to a merger decision notice seen by this publication this week, high considerations were made to ensure that Foschini’s takeover of Jet is not anyhow an elimination of rivalry or competition or if the two entities; the targeted and the acquiring enterprise serves the same class of customers or offer the same products, to elude the anti-trust issues or a stretch of monopoly.

The two entities are South African retailers whose services stretched to Botswana shores.  Last month local anti-trust body, CCA, received an acquisition proposal from South African clothing retailer, Foschini, stating their intentions to take-over Jet.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year after finding out that Jet’s mother company, Edcon, is falling apart, made a decision that Foschini can buy Jet for R480 million. This means that Foschini will add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents.

However the main headache for the CCA decision which was released this week, is distinguishing the targeted and the acquiring entity businesses and services.

When doing a ‘Competitive Analysis and Public Interest’ assessment, CCA is said to have discovered that Foschini is classified as a “standard retailer” which targets middle-to-upper income consumers and it competes with stores such as; Truworths and Woolworths. The targeted entity, Jet, is on the lower league when compared to its acquirer, it serves customers of lower classes and is regarded as a discount/value retailer targeting lower income consumers or a mass market. This makes Jet to be in direct competition with Ackermans, Pepkor, Cash Bazaar and Mr Price.

“Therefore, a narrower view of the market is that Foschini through its stores trading in Botswana is not a close competitor to Jet. Additionally, there exist other major rivals who will continue to exercise competitive constraints on the merged enterprise post-merger,” concluded CCA this month.

The anti-trust body continued to explain that in terms of the Acquisition of a Dominant Position, the analysis shows that the acquisition of the target business by Foschini Botswana will result in an insignificant combined market share in the relevant market.

This made CCA reach to a conclusion that there is no case of an acquisition of a dominant position in the market under consideration or any other market on the account of the proposed transaction.

What supports the merger according to CCA is that it is in compliance with regards to ‘Public Interest Considerations’ because the findings of the assessment revealed that the transaction is as a result of the need for a Business Rescue by the target enterprise. This is so because in the event that the proposed transaction fails, it will translate into the loss of the employment positions at the target business.

“On that note the Authority (CCA) found it necessary to ensure that the proposed merger does not result in any retrenchments or redundancies. In light of this, the assessment revealed the critical need to protect the employees of the merged entity from possible merger specific retrenchments/ redundancies,” said CCA.

Before making a determination that the recently proposed transaction is not likely to result in the prevention or substantial lessening of competition or endanger the continuity of the services offered in the relevant market, CCA said it then moved into a concern for public interest which is a protection enshrined in the Competition Act of 2018.

CCA’s concern was mostly loss of livelihood or employment by 126 Batswana workers at Jet stores, stating that possible retrenchments or redundancies may arise as a result of implementation of the proposed merger.

Much to the desire of trade union or labour movements in Botswana and across Southern Africa where the Jet stores are stemmed-who also raised concerns about the retail’s workers job security- CCA subjects Foschini to keep the target entity 126 workers.

“There shall be no merger specific retrenchments or redundancies that may affect the employees of the merged enterprises. For clarity, merger specific retrenchments or redundancies do not include (the list is not exhaustive): i. voluntary retrenchment and/or voluntary separation arrangements; ii. Voluntary early retirement packages; iii. Unreasonable refusals to be redeployed; iv. Resignations or retirements in the ordinary course of business; v. retrenchments lawfully effected for operational requirements unrelated to the Merger; and vi. Terminations in the ordinary course of business, including but not limited to, dismissals as a result of misconduct or poor performance,” said CCA.

CCA also orders that Foschini informs it about all the details of 126 Jet employees within thirty (30) days of the merger approval date. CCA should also know information of when Foschini is implementing the merger, within 30 days of the approval date.

Other conditions include Foschini sharing a copy of the conditions of approval to all employees of the Jet or their respective representatives within ten (10) days of the approval date.

“Should vacancies arise in the target, the merged enterprise shall consider previous employment at one of the non-transferring Jet stores to be a positive factor to be taken into account in the consideration of offering potential employment,” said CCA.

According to CCA, in cases of any job losses, for the Authority to assess whether the retrenchments or redundancies are merger specific, at least three months before (to the extent that this deadline can be practically achieved and in terms of the prevailing and legally required employment practices) any retrenchments or redundancies are to take place, inform the Authority of:  i. The intended retrenchments; ii. The reasons for the retrenchments; iii. The number and categories of employees affected; iv. The expected date of the retrenchments.

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