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Watershed Piazza the new Letlole La Rona flagship

An addition of Watershed Piazza to Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE)-listed property giant Letlole La Rona (LLR)’s portfolio has come with gold — it is obviously the reason for the company’s spike in revenue with its notable 99.63 percent Gross Leasable Area (GLA).

According to LLR’s unaudited financial results and distribution announcements of the half year ended 31 December 2018, the company has recorded a 32 percent rise in revenue-from P38.8 million in the previous year to P51.2 million in the current period. According to LLR such big rise in revenue should be credited to the addition of Watershed Piazza in Mahalapye to the property company portfolio. Watershed Piazza stands towering in the company’s portfolio with its fully let 40 square meter space which is believed to be collecting notable money from rental, hence the huge increase in revenue.

Watershed Piazza, boasting 99.63 percent GLA, has become LLR’s sudden poster boy and its success is pivoted by its major tenants including retail giants like Choppies, Woolworths, Pep, Dunns and Jet. Top two big players in the commercial banking sector Barclays and First National Bank also occupies a rental space at the mall.

New entrants with Watershed Piazza to LLR for half year ended 31 December 2018 includes a industrial estate with nine mini-warehouses coming with the measure between 300 square meter and 700 square meter. LLR investment portfolio grew by 26 percent by registering P1.017 million in December 2018 from P805 million in December 2017. This reflected a gross yield of 10 percent.

According to LLR, the operating profit which is surging at 32 percent and net cash flow which is pegged at 38 percent were buoyed by tighter working capital management and collections. Resultant cash and equivalent for the 2018 half year results are at P42.1 million and it is almost double the P23.1 million of the same period for 2017.

LLR investors have more reasons to smile all the way to the bank when looking at the half year results for the year ending in December 2018-the company declared a half year distribution totaling P27 million which is a mammoth increase of 52 percent from the comparative period of 2017. According to LLR this was made up of an interim distribution comprising of a dividend of 0.005 thebe per linked unit and interest of 7.14 thebe per unit and a special distribution in the form of interest of 2.53 thebe per linked unit. LLR has announced in its latest financial results that the declared distribution is payable to linked unit holders registered in the books of the company at the close of business on 15 April 2019. Therefore, the ex-dividend date is 11 April 2019.

Despite a flourishing season LLR registered a decline in its profit before tax. Its profit before tax dropped to P39.3 million in December 2018 from P54.7 million in December 2017. According to LLR this was directly as a result of impairment of the hospitality assets by P7.4 million and an once non-recurring revaluation gain of P15.5 million booked on one of the properties during the prior period. As if that was enough, the LLR poster boy Watershed Piazza made the property company to get on a backfoot when the mall’s acquisition was funded with debt. This escalated the company’s financial costs from P1.8 million in 2017 to P6.3 million in 2018.

“LLR continues to consolidate its position as a significant player in the local property market with a portfolio of just over P1 billion. The portfolio is diverse, invested across the industrial, commercial office, retail, residential and leisure sectors and remains well managed with vacancy levels at approximately 1.24 percent of GLA and minimal arrears,” said LLR CEO Chikuni Shenjere.

Shenjere said imminent sale of the hotel properties has given the company a wonderful opportunity to ensure the continued predictability of LLR’s rental streams. The company’s mission is to go regional and spread its wings to countries like Zambia and Namibia. “We concluded that the assets that were considering Zambia were not an appropriate fit for the portfolio at this time.

We definitely remain on the hunt there, keeping of cource an eye on the macroeconomic developments. We also have a great opportunity in Namibia which we are right in the middle of, and depending on how it progresses, look to be updating unit holders before the financial year end,” said Chikuni.

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

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.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

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.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

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”

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