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French Luxury Company dips fingers on Botswana paradise

A gigantic French company with a penchant for multinational luxury products is in for a takeover of three safaris located in the tourism rich paradise in the northern part of Botswana, BusinessPost has established.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE also known as LVMH is registered in Paris, France. The Euronext Paris listed company is controlled by the Arnault family. On top of the company is its chairman cum CEO Bernard Arnault, the fourth wealthiest man according to Forbes Magazine, who runs the company with his children; daughter Delphine is Bernard’s number two and Antoine is head of communications.

Bernard’s third child Alexandre runs German luggage brand Rimowa, which LVMH bought in 2016 while his fourth child Frédéric is a strategy and digital director of TAG Heuer, the largest watch brand owned by LVMH. The Arnault family owns a stake of 47 percent in LVMH through the family holding company called Groupe Arnault.

LVMH is known for luxury brands like the fashion house and luxury retail company known for leather clothing, Louis Vuitton. The other luxury brands by LVMH are the plush winery producer Moet and the elite cognac brandy of Hennessy. The company also has investments on real estate and hotel sectors. And according information seen by this publication, LVMH will soon be the owner of some accommodation property in Botswana in the form of 5 star rated safari lodges which are owned by Belmond, a company that is being purchased by the French company.

Last year the French company said it is planning on acquiring Belmond for $25.00 per Class A share in cash and this represents an equity value of $2.6 billion in a transaction with an enterprise value of $3.2 billion. The company revealed that time that the transaction would be completed in the first half of 2019 subject to the approval of Belmond’s shareholders and clearance by the relevant competition authorities.

It has emerged that Belmond has agreed to give the luxury dealer all its shares, meaning LVMH will now have sole ownership of the three safari lodges in Botswana; Belmond Kwai River Lodge, Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge and the Belmond Eagle Island Lodge. The three safari lodges were owned by Belmond. Belmond was partially owned by LVMH which indirectly owns the company (Belmond) with BlackRock Inc, Dimensional Fund Advisors LP, Capital Research Global Investors, The Vanguard Group, Southeastern Asset Management Inc and Giuseppe Statuto.

Belmond whose directors are; Roland Hernandez, Harsha V. Agadi, Mitchell Hochberg (all American), Ruth Kennedy, Ian Livingston, Demetra Pinsent, Gail Rebuck (all British) and H. Roeland Vos (Belgium) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Apart from owning safari lodges in Botswana, Belmond is a luxury hotel company and adventure travel operator that operates 46 properties which include 33 deluxe hotels, 3 safari lodges, one stand-alone restaurant, seven tourist trains and two river/canal cruise businesses. Belmond also operates famous trains and cruises in Europe, Peru and Asia.

LVMH is expected to add luxury, a word synonymous with the French company, to the already 5 Star rated plushy Belmond lodges located between the Okavango Delta, the rich tourist attract area of Moremi Game Reserve and the wildlife thronged Chobe National Park.
The Belmond safari lodges in Botswana are part of the group’s world operations which translated a revenue improvement of $1.1 million, from $35.6 million to $36.7 million. The marginal increase in Belmond’s world operations revenues are said to be due to impending of refurbishment at Belmond Savute Elephant Lodge which was closed from November 2017 to June 2018.

Belmond recorded total revenues of $572 million and adjusted EBITDA of $140 million in the twelve months ended 30m September 2018. Belmond’s Net losses for the full year 2018 were $28.5 million ($0.28 per common share), compared to net losses of $45.0 million ($0.44 per common share) for the full year 2017.

This publication has not been able to get Belmond and LVMH’s take on this recent acquisition which will see the French’s biggest luxury company lonely spreading its wing into Africa and specifically Botswana’s paradise which is the region’s tourist focal point. The local antitrust body, Competition Authority, is expected to rule on the Belmond-LVMH merger. LVMH is said to have given the local antitrust body notification for its intentions to acquire Belmond-a move which will see the French luxury company take full control of three safari lodges ploughed on Botswana’s tourist area.

LVMH chairman Arnault said in the company’s website last year that the acquisition of Belmond will significantly increase his company’s presence in the ultimate hospitality world. “Belmond delivers unique experiences to discerning travelers and owns a number of exceptional assets in the most desirable destinations. Its heritage, its innovative services, its excellence in execution and its entrepreneurship resonates well with the values of the Group and is complementary to our own Cheval Blanc maisons and the Bvlgari hotels activities,” said Arnault in the company’s website.

In an interview with BusinessPost Belmond head of communication, Jocelyn Betts said LVMH taking over the company does not mean its operations will change as Belmond will still own the three safari lodges. “Belmond has three luxury lodges in Botswana and we do not anticipate any foreseeable change to our portfolio in this market as a result of the transaction with LVMH. Under LVMH ownership, we look forward to taking our brand to new heights and to continuing to expand our portfolio of luxury travel experiences,” said Betts.

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Business

Botswana records first trade surplus since January

7th October 2021
Botswana-records-first-trade-surplus-

Botswana has recorded its first trade surplus for 2021 since the only one for the year in January.

The country’s exports for the month of July surpassed the value of imports, Statistics Botswana’s July International Merchandise Trade data reveals.

Released last Friday, the monthly trade digest reports a positive jump in the trade balance graph against the backdrop of a series of trade deficits in the preceding months since January this year.

According to the country’s significant data body, imports for the month were valued at P7.232 billion, reflecting a decline of 6.6 percent from the revised June 2021 value of P7.739 billion.

Total exports during the same month amounted to P7.605 billion, showing an increase of 6.1 percent over the revised June 2021 value of P7.170 billion.

A trade surplus of P373.2 million was recorded in July 2021. This follows a revised trade deficit of P568.7 million for June 2021.

For the total exports value of P7.605 billion, the Diamonds group accounted for 91.2 percent (P6.936 billion), followed by Machinery & Electrical Equipment and Salt & Soda Ash with 2.2 percent (P169.7 million) and 1.3 percent (P100.9 million) respectively.

Asia was the leading destination for Botswana exports, receiving 65.2 percent (P4.96 billion) of total exports during July 2021.

These exports mostly went to the UAE and India, having received 26.3 percent (P1. 99 billion) and 18.7 percent (P1.422 billion) of total exports, respectively. The top most exported commodity to the regional block was Diamonds.

Exports destined to the European Union amounted to P1.64 billion, accounting for 21.6 percent of total exports.

Belgium received almost all exports destined to the regional union, acquiring 21.5 percent (P1.6337 billion) of total exports during the reporting period.

The Diamonds group was the leading commodity group exported to the EU. The SACU region received exports valued at P790.7 million, representing 10.4 percent of total exports.

Diamonds and Salt & Soda Ash commodity groups accounted for 37.8 percent (P298.6 million) and 6.2 percent (P48.7 million) of total exports to the customs union.

South Africa received 9.8 percent (P745.0 million) of total exports during the month under review. The Diamonds group contributed 39.9 percent (P297.4 million) to all goods destined for the country.

 

In terms of imports, the SACU region contributed 62.7 percent (P4.534 billion) to total imports during July.

The topmost imported commodity groups from the SACU region were Fuel; Food, Beverages & Tobacco, and Machinery & Electrical Equipment with contributions of 33.3 percent (P1.510 billion), 17.4 percent (P789.4 million) and 12.7 percent (P576.7 million) to total imports from the region, respectively.

South Africa contributed 60.1 percent (P4.3497 billion) to total imports during July 2021.

Fuel accounted for 32.1 percent (P1.394 billion) of imports from that country. Food, Beverages & Tobacco contributed 17.7 percent (P772.0 million) to imports from South Africa.

Namibia contributed 2.0 percent (P141.1 million) to the overall imports during the period under review. Fuel was the main commodity imported from that country at 82.1 percent (P115.8 million).

During the months, imports representing 63.5 percent (P4.5904 billion) were transported into the country by Road.

Transportation of imports by Rail and Air accounted for 22.7 percent (P1.645 billion) and 13.8 percent (P996.2 million), respectively.

During the month, goods exported by Air amounted to P6, 999.2 million, accounting for 92.0 percent of total exports, while those leaving the country by Road were valued at P594.2 million (7.8 percent).

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Business

The 2021/2022 Stanford Seed Transformation Program Begins

7th October 2021

Founders from twenty companies have been accepted into the program from Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa

The 4th Cohort of the Stanford Seed Transformation Program – Southern Africa (STP), a collaboration between Stanford Graduate School of Business and De Beers Group commenced classes on 20 September 2021. According to Otsile Mabeo, Vice President Corporate Affairs, De Beers Global Sightholder Sales: “We are excited to confirm that 20 companies have been accepted into the 4th Seed Transformation Programme from Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. The STP is an important part of the De Beers Group Building Forever sustainability strategy and demonstrates our commitment to the ‘Partnering for Thriving Communities’ pillar that aims at enhancing enterprise development in countries where we operate in the Southern African region”. Jeffrey Prickett, Global Director of Stanford Seed: “Business owners and their key management team members undertake a 12-month intensive leadership program that includes sessions on strategy and finance, business ethics, and design thinking, all taught by world-renowned Stanford faculty and local business practitioners. The program is exclusively for business owners and teams of for-profit companies or for-profit social enterprises with annual company revenues of US$300,000 – US$15million.” The programme will be delivered fully virtually to comply with COVID 19 protocols. Out of the 20 companies, 6 are from Botswana, 1 Namibia, and 13 South Africa. Since the partnership’s inception, De Beers Group and Stanford Seed have supported 74 companies, 89 founders/CEOs, and approximately 750 senior-level managers to undertake the program in Southern Africa.

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Business

Minergy overcomes challenges – improves revenue and produces record breaking coal sales to date

7th October 2021
Minergy

Minergy, the coal mining and trading company with the Masama coal mine, this week released results for the year ended 30 June 2021. The company achieved revenue of P193 million (2020: P81 million) with significant improvement in sales volumes surpassing 415 000 tonnes sold for the year.

The performance was divided into two distinct periods with very different operating environments. The first eight-month period (July 2020 – February 2021), was negatively impacted by delayed funding, COVID-19 impacts and excessive rain; and the last four-month period (March – June 2021), was a more stable production environment moving toward nameplate capacity.

According to Minergy CEO, Morné du Plessis, production and sales initially recovered in July and August 2020 with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and recoveries were further bolstered by the successful launch of the rail siding. Delays experienced in concluding the funding contributed to contractors limiting operations to manage arrears.

“However, the heavy rains we experienced from December 2020 through February 2021 flooded the mine pit making access difficult and impacting both production and sales. Fortunately, the rain subsided in March 2021, and we entered a more stable environment, with a positive impact on operations. Good recoveries in production and sales were experienced during the last four-month period of the year, with the mine moving closer toward a breakeven position.”

“Despite these operational constraints, including the effects of COVID-19 on logistics and manning of shifts, we expect to reach consistent nameplate capacity in the 2022 financial year,” du Plessis added.

FINANACIAL REVIEW

In addition to the revenue reported above, the company incurred costs of sales of P256 million (2020: P150 million) with operating costs of P23 million (2020: P31 million). This effectively resulted in an operating loss of P86 million (2020: P100 million). Finance costs of P51 million (2020: P17 million) were incurred, bringing the net loss before taxation to P136 million (2020: P117 million).

Du Plessis explains that the adverse conditions in the first eight-month period contributed to 86% of the gross loss, while the more stable four-month period alone contributed to 50% of total sales value, helping to decrease monthly gross losses, albeit below breakeven levels.

The company benefited from a strengthening in the South African Rand (“ZAR”) supporting higher back-on- mine sales prices.

“As announced, we’re pleased to have secured P125 million of additional convertible debt funding through the Minerals Development Company Botswana (Proprietary) Limited (“MDCB”). Minergy remains grateful for this support.”

He added that the first tranche of additional funding provided by the MDCB had been received in December 2020, which allowed Minergy to settle the majority of the contractor’s arrears and allowed their teams to be remobilised. The second and final tranche was paid post the financial year-end and will allow the business to reach nameplate capacity in the new financial year.”

COAL SALES AND MINE PERFORMANCE

Sales volumes increased by 110%, supported by increased sales in Botswana and internationally in South Africa and Namibia. Sales for June 2021 exceeded 56 000 tonnes, a record since the inception of the mine, with pricing increasing late in the financial year on the back of buoyant international prices and a strengthening ZAR.

Minergy also concluded a further 12-month off-take agreement to the existing off-take agreement, with a further agreement finalised post year end.

Overburden moved during the reporting period increased by 86% and extracted coal by 50%. Coal mined in June 2021 alone exceeded 100 000 tonnes. “This is a good performance considering the challenges faced such as sacrificing pre-stripping activities for a period to manage arrears, excessive rain and COVID-19,” du Plessis indicated.

“The wash plant was initially starved of coal due to the factors noted already. Despite this, overall plant throughput performance was 37% higher than 2020. Consistent output was supported by the completion of the Stage 2 rigid crushing section as well as the water saving dewatering screen with filter press contributing to a reduction in water usage of 60% per tonne of coal. A record throughput of more than 84 000 tonnes was achieved in March 2021 and this consistency has been maintained.”

OUTLOOK

According to du Plessis, the completion of Stage 4 of the Processing Plant, the rigid screening and stock handling section, remains a key optimisation step, which has associated benefits. “The completion was unfortunately delayed by a southern African wide shortage of structural steel but was commissioned post year-end.”

Minergy expects the positive momentum in international coal pricing for southern African coal to remain in place. Higher coal prices have resulted in coal being withdrawn from the inland market in favour of lucrative international markets. Du Plessis added that the regional market is currently under- supplied with sized coal, which supports higher pricing and new customer opportunities for Minergy.

“Our objective for the 2022 financial year is to achieve nameplate capacity by completing final ramp-up of operations. This will enable the company to generate sufficient cash flow to stabilise the business at breakeven or better. The bullish coal market is also providing support. COVID-19 will still be closely managed, and we look forward to the lifting of the State of Emergency, as announced, and trust that vaccination programmes will achieve herd immunity in Botswana during the next 12 months.”

Du Plessis expressed his excitement on prospects stating that, “The Eskom due diligence process is continuing, and we are hopeful of receiving feedback during the current financial year. In addition to this opportunity, Minergy is also investigating participation in the request by the Government of Botswana to provide a 300MW power station for which the company has been shortlisted.”

The approved process to issue shares for cash is showing positive leads and he concluded by saying that a listing in London is still being investigated.

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