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BCL’s P600 million liquidation conundrum

A daunting legal process waits while dust is settling in the explosive fracas between government led by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Eric Molale and the outgoing BCL liquidator Nijel Dixon-Warren-the two parties are in a process of solving their differences amicably but the burden of liquidation remains a monkey on the state’s back, now even more heavily.

This week Molale revealed that already the process to get rid of Dixon-Warren, who he believes he has been incompetent with handling BCL liquidation, is ongoing and a “task team” has been installed specifically to handle the liquidation. When presenting his ministry’s Committee of Supply Speech on Tuesday before Parliament, Molale sounded like a man who would not wait to get rid of Dixon-Warren as he suggested his task team is working around the clock in addressing all the aspects of liquidation process, “including shortening of time.”

“Further, my ministry is engaging the Attorney General and Master of High Court to explore options of removing the liquidator. In parallel there are ongoing discussions between the liquidator and the task team towards removing the core mining assets out of liquidation to allow for government to take control of the disposal of the assets or closure if no investor is identified. Cabinet will be briefed in the shortest possible time,” said Molale this week.

The relationship between Molale and Dixon-Warren hit the rocks last year after the two men disagreed on whether there should be more money injected in the liquidation. Government led by Molale also complained that the BCL liquidator was incompetent and asked when Dixon-Warren would wind up BCL assets. Responding to government’s lack of funding on the liquidation, Dixon-Warren trimmed the staff which was hired to do care and maintenance at the mine from 520 to 390 much to the annoyance of Molale who went to Parliament and revealed that he is going to fire the liquidator.

Since last year, Molale has been working on a process to get rid of the liquidator and sources close to the process have revealed that the two men had to reach an amicable solution. According to information received by this publication, the liquidator was already frustrated by government’s lack of funding after finding that Dixon-Warren had P80 million in the liquidation account. According to information Care and Maintenance at the mine is P15 million and totally the liquidation is P20 million per month.

In an interview with this publication Dixon-Warren said he does not understand where the relationship between him and government went sour. The departing liquidator said he just found out that he is being removed and is not fighting it and prefers the amicable exit.
Dixon-Warren revealed that the last time government funded the liquidation was last year August and he was left with raising money from debtors. Around P200 million was collected and has been able to sustain the liquidation since the last quarter of 2018, according to Dixon-Warren.

According to Molale BCL should be placed under judicial management after Dixon-Warren leaves.  The liquidator said government will have to negotiate with him for an amicable pay out as it will be inheriting his assets, all the mine owned by the mining company, BCL mining plants and the infrastructure.. He said he will also have to deal with other creditors and negotiate compensation or any amicable deal.Dixon-Warren said there is going to be a “smooth” transition and an “amicable handover” as operations will continue to make sure nothing is disrupted in winding off of the BCL mine.

BCL stands to gobble a lot from the government budget

Dixon Warren has revealed that P600 million has already been spent on liquidation since the process bega in 2016. According to Molale Government will spend more on BCL rehabilitation this year. The total recurrent budget estimates for the financial year 2019/2020 is P733 061 670 and this represent an increase of P327 127 210 or 81 percent from this year’s allocation of P405 934 460, according to Molale. This significant increase is mainly due to BCL funding for rehabilitation meaning the mine will gobble a lot from government fiscal budget in this coming financial year.

According to Dixon-Warren there is a need for Government to fund drilling and exploration projects which will show what or how the mine is worth. For Phase 1 of the project, Dixon Warren said, around P50 million and P100 million is needed, meaning more money from the Government until winding off.

Investor scare

So far two “serious” investors have shown interest in buying the BCL mine. When speaking to this publication it was not clear to Dixon-Warren whether BCL will find a white night investor or will close down. A new investor is expected to come with at least an injection of between P1.5 billion to P3 billion.

However, according to Dixon-Warren, interest investors are scared of the lack of information on resources and viability of the mine. According to the outgoing BCL liquidator, BCL is an old mine and there should be ongoing exploration operations which should inform potential investors on the viability of the mine. Some would want to know the cost of closing the mine and resources which can be mined underground.

Despite the recent survey or study mining and exploration companies by the respected Fraser Institute showing that Botswana is top when it comes to be an ideal mining jurisdiction for mining and exploration companies, some observers believes otherwise. According to the study, Botswana has encouraging investment in exploration and its jurisdiction is seen to provide attractive mining policies. However observers believe some investors apparently would not touch BCL because Botswana is currently being seen as a risky destination for investment due to the ongoing tension between the incumbent president and his predecessor.

Also, investors who met with Dixon-Warren have qualms with the P2.8 billion which should be set aside for Environmental Rehabilitation Liability even in the event of a closing plan when the mine goes for closure. The sum of P2.8 billion was seen as an environmental rehabilitation and reclamation obligation by a report carried out by Dixon-Warren in 2015 and this amount remains an obligation few buyers would be willing to accept given the present value on site at BCL.

BCL tremors

When his exist was being planned, Dixon-Warren was still investigating the recent tremors which sent the town of Selibe Phikwe into panic. Dixon-Warren revealed that he sought for expertise of a South African consultant who would cost them P120 000. Before seeking the help of the SA consultant, the liquidator revealed that locally the tremors would not be investigated because of lack of resources and capacity, hence the roping in of foreign consultants. The SA consultant however found out that the tremor was minor.

“I had procured a consultant from South Africa. Last week a South African consultant came and investigated the tremors and he said the earth shaking was not serious and very small to cause a disastrous impact on the Phikwe community,” said Dixon-Warren. Dixon-Warren said the noise heard in Phikwe will further need an acoustic specialist to investigate. He said the specialist who is coming in few weeks time will detect the reason for the noise that came out during the tremor.

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Business

Payless to partake in BSE’s Flagship Tshipidi program

28th June 2022
PAYLESS

Newly established wholly indigenous citizen owned retail chain Payless Retail (PTY) Ltd is set to partake in the first session of Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE)’s Tshipidi Mentorship Program (TMP) on Monday June 29th.

The TMP aims to train and capacitate SMEs so they can operate as corporates and eventually list on the local bourse. According to local bourse, BSE, the program aims to provide practical training to potential issuers through a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.

Payless Retail is a newly established supermarket chain whose mission is to become a convenient one-stop shopping destination as it is one of the Botswana oldest retailing brands.  It started off as Corner Supermarket in January 1976, and to date boasts of nine stores in, among others, Gaborone, Mochudi, Molepolole and Tlokweng. Payless was recently acquired by Ellis Retail Group, which is led by businessman Elliot Moshoke.

The takeover catapulted Ellis Retail to the envious position of being the first wholly indigenous owned major retail chain. “We jumped at this opportunity because it gave us a chance to prove to Batswana that the retail business is open and lucrative.”

The objective is to create a proudly Botswana retail chain that fully supports our national Vision, economic development and citizen economic empowerment ambitions,” Moshoke told BusinessPost.

He further emphasized that Batswana are capable and able to run large scale businesses hence they need to accept invite foreign investors who will come in to support us not take the business.
“Our win as Payless in the Fast Moving Consumer goods (FMCG) industry is a win for Batswana. We need their support in this difficult and challenging journey.

As you are aware, Payless is the only retail chain in the hands of Batswana ba Sekei. We need to take advantage of this to generate employment and create small businesses in retail and Agri businesses,” he explained.

The retailer has also partnered with Botswana Investment & Trade Center (BITC) on their #PushaBW campaign with a view to initiating earnest engagement with local producers to iron out bottlenecks and ensure seamless trading.

“Local producers have to be part of the phenomenal growth of the Payless brand. This will in turn facilitate employment creation and economic growth. We did this because we have the utmost respect for local manufacturers and producers,” he mentioned.

Payless is currently restocking all of its stores; a development that Moshoke says is testament to the retailer’s commitment to growing the brand and ensuring continuity of business. He further revealed that renowned retail suppliers like PST and CA Sales have reignited their trust in Payless, opening their doors for Payless as they have faith in the retailer’s new owners.

The takeover has reportedly saved more than 200 jobs and gave a new lease of life to the previously fledging Payless brand. According to a press release from the management team, the Payless work forces are also extremely excited about what the future holds. The TMP is a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.

The program is administered by experts within the listing ecosystem and seeks to bring the potential issuers closer to the listings advisers, investors and leaders of already listed companies.  “As a strategic initiative, the BSE decided to set up this mentorship program in a bid to assist SMEs to strategize, corporatize and acclimatize in order to list to access equity finance and expand operations,” said the BSE.

The TMP will avail to SMEs practical insights, knowledge and feedback from institutional investors, increased awareness of the BSE listing requirements as well as an intimate network of advisors and CEOs of listed companies. After training, Payless will graduate with improve governance structures and better knowledge of articulating its business strategy. The retailer will also gain increased visibility through BSE marketing platforms.

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Business

BITC assisted companies rake in P2.96 billion in export earnings

21st June 2022
BITC-CEO-Keletsositse-Olebile

Despite Covid-19 interrupting trade worldwide, exporting companies in Botswana which benefited from the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) services realised P2.96 billion in export earnings during the period from April 2020 to March 2021.

In the preceding financial year, the sale of locally manufactured products in foreign markets had registered export revenue of P2, 427 billion against a target of P3, 211 billion BITC, which celebrates 10 years since establishment, continues to carry out several initiatives targeted towards expanding the Botswana export base in line with Botswana’s desire to be an export led economy, underpinned by a robust export promotion programme in line with the National Export Strategy.

The main products exported were swamp cruiser boats, pvc tanks and pvc pipes, ignition wiring sets, semi-precious stones, veterinary medicines, hair braids, coal, textiles (towels and t-shirts) and automobile batteries. These goods were destined mainly for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Germany, and Namibia.

With Covid-19 still a problem, BITC continues to roll out targeted virtual trade promotion missions across the SADC region with a view to seeking long-lasting market opportunities for locally manufactured products.

Recently, the Centre facilitated participation for Botswana companies at the Eastern Cape Development Council (ECDC) Virtual Export Symposium, the Botswana-Zimbabwe Virtual Trade Mission, the Botswana-Zambia Virtual Trade Mission, Botswana-South Africa Virtual Buyer/Seller Mission as well as the Botswana-Namibia Virtual Trade Mission.

BITC has introduced an e-Exporting programme aimed at assisting Botswana exporters to conduct business on several recommended e-commerce platforms. Due to the advent of COVID-19, BITC is currently promoting e-trade among companies through the establishment of e-commerce platforms and is assisting local companies to embrace digitisation by adopting e-commerce platforms to reach export markets as well as assisting local e-commerce platform developers to scale up their online marketplaces.

During the 2019/2020 financial year, BITC embarked on several initiatives targeted at growing exports in the country; facilitation of participation of local companies in international trade platforms in order to enhance export sales of local products and services into external markets.

BITC also helped in capacity development of local companies to compete in global markets and the nurturing of export awareness and culture among local manufacturers in order to enhance their skills and knowledge of export processes; and in development and implementation of trade facilitation tools that look to improve the overall ease of doing business in Botswana.

As part of building export capacity in 2019/20, six (6) companies were selected to initiate a process to be Organic and Fair Trade Certified. These companies are; Blue Pride (Pty) Ltd, Motlopi Beverages, Moringa Technology Industries (Pty) Ltd, Sleek Foods, Maungo Craft and Divine Morula.

In 2019 seven companies which were enrolled in the Botswana Exporter Development Programme were capacitated with attaining BOBS ISO 9001: 2015 certification. Three (3) companies successfully attained BOBS ISO 9001:2015 certification. These were Lithoflex (Pty) Ltd, General Packaging Industries and Power Engineering.

BITC’s annual flagship exhibition, Global Expo Botswana (GEB) to create opportunities for trade and strategic synergies between local and international companies. The Global Expo Botswana) is a premier business to business exposition that attracts FDI, expansion of domestic investment, promotion of exports of locally produced goods and services and promotion of trade between Botswana and other countries.

Another tool used for export development by BITC is the Botswana Trade Portal, which has experienced some growth in terms of user acceptance and utilisation globally. The portal provides among others a catalogue of information on international, regional and bilateral trade agreements to which Botswana is a party, including the applicable Rules, Regulations and Requirements and the Opportunities for Botswana Businesses on a product by product basis.

The portal also provides information on; measures, legal documents, and forms and procedures needed by Botswana companies that intend on doing business abroad. BITC continues to assist both potential and existing local manufacturing and service entities to realise their export ambitions. This assistance is pursued through the ambit of the Botswana Exporter Development Programme (BEDP) and the Trade Promotion Programme.

BEDP was revised in 2020 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a vision to developing a diversified export-based economy. The programme focuses mostly on capacitating companies to reach export readiness status.

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Business

Inflation up 2.3 percent in May

21st June 2022
Inflation

Prices for goods and services in this country continue to increase, with the latest figures from Statistics Botswana showing that in May 2022, inflation rate rose to 11.9 percent from 9.6 percent recorded in April 2022.

According to Statistics Botswana update released this week, the largest upward contributions to the annual inflation rate in May 2022 came from increase in the cost of transport (7.2 percent), housing, water, electricity, gas & other Fuels (1.4 percent), food & non-alcoholic beverages (1.1 percent) and miscellaneous goods & services (0.8 percent).

With regard to regional inflation rates between April and May 2022, the Rural Villages inflation rate went up by 2.5 percentage points, from 9.6 percent in April to 12.1 percent in May 2022, according to the government owned statistics entity.

In the monthly update the entity stated that the Urban Villages inflation rate stood at 11.8 percent in May 2022, a rise of 2.4 percentage points from the April rate of 9.4 percent, whereas the Cities & Towns inflation rate recorded an increase of 1.9 percentage points, from 9.9 percent in April to 11.8 percent in May.

Commenting on the national Consumer Price Index, the entity stated that it went up by 2.6 percent, from 120.1 in April to 123.2 in May 2022. Statisticians from the entity noted that the transport group index registered an increase of 7.3 percent, from 134.5 in April to 144.2 in May, mainly due to the rise in retail pump prices for petrol and diesel by P1.54 and P2.74 per litre respectively, which effected on the 13th of May 2022.

The food & non-alcoholic beverages group index rose by 2.6 percent, from 118.6 in April 2022 to 121.6 in May 2022 and this came as a result of increase in prices of oils & fats, vegetables, bread & cereal, mineral waters, soft drinks, fruits & vegetables juices, fish (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) and meat (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen), according to the Statisticians.

The Statisticians said the furnishing, household equipment & routine maintenance group index rose by 1.0 percent, from 111.6 in April 2022 to 112.7 in May 2022 and this was attributed to a general increase in prices of household appliances, glassware, tableware & household utensils and goods & services for household maintenance.

The prices for clothing & footwear group index moved from 109.4 to 110.4, registering a rise of 0.9 percent during the period under review. Bank of Botswana has projected higher inflation in the short term, associated with the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices and added that the possible increase in public service salaries could add also upward pressure to inflation in this country.

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