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P1.26 billion non-performing loans exposure staring at FNBB

Botswana Stock Exchange listed banker First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) faces a stubborn burden of borrowers who default on their loan payments or debtors would not pay either principal or interest of the borrowed money.

The latest unaudited half year results for the year ended December 2018 Bank reveal that FNBB has difficulty collecting interest and principal on their credits with a reflection of the non-performing loans (NPL) to gross advances ratio increasing from 6.6 percent to 7.6 percent year-on-year, with the NPL exposure increasing to P1.26 billion.

Two years ago Bank of Botswana governor Moses Pelaelo highlighted that there is a disturbing emerging trend where customers cannot pay their loan. This was after there was a trend which showed that since December 2014, the industry’s NPLs rose from 3.6 percent to 3.9 percent in 2015 and 4.9 percent in December 2016. That same year of 2017 when the central bank governor raised concern statistics shows that at July 31, 2017 the NPLs had increased further to 5.9 percent of total bank loans. Many observers believe the increase of NPLs in 2016 and 2017 were mainly due to the abrupt closure of the BCL mine which left many in financial dire straits.

Furthermore, according to the World Bank statistics, the average value for Botswana during 2012 to 2017 was 3.94 percent with a minimum of 2.62 percent in 2012 and a maximum of 5.28 percent in 2017. As suggested by the recent FNBB half year financial statement, the trend continues.

In its latest financial results which were released this week, FNBB has said consumer indebtedness in the market remains a concern and the bank will continue its cautious approach in lending into this market. The bank further explained that NPLs stubborn growth is due to the deterioration of certain high-value FNB business segment exposures.

“This significant growth in NPLs is largely due to the deterioration of certain high-value FNB business segment exposures, and the relegations that have been experienced in the FNB Retail and WesBank segments,” explained FNBB directors in the financial report. The bank gave an insuring statement that it remains wary of financial risks despite the positive focus. The bank further promised that the resolution of the NPL portfolio remains a top priority and continue to invest in the iterative refinement of processes and systems required to improve collections. On the other hand impairments increased by 23 percent year-on-year largely due to the FNB Business segment inflow into NPL according to FNBB.  Impairment grew from P127 160 in 2017 to P156 112 in 2018.

FNBB lining up to cash in on anticipated unlocking business activity

Despite the bogyman of NPLs standing tall before FNBB the bank made slight improvements in the unaudited half year results for the year ended December 2018. This is highlighted by promises like the increase in tax profit after tax by  9 percent, Non-Interest Revenue growth of 10 percent and interest income increase of 6 percent. Furthermore, the half year results show a boom in the banking app, signaling the bank’s dominance in the digital space and an upper-hand in the market, which has recorded registration increase of 11 percent.

 According to FNBB when announcing its unaudited condensed consolidated financial results and dividend announcement, the bank also continue to maintain its deposit market share of just below 30 percent. FNBB said it saw customer deposit growth of 3 percent as at December 2018 and it emanated predominantly from increases in transactional balances.

When explaining its increases, FNBB said the Non-Interest Revenue growth of 10 percent which is an increase from P548 811 in the unaudited results for the six months ended 31 December 2017 to P605 824 for the same period of last year (2018), was due to increases in both foreign exchange revenue and transactional revenue.

“The foreign exchange revenue growth was due to a significant increase in the value and volume of foreign exchange transactions as a result of ZAR volatility. The growth in transactional revenue was largely due to increased merchant transactional turnover,” said FNBB. For interest income to grow by 6 percent from P757 421 in 2017 to P804 772 in 2018 is because of increase in advances according to FNBB. The bank said however this increase was largely due to the optimized investment portfolio while the change in the advances portfolio mix resulted in reduced average yields on advances.

With this slight progress FNBB suggested that it is steady on its marks to cash in on anticipated increased business activity and commensurate growth in market advances which coincides with the current positive outlook for the Botswana economy. The bank further anticipates growth in targeted financing for some sectors of the economy such as agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, which are sectors expected to be supported by credit guarantees from development finance institutions.

“The Bank is well-positioned to assist customers in their participation in these developments. The Bank will continue to invest in key strategic enablers to continue to deliver a superior customer experience. Investment in digital capabilities, human capital and process re-engineering will continue,” said FNBB.

Botswana economy

While giving an economy outlook for Botswana which gives it confidence to position itself for the time of harvest when the economic activities are ripe, FNBB expects the local economy to register a growth rate of 4.4 percent for 2018 due to higher diamond mining output. The bank’s growth forecasts for 2019 and 2020 at 4.7 percent and 4.5 percent respectively.

“The key to unlocking further growth opportunities for Botswana lies in the success of diversification initiatives such as special economic zones and public private partnerships, with consequent creation of employment opportunities. The service sector has accounted for over 50 percent of the growth in the past decade, thus reflecting some achievements in the diversification of the economy,” said FNBB in its half year results.

The bank has however noted that Botswana remains reliant on diamonds, as they account for over 85 percent of the country’s exports and contribute close to 30 percent of fiscal revenue, thus exposing the fiscus to external volatilities. FNBB says its growth forecasts therefore remain cautiously optimistic as policy implementation, together with effective infrastructure development, has historically been a challenge.

Accordingly, successful diversification will depend largely on investor-friendly regulation and effective implementation of development projects. Given that the economy remains consumer led, with household expenditure at 49.1 percent of GDP in Q3 of 2018, sustained economic growth will depend upon both employment creation and real wage increases,” said FNBB directors in its financial results.

Inflation rates remain cyclical lows

When giving health report on Botswana’s inflationary statue FNBB said headline inflation averaged 3.2 percent in 2018 compared to 3.3 percent in 2017. The inflation was subdued by lower demand-pull pressures, a reduction in the administered prices of mobile network operators and the alcohol levy, as well as continued zero-VAT rating on most staple food products. Upside pressures were mostly led by an increase in fuel prices as well as public transport fares.

“We reiterate that demand-pull pressures are likely to limit the increase in inflation as growth in real income levels remains modest. We anticipate the headline in figure of a short-to-medium-term average of 4.0% through to 2023, being within the 3% to 6% target range of the Bank of Botswana,” said FNBB directors on the half year financial report. FNBB also stated that it believes that the Bank of Botswana will continue to focus on supporting economic growth and keep its monetary policy stance accommodative for the next 12 to 15 months.

“We expect that the Bank of Botswana will leave the bank rate unchanged at 5.0 percent for the rest of 2019. We foresee overall credit extension remaining below 8 percent through to 2020, allowing for a slight increase in business credit as confidence returns, but with household credit remaining restricted by the current pressures on discretionary household income,” said FNBB.

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Business

Slight growth in GDP as economy battles return

28th July 2021
Peggy-Serame

Botswana’s economy showed slight growth signs in the first quarter of 2021, following a devastating year in 2020.

During 2020, the entire second quarter was on zero economic activity as the country went on total lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Diamond trade plummeted to record low levels as global travel restrictions halted movement of both goods and people and muted trade.

The end result was a significant decline for the local economy, at an estimated 7 percent contraction, just marginally below the 2008/09 global financial crises.

According to figures released by Statics Botswana this week, the country’s nominal Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter of 2021 was P47.739 billion compared to a revised P45.630 billion registered during the previous quarter.

This represents a quarterly increase of 4.6 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.

During the quarter, Public Administration and Defence became the major contributor to GDP by 18.4 percent, followed by Wholesale & Retail by 11.4 percent. The contribution of other sectors was below 6.0 percent, with Water and Electricity Supply being the lowest at 1.6 percent.

Real GDP for the first quarter of 2021 increased by 0.7 percent compared to a contraction of 4.6 percent registered in the previous quarter.

The improvement in the first quarter 2021 GDP reflected continued efforts to reopen businesses and resume activities that were postponed or restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The real GDP increased by 0.7 percent during the period under review, compared to an increase of 1.2 percent in the same quarter of 2020.

The recovery in the domestic economy was observed across majority of industries except Accommodation & Food Services, Mining & Quarrying, Manufacturing, Construction, Other Services and Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing.

The overall slow performance of the economy was mainly due to the impact of measures that were put in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Non-mining GDP increased by 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 4.0 percent increase registered in the same quarter of the previous year.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry decreased by 2.0 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, relative to a contraction of 5.2 percent registered during the same quarter of 2020.

The main driver of the unfavorable performance stems from a decrease in real value added of Livestock farming by 3.0 percent.

Mining and Quarrying registered a decrease 11.4 percent in the real value added, this was mainly influenced by the drop in the Gold and Diamond real value added by 17.5 and 12.5 percent respectively.

Diamond production in carats went down by 12.1 percent while the tonnage of Gold produced went down by 17.5 percent.

The poor performance of the diamond sub-industry is attributed to the reduction in production due to a lower grade feed to the plant at Orapa in response to heavy rainfall and operational issues, including continued power supply disruptions.

With regard to Gold is due to diminishing resource base which affect production.

The Manufacturing industry recorded a decline of 7.4 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, compared to a decrease of 2.3 percent registered in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The deep low performance in the industry is observed in the two major sub-industries of Beverages & tobacco and Diamond cutting, polishing and setting by 57.0 and 38.5 percent respectively.

The reduction in Beverages is attributed to alcohol sale ban imposed during the quarter under review in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On the other hand, exports of polished diamonds went down by 24.9 percent compared to a decrease of 11.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year.

The construction industry recorded a decline of 4.8 percent compared to an increase of 4.3 percent realized in the corresponding quarter in 2020.

This industry comprises of buildings construction, civil engineering and specialized construction activities. The industry is still showing signs of the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. The industry recorded a negative growth of 7.4 percent in the previous quarter.

Water and Electricity Water and Electricity value added at constant 2016 prices for the first quarter of 2021 was P506.2 million compared to P378.2 million registered in the same quarter of 2020, recording a growth of 33.8 percent.

In the first quarter of 2021, Electricity recorded a significant growth of 62.4 percent compared to a decrease of 67.6 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The local electricity production increased by 22.4 percent while Electricity imports decreased by 33.3 percent during quarter under review. The water industry recorded a value added of P231.3 million compared to P209.0 million registered in the same quarter of the previous year, registering an increase of 10.7 percent.

Wholesale and Retail Trade real value added increased by 11.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to an increase of 5.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The industry deals with sales of fast moving consumer goods.

Diamond Traders recorded a significant growth of 112.7 percent as opposed to a decline of 22.7 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter last year. The positive growth is due to improved demand of diamonds from the global market.

The Transport and Storage value added increased by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to a 2.4 percent increase recorded in the same quarter of the previous year.

The slight improved performance of the industry was mainly attributed to the increase in real value added of Road Transport and Post & Courier Services by 4.3 and 2.1 percent respectively.

The slow growth was influenced by a significant reduction in Air Transport services of 69.7 percent due to reduced number of passengers carried. Rail goods traffic in tonnes went down by 6.4 percent and passenger rail transport was not operating during the quarter under review.

Accommodation and Food Services Accommodation and Food Services real value added declined by 31.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a decrease of 4.4 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The reduction is largely attributed to a decrease of 42.1 percent in real value added of the Accommodation activities subindustry.

The suspension of air travel occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering the borders of the country and hence affecting the output of Hotels and Restaurants industry. COVID-19 restriction measures resulted in reduced demand for leisure and conferencing activities, as conferences are largely held through virtual platforms.

Finance, Insurance and Pension Funding industry registered a positive growth of 8.3 percent due to the favorable performance from monetary intermediation and Central Banking Services by 16.4 and 5.4 percent respectively during quarter under review.

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Business

Chobe Holdings secures P16 million for dark days

28th July 2021
Chobe Holdings

It is still tough in the tourism industry — big players in this sleeping giant are not having it easy, but options are being explored to keep the once vibrant multibillion Pula sector alive until the world gets back to normalcy.

One of the primary measures against the spread of Covid-19 is to stay home; this widely pronounced precaution against the global contagion that has claimed over 4 million lives across the world is however a thorn in the flesh of one of the major industries in the global economy — the tourism sector .

This sector is underpinned by travel – an act which is the virus‘ number one mode of spread, especially across borders.

Chobe Holdings Limited, one of Botswana’s leading high end eco-tourism giants said its survival strategies are underpinned by well-crafted stakeholder engagements in the mist of these unprecedented times of muted trading activity.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chobe continued to invest in and strengthen its relationships with key stakeholders in both its traditional markets and the SADC region,” the company directors updated shareholders this week.

To keep the business afloat, the company which owns and operates some of the exquisite tourism destinations along the banks of the mighty Chobe said it has triggered its existing available debt financing avenues.

Chobe revealed that its current overdraft of BWP 25 million has been extended on favourable terms.

The company shared that it has negotiated a further USD 1.5 million (over P16 million) standby loan with a flexible settlement terms and preferable cost implications to the bottom line.

“We are confident that the Group has sufficient cash inflows, cash reserves and un-utilized prearranged borrowing in place to settle any liabilities falling due and support the smooth recovery of operations in the short and medium term,” the company directors said, noting that they will retain the flexibility to vary operations should market conditions change.

Early this year, Chobe announced that the ongoing crisis in the tourism industry forced the company to draw from its prearranged overdraft facility of P25 million to the extent of P11.6 million.

Last year Chobe’s occupancy levels around its lodges and hotels went down 89 percent. This resulted in unprecedented revenue decline of 93% to P27.78 million from the P373.94 million in the previous year ended February 2020.

Operating profits went down 159% with profit after tax down 170%, mirroring a loss of over P67 million.

Chobe management said during the last half of the financial year they have done all they could to contain costs across the company’s operations.

During the last half of the year Chobe’s marketing and reservations teams continued to pursue the “don’t cancel but defer policy”.

“We thus continue to hold advance travel receipts, to the value of about P34 million at the financial year end,” the company revealed early this year.

Chobe said it continues to engage Government, through HATAB and BTO to prioritize the vaccination of workers in the tourism sector.

“Throughout the pandemic we have ensured that employees are trained in and comply with COVID-19 infection mitigation protocols as well as ensuring that all visitors to our remote camps and lodges as well as our staff and contractors are tested for COVID-19 before reaching the camp or lodges,” the company said.

However, the company said vaccinating the tourism staff will provide the best way to ensure that both employees and guests are protected from the virus.

“We continue to manage our cashflow through stringent cost control measures, balanced against the protection of the Group’s physical assets and the wellbeing and retention of its people,” the company said.

Chobe has successfully retained its top management through the pandemic.  To this end the company directors continue to closely monitor the Group’s recovery from COVID-19 and adjust salary reductions to support operations and aid retention.

Domestic and regional travel resumed during the second quarter of the 2020/21 financial year with the Group opening a strategic mix of camps and lodges.

A comprehensive domestic, regional and international marketing plan was put in place to support these openings.

International travel resumed in the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year with occupancies forecast to steadily increase, albeit from a low base, through the second quarter.

The company is optimistic that forward bookings are strong for the 2022/23 financial year.

“There is pent-up demand from our traditional source markets to travel now, but this is tempered by uncertainty and access constraints,” the company stated.

“Both the domestic and international markets are sensitive to such uncertainty, and it is critical that both the private and public sector work together to develop and publish clear, authoritative and consistent travel information in order to build confidence”

Chobe entered the pandemic with the Shinde camp rebuild in progress — one of its high end camps and this was completed in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year accounting for the majority of the Group’s capital expenditure for that period.

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Business

De Beers Q2 production jumps in response to strong rough diamond demand

28th July 2021
De-Beers -jwaneng-mine

De Beers Group, the world’s leading rough diamonds producer by value and Botswana’s partner in the diamond business, ramped up its production in the second quarter of 2021, in response to stronger demand for rough diamonds in the global markets.

The London headquartered diamond mining giant revealed in its production report this week that rough diamonds output  increased by 134% to 8.2 million carats in the three(3) months  of quarter 2 2021, “reflecting planned higher production to meet stronger demand for rough diamonds”.

This was against the backdrop of curtailed demand in the same quarter last year, mirroring the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns across southern Africa during that period.

In Botswana, where De Beers sources majority of its rough diamonds through partly government owned Debswana, production increased by 214% to 5.7 million carats. The percentage jump mirrored planned low production in the second quarter of 2020 where output was adjusted to market demands and implemented Covid-19 protocols.

Debswana operates four (4) Mines: Jwaneng Mine- being its flagship producer and largest revenue contributor. Jwaneng Mine which is the wealthiest diamond mine in the world by value is envisaged for multi-billion expansion to an underground operation in future to stretch its existence by few more decades.

The underground project which is anticipated to cost a whooping P65 billion will be the world‘s largest underground diamond mine.

The company which accounts for over 65 % of De Beers’s global production also operates Orapa Mine- one of the world’s largest by area, Letlhakane Mine currently a tailings treatment operation and Damtshaa Mine which is under care and maintenance following market shrink in 2020.

Namibia production decreased by 6% to 0.3 million carats, primarily due to planned maintenance of the Mafuta vessel which was completed in the quarter and another vessel remaining demobilized.  In Namibia De Beers sources diamonds both in land and marine through Namdeb and Debmarine respectfully.

In South Africa-the spiritual home ground of De Beers Group, production increased by 130% to 1.3 million carats, due to planned treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the Venetia open pit, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in Q2 2020.

Production in Canada increased by 14% to 0.9 million carats, primarily reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 measures implemented in Q2 2020.

De Beers said consumer demand for polished diamonds continued to recover, leading to strong demand for rough diamonds from midstream cutting and polishing centers, despite the impact on capacity from the severe Covid-19 wave in India during April and May.

Rough diamond sales totaled 7.3 million carats (6.5 million carats on a consolidated basis), from two Sights, reflecting the impact of the reduced Indian midstream capacity on Sight 4, compared with 0.3 million carats (0.2 million carats on a consolidated basis) from two Sights in Q2 2020, and 13.5 million carats (12.7 million carats on a consolidated basis) from three Sights in Q1 2021.

The H1 2021 consolidated average realized price increased by 13% to $135/ct (H1 2020: $119/ct), driven by an increased proportion of higher value rough diamonds sold.

While the average price index remained broadly flat, the closing index increased by 14% compared to the start of 2021, reflecting tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain as well as positive consumer demand for polished diamonds.

Full Year Guidance Production guidance is tightened to 32–33 million carats (previously 32-34 million carats (100% bases)), subject to trading conditions and the extent of any further Covid-19 related disruptions.

When commenting to 2021 quarter 2 production figures, Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of Anglo American- De Beers parent, said the entire Anglo American Group delivered a solid operational performance supported by comprehensive Covid-19 measures to help safeguard the lives and livelihoods of its workforce and host communities.

“We have generally maintained operating levels at approximately 95% of normal capacity and, as a consequence, production increased by 20% compared to Q2 of last year, with planned higher rough diamond production at De Beers” he said.

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