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Be patient – BTCL to investors

Botswana Telecommunication Corporation Limited (BTCL) Head of Stakeholder Relations, Thato Sedirwa has said contrary to the perception in the market space that BTCL stock and figures are on a non-redeemable fall, the company share structure remains relatively the same since IPO, indicating BTCL shareholders still have confidence in the company’s transformation journey.

“There is a narrative that institutional investors are dumping BTCL, that is not true because shares held by institutional investors are significantly of large volume,” she said.  “This means if an institution dispose its BTCL shares, only an institution can purchase because of the monetary requirement attached to the shares, this then results in little or no change in our investment structure because when one institution is selling another is buying,” she said.

Sedirwa added that institutional investors sell their shares because of various reasons such as change in mandate, fluctuating investment philosophy and profile. “Some institutions actually sell because they want to balance their books, and there is always another institution to uptake that stock, so it is actually misleading to conclude that investment institutions are dumping BTCL,” she explained. At the 2016 April IPO which was significantly over subscribed, BTCL shareholders were sitting at just over 50 300.

 Of this, 82 percent were shareholders holding 5000 shares and less, adding into only 9.3 percent of the total company stake.  Two years later , as of march 2018 ,  the structure had  only slightly changed ,  still depicting thinly held stocks with holders of 5000 and less shares accounting for 80 percent of the total shareholders, adding  into just over 7.1  percent of the total BTCL shareholding.

BTCL investment profile comprises of three segments; the 5000 shares and less basket is predominantly formed by middle income earners and by in large ordinary citizens , while the investment institutions bracket is dominated by pension funds stakes  with Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund(BPOPF) in the lead. The high investor pot boils by in large with wealthy select few individuals. Botswana government still holds a significant stake of 51 percent.

Sedirwa reiterated that the share price performance is influenced by various other factors that do not necessarily emanate from the company’s performance.  “We still hold a record as one of the highest dividend yields on the local bourse, an investor who bought shares at IPO two years ago and has never sold their shares has so far made 33 percent return on investment, long term investors are usually unmoved by the short term volatility,” she said.

According to Sedirwa, most of share offloads are within the 5000 and less shares holding basket which is dominated by people who are generally not familiar with stock market trends. “These are usually retail investors who are by in large ordinary Batswana who sell because they are seeking a short term remedy to an immediate financial situation, some sell because they completely lack appreciation of the stock market trends and what bearing  selling actually  has,” she observed.

She said usually when BTCL shares are not doing well people would dispose their stakes, doing what they call exiting a “failed investment”. “This are usually retail investors who are under pressure to meet their liquidity requisites. Under these instances we would see investment institutions and wealthy individuals because of their better understanding and long term vision, buy these shares at these low prices then later enjoy handsome returns when the stock price recovers,” she noted.  

The BTCL stakeholder liaison further added that some retail investors can dispose-off their shares just before the dividend pay-out, which results in new buyers being major beneficiaries. “If you sell before last day of registration then the buyer registers that transaction into their increased holding, which means during dividend pay-out the returns go to the new holder,” she said. “Not all retail investors actual understands this and they only realize after losses this an uninformed trading.”

BTCL, which made history in April 2016 by becoming  Botswana’s first state owned enterprise to be privatized and the country’s first and only telecommunication company to be listed on the stock exchange, remains a profitable company with formidable asset base and positively progressing  commercialisation process . The man at the helm of Megaleng House, Anthony Masunga said in several stakeholder engagements that his company is still on a transition and transformation period from being a government owned entity to fully commercialised entity.

“We continue with our journey to transform the operations of BTCL to enable sustainable growth of stakeholder value. Although BTCL transitioned from a parastatal when it converted to a public company limited by shares in 2012, the real work of transforming the operations of the business began post listing,” Masunga said at the recent results announcement. “As our shareholders expect a return on their investment, we want to deliver a solid performance focused on our two-prong strategy of both transformation and growth. The goal is to deliver to our shareholders, a fully transformed, agile and profitable company by 2020,” said Masunga.

Following a compressed 2017/18 financial year, depicted by  2  percent and  8 percent decline in revenues and profit before tax  respectively, BTCL , the country’s  only listed telecom outfit did not have it easy during the first half of  2018/19 financial year. The group reported another set of contracted figures in revenues and consequently shrunk profits for the six month period ended September 2018 when compared to first half of 2017.

The 12 percent decline in half year revenue attributable to a fall in mobile revenue figures and challenges with the new billing system amongst others is likely to dispatch into in overall low figures for the entire financial year which ends in March this year. However BTCL says it is a company in transition to an agile and fully commercial approach with sustainable growth patterns by 2020.

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Business

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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