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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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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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