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Multibillion-Pula Trans Kalahari Railway takes shape

Botswana Railways and its Namibian Counterpart state owned TransNamib recently penned down a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate the joint development of a container terminal at Gobabis.

 Located around 110km west of Botswana Namibia boarder. Gobabis is the terminus of a 1067 Km gauge line from the port of Walvis Bay via the capital Windhoek. According to executives of the two companies the MoU would serve as a standing point to assist the two governments with the development of proposed Trans-Kalahari railway.

 The 1500 kilometers railway line would connect Botswana to the Namibian Atlantic coast, traversing the vast semi-arid, sandy savannah of the Kalahari Desert from Botswana to Namibia, with the sole benefit of connecting the land-locked Botswana to Namibia's port of Walvis Bay, thus unlocking the value of coal mining in Botswana and power generation in the region.

TransNamib Corporate Communications Executive Ally Hangula Paulino observed this week that the over P100 billion railway line would complement the existing Trans-Kalahari corridor, which links Botswana to the port of Walvis Bay, but stretches 1 900 kilometres from Walvis Bay, through Windhoek, Gaborone in Botswana and Johannesburg to Pretoria in South Africa.

 The just signed Trans-Kalahari railway agreement includes adding a coal terminal and associated loading facilities to the Namibia-Botswana corridor that would benefit other landlocked Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries like Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe by providing alternative transportation routes. Botswana Government signed several agreements on the Walvis Bay and the shortcoming has been that the port and cargo bay are unutilized by the traders and Botswana business people.

According to Botswana Investment & Trade Center (BITC) government trade facilitation and investment wooing machinery the Botswana Dry Port acts as a key receipt or dispatch point for commodities either destined for Botswana or regionally providing storage and bagging.
 Opportunities presented by the Port are therefore in line with this, covering transport and logistics services to and from the Port including other services offered at the Port such as cartage services, container handling, stacking, storage, a break bulk terminal, general purpose warehouse, empty container park and value-added services such as customs clearance.

 The dry port facility project has cost the Botswana government about P50 million, under the commercial management of Botswana Railways Botswana Government leased a portion of land, measuring 36200sq from the Namibian government to establish a Dry Port in its quest to facilitate import/export activities for Botswana Businesses and international trade undertakings. Botswana as a member of Southern African Customs Union (SACU) has several trade agreements and advantages it has and enjoys from the membership.

Trans Kalahari High Way which is a corridor that links Botswana, South Africa and Namibia is one of the infrastructures put up by the Governments and international partners to help enhance cross border trade in the region.  The Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) is a tripartite trans-boundary Corridor Management Institution that was established with a political and economic vision to pursue or contribute towards deeper regional integration programs of SADC, SACU and indeed NEPAD.

The Trans Kalahari Corridor (TKC) is a road network spanning approximately 1900 kilometers across the territories of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.  It starts in the Gauteng Province in South Africa and continues through Rustenburg and Zeerust in the North-West Province, through Lobatse and Kanye in Botswana, the Mamuno and Trans Kalahari Border Posts, through Gobabis, Windhoek and Okahandja in Namibia and right through to the Port of Walvis Bay.

The port of Walvis Bay on the west coast of Namibia strategically links to other Corridors in the sub-region, namely: Trans Kunene Corridor, Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi (Trans Caprivi) Corridor, Windhoek-Luanda Corridor and Trans Oranje Corridor. Road network linkages cut across these Corridors creating a strategic network. The TKC also connects the ports of Walvis Bay with the Maputo Corridor, resulting in the Coast-to-Coast Corridor.

This Corridor is known for providing a short transport link across the entire breadth of the South African Sub-continent. Compared to the traditional routes via southern Namibia to South Africa’s Gauteng, TKC cuts the distance by 400 kilometers, making it a more preferred route and providing cost effective logistical advantages to users. The TKC is a strategic route-of-choice that provides linkages between the Americas and East European markets and the Southern African hinterland

The Trans Kalahari Corridor is complemented by the Maputo Corridor on the east coast of Africa, thus forming a transport corridor over the entire breadth of southern Africa. The Trans Kalahari Corridor Management Committee, a joint regional committee with rotatory chairmanship, was initiated and established by Namibia’s Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication in conjunction with the Botswana and South African Governments as well as private sector transport representatives. The Committee’s purpose is to simplify cross-border transactions and customs operations along the Corridor.

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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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