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BSE further revises equity brokerage commission

Following the successful demutualisation of Botswana Stock Exchange to a company held by shares BSEL limited has been introducing a number of changes within its stock trading operations , of which many automatically comes with a demutualised stock market.

 In April 2016 while still a mutual organization under the Ministry of Finance the BSE amended the equity brokerage commission to introduce a floor of 0.60 percent. However, the introduction of the floor has experienced several challenges since inception, receiving backlash from asset managers also viewed as impediment to potential investors, especially foreign asset managers.         

Now that BSE is a demutualised institution on transition to becoming a globally competitive stock trading platform that attracts universal multinational fortune 500 companies and international investors  further review on the equity brokerage commission has been ongoing.  After several consultations with asset managers BSE reiterates that the 2016 revised brokerage commission that is currently in effect has challenges and limitations that impedes smooth running of an evolving demutualised stock market.

A statement released by BSE this week said introducing the floor effectively raised the cost of trading and presented an opportunity for brokers to undercut one another in a bid to win trades. “It also has the potential to result in low trading activity in dual listed stocks as asset managers circumvent the BSE to trade the stocks in stock exchange where brokerage is comparatively lower.” reiterated BSE.

The stock market also said concerns underscored with the current brokerage commission are that benchmarking exercise which was undertaken to review the brokerage commission relied on information provided by an interested party, a broker, and the exercise could not have provided an independent and objective analysis for the BSE to make a well informed decision. In addition BSE observed that the information presented by the broker was not complete and comprehensive.

 “From that end, the benchmarking exercise selected higher ends ceilings of the brokerage commissions to give an impression that brokerage commission in Botswana is very low compared to the chosen markets to support the introduction of the floor,” BSE statement said.
Since the brokerage commission was revised effective April 2016 BSE trading turnover levels declined in 2016 and 2017, and still remained very low in 2018 compared to corresponding periods prior implementation of the floor.

 Further analysis indicated that if the impact of the trades in New African Properties (NAP) which accounted for 18.0 percent and 18.4 percent of turnover in 2016 and 2017 respectively is removed, trading levels for 2016 and 2017 would have lagged those for 2013, 2014 and 2015. On the back of reduced trading levels, particularly in 2018, it is generally believed that this is attributable to the introduction of the floor. Stakeholders have since expressed to the Exchange that the floor could be revised or removed with expectations of revival in trading activity.

“In part, their concerns are attributed to the pressure that the brokers are experiencing on their revenues as a result of subdued trading activity,” says BSEL. The Exchange further lamented that the introduction of the floor came with negative skewness to overall turnover distributions increased the variance and the deviation of daily average turnover and reduced the stability of turnover. A brief overview of BSE trading figures indicates that conventionally, high value trades attract lower commission compared to low value trades.

Historically, asset managers have been paying brokerage averaging 0.36 percent on the basis of the size of the trades.  It therefore could have been expected that introducing a floor that elevated the fees almost twice on average and by as much as six times what was paid for high value trades would result in a reduced propensity to trade in order to minimize the transaction costs incurred by the funds.  In bookovers, where the effort to facilitate the trades is correspondingly lower, asset managers have paid an average rate of 0.30 percent.

 An introduction of the floor of 0.60 percent effectively doubles the rate and doubling the rate would have been expected to curtail trading. To further support the review and possible scrapping out of the floor BSE say in a liberal market and a free market economy, fees have to be driven by competition on the basis of the quality of service and effort and have to be commensurate with the level of services provided.

 “In our case, the brokerage commission was not justified by any improvement in value added services, such as increased coverage of stocks or increased cost of execution that warrants passing the costs to the end investors. Therefore, this was mechanically engineered and this is against the order of free market economy,” lamented BSE. In most markets, brokerage commission is on a sliding scale. The scales are such that brokerage declines as the value of the transaction increases.

In a few markets, brokerage is negotiable within certain 3 ranges and in some market it is flat. Further, we have noted that the BSE’s ceiling of 1.85 percent is one of the highest in comparative markets.  Currently BSE is engaging stakeholders including the Public for ideas and views exchanges towards the possible removal of the floor.The Exchanges says in the interest of promoting the ideals of a liberal market, stimulating competitiveness and trading activity it recommends the removal of the floor of 0.60 percent such that brokerage is negotiable up to 1.85 percent as was the case prior to April 2016.

 “We base this on the fact that asset managers are capable of paying any fees and brokers are free to charge any fees, so without imposing mechanisms in the form of the floor, it is ideal to allow the broker and the asset manager to negotiate any rate,”  indicated the statement.
According to BSE the removal of the floor would positively impact overall transaction costs of the funds and stimulate trading activity also taking into account that increased trading activity directly contributes to more income for brokers.  

“This  will avoid situations where brokers are undercutting one another to cannibalise trades , also this will minimize situations where asset managers could potentially seek rebates for the trades they avail to the brokers with lesser broker effort,” observes BSE. The review and possible removal of the 0.6 percent floor is viewed by BSE as a great opportunity to attract more foreign asset managers who currently view the BSE as expensive.

The latest FTSE classification published in September 2018, the BSE is rated as having relatively unreasonable and uncompetitive transaction costs and BSE says this rating was a result of the introduction of the floor. In paper titled, “What attracts international investors to emerging markets?” the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE) found that reducing trading fees is associated with an increase in foreign trading activity. BSE says revision and possible removal of this charges would make the BSE more competitive relative to other markets.

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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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