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Domestic fuel price hike shakes up inflation

Inflation for the last quarter of 2018 has been shaken up by a hike of 0.3 percent from 2.9 in September to 3.6 percent in October 2018, Bank of Botswana has revealed on Monday.

When delivering the Bank rate position formulated by Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), Bank of Botswana (BoB) executives indicated that inflation is expected to edge up slightly in the short term, by in large still attributable to increase in domestic fuel prices. Botswana has received back-to-back fuel prices increase within a month period with the last one being two weeks ago where, petrol went up by 0.33t per litre, while diesel increased by 0.36t per litre and paraffin 0.31t per litre up.

The Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security has explained that the increase in retail pump prices was necessitated by the growing numbers of under recoveries since September 2017. Authorities further shared that the actual cost of importing petroleum products into Botswana has been higher than the regulated price aligned to the local retail pump prices as per international trends. The two petrol price increases in a month amount to 0.98t – which is still short from the recommended P1.14, mirroring another possible price hike in the not so far future.

Under recoveries is the difference between the cost of importing fuel and the price set by the government the retail that is to say if it costs companies such as Engen and Shell about P10 per litre to import petrol but then the government says petrol should be charged at P8 per litre at the filling station, it means there is an under recovery of P2 or loss of that amount to the companies. Previously   the differences or losses was paid for by the government through the NPF, which collects a certain amount when Batswana buy fuel.

 But since last year revelations that over P250 million was siphoned from NPF and diverted to the Directorate on Intelligence Security (DIS). While the matter is still before the courts, consumers are for the first time starting to feel the pinch without the protection of the NPF which has been depleted. This week BoB however indicated that the outlook for price stability remains positive as inflation is forecast to remain within the Bank’s 3 – 6 percent objective range in the medium term.

Subdued domestic demand pressures and the modest increase in foreign prices contribute to the positive inflation outlook in the medium term. BOB said the outlook is subject to upside risks emanating from the potential rise in administered prices domestic fuel prices and government levies and/or taxes beyond current forecasts.“However, restrained growth in global economic activity, technological progress and productivity improvement, along with modest wage growth, present downside risks to the outlook,” said Bank of Botswana Governor Moses Pelaelo.

Real GDP grew by 4.4 percent in the twelve months to June 2018, compared to a lower expansion of 3.2 percent in the year to June 2017. The improvement in performance reflects the recovery in the mining sector, which grew by 5.6 percent compared to a contraction of 10 percent in the previous year.

Growth in non-mining GDP moderated to 4.3 percent in the year to June 2018, from 5 percent in 2017. GDP growth is projected to improve in the short to medium term, driven largely by performance of the Services sectors and recovery in mining activity, in line with positive global economic prospects. Furthermore, the projected accommodative monetary conditions in the domestic economy and increase in government expenditure are expected to support growth of economic activity in the non-mining sectors.

 “Overall, it is anticipated that the economy will operate close to, but below full capacity in the medium term, thus posing no upside risk to the inflation outlook.” Global output growth is projected at 3.7 percent in 2018 and 2019, the same as in 2017. Protectionist trade policies, potential build-up of financial vulnerabilities induced by easy financial conditions and geopolitical tensions could negatively affect the medium-term prospects.

Regionally, economic prospects in South Africa are expected to remain subdued in the short term with growth of 0.6 percent in 2018 and 1.9 percent in 2019. Pelaelo noted that the current state of the economy and the outlook for both domestic and external economic activity suggest that the prevailing monetary policy stance is consistent with maintaining inflation within the objective range of 3 – 6 percent in the medium term.

Consequently, the MPC decided to retain the Bank Rate at 5 percent. This signals that consumers will continue with unchanged fees for serving existing bank loans while banks will remain with their existing operating margins. The Monetary Policy Committee meets on a recurring interval of about two months to decide on any movements of the bank rate, basing its decision on the local inflation and other macro-economic factors as well as global economic outlook and key commodities trends like oil prices. The bank rate underpins all other interest rates within the market and any adjustment to it affects indicators such as the prime rate, the deposit rate and others

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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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