Wilderness cashes in from US dollar appreciation
Strong performance of the United States Dollar (USD) during the larger part of 2018 as well as vibrant American market has bolstered Wilderness Safari‘s business for the half year period ended August 2018 , a report from the Pan African tourism outfit has revealed.
The report released last week signals strong sets of unaudited financial results for Wilderness Safaris Limited. The Botswana Stock Exchange Limited (BSE) listed Safari camp operator has registered an impressive 11 percent hike on revenue to close H1 2018 at P780 million following significant improvement in yields as well as 3 percent rise in bed nights sold to 104 855 compared to 101 404 in the six-month ended August 2017.
This revenue for the represented 65percent of the company’s total sales compared to 64 percent of the corresponding period last year. This, according to the company which recently experienced significant shifts in board directorship, is amongst other factors attributable to the successful launch of the newly built Mombo as well as political stability in Kenya. During the period under review the company matched its best ever occupancy rate of 71 percent, normalised for Governors’, or 67 percent overall, which is the highest recorded since the acquisition of Governors’.
The appreciation of the US Dollar since the beginning of the financial year and a strong US market is further underscored as key factor that provided tailwinds to significant growth. Wilderness Safaris which operates one of the luxurious camping and hospitality sites in Africa, including in Botswana’s elite tourist attraction places has a strong American market base. A significant share of the company’s booking transactions are actually done in US dollar currencies. These factors saw Wilderness’ trading profit jump by 26 percent to P235 million in spite of just one percentage point increase in total available bed nights capacity to 156 788.
The Group posted 36 percent increase in headline earnings per share
Trading profit margin increased from 26 percent to 30 percent. Keith Vincent, Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says the increase in profit margins mirrors from the impact on the bottom line of the strong demand for bed nights and the improved utilisation of the Group’s assets. “The impact on revenue of the depreciation of the local currencies was negligible, largely because of the adoption of IFRIC 22 which requires that foreign currencies be converted at the earlier of receipt or service” explained Vincent in the results report.
The Group chief further shared that Wilderness Group’s collection period is primarily from February to July, thus a substantial portion of revenue was recorded at exchange rates lower than those prevailing last year, as the Pula exchange rate to the US Dollar lagged behind until June 2018. “Costs have remained well contained at 7% higher than prior year. Some level of upward pressure is evident in transport costs due to higher fuel prices and greater activity, as well as lease costs (impact of new leases and their accounting smoothing” reads an extract of the brief commentary by the company directors.
Wilderness also notes that Staff costs increased marginally higher than inflation, largely because of a slight increase in headcount and higher share-based payments charges, increasing by 34 percent to P3.3 million from P2.4 million. Other gains of P4.5 million include proceeds from insurance claims amounting to P2.1 million and profit on sale of a subsidiary of P2.4 million. Financial figures suggest that Impairment losses amounted to P5.2 million and relate to the impairment of Mombo Trails Camp which seats at P3.5 million and a damaged aircraft which cost the company P1.5 million.
The Group’s effective tax rate increased to 25 percent from 14 percent in the prior year, largely due to the recognition in the prior year of a P10 million deferred tax asset in the Governors’ Group. Capital expenditure amounted to P100 million for the period, continuing with the Wilderness’s philosophy to ensure the Group’s properties and assets remain in pristine condition. Approximately P9 million was spent on a temporary camp and one new camp, and P45 million on rebuilding existing camps and one additional aircraft.
Vincent says the balance is defensive in nature. In addition, figures highlight that cash balances and less overdrafts, have increased by 83 percent to P508 million as a result of strong cash generated from operations amounting to P323 million, offset by an outflow in investing activities of P79 million and loan repayments as well as dividends payment.
In terms of segmental performance all geographical segments, other than South Africa, reported increases in segment profit. The two main drags on South Africa were additional corporate recoveries as well as a slow-down in the road transfer business due to the impact on tourism following the water crisis in Cape Town. Wilderness Safari’s footprint stretches across Africa currently doing business in seven countries operating over 40 camps.
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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.
The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices. Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.