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Buoyant MVAF joins big guns in property market

Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVAF) finally got approval to purchase shares in a company that owns the lucrative Airport Junction Mall-one of the Fund’s biggest investment this year, after months of waiting,

MVAF acquired 24.85 percent shareholding in Feune Pty Ltd from Exrod Pty Ltd. Feune owns Airport Junction Mall meaning the Fund now owns the plush mall which is adjacent to; the A1 road which goes to the north and the Airport road heading to Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. The MVAF-Exrod merger which was under the keen perusal of the Competition Authority finally got approved by the antitrust body last week.

The antitrust body said it has determined through the analysis of the facts of the merger that, “the 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 markets under consideration. The market structure in the relevant market will not be altered, and as such this transaction does not raise any competition concerns. In addition, there are no public interest concerns that could arise as a result of the proposed transaction.”

MVAF provides universal compensation to people affected by road accidents, hence does not sell any products or services for a fee.  In its latest financial statement released last week, MVAF recorded that total assets increased from P3.82 billion in 2016 to P3.83 billion in 2017.
On the back of increases in non-current assets from P3.0 billion to P3.1 billion while current assets reduced from P808.7 million to P727.2 million. Also, according to the Fund financial results, the reserves reduced from P2.7 billion in 2016 to P2.6 billion in 2017 while non-current liabilities increased from P794.6 million in 2016 to P999.9 million in 2017.

Current liabilities on the other hand reduced from P313.0 million in 2016 to P247.2 million in 2017 according to the fund’s financials. The revenue streams of the Fund are the fuel levy, third party cover, investment income and Government subvention.  The fuel levy rate is 5 thebe per litre of petroleum product sold. The Fuel levy revenue comprises fuel levy charged to fuel importers into Botswana. This levy income is accounted for on an accrual basis and its rate is 5 thebe per litre.

 According to the latest financial results, the net fuel levy income increased by 3.6% from P50.1million in 2016 to P52.0 million in 2017. In its bid to increase its revenues, MVAF has perpetually advocated for the increase of the fuel levy rate for years. According to MVAF CEO Micheal Tlhagwane in the Fund’s latest financial results, the accident compensation fund is planning  “engagement with government for the restoration of fuel levy to its previous rate of 9.5 thebe per litre are ongoing as the Fund now heavily relies investment income to meet the costs of claims and operating costs, which poses serious financial risks.”

 
Tlhagwane said the Fund will also initiate a limited legislative review to ensure that both the MVA Fund Act of 2007 and the MVA Fund Regulations of 2008 are relevant to the current operating environment geared towards improving administration of claims. The other revenue source, Third Party cover, comprises of premiums charged on foreign registered vehicles which enter the country.  The Third Party Cover decreased by P2 million from P10 million in 2016 to P8 million in 2017.  

The investment income comprises of the of the following: (a)Interest income which is recognized on a time proportion basis, taking account of the principal outstanding and the effective rate over the period to maturity, when it is determined that such income will accrue to the Fund. (b)Dividends are recognised when the right to receive payment is established. These relate to investments in local and offshore investments.

Lastly, the other part of investment income is (c) rental income revenue includes gross rental income, service charges and management charges from properties and income from property trading. Rental income is accrued on a straight-line basis over the contractual periods as and when the Fund becomes entitled to the income.  Even though the investment income has decreased by P78 million from being P94 million in 2016 to P16 million in the current year, the Airport Junction Mall will directly falls in this portfolio.

The latest MVAF investment venture, Airport Junction mall, will be buoyed by currently undergoing extension where there will be 30 shops and 488 parking area according to information reaching this publication.  There are currently 74 tenants, 51 145m² of two retail floors, 104 stores and 2378 parking bays. Since its inception Airport Junction has always been a money spinning venture according to property experts and investors with a space of 41 445m².

Property expert Sethebe Manake said for anyone investing in property; whether an individual or a company, it will depend on how deep the pocket is because currently there are lots of risks involved in the property venture. She said she hopes anyone in the property venture knows what they are doing given the fact that household utility or the cost of living is currently higher-cushion needs to be exercised.

With a huge decline in investment income, MVAF hopes that buying Airport Junction mall will boosts its investment in property.  According to the MVAF the Fund’s Investment Portfolio was valued at P3.73 billion as at 31st December 2017, recording a marginal increase of P10.0 million from P3.72 billion reported as at 31st December 2016. According to MVAF CEO, the year 2017 was another challenging year in the history of MVA Fund, as for a second successive year, the Fund recorded a high total comprehensive loss owing to depressed primary sources of income like the fuel levy, high unrealized offshore foreign exchange losses and high claims provisions.

However on a positive, the Fund received 2 934 claims during 2017, representing a decline of 3% when compared to 3 019 claims received in 2016 and the decline was attributable to reduction in serious injuries. But the Fund failed to settle claims well as the settled claims were 2 340 in 2017 unlike 2 568 claims settled in 2016.According to MVAF chairman Abraham Botes, the Fund was affected negatively by unrealized foreign exchange losses on offshore investments as the Botswana Pula continued to strengthen against the United States Dollar.

The Airport Junction Mall will join others in MVAF property portfolio which consists of the MVA Fund Head Office building, residential property investments in Gaborone and Francistown as well as retail partnership properties in Palapye, Francistown and Maun.  According to MVAF, the portfolio was valued at P155.5 million as at 31st December 2017, recording an increase of P22.0 million from P133.5 million recorded in 31st December 2016. “The overall impact of the negative performance by the local equities as well as the decrease in money market instruments affected the asset growth despite the strong run by the offshore investments,” said the MVAF financial statement.

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Diamond industry crises not over yet – De Beers Chief

13th January 2021
De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer: Bruce Cleaver

Following a devastating first half of the year 2020 due to COVID-19, the global diamond industry  started gaining  positive momentum towards the end of the year as key markets entered into  thanks giving and holiday season.

However Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group cautioned that the industry is not out of the woods yet, citing prevailing challenges ahead into 2021.

The first half of 2020 was characterized by some of the worst challenges in history of global diamond trade.

The midstream, where rough diamonds are traded in wholesale and bulk to cutters and polishers, was for the most part of second quarter 2020, suffocated by international travel restrictions as countries responded to the contagious Corona Virus.

This halted movement of buyers and shipment of  the rough goods , resulting  in unprecedented decline of sales, in turn  ballooning stockpiles as the upstream  operations produced with little uptake by the midstream.

The situation was exacerbated by muted demand in the downstream where jewelry industries and tail end retailers closed to further curb the spread of COVID-19.

However towards the end of third quarter getting into the last quarter of the year, demand in both midstream and downstream started to steadily pick up as countries relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.

De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value started reporting significant recovery in sales in the sixth and seventh cycle, figures began to reflect an upswing in sentiment as well as increase in uptake of rough goods by midstream.

Sales for the sixth cycle amounted to $116 Million, following a sharp downturn in the previous cycles, significant jump was realized during the seventh cycle, registering $320 million, an over 175 % upswing when gauged against the proceeding cycle.

De Beers noted that diamond markets showed some continued improvement throughout August and into September as Covid-19 restrictions continued to ease in various locations.

“Manufacturers focused on meeting retail demand for polished diamonds, particularly in certain product areas, accordingly, we saw a recovery in rough diamond demand in the seventh sales cycle of the year, reflecting these retail trends, following several months of minimal manufacturing activity and disrupted demand patterns in all major markets,” said De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver in September last year.

The diamond mining behemoth continued to register impressive sales in the eighth and ninth cycle signaling the industry could end the year on a positive note.

The momentum was indeed carried into the last cycle of the year. The value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for De Beers’ tenth sales cycle of 2020 amounted to $440 million, a significant increase from the 2019 tenth sales cycle value.

Against what seemed like a positive year end that would split into the New Year Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, however warned the industry not to count eggs before they hatch.

“Positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery resulting from the holiday season is supporting the continuation of retail orders for polished diamonds from the diamond industry’s midstream sector. This in turn supported steady demand for De Beers’s rough diamonds at our final sales cycle of 2020,” Cleaver had said in December.

In caution the De Beers Chief noted that “While the diamond industry ends the year on a positive note, we must recognise the risks that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presents to sector recovery both for the rest of this year and as we head into 2021.”

All segments of the supply chain were severely impacted by the global lockdown measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020.

After a strong US holiday season at the end of 2019, the rough diamond industry started 2020 positively as the midstream restocked and sentiment improved.

However, from February 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak began to have a significant impact on diamond jewellery retail sales and supply chain, with many jewelers suspending all polished purchases and/or delaying payments to their suppliers.

Rough diamond sales were materially affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, delaying the shipping of rough diamonds into cutting and trading centers and preventing buyers from attending sales events.

These resulted in significant decline in total revenue for the business in the first six months of 2020. Total revenue decreased by 54% to $1.2 billion from $2.6 billion registered in the prior half year period ended 30 June 2019.

For the entire first six (6) months of the year 2020 De Beers Rough diamonds sales fell drastically to $1.0 billion from $2.3 billion in the prior H1 period ended 30 June 2019. Sales volumes decreased by 45% to 8.5 million carats compared to 15.5 million carats registered in the prior period.

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Gov’t coffers depleting to record low levels 

13th January 2021
Dr Matsheka

Next month Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka will face the nation to deliver Botswana‘s first budget speech since COVID-19 pandemic put the world on devastating economic trajectory.

The pandemic that broke out in late 2019 in China has put the entire world on unprecedented chaos ,killing over P1 million people across the globe , shattering economies and almost rendering  the year 2020 – a 12 months stretch of complete setback.

The 2021/22 budget speech will come at time when Botswana’s economy is still trying to emerge out of this.

National lockdowns and local travel restrictions have hit small medium enterprises hard, while international travel restrictions halted movement of both good and people, delivering by far some of the heaviest and worst catastrophic blows on the diamond industry and tourism sector, the likes of which this country has never seen before on its largest economic sectors.

As Minister Matsheka faces parliament next month, the reality on the ground is that Botswana’s national current cash resource, the Government Investment Account (GIA) is depleting at lightning speed.

On the other hand the COVID-19 economic mess is  prevailing,  the virus is reported to have taken a new dangerous shape of a deadly variant, spreading like fueled veld fire and causing some of the world’s super powers back to tough restrictions of lockdown.

According official figures released by Bank of Botswana, in October 2020 the GIA was running at P6 billion compared to the P18.3 billion held in the account in October 2019.

However reports indicate that the account could be currently holding just about P3 billion.  The draw down from the GIA has been by exacerbated by declining diamond revenue, the country‘s largest cash cow. The sector was experiencing significant revenue decline even before COVID-19 struck.

 

When the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at a 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.

Taking into account the COVID-19 economic mess in 2020/21 financial year, the budget deficit could add up to P20 billion after revised figures.

Drawing down from government cash balances to finance these budget deficits meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account, hence the near depletion of this buffer.

Meanwhile  should Botswana’s revenue streams completely dry up to zero levels; the country would only have 11 months, before calling out for humanitarian  aids and international donors, because  foreign reserves are also on slow down.

During 2019, the foreign exchange reserves declined by 8.7 percent, from Seventy One Billion, Four Hundred Million Pula (P71.4 billion) in December 2018 to Sixty Five Billion, Three Hundred Million Pula (P65.3 billion) in December 2019.

The reserves declined further in 2020, falling by 2.3 percent to Sixty Three Billion, Seven Hundred Million Pula (P63.7 billion) in July 2020.  This was revealed by President Masisi during State of the Nation Address in November last year.

The decrease was mainly due to foreign exchange outflows associated with Government obligations and economy-wide import requirements.

However latest statistics(October 2020)  from Bank of Botswana reveal that Botswana’s foreign reserves are estimated at P58.4 billion, with  government’s share of these funds significantly low.

Government has since introduced several measures to contain costs and control expenditure with the most recent intervention being the halting of recruitment in government departments and parastatals.

Furthermore, Value Added Tax has been signaled to go up  from 12% to 14% in April this year with more hikes and service fees anticipated as government embarks on unprecedented domestic revenue mobilization.

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Cresta signs lease agreement for Phakalane golf estate hotel. continues with growth agenda despite covid-19 impact

13th January 2021

Botswana Stock Exchange listed hotel group Cresta Marakanelo Limited (“CML” or “the Company”) announced the signing of a lease agreement for Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Convention Centre, which will see CML extend its footprint by adding the 4 star Gaborone property to its already impressive portfolio.  The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals therefore the effective date of the transaction is expected to be 1 February 2021.

 

CML brings a wealth of expertise to the lease and despite the difficult year for the tourism and hospitality industry, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, CML remains confident in the recovery of the sector and the need to invest in expanding the Company’s footprint.

CML Managing Director, Mr Mokwena Morulane commented: “Our continued efforts to improve our offerings, understand the market dynamics and modern day trends in the face of global challenges, means we are ready for the changing face of tourism and international travel, and this addition to the Cresta portfolio signals our confidence in the future.  

 

“Despite the headwinds faced in 2020, Management has continued to focus on projects that enhance CML’s product offering such as the refurbishments at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa in the tourism capital Kasane and the ongoing refurbishment of Cresta Marang Residency in Francistown. The signing of the lease for the 4 star Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Conference Centre is a great addition to the Cresta portfolio and will unlock shareholder value in the future.

 

“We remain vigilant to value-enhancing opportunities including acquisitions or leases, after having reconsidered our pipeline against current and expected market conditions.”  

 

Commenting on the lease agreement, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr S Parthiban, speaking on behalf of Phakalane  noted; “No hotel chain holds as much expertise in the region, understands our local culture and tastes and what hospitality is about better than Cresta Marakanelo Limited. We believe that the renovations done to the property has made Phakalane Hotel and Convention Centre a unique product in Botswana and at par with international facilities.  We believe that this lease will benefit not only us as Phakalane , but the market in general as Cresta has run hotels successfully in Botswana for over 30 years and is therefore expected to bring new offerings that appeal to the local and international markets as well as the residents and visitors to the Golf Estate. We look forward to a long mutually beneficial relationship with Cresta.” 

 

CML like the rest of the tourism and hospitality industry and the entire value chain was hard hit by lockdowns  with the surge of COVID-19. By investing during the low period, the company hopes to realise the future value of spending time in preparing for the new consumer dynamics and behaviour.  Despite business interruptions as a result of a six-month long state of emergency and several lock-down periods declared by the Government of Botswana to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Company is starting to record an increase in occupancies, which bodes well for the recovery of the industry and the Company’s future prospects.

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