Tafa, Tollmans exit Wilderness
Corporate lawyer, Parks Tafa has finally bowed out of Wilderness Holdings after spending the entire just ended financial period on the sidelines owing to ill-health. Tafa has served Wilderness for the past eight years and has been chairman of the board since 2013. Tafa decided to retire as chairman of Wilderness Holdings by rotation with effect from 30 August 2018.
BusinessPost understands that Tafa has been suffering from ill-health since the past financial year and former deputy chairman Micheal Tollman had to stand in for him for the whole period. Tafa never attended all the required four board meetings of Wilderness. “Unfortunately, the Group’s Chairman, Parks Tafa, has been indisposed for some time and I have agreed to deputize for him in this letter. We wish Parks all the best for a speedy and complete recovery,” said Tollman.
As suggested by his company, Tafa had to take advantage of the company’s constitution which states that a third of the directors retire by rotation each year and are eligible for re-election by shareholders at the annual general meeting. Other directors who joined Tafa in exiting Wilderness Holdings door are the Tollmans; Michael and Gavin Tollman who resigned from the ecotourism company last month. Michael served the board since 2005 while Gavin who only attended one board meeting in the last financial year’s service was for the last eight years.
The billionaire Tollman family which boasts a travel and hospitality empire disinvested from Wilderness as the largest single shareholder in the company through Wine Investment Limited. The Tollman family had 80 697 582 ordinary shares translating to 33.99 percent shareholding. Through Wine Investment the Tollmans sold their entire stake to The Rise Fund. They are estimated to have sold the shares for P472.9 million.
After pocketing an estimated P472.9 million the Tollmans bought an entity called Great Exploration from Wilderness for P16, 8 million. Micheal Tollman was part of the board that sold Great Explorations to his own company Mountbatten. During the transaction Mountbatten was considered to be a related party in view of the fact that Gavin Tollman was a member of board of directors for both Wilderness and Wine Investments which is owned by Mountbatten.
The company that is now owned by the Tollmans, Great Exploration, owns Xigera Camp located in the tourism wealthy Paradise Island in Okavango. Wilderness explained that it sold Xigera because “has performed below expectations in the preceding five years and requires a substantial capital investment for refurbishment.”
In a previous interview with BusinessPost, Micheal Tollman said they are going to turn Xigera into a five star hospitality hub. After the sale of Xigera it was stated in Wilderness reports that “Mountbatten is willing to inject the required capital investment into the Camp.” Also exiting Wilderness with the Tollmans and Tafa is independent director Roux Marnitz who resigned by rotation with effect from 30 August 2018. Martinitz chose not to offer himself for re-election during the company’s AGM.
Tafa and the Tollmans leave the company with increased revenue by 9 percent to P1 209 million (2017: P1 107 million) driven by the increase in bednights sold. According to the Wilderness financial report, overall bednight sales increased by 8 percent to 178 347 (2017: 165 864); excluding Governors’, bednight sales grew by 4 percent. The Group’s occupancy rate was up slightly to 59 percent (2017: 58 percent).
On the low the Pula gained more than 5 percent against the US Dollar over the year impacting negatively on revenue, and this was also the cause of the large foreign exchange losses on conversion of the Group’s foreign currency position. Also, EBITDA margin declined from 19 percent to 17 percent, primarily due to the higher foreign exchange losses as well as lower ‘Other gains’. The financial report also state that these gains primarily comprise insurance proceeds and net profit on disposal of assets, and have declined from P16 million to P1 million in the current year.
According to Wilderness financial report, impairment losses amounted to P9.6 million and relate to the impairment of decommissioned camp assets and camp assets damaged by flooding. Net finance costs were 108 percent higher at P19.2 million (2017: P9.2 million), being a consequence of the inclusion of Governors’ and the increased debt to finance capital investment and acquisitions, according to the financial report.
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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.
Food import bill slightly declines
The latest figures released by Statistics Botswana this week shows that food import bill for Botswana slightly declined from around P1.1 billion in November 2022 to around P981 million in December during the same year.
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Moody’s Reaffirms African Trade Insurance’s A3 Rating & Revises Outlook to Positive
Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) has affirmed the A3 insurance financial strength rating (IFSR) of the African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI) for the fifth consecutive year and changed the outlook from stable to positive.
Moody’s noted that the change in outlook to positive reflects the strong growth in ATI’s membership base – that has resulted in improved portfolio diversification, strengthened capital adequacy, and the good profitability despite the challenging operating environment. In addition, ATI benefits from its preferred creditor status (PCS) amongst sovereign member states which protects it from the risk of default by member sovereigns through securing recoveries against claims paid on guarantees.
The strong membership and equity growth are some of the key considerations for the consistent reinstatement of ATI’s A/Stable rating by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s rating, over the years. Also supporting the rating affirmation are; consistent improvement in financial performance, commitment of its shareholders who continue to uphold the preferred creditor status, its high quality and conservative investment portfolio as well as strong relationships with a number of global reinsurers that provide significant risk-bearing capacity.
With the change in outlook to “positive”, ATI is now better placed to provide enhanced support to its member countries, attract additional shareholding and grow its portfolio. The positive outlook is an indication that if ATI continues to demonstrate its strong underwriting performance and ability to recover claims under the preferred creditor arrangements, among other factors, an upward pressure towards an upgrade may be generated. The Moody’s press release can be accessed from here
Commenting on the rating, Africa Trade Insurance Chief Executive Officer Manuel Moses said: “This positive revision is in line with our 2023 – 2027 strategic objectives in which we set to improve our rating outlook to positive in the first year, and achieve an upgrade of at least “AA”/Stable rating by both Moody’s and S&P within this Strategic Plan period. We aim to achieve this by doubling our exposures and increasing our capital to more than USD1 billion.”
ATI’s mandate is to provide trade-credit and political risk insurance, as well as other risk mitigation products to its member countries and related public and private sector actors. These insurance products not only directly encourage and facilitate foreign direct investment as well as local private sector investment in our member countries, but also contribute to intra- and extra-African trade.
About The African Trade Insurance Agency
ATI was founded in 2001 by African States to cover trade and investment risks of companies doing business in Africa. ATI predominantly provides Political Risk, Credit Insurance and, Surety Insurance. Since inception, ATI has supported US$78 billion worth of investments and trade into Africa. For over a decade, ATI has maintained an ‘A/Stable’ rating for Financial Strength and Counterparty Credit by Standard & Poor’s, and in 2019, ATI obtained an A3/Stable rating from Moody’s, which has now been revised to A3/Positive.