Botswana Insurance Holding Limited (BIHL), an investment group with interests in leading insurance and finance business across Africa continues to increases its market share and retain profitability amid increasing competition from new entrants and evolving regulatory and trading environments.
When delivering a review on the lapsing 5 year strategy which commenced in 2013 BIHL Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Catherine Lesetedi-Letegele noted that the strategy delivered sustainability and continued profitability for the group with increasing market share. Letegele shared these at the BIHL 2018 interim results announcement in Gaborone this Tuesday.
The BIHL chief explained that since the commencement of the “The Tomagano” five-year strategy the company has been able to protect its leading status and position in all its businesses, penetrated new markets as well as introduced new segments. “When growing our businesses we did so closely monitoring profitability and risks in new investments, we did not just aim at increasing our market share without protecting profitability and sustainability,” she said.
She highlighted that in the past five years the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) listed BIHL acquired 25 percent stake in Nico Holdings based in Malawi, 50 percent stake in Botswana Insurance Company as well as increased share stake in Pan African outfits Letshego Holdings and Funeral Services Group. She also noted that BIHL disposed some assets that were no longer serving the interests of BIHL‘s strategic expansion targets.
Stakeholders were informed that BIHL increased efficiencies in group operations through establishment of a program office, group business development office, HR and IT administration and monitoring bases. “These business suits have delivered and continue to deliver efficiencies within the group, we also introduced new technologies across the group to harness synergies in ensuring that we run a well managed business and create a pull of individuals that are not just specialists but also generalists,” she said
Letegele also echoed that BIHL has within the five year strategy entered into collaborations with strategic corporate entities in the interest of the company and its workforce. “We have signed agreements with the likes of Baisago University, sent our people to Gordon Institutes of Business Science, collaborated with Sanlam and Stellenbosch University amongst others, all of this has been done under clear management processes. We recognized that BIHL does not exist in a vacuum as a corporate citizen, we believe we have executed well on the strategy,” explained Letegele.
She revealed that a new strategy will be launched in March next year. Since 2008 Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited has realized a growth in embedded , raking in 5 billion in profits before tax since to date , paid 2.7 billion pula dividends and paid just under 800 million pula tax to Botswana government. Speaking to the half year results for the six month period ended June 2018, BIHL CEO explained that the Group continues to lead profitable operations amid trading challenges.
“In our view as management we believe we gathered resilient set of results supported by growth in revenue, growth in value of new businesses, growth in operating profits, growth in group embedded value amongst others,” she said. Letegele explained that overall expenses have been well maintained to output flat growth. “This is our dedication to ensure that we are managing cost by spending money on areas that we believe are investment geared rather than on consumption operations,” she stated.
Letegele contend that BIHL raked in an impressive 54 percent increase in premium income, because of new products, strategic partnerships, and schemes adding that the group administration system implemented during the half year under review also contributed to Group’s impressive overall performance. Letegele explained that return on group embedded value grew from 8.3 percent to 17.6 percent attributable to increased value of new business which expanded by 14 percent as well as the fact that the company didn’t incur any impairment.
On segment and subsidiary performance, Letegele revealed that the Life insurance business which is headlined by BIHL largest subsidiary, Botswana Life gathered and increase in Net Premium Income for the first half of 2018 with increase from P1.1 billion in six month ended June 2017 to P1.15 billion during period under review. Still under Life Insurance Business total New Business written grew by 7 percent underpinned by strong single premium income performance.
Recurring premium income grew by an impressive 9 percent from P605 million in June 2017 to P659 million in June 2018. “This line represents a sustainable source of profits in the long term at group level,” she said. The value of new business, which represents the present value of future profits from new business premiums written during the period, increased by 14 percent from prior year on the back of impressive new business volumes from the group lines and term assurance policies.
Operating profit grew 15 percent on prior year mainly because of good new business volumes from the group line, low new business strain and cost savings from the streamlining exercise carried out second half of last year. Operating profit increased from P142 million in June 2017 to P164 million in June 2018.
Under the Botswana Insurance Fund Management (BFIM) Letegele shared that despite the challenges of mixed economic performance reflecting both international economic uncertainty as well as domestic challenges BIHL’s asset management outfit managed to retain mandates and existing clients. However BIFM group’s overall operating profit in the 2018 first half showed a decline of 8 percent year on year.
BIHL explained that this is due to direct result of Zambia operations not performing as expected because of unrealized activities that were anticipated to take place in the year 2018. “Despite the current difficult trading conditions, where we have witnessed several new entrants into the market and pension funds adopting new strategies of splitting mandates, BIFM has continued to show resilience and continued to gain market confidence and maintain its position as a leading Asset Management Company,” explained Letegele.
Total Assets under management including Zambia’s P4.7 billion stands at P26 billion. Regarding the Short term insurance business, Letegele explained that the segment continued to face pressure on the top line resulting in an 8 percent decline in income compared to prior year. Despite the top line pressures, Legal Guard has achieved an operating profit of P1.8 million to June 2018 up from a P0.9 million loss for the same period last year.
“With the introduction of a new core operating system last year, the business has been able to provide an enhanced platform for claims administration which has resulted in turn in a decline in claims costs,” she said. Botswana Insurance Holding Limited Board Chairperson, Dambe Groth said BIHL Group remains well positioned in terms of capital management and solvency.
She explained that the board has confidence in the Group’s ability to maintain dividends at this level while ensuring that its capital position remains solid and aligned with future capital requirements across the Group, at sustained levels of Return on Group Equity Value. The Group’s embedded value increased to P4.37 billion as compared to the P4.31 billion in the half year ended June 2017. The embedded value allows for P288 million dividends paid during the period
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of Botswana decided to maintain the Bank Rate at 3.75 percent at a meeting held on October 21, 2021. Briefing members of the media moments after the meeting Bank of Botswana Governor Moses Pelaelo explained that Inflation decreased from 8.8 percent in August to 8.4 percent in September 2021, although remaining above the upper bound of the Bank’s medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent.
He said Inflation is projected to revert to within the objective range in the second quarter of 2022, mainly on account of the dissipating impact of the recent upward adjustment in value added tax (VAT) and administered prices from the inflation calculation; which altogether contributed 5.2 percentage points to the current level of inflation. Overall, risks to the inflation outlook are assessed to be skewed to the upside.
These risks include the potential increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts; persistence of supply and logistical constraints due to lags in production; possible maintenance of travel restrictions and lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic; domestic risk factors relating to regular annual price adjustments; as well as second-round effects of the recent increases in administered prices and inflation expectations that could lead to generalised higher price adjustments.
Furthermore, aggressive action by governments (for example, the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP)) and major central banks to bolster aggregate demand, as well as the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programmes, could add pressure to inflation. These risks are, however, moderated by the possibility of weak domestic and global economic activity, with a likely further dampening effect on productivity due to periodic lockdowns and other forms of restrictions in response to the emergence of new COVID-19 variants.
A slow rollout of vaccines, resulting in the continuance of weak economic activity and the possible decline in international commodity prices could also result in lower inflation, as would capacity constraints in implementing the ERTP initiatives. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Botswana grew by 4.9 percent in the twelve months to June 2021, compared to a contraction of 5.1 percent in the corresponding period in 2020.
The increase in output is attributable to the expansion in production of both the mining and non-mining sectors, resulting from an improved performance of the economy from a low base in the corresponding period in the previous year. Mining output increased by 3 percent in the year to June 2021, because of a 3.2 percent increase in diamond mining output, compared to a contraction of 19.3 percent in 2020. Similarly, non-mining GDP grew by 5.4 percent in the twelve-month period ending June 2021, compared to a decrease of 0.7 percent in the corresponding period in 2020.
The increase in non-mining GDP was mainly due to expansion in output for construction, diamond traders, transport and storage, wholesale and retail and real estate. Projections by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggest a rebound in economic growth for Botswana in 2021. The Ministry projects a growth rate of 9.7 percent in 2021, moderating to a growth of 4.3 percent in 2022. On the other hand, the IMF forecasts the domestic economy to grow by 9.2 percent in 2021; and this is expected to moderate to a growth of 4.7 percent in 2022. The growth outcome will partly depend on success of the vaccine rollout.
According to the October 2021 World Economic Outlook (WEO), global output growth is forecast at 5.9 percent in 2021, 0.1 percentage point lower than in the July 2021 WEO update. The downward revision reflects downgrades for advanced economies mainly due to supply disruptions, while the growth forecast for low-income countries was lowered as the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines weigh down on economic recovery. Meanwhile, global output growth is anticipated to moderate to 4.9 percent in 2022, as some economies return to their pre-COVID-19 growth levels.
The South African Reserve Bank, for its part, projects that the South African GDP will grow by 5.3 percent in 2021, and slow to 1.7 percent in 2022. The MPC notes that the short-term adverse developments in the domestic economy occur against a growth-enhancing environment. These include accommodative monetary conditions, improvements in water and electricity supply, reforms to further improve the business environment and government interventions against COVID-19, including the vaccination rollout programme.
In addition, the successful implementation of ERTP should anchor the growth of exports and preservation of a sufficient buffer of foreign exchange reserves, which have recently fallen to an estimate of P47.9 billion (9.8 months of import cover) in September 2021. Overall, it is projected that the economy will operate below full capacity in the short to medium term and, therefore, not creating any demand-driven inflationary pressures, going forward.
The projected increase in inflation in the short term is primarily due to transitory supply-side factors that, except for second-round effects and entrenched expectations (for example, through price adjustments by businesses, contractors, property owners and wage negotiations), do not normally attract monetary policy response. In this context, the MPC decided to continue with the accommodative monetary policy stance and maintain the Bank Rate at 3.75 percent. Governor Moses Pelaelo noted that the Bank stands ready to respond appropriately as conditions warrant.
The Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) recently launched the Mayor’s forum. The Authority will engage with local governments to improve ease of doing business, boost investment, and fast track the development of Botswana’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
The Mayors Forum was established to recognise the vital role that local authorities play in infrastructure development; as they approve applications for planning, building and occupation permits. Local authorities also grant approvals for industrial licenses for manufacturing companies. SEZA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lonely Mogara explained that the Mayor’s Forum was conceptualised after the Authority identified local authorities as critical partners in achieving its mandate and improving the ease of doing business. SEZA intends to develop legal instructions for different Ministries to align relevant laws with the SEZ Act, which will enable the operationalisation of the SEZ incentives.
“Engaging with local government will bring about the much-needed transformation as our SEZs are located in municipalities. For us, a good working relationship with local authorities is the special ingredient required for the efficient facilitation of SEZ investors, which will lead to their competitiveness and ultimate growth,” Mogara stated.
The Mayors Forum will focus on the referral of investors for establishment in different localities, efficient facilitation of investors, infrastructure and property development, and joint monitoring and evaluation of the SEZ programme at the local level. SEZA believes that collaborating with local authorities will bring about much-needed transformation in the areas where SEZs are located and ultimately within the national economy. Against this background, the concept of hosting a Mayors Forum was birthed to identify and provide solutions to possible barriers inhibiting ease of doing business.
One of the key outcomes of the Mayors Forum is the free flow of information between SEZA and local authorities. Further, the two will work together to change the business environment and achieve efficiency and competitiveness within the SEZs. Francistown Mayor Godisang Rasesigo was elected as the founding Chairman of the Mayors Forum. The forum will also include the executive leadership of all city, town and district councils, among them Mayors, City or Council Chairpersons, Town Clerks and District Commissioners.
Mogara explained that initial efforts would engage the local government in areas that host SEZA’s eight SEZs: Gaborone, Lobatse, Selebi Phikwe, Palapye, Francistown, Pandamatenga and Tuli Block. Meanwhile, Mogara told WeekendPost that they are confident that a modest 150 000 jobs could be unleashed in the next two to five years through a partnership with other government entities. He is adamant that the jobs will come from all the nine designated economic zones.
This publication gathers that the Authority is currently sitting on about P30 billion worth of investment. The investment, it is suggested, could be said to be locked up in government bureaucracy, awaiting the proper signatures for projects to take off. Mogara informed this publication that the Authority onboard investors who are bringing P200 million and above. He pointed out that more are injecting P1 billion investments compared to the lower stratum of their drive.
SEZA’s mandate hinges on the nine Special Economic Zones – being Gaborone (SSKIA), whose focus is of Mixed-use (Diamond Beneficiation, Aviation); Gaborone (Fairgrounds) for Financial services, professional services and corporate HQ village; Lobatse for Beef, leather & biogas park; Pandamatenga designated for Agriculture (cereal production); Selibe Phikwe area which is also of a Mixed-Use (Base metal beneficiation & value addition), Tuli Block Integrated coal value addition, dry port logistics centre, coal power generation and export; Francistown is set aside for International Multimodal logistics hub/ Mixed Use (Mining, logistics and downstream value-adding hub); whilst Palapye is for Horticulture.
The knowledge economy buzz speaks to SEZA’s agenda, according to Mogara. The CEO is determined to ensure that SEZA gets the buy-in from the government, parastatals and the private sector to deliver Botswana to a high economic status. “This will ensure more jobs, less poverty, more investment, and indeed wealth for Batswana,” quipped the enthusiastic Mogara. SEZA was established through the SEZ Act of 2015 and mandated with establishing, developing and managing the country’s SEZs. The Authority was tasked with creating a conducive domestic and foreign direct investment, diversifying the economy and increasing exports to facilitate employment creation.
De Beers rough diamond production for the third quarter of 2021 increased by 28% to 9.2 million carats, reflecting planned higher Production to meet more robust demand for rough diamonds. In Botswana, Production increased by 33% to 6.4 million carats, primarily driven by the planned treatment of higher-grade ore at Jwaneng, partly offset by lower Production at Orapa due to the scheduled closure of Plant 1.
Namibia’s Production increased by 65% to 0.4 million carats, reflecting the marine fleet’s suspension during Q3 2020 as part of the response to lower demand at that time. South Africa production increased by 34% to 1.6 million carats due to the planned treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the Venetia open pit and an improvement in plant performance. Production in Canada decreased by 13% to 0.8 million carats due to lower grade ore being processed.
Demand for rough diamonds continued to be robust, with positive midstream sentiment reflecting strong demand for polished diamond jewellery, particularly in the key markets of the US and China. Rough diamond sales totalled 7.8 million carats (7.0 million carats on a consolidated basis) from two Sights, compared with 6.6 million carats (6.5 million carats on a consolidated basis) from three Sights in Q3 2020 and 7.3 million carats (6.5 million carats on consolidated basis) from two Sights in Q2 2021.
De Beers tightened Production guidance to 32 million carats (previously 32-33 million carats) due to continuing operational challenges, subject to the extent of any further Covid-19 related disruptions. Commenting on the production figures, Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of De Beers parent company Anglo American, said: “Production is up 2%(1) compared to Q3 of last year, with our operating levels generally maintained at approximately 95%(2) of normal capacity.
The increase in Production is led by planned higher rough diamond production at De Beers, increased output from our Minas-Rio iron ore operation in Brazil, reflecting the planned pipeline maintenance in Q3 2020, and improved plant performance at our Kumba iron ore operations in South Africa. “We are broadly on track to deliver our full-year production guidance across all products while taking the opportunity to tighten up the guidance for diamonds, copper, and iron ore within our current range as we approach the end of the year.
“Our copper operations in Chile continue to work hard on mitigating the risk of water availability due to the challenges presented by the longest drought on record for the region, including sourcing water that is not suitable for use elsewhere and further increasing water recycling.” On Wednesday, De Beers announced the value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for the eighth sales cycle of 2021. The company raked in US$ 490 million for the cycle, a slight improvement when compared to US$467 million recorded in 2020 cycle 8.
Owing to the restrictions on the movement of people and products in various jurisdictions around the globe, De Beers Group has continued to implement a more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the eighth sales cycle of 2021, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration. As a result, the provisional rough diamond sales figure quoted for Cycle 8 represents the expected sales value from 4 October to 19 October. It remains subject to adjustment based on final completed sales.
Commenting on the cycle 8 sales De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer Bruce Cleaver said that: “As the diamond sector prepares for the key holiday season and US consumer demand for diamond jewellery continues to perform strongly, we saw further robust demand for rough diamonds in the eighth sales cycle of the year ahead of the Diwali holiday when demand for rough diamonds is likely to be affected by the closure of polishing factories in India.”