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Friday, 19 April 2024

Botswana still nursing tax haven blister

Business

Botswana remains stuck in European Union (EU)’s grey-list of tax havens and it is closely monitored by Brussels as it promised to reform its tax structures since last year. Furthermore, Botswana is still an uncooperative tax territory in France mind as it is placed high on the blacklist of ‘Uncooperative Territories and French Tax Consequences of the Blacklisting.’

Being grey-listed by EU means a country will be under constant monitoring and checkups from Brussels. But it is better than being in the blacklist where a country faces EU sanctions as well as getting a dent in international reputation. The tax haven tag on Botswana was first placed by France President Nicholas Sarkozy in 2011 who then declared that the international community should shun Botswana as it is a tax haven.

The IFSC burden

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development Kenneth Matambo in July this year said government will constantly engage EU to remove the perception of tax haven on its neck. In a commitment letter written by Matambo to EU November last year, the minister suggested that the EU’s Forum on Harmful Tax Practices (FHTP) raised a red flag on this country’s tax regulations, especially the controversial International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) tax incentive framework under which IFSC accredited and qualifying firms enjoy a 15% corporate tax rate while other companies face the normal 22 % tax. Tax experts concluded that IFSC regime is one of the sources of Botswana’s tax haven tag.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned since last year that Botswana should remove its many tax incentives and IFSC was the main culprit. This prompted Matambo to tell the EU in a recent letter this year that Botswana is working on introducing legislative amendment to address the harmful effects of IFSC. “We undertake to complete the necessary legislative actions to amend the regime by December 2018 as agreed by the Forum on Harmful Tax Practices,” wrote Matambo to EU.

While tax pundits and the IMF advises that IFSC should be abolished, Matambo remains unmoved on the tax initiative, telling reporters July this year that, “the IFSC framework basically provides a lower level of tax to companies under the mandate of the IFSC. For us it is an incentive to grow the financial sector. The purpose of this lower level of tax is to provide an incentive but the OECD countries for their own reasons look at it differently, we disagreed with them that we are not a tax haven. We do tax companies that make an income in this country.”

In the 2018/19 Budget Speech, Matambo promised that government will review IFSC in order to remove any perception that Botswana is a tax haven.  “The review will be undertaken as part of the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill scheduled for presentation to Parliament during 2018,” he said.

Secrecy another source of EU blacklisting

According to Tax Justice Network Africa’s Financial Secrecy Index 2018, Botswana is one of the most secretive tax jurisdictions. It says “information sharing remains limited, enabling companies and wealthy foreigners to get away with tax avoidance and evasion by avoiding detection in their home countries or where business activity takes place.

According to Tax Justice Narrative on Botswana, this country comes in at 103rd place in 2018 Financial Secrecy Index.  It further states that the country has a relatively high secrecy score of 68, but has an insignificant market for offshore financial services. “There may be limited information on the way Botswana’s IFSC is used for illicit and criminal practice,” said the Tax Justice Network.

In February this year in his 2018/19 Budget Speech, Matambo said to deal with issues of secrecy the Financial Intelligence Act and Regulations which will address the shortcomings identified by the Mutual Evaluation Review for Botswana by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group in May 2017 will be dealt with this year.

Botswana walking at a snail’s pace in tax regime amendments

However the tax structure amendment by Botswana which was promised to be done this year has since been deferred to next year leaving the country’s tax haven label stuck on its neck. In a recent interview Ministry of Finance and Economic Development Spokesperson Fenny Letshwiti revealed that the ministry is working on amending the Income Tax Act and the Value Added Tax Act and to enact a new Tax Administration Act. He further revealed that the Bills will be presented to the February 2019 Parliament for approval.

While Botswana wrote to EU November last year committing to Brussels that it will work on its tax regime or all the tax reforms this year December, it appeared to be a pipeline dream as the ministry recently revealed that the amendments are slated for next year. This means this country will have to wait for a while to be removed from any blacklist or grey-list.

Botswana not a tax haven – just an EU Big Brother perception?

Some pundits and politicians make the tax haven tag on Botswana appear as a mere neocolonial or Western big brother body check on this country. But EU remains the biggest player in the international trade market as it is the major exporter of Botswana’s beef. Botswana also exports diamonds to Europe. On the other hand Botswana imports manufactured goods, transport equipment, machinery, electrical machinery and pharmaceuticals or chemicals.

 Local tax expert Jonathan Hore in an interview with BusinessPost said Botswana is not technically a tax haven but it is just that the EU has strict standards regarding the disclosure and sharing of information with other countries. “The tax haven tag was first placed on the country in 2011 when Nicholas Sarkozy first publicly declared that the international community should shun tax havens. In that year, the country did not have any information disclosure arrangements with other countries. The country has also made many information disclosure agreements with many countries in order to comply with international transparency rules.

Despite Botswana’s bad reputation of being among the bad boys of the international arena, this country has been defensive of its tax administration and dismissed the notion of it being a tax haven.  Last year during the 19th meeting of the African the then Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Vincent Seretse said Botswana is not a tax haven and does not deserve to be in any blacklist. Seretse attacked France’s constant “unsolicited” blacklisting of this country. He said Botswana complies with all the international tax standards and has a transparent tax jurisdiction.

Minister of Finance and Economic Development Matambo also rejects the tax haven brand on Botswana and in his Budget Speech he suggested calling Botswana a tax haven is just a mere perception by Europe. In the July press conference he said “we disagree with them, that we are not a tax haven.”


 Recently, Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry Bogolo Kenewendo was confident that this country being called a tax haven is a thing of the past. Caribbean Pacific –European Union, the then Minister of Trade Vincent Seretse rejected France’s notion that Botswana is a tax haven. Botswana adopted a seemingly sovereign and bold stance through Seretse who called the EU blacklisting “unsolicited.”

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Business

LLR transforms from Company to Group reporting

9th April 2024

Botswana Stock Exchange listed diversified real estate company, Letlole La Rona Limited (“LLR” or “the Company” or “the Group”), posted its first set of group financial statements which comprise the Company and Group consolidated accounts, which show strong financial performance for the six months ended 31 December 2023, with improvements across all key metrics.

The Company commenced the financial year with the appointment of a Deputy Chairperson, Mr Mooketsi Maphane, in order to bolster its governance and enhance leadership continuity through the development of a Board and Executive Management Succession Plan.

At operational level, LLR increased its shareholding in Railpark Mall from 32.79% to 57.79% and proudly took over the management of this prime asset.

The CEO of LLR, Ms Kamogelo Mowaneng commented “During the period under review, our portfolio continued to perform strongly, with improvements across all key metrics as a result of our ongoing focus on portfolio growth and optimisation.

“We are pleased to report a successful first half of the 2024 financial year, where we managed to not only grow the portfolio through strategic acquisitions and value accretive refurbishments but also recycled capital through the disposal of Moedi House as well as the ongoing sale of section titles at Red Square Apartments. The acquisition of an additional 25% stake in JTTM Properties significantly uplifted the value of our investment portfolio to P2.0 billion at a Group level. Our investment portfolio was further differentiated by the quality of our tenant base, as demonstrated by above market occupancy levels of 99.15% and strong collections of above 100% for the period”.

The growth in contractual revenue of 9% from the prior year’s P48.0 million to the current year P52.2 million, increased income from Railpark Mall, coupled with high collection rates, has enabled the company to declare a distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit, which is in line with the prior year.

 

In line with its strategic pillars of ‘Streamlined and Expanded Botswana Portfolio’ as well as ‘Quality African Assets’, the Group continuously monitors the performance of its investments to ensure that they meet the targeted returns.

“The Group continues to explore yield accretive opportunities for balance sheet growth and funding options that can be deployed to finance that growth” further commented the CEO of LLR Ms Kamogelo Mowaneng.

Ms Mowaneng further thanked the Group’s stakeholders for their continued support and stated that they look forward to unlocking further value in the Group.

 

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Business

Botswana’s Electricity Generation Dips 26.4%

9th April 2024

The Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) has reported a significant decrease in electricity generation for the fourth quarter of 2023, with output plummeting by 26.4%. This decline is primarily attributed to operational difficulties at the Morupule B power plant, as per the latest Botswana Index of Electricity Generation (IEG) released recently.

Local electricity production saw a drastic reduction, falling from 889,535 MWH in the third quarter of 2023 to 654,312 MWH in the period under review. This substantial decrease is largely due to the operational challenges at the Morupule B power plant. Consequently, the need for imported electricity surged by 35.6% (136,243 MWH) from 382,426 MWH in the third quarter to 518,669 MWH in the fourth quarter. This increase was necessitated by the need to compensate for the shortfall in locally generated electricity.

Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation Limited (ZESCO) was the principal supplier of imported electricity, accounting for 43.1% of total electricity imports during the fourth quarter of 2023. Eskom followed with 21.8%, while the remaining 12.1, 10.3, 8.6, and 4.2% were sourced from Electricidade de Mozambique (EDM), Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), Nampower, and Cross-border electricity markets, respectively. Cross-border electricity markets involve the supply of electricity to towns and villages along the border from neighboring countries such as Namibia and Zambia.

Distributed electricity exhibited a decrease of 7.8% (98,980 MWH), dropping from 1,271,961 MWH in the third quarter of 2023 to 1,172,981 MWH in the review quarter.

Electricity generated locally contributed 55.8% to the electricity distributed during the fourth quarter of 2023, a decrease from the 74.5% contribution in the same quarter of the previous year. This signifies a decrease of 18.7 percentage points. The quarter-on-quarter comparison shows that the contribution of locally generated electricity to the distributed electricity fell by 14.2 percentage points, from 69.9% in the third quarter of 2023 to 55.8% in the fourth quarter. The Morupule A and B power stations accounted for 90.4% of the electricity generated during the fourth quarter of 2023, while Matshelagabedi and Orapa emergency power plants contributed the remaining 5.9 and 3.7% respectively.

The year-on-year analysis reveals some improvement in local electricity generation. The year-on-year perspective shows that the amount of distributed electricity increased by 8.2% (88,781 MWH), from 1,084,200 MWH in the fourth quarter of 2022 to 1,172,981 MWH in the current quarter. The trend of the Index of Electricity Generation from the first quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2023 indicates an improvement in local electricity generation, despite fluctuations.

The year-on-year analysis also reveals a downward trend in the physical volume of imported electricity. The trend in the physical volume of imported electricity from the first quarter of 2013 to the fourth quarter of 2023 shows a downward trend, indicating the country’s continued effort to generate adequate electricity to meet domestic demand, has led to the decreased reliance on electricity imports.

In response to the need to increase local generation and reduce power imports, the government has initiated a new National Energy Policy. This policy is aimed at guiding the management and development of Botswana’s energy sector and encouraging investment in new and renewable energy. In the policy document, Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security Lefoko Moagi stated that the policy aims to transform Botswana from being a net energy importer to a self-sufficient nation with surplus energy for export into the region. Moagi expressed confidence that Botswana has the potential to achieve self-sufficiency in electric power supply, given the country’s readily available energy resources such as coal and renewable sources.

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Business

MMG acquires Khoemacau in a transaction valued at P23Bn

9th April 2024

MMG Limited, the Hong Kong-based mining company specializing in base metals, has successfully concluded the acquisition of Khoemacau Copper Mine, a state-of-the-art, world-class copper asset nestled in the northwest of Botswana.

On Monday, MMG announced that the acquisition of Khoemacau Mine in Botswana was finalized on 22nd March 2024. “This acquisition enriches the company’s portfolio with a top-tier, transformative growth project and signifies a monumental milestone in the Company’s journey,” MMG communicated in an official statement published on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Upon completion of the acquisition, MMG remitted to the Sellers an Aggregate Consideration of approximately US$1,734,657,000 (over P23 billion), a sum subject to potential adjustments post-Completion.

In addition to the Aggregate Consideration, MMG, in accordance with the Agreement, advanced an aggregate amount of approximately US$348,580,000 (over P4.5 billion) as the Aggregate Debt Settlement Amount, to settle certain debt balances of the Target Group (Cuprous Capital/Khoemacau).

On November 21, 2023, Khoemacau announced that the shareholders of its parent company [Cuprous Capital] had agreed to sell 100% of their interests to MMG Limited.

MMG is a global resources company that mines, explores, and develops copper and other base metals projects on four continents. The company is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia, and has a significant shareholder, China Minmetals Corporation, which is China’s largest metals and minerals group owned by the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

On December 22, 2023, Khoemacau Copper Mining (Pty) Ltd received the approval from the Minister of Minerals and Energy of Botswana regarding the transfer of a controlling interest in the Project Licenses and Prospecting Licenses associated with the Khoemacau Copper Mine, a result of the Acquisition.

 

The Botswana Competition & Consumer Authority (CCA) on January 29, 2024, notified the market that it had given its approval for the takeover of Khoemacau Copper Mining by MMG Limited.

On January 29, 2024, the CCA issued a merger decision to the market, stating that after conducting all necessary assessments, it was ready to proceed.

The Competition Authority affirmed that the structure of the relevant market would not significantly change upon implementation of the proposed merger as the proposed transaction is not likely to result in a substantial lessening of competition, nor endanger the continuity of service in the market of mining of copper and silver ores and the production, and sale or supply of copper concentrate in Botswana.

Furthermore, the CCA stated that the proposed merger would not have any negative impact on public interest matters in Botswana as per the provisions of section 52(2) of the Competition Act 2018.

Earlier this month, Minister of Minerals & Energy, Lefoko Maxwell Moagi, informed parliament that his Ministry was endorsing the Khoemacau acquisition by MMG Limited. He noted that not only was the company acquiring the existing operation but also committing to an expansion program that would cost over $700 million to double production, create more jobs for Batswana, and increase taxes and royalties paid to the Government.

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