Engen profits grow by 11.1 %
Botswana’s only listed petroleum and oil outfit, Engen Limited emerged out of the 2017 sluggish economic conditions and unfavourable trading circumstances with satisfactory performance.
The company which operates multiple service stations in over 25 settlements in Botswana gathered over 140 million pula in net profits after taxation for the 2017 trading year, mirroring a 11.1 % increase compared to the year 2016. This, according to the company’s annual report is predominantly due to robust realignment of the business operations staged by the company management in 2017 to confront the year’s trading challenges. Engen Executive Director, Chimweta Monga observes that the realignment strategy enabled the company to achieve positive financial results despite the difficult market conditions.
Overall Group revenue for the year increased by 7.9% compared to that of 2016. According to the company’s annual report net profit after taxation growth consequently caused an increase in earnings per share, from 83.1 to 92.0 thebe. During the year under review, the retail side of the business grew by 3% while commercial volumes were up by 11% compared to the previous year. Commodity prices steadily improved and the price of crude oil strengthened to the extent that significant inventory revaluation gains were recorded over the previous year’s performance.
Just like many economic sectors which faced the wrath of 2016 mining activity halt in Francistown and Selibe Phikwe, shrinking money flow, the petroleum and oil business was not spared, however for Engen, against this mixed economic backdrop, market conditions remained fluid in the retail space especially in marketing areas that were predominantly dependent on disposable incomes from the mining activity.
The BSE listed fuel distributor reports that its retail market continued to be the cornerstone of the business, contributing around 60% of the company’s portfolio revenues compared to the commercial channel which contributed just below 40% of total revenues. Chimweta Monga, the Company Executive Director explained that in the trading period under review the business experienced intermittent product shortage particularly during the second half of the year due to an unplanned shutdown at one of the South African refineries. “This negated the usual marketing promotions that would normally have been employed to boost sales and increase turnover,” he said.
The company commercial businesses however did not escape the effects of collapses of some major mining companies. The constrained mining and associated support activities directly impacted the commercial segment due to reduction in demand in the market which depends mainly on heavy duty and industrial fuel uptake.
However, Engen was able to counteract this trend by diversifying its customer base through market penetration on the back of strong supply chain capability, “Our logistics partners continued to perform well, efficiently moving products from primary supply depots to secondary depots and to the diverse consumption points within Botswana,” highlighted the Executive Director.
According to the report the company was forced to draw from its cash reserves to fund operations during the year due to un-equalized pricing slate mechanism during the period January 2016 to December 2017. Monga revealed that discussions were underway to encourage the Government to settle the slate under recovery that is due to the petroleum industry in order to avoid disruption of the supply of fuel into the country, “A number of suggestions have been advanced to the government in order to resolve this matter. It is our hope that action will be taken sooner rather than later to contain this spiral,” he said.
Engen Botswana Limited also has direct interest in the property market; through a joint venture the company owns a shopping centre in Palapye which according to the report enjoyed a high occupancy rate, “Some upgrades to this property have been approved in order to maintain high standards consistent with the new shopping centres that have been developed in the area,” the report states. The Company’s second shopping centre, located in Maun, enjoyed a 100% occupancy rate with no loss of tenancy during the year.
Furthermore Engen added two new retail sites during the year 2017 one in Thamaga and the other at Tshekedi (Mmamashia) which were opened in November and December 2017 respectively, “Additional service stations are earmarked for 2018, beginning with Ramotswa where a retail site is nearing completion and scheduled to open early in the year.
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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.
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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