An investment analyst with Stock Brokers Botswana, Donald Motsomi has said conversations with industry leaders in the banking sector give credence to an expectation of higher credit growth in 2018 largely on the back of increased government spending which is also expected to boost business activity in the economy.
This comes on the backdrop of a harsh 2016 that saw the sector’s profitability came under pressure with net income declining by 9.6% and ROE falling to 7% (2016: 14.4%). Writing in the Stockbrokers Botswana Banking Sector review report, Motsomi indicates: “We are therefore cautiously optimistic of a pickup in credit growth and have factored this into our forecasts. Rates are expected to remain unchanged, and we have also factored the October rate cut to translate to a slight reduction in interest margins.”
He says given the low interest rate environment and tight competition in the sector, banks are looking to increase the contribution of non-funded income to their revenues. The SBB analyst furthers states that there is an increased focus on digitization through numerous initiatives including mobile technology, enhanced ATM functionalities, online banking, and partnerships with merchants through point of sale machines. There is growth potential from leveraging on these initiatives. Further, banks are increasingly diversifying their services through offering insurance and wealth management services.
“The commercial banking segment of the sector could see the entry of a new player in the short to medium term. Botswana Building Society (BBS), a statutory bank registered as a society, is currently undergoing demutualization and conversion into a public limited company with the intention to obtain a commercial banking license from the Bank of Botswana. BBS, although looking to focus mainly on the unbanked, would intensify competition in the sector through financing banked individuals and SMMEs given they obtain the license. The bank has an established customer base from its property finance loans and saving and investment products, which it could leverage on.”
According to Motsomi, the implementation of IFRS 9 is set to impact the banks, with some more poised to withstand the hit than others. Banks’ capital is set to be negatively impacted. “FNBB and Barclays both have strong capital positions, while Stanchart’s capital levels were weakened by the heavy loss incurred in 2017. The bank is currently looking at various options to enhance its capital base in preparation for the standard’s implementation. The standard will also require impairment recognition to be incurred in a timelier manner.”
Motsomi argues that the banking industry landscape has changed over the last five years with credit growth slowing from double digit growth to the lows seen in 2017. Furthermore, the Monetary Policy has been accommodative over the period with the bank rate coming down from 9.5% in 2013 to 5% in 2017. He states that the decline in credit growth and rates over the years, as well as increased competition has seen the industry’s profitability normalizing, as seen from some of the listed banks’ ROEs coming down from as high as 30 – 40% to regions of 18 – 24%.
“The period under review, 2017, was a challenging one for the sector characterized by slower GDP growth of 2.4% (2016: 4.3%), weak business confidence, and marginal growth in employment creation and wages. These factors translated to credit growth of 5.6% (2016: 6.2%), with reports of businesses generally holding back on utilizing facilities and the aforementioned pressures on households limiting their capacity to take on more debt,” writes Motsomi in the SBB Banking Sector Review.
Going forward, Motsomi and the SBB analysts expect household credit growth to moderate on the back of the pressures faced as well as higher expected inflation for 2018. They stress that Business credit growth should be more robust given higher levels of business confidence for the year as per Bank of Botswana Business Expectations Survey, and increased government spending in the run up to next year’s general elections.
Commenting on the 2017 decline in credit growth to 5.6% (2016: 6.2%), Motsomi says it was attributable to a slowdown in lending to both businesses and households. Annual credit growth to businesses was 3.2% (2016: 4.2%), which was largely due to loan repayments by parastatals. Household credit growth was 7.2% (2016: 7.6%), the lower growth largely attributable to lower growth in mortgage lending of 4.8% (2016: 6.3%) while in contrast; unsecured loan growth was higher to 8.8% (2016: 8.3%).
Total deposits growth was sharply lower at 1.8% (2016: 4.1%) owing to a reduction in household deposits of -8.4% (2016: -3.6%) indicative of the pressures consumers are facing. Business deposits growth albeit lower was robust at 5.1% (2016: 7.2%). According to the SBB Banking Sector review, the higher growth in credit compared to funding saw the sector Loan to Deposit ratio increase to 85.2% (2016: 82.2%).On the backdrop of an economy operating with a negative output gap and the positive inflation outlook, the Central Bank cut the Bank rate by 50 bps to 5% (Prime rate: 6.5%) in October 2017.
“The impact on credit growth, if any, will be seen in 2018 as well as further squeeze on the sector’s margins. Lower deposit rates in line with the rate cut could act as a disincentive for households to save, which would exacerbate the reduction in household deposits further. A continuation of this trend would make it particularly difficult for banks to constrain their cost of funding given that 75.8% of total deposits are business deposits, which are relatively costlier.”
The Review states that Sector net interest income rose 3.4% on the back of higher interest income growth of 3.0% in comparison to interest expense growth of 1.7%. Non-interest income increased 3.0%. Despite this growth, the sector’s profitability came under pressure due to higher provisioning and operating expense growth.
Meanwhile Provisions increased 17.9%, with NPLs/Total Loans rising to 5.3% (2016: 4.9%). The higher NPL ratio was a result of higher NPLs/Total Loans for businesses, which increased to 6.4% (2016: 4.9%). However, NPLs/Total Loans for households reduced to 4.5% (2016: 4.9%). “This is a comforting development considering the concerns over high indebtedness of households.
Faster growth in expenses vis-à-vis income translated to a higher cost to income ratio of 63.9% (2016: 57.0%). Ultimately, sector net income declined 9.6% and ROE more than halved to 7% (2016: 14.4%). We believe Stanchart’s losses for 2017 played a significant part in the sector’s profitability decline given the bank’s large market share,” observes Motsomi.
There are 10 licensed commercial banks in Botswana, with the 5 largest banks accounting for 90% of total assets according to the latest Banking Supervision Annual Report. The listed banks, First National Bank Botswana, Barclays Bank of Botswana, and Standard Chartered Bank Botswana are amongst these dominant players.
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.
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.
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.