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Impairments shrink FNBB profits

The First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) has reported a decline in profits for the full financial year ended June 30, 2017. This contraction in the bank’s output has been noted as mainly due to poor performance of the mining sector in 2016.

FNB submits that the year under review registered rising impairments which were mainly driven by the liquidation of BCL group. The bank’s profit after tax has gone down by one percent compared to the year ended June 2016 “This is due to impairments attributable predominantly to the liquidation of BCL mining group which occurred in October 2017,” highlighted FNB Chief Executive, Steven Bogatsu.

Impairment registered in the financial year under review was 2.3 percent up compared to year ended June 2016. However FNB observed that as a reasonable figure, this rise in impairments was realized even after cautionary measures in lending approach were put in place. The bank announced when delivering the financial results this past week that a proactive approach had been put in place to absorb the effects of the current and possible coming economic strain.

Meanwhile notable figures from the bank’s financial highlights indicate that the company registered a profit before tax of P680.3 million, an increase of three percent for the full-year ended June 30, 2017 compared to the previous year ended June 2016.Total advances grew by 4 percent which is above the market credit growth of 2 percent while deposits grew by 3 percent emanating predominately from good growth in short-term funding over the year with current and call accounts posting growth of 28 percent and 9 percent respectively as well as the improvement in the market liquidity over the period leading to a decline of 27 percent in interest expense.

Though Bank of Botswana (BoB) recently announced that the banking system is safe and sound, Bogatsu said the contrary highlighting that the banking sector, especially the lending segment which is currently undergoing a period of low credit growth realized slight growths at insignificant levels. The First National Bank boss said the commercial banking sector is also faced with issues of compliance and regulatory enforcement from BoB.

According to the bank’s financial report the bank’s credit book was contracted by the low credit demand from the mining sector, which declined by 32.2% due to low global demand in 2016. The bank’s loan book amounted to P15 million during the year under review. Bogatsu  further observed that though credit demand from the mining sector has been low, at just 0.6% of total loans as of  February 2017, the sector’s health feeds into the manufacturing, transport and trade sectors, which, combined, account for 16.6% of loans.“Credit to all four sectors was weak in a downtrend over the last year, but viable credit demand should improve as these sectors benefit from the improvement in mining activity,” he said.

According to Bogatsu consumer credit demand could also benefit from subdued inflation and low interest rates, although growth will be restricted by limited household income. “The bank also continues with efforts to improve and lengthen the tenure book which will see the bank enjoy benefits under the Basel III framework, which requires enhanced capital and liquidity sustainability,” he said. Bogatsu asserted that the growth in total advances emanated mainly from the retail short term loans but with mild growth also posted in the then Wes bank book.

The bank also took advantage of investment vehicles available offshore. As consequence and following the bank’s initiative to improve efficiencies, investment securities posted good growth of 35% which contributed to the growth in gross interest income whilst non-interest bearing assets in the form of cash grew by 20%.

The FNB has also been prudent around its property portfolio where additional provisions have been taken to cater for the ailing property values. According to the Chief Executive Officer the bank seeks to establish and manage a portfolio of businesses and associated risks that will deliver sustainable returns to its shareholders within appropriate levels of earnings volatility.

FNB generally pins its hopes on possible increase in credit demand anticipated to be supported by the feed-through from a recovering mining sector and government’s recently launched NDP11 which leans on Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to finance major infrastructure projects. The Mid-Term Review of the 2017 Monetary Policy Statement released by BoB says overall the current levels of credit growth continue to be supportive of economic activity and augur well for durable stability of the financial system. The review also states that the current levels of interest rates is considered appropriate to support economic activity, mobilization of financial resources and financial sector development.

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020

This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.

The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.

He was speaking in  Parliament on Tuesday delivering  Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a  motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.

The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.

The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.

The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.

This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.

Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.

Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.

However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.

Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.

When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at 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. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.

The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.

Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.

In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.

Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.

Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.

Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.

Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance   Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”

He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”

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