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Minergy: Coal is here to stay

The Botswana Stock Exchange listed coal miner, Minergy has said renewable energy has been proven unreliable for base load electricity supply leaving only the alternatives nuclear, hydro and coal.

According to the company’s statement accompanying the financial results announcement, nuclear is prohibitively capital intensive, hydro is hamstrung by global water shortage which leaves coal fired power generation. “In addition, a large volume of coal continues to be used in numerous industrial processes other than power generation. Many of these processes are dependent on coal with no practical substitutes.”

Minergy officials say it is forecast that by 2030 the world will be short of 380 million tons of sea borne thermal coal due primarily to increased or at worst steady consumption, coupled with decreased production due to mines reaching end of life, lack of investment and production cut backs in China. In the African context and as highlighted by Miriam Mannack in the article “Power for Progress”, Africa urgently needs power. Approximately 620 million Africans rely on firewood, kerosene and charcoal for cooking, heating and lighting and the African Development Bank says that 600 000 Africans, mainly women and children, die prematurely every year due to illnesses caused by indoor air pollution. In addition, Africa’s population is expected to double to 2.5 billion by 2050.

Besides this, the use of charcoal and firewood leads to alarming deforestation with Zambia losing 250 000 to 300 000 hectares of forest annually. Furthermore, off and on grid renewables have a role but cannot support base load requirements. In 2016, four million tons of coal was exported from South Africa to the African continent. This is forecast to rise to 38 million tons by 2030 and Botswana has a significant role to play going forward by utilising the South African bulk handling facilities, the most sophisticated in Africa.

Regional market

The demand for coal in the southern African region continues unabated with prices escalating on an ongoing basis. The July 2017 McCloskey Coal Report highlights that South African domestic prices are 51% higher than the same period in 2016 and there is strong demand from the cement, industrial and paper industries.

This situation is driven by demand exceeding supply as producers are focused on fulfilling their take or pay export agreements together with the lack of investment in new projects or expansion of existing production facilities. The climate of under-investment in South Africa is blamed partly on political interference in the mining sector and the rise of resource nationalisation.

With the mining licence grant expected in Q2 2018 and the processes under way as outlined in the operational overview, the Company expects to be in production by August 2018 and would therefore be well positioned to take advantage of the southern African coal market. Initial production is planned for 1.2 million tons of saleable coal per annum ramping up when required, as the project will have a capacity of two million tons per annum from first commissioning.

Export market

Whilst the initial project plan focused entirely on the 1.2 million tons to the regional market, attention must be paid to the export market as the API4 index price for sea borne thermal coal has risen 67% since 2016 and currently trades at $82 to $84 per ton. The international traders forecast that this trend could continue, albeit at slower rate, due to production cut backs in China and delayed investment in greenfield coal projects. One must note the significant investment by large multinationals in coal projects in Australia which highlights their bullish view on coal going forward.

Botswana has a significant role to play in the sea borne thermal coal market due to its large untapped coal resources and close proximity to the South African coal export infrastructure. Currently Richards Bay Coal Terminal (“RBCT”) and Transnet Freight Rail (“TFR”) together have a capacity of 84 million tons per annum. However, in 2016 only 72.6 million tons of coal was shipped through RBCT. Forecasts are for this number to remain steady leaving excess capacity of 11.4 million tons of coal per annum that Botswana is ideally suited to utilise.

Logistical challenges to exploit this opportunity need to be addressed and the Company has had extensive engagement with Botswana Rail (“BR”) and TFR to address the issue of getting coal to port. The engagements have been extremely positive with an apparent will from all parties to resolve this which is expected to result in full utilisation of the project capacity.

Following the successful listing on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) in April 2017, the proposal was to explore a listing on the JSE Securities Exchange (JSE) and list during 2018. The Board has deemed it prudent to investigate the Australian Stock Exchange (“ASX”) and the London based Alternative Investment Market (“AIM”) in addition to the JSE. Shareholders will be advised on progress on this matter in due course.
 

Partnerships

In an interview with this publication, Minergy Chief Executive Officer, Andre Boje revealed that the company wants to explore partnerships with Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) on prospects of developing more convenient infrastructure specifically a rail way line connecting to the Lephalale Coal handling facility. “BDC has interest in industrializing Botswana so in future when we show evident output we will engage them,” he said. Boje further said that Minergy will also in future engage Botswana Oil regarding their Coal-To-Liquid (CTL) Project. “Our coal is targeting South African cement and lime industries but Botswana Oil will have no choice but to demand our high grade coal.”

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Inflation spike building further upwards

27th October 2020
Inflation spike

In the coming months prices will go up and inflation will shoot sharply above the target of 3 percent to 6 percent towards the third quarter of 2021, the Bank of Botswana on the other hand will continue to withhold its knife on the Bank Rate. This is according to a forecast made by Kgori Capital in its recent Market Watch Segment.

Statistics from Statistics Botswana show that the recent 1.8 percent increase in the September inflation, from 1 percent in August, was a reflection of the upward adjustment in public transport fares (Transport (from -6.9 to -3.9 percent) in September 2020, which is estimated to have increased inflation by approximately 0.64 percentage points.

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Plans to erase Edgars, Jet trademark from Botswana malls underway

27th October 2020
Edgars Jet trademark

Local anti-trust body, Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA), this month received back to back acquisition proposals from South African clothing retailers to wipe out their former rivals, Edcon, from Botswana malls.

Last week BusinessPost was in possession of Merger Notice No 23 of 2020 whereby a South African clothing retailer owner, Retailability Proprietary Limited, through Oclin Proprietary Limited, proposed to acquire parts of the Edgars business conducted by Edcon in Botswana (through Edcon Botswana), as a going concern, consisting of certain assets and identified liabilities.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year announced that Retailability will buy Edgars, after the latter filed for a business rescue plan in April after it failed to pay suppliers. This move will see Retailability add Edgars to its portfolio consisting of brands such as; Legit, Beaver Canoe and Style.

Retailability landed on Botswana shores 18 years ago with its flamboyant urban fashion Style which had 17 stores. Style, having almost the same target market as Edgars as it offers men’s and ladies’ contemporary and formal fashion, gave the 91 year old legendary clothing retailer a run for its money, and has won the battle as its parent company has taken over Edgars.

Retailability brands are synonymous with Botswana shopping centres and there are currently five (5) Beaver Canoe stores, 10 Style stores and seven (7) Legit stores across this country. The Beaver Canoe stores sell clothing apparel for men and boys only. The Legit stores have a fashion store format which focuses on the retailing of clothing, footwear, accessories, colour cosmetics and cellular products.

Retailability operates in over 460 stores across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini. Many observers suggest that because of the deal with Retailability to swallow Edcon, most Edgars stores in Botswana will change their name and be branded Style. A sad tale for religious consumers of the Edgars trademark who got used to love their favourite brand for years.

According to CCA’s Merger Notice No 23 of 2020, Retailability is controlled by Clifford Raymond Lines (through a company which functions solely as a holding company of his interests in Retailability) and Metier Investment and Advisory Services Proprietary Limited (“Metier”). Metier is a private equity enterprise with investments in a number of industries spanning from healthcare, hospitality, FMCGs and telecommunications.

Retailability directors are mostly South Africans; Clifford Raymond Lines, Mark Richard Friday and Norman Victor Drieselmann. Only Nasreen Essack, who was appointed February this year, is a Motswana. He comes after Brian Thuto Tsima left on the same date. Retailability 100 percent owns Oclin Proprietary Limited, the company it is acquiring Edgars with, by a capacity of 3000 shares.

The target business, Edgars, offer textiles, cosmetics and cellular products. Edcon has a Motswana director, Charles Mzwandile Vikisi, a South African, Shane Van Niekerk and Zimbabwean Jethro Kamutsi.

“The Target Business comprises of two (2) Edgars franchise brands and private label stores across Botswana. These stores target middle to upper income customers and are home to a range of private label brands such as Free2BU, Charter Club and Stone Harbour, and a wide range of market label brands (such as Levi’s and Guess) for clothing, footwear and cosmetics.

In addition, the Target Business operates iconic Edgars Home and Edgars Beauty stores as store-in-store formats rounding out the department store offering in Botswana,” said CCA.
Foshini also lines up to take Jet Botswana from Edcon.

The Foschini Group (TFG) released a statement confirming its latest intentions to acquire Edcon assets or Jet for a cash purchase consideration of R480 million. This was after the business rescue practitioners offered TFG to buy Jet by that amount.

CCA is currently mulling on a proposed merger by TFG to take over Jet operations in Botswana. Merger Notice No 21 of 2020 from TFG came a few days before the Retailability proposal. In this merger TFG, acting through Foschini Botswana, want to take over “parts” of the Jet business conducted by Edcon through Jet Supermarkets Botswana.

TFG will be willing to add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents. TFG will also get Jet’s distribution centre located in Durban and certain stores in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini. Also part of this fat deal is that the company is looking to also acquire JET Club and all existing JET stock of no less than R800 million.

Johannesburg listed TGF owns Foschini Retail Group which owns the local operations called Foschini Botswana, the acquiring enterprise according to CCA merger notice. “TFG is not controlled by any enterprise/s and for completeness, the three largest shareholders of TFG holding shares greater than 5% as at 27th March 2020 are: Government Employees Pension Fund (16.2%) Public Investment Corporation (13.2%); Old Mutual Limited (6.7%); and Investec Asset Management (6.3%). The remaining issued share capital in TFG is widely held,” said the merger notice.

Only Abdool Rahim Khan is a Motswana in the Foschini Botswana directorship, the rest; Ganeswari Shani Naidoo, Anthony Edward Thunström and Gustav Jansen (alternate director) are South Africans.

According to the CCA merger, the Jet Business is Edcon’s discount department store division, selling clothing, footwear, homeware and some cosmetics as well as cellular products and targets lower-to-middle income consumers throughout Botswana. The Jet Business does not directly or indirectly control any enterprises, says the notice. CCA seeks any stakeholder views for or against the proposed merger, which may be sent within 10 days from date of this publication to the following address.

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BOCRA, associates to provide broadband internet in schools

27th October 2020

Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority BOCRA signed a memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with the Ministries of Transport and Communications (MTC), Basic Education (MoBE) as well as Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD).

The MoA seeks to continue the collaboration that dates back to 2016 when the three parties first agreed to work together in a project aimed at computerizing and providing broadband Internet to primary schools in remote and underserved areas of Botswana.

The project benefitted 68 primary schools and 9 secondary schools through the construction of Local Area Network (LAN) in each primary school, provision of 5 Mbps dedicated broadband Internet to each Primary School and provision of Wi-Fi enabled tablets, laptops and related peripherals such as printers and copiers.

Further, the project will see the augmentation of computers in 9 Junior Secondary Schools with 30 laptops per identified school and employment of Information Technology (IT) officers at each primary school.

When speaking at the signing ceremony in Gaborone, Chief Executive of BOCRA and Chairperson of Universal Access and Service Fund (UASF) Board of Trustees Martin Mokgware said the project’s ultimate goal is to facilitate pupils in schools and host villages to be able to play a meaningful role in the digital economy.

Mokgware indicated that this necessitates upgrading of existing Telecommunications infrastructure to high capacity broadband that will support delivery of education, accessibility to the quality Internet and usage of ICTs.

The Fund began its inaugural programme by sponsoring the provision of WiFi hotspots in public areas around the country as its first project. Following the successful implementation of public WiFi hotspots, the Fund identified Kgalagadi, Ghanzi and Mabutsane areas for mobile network upgrades, schools computerization and internet provision.

Conscious that the project would not be possible without buy-in and support from MoBE, MTC and MLGRD, the Fund facilitated the signing of the first MoU between the three parties in 2016 for implementation of the project.

BOCRA Chief Executive said the signing of this agreement is aimed at benefitting the Kweneng District, adding that they have already assessed the area and have determined that they will be covering 62 underserved villages and 119 schools, 91 of which are primary schools.

“This is a project for which the partner Ministries need to re-commit for its success. Lessons from the previous schools’ computerization and internet connectivity project require that we increase our involvement and resources dedicated to the project for it to be successful. It is my belief as the project coordinator, that we will not do things the way we did them during the first project, for if we do, then we will not have learnt anything,” he said at the signing ceremony.

The purpose of learning is so that there can be continuous improvement to minimize the length of time and amount of resources utilized, he said expressing confidence that their partners will step up to the plate and ensure they play their part in the implementation of the project and that it will progress smoothly having already tread along a similar path.

UASF’s role lies mainly in funding and project management. According to Mokgware, once the project is completed, the work to integrate ICTs into the classroom begins in earnest. Therefore, he said, the project will not succeed without full cooperation and oversight of partners.

“MoBE will put in place the necessary content and ensure that the curriculum is available to all. MLGRD will provide, among others, the enabling environment by ensuring readiness of the school’s infrastructure and necessary security.”

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