Botswana Building Society (BBS) members have given management the go ahead to demutualize the entity from a society to a limited company. This will see BBS, currently a mutually held organization convert the interests of its members into limited shareholdings.
As a building society, demutualization will see BBS turn into a commercial bank. The company would then either be listed on the stock exchange or closely held by its shareholders. BSE hopes to list Botswana’s first indigenous commercial bank once the transformation has fully occurred.This watershed milestone in the society’s transformation quest comes after a special general membership meeting held on Thursday 24th August which confidently voted to demutualize the business. According to a public notice shared by BBS, out of all people present at the meeting and those who represented their absent proxies 99.96 % supported the transformation. This is far above the minimum of 75 % required in terms of the BBS Rules for special resolution to succeed.
The man in the driving seat of this historic undertaking, BBS Managing Director, Mr. Pius Molefhe expressed his delight regarding the meeting’s outcome. “The decision by the shareholders is a vote of confidence on the direction we would like to take our society, which is to become Botswana‘s first indigenous commercial bank,” he said. According to a communiqué from BBS, the next step would see BBS submit an application for conversion to the Registrar of the Building Society who is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
If the Registrar is satisfied with how the demutualization process was conducted he will issue a conversion Certificate and the society will the invite its shareholders to indicate how many shares they would like to take up in the new entity. “Once that has been done BBS will submit an application to the Registrar of Companies for it to become a company known as BBS Limited,” reads the notice. Thereafter in December 2017 or January 2018, BBS Limited will file an application for a banking license with the Bank of Botswana. The application will take about 6 months to be evaluated and the hope is that BBS will start operating as a commercial bank from the first quarter of 2019.
BBS was established on the 13th of December 1976.Ever since then the society has grown tremendously to become an indigenous household name for financial services especially amongst low and middle income Batswana. The exceptional growth of the Society over the past 41 years can best be measured by the phenomenal increase in its reserves, from only P2, 100 in March 1977 to just under P203 million in March 2012. The Statutory reserve alone increased from a mere P200 to almost P2, 460 billion over this period. The Society has consistently met its dividend obligations to its shareholders every year over the past 41 years of its existence.
BBS CURRENT FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE
The latest figures from the society’s financial performance indicate a 13 % decline in profits. That is according to the report of financial year review ended March 2017. The entity registered P47.885 million in the 2017 financial year compared to P54.906 million in 2016. This decline in profits is viewed as testament that the society’s business model is behind time and needs to catch up with innovative and digital financial service space operations of today further confirming the need for commercialization. According to the Chairman of BBS Board, James M. Kamyuka the society’s ability to weather the storm is a result of a strong leadership team, dedicated employees and an ever improving customer service culture. “However, the performance confirms the need to transform the business,” he said.
For the financial year ended March 2017 the BBS Board recommended a dividend of P59.376 million compared to P59.847 million the previous year to Shareholders which is a decrease of 0.8% to that declared in the prior year. Under the current setup BBS states that the society had to dig deep into their reserves to augment the dividend payout. “The current business model where Shareholders are paid a dividend rate without necessarily taking into account the performance of the institution during that financial year is not sustainable. However, the situation is expected to change once the Society starts operating as a commercial bank,” states the Board Chairman in the report.
Kamyuka also adds that the society transformation will better place BBS into the financial service competition space, “We are preparing to transition from a building society to a commercial bank and this will place our organization in a stronger position to face the future. This change will strengthen the long term prospects of the BBS,” he said. Further highlights from the society’s financial performance states that the assets also decreased by 11% from P4.087 billion in 2015/16 to P3.653 billion in 2016/17. On the positive the society’s Paid Up and Subscription Shares increased by 1.04% from P503.352 million in the previous year to P508.619 million in the year under review.
Fee and commission income registered a decrease of 10% from P25.099 million in the previous year to P22.465 million. Interest income decreased by 2.5% from P307.018 million in 2015/16 to P299.384 million 2016/17. The society Managing Director Pius K. Molefe said these are a commendable set of results as they were delivered in the midst of a challenging economic environment characterized by a subdued housing market and squeezed household incomes. “The situation was made even more difficult by the fact that our business has a very limited product range compared to its competitors,” he said explaining that it is exactly that which demutualization seeks to address.
According to the BBS Managing Director the demutualization comes at the right time when there is need to provide customers with diversified products and services. “We are looking forward to the Society becoming a commercial bank,” he said adding that the transformation will result in a stronger BBS financially and operationally which will also deliver high shareholder value over the coming years. Botswana Building Society expects to operate fully as a commercial bank by the first half of 2019 subject to obtaining the relevant regulatory approvals. Botswana has 10 commercial banks, all foreign owned, and the IMF has argued in a country report that there is room for consolidation in the sector.
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.
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.
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”