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BBS commercialization in full swing

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.

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Inflation will bounce back to objective range in 2022- BoB

25th October 2021
Moses Pelaelo

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of Botswana decided to maintain the Bank Rate at 3.75 percent at a meeting held on October 21, 2021.  Briefing members of the media moments after the meeting Bank of Botswana Governor Moses Pelaelo explained that Inflation decreased from 8.8 percent in August to 8.4 percent in September 2021, although remaining above the upper bound of the Bank’s medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent.

He said Inflation is projected to revert to within the objective range in the second quarter of 2022, mainly on account of the dissipating impact of the recent upward adjustment in value added tax (VAT) and administered prices from the inflation calculation; which altogether contributed 5.2 percentage points to the current level of inflation.  Overall, risks to the inflation outlook are assessed to be skewed to the upside.

These risks include the potential increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts; persistence of supply and logistical constraints due to lags in production; possible maintenance of travel restrictions and lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic; domestic risk factors relating to regular annual price adjustments; as well as second-round effects of the recent increases in administered prices and inflation expectations that could lead to generalised higher price adjustments.

Furthermore, aggressive action by governments (for example, the Economic Recovery and Transformation Plan (ERTP)) and major central banks to bolster aggregate demand, as well as the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programmes, could add pressure to inflation.  These risks are, however, moderated by the possibility of weak domestic and global economic activity, with a likely further dampening effect on productivity due to periodic lockdowns and other forms of restrictions in response to the emergence of new COVID-19 variants.

A slow rollout of vaccines, resulting in the continuance of weak economic activity and the possible decline in international commodity prices could also result in lower inflation, as would capacity constraints in implementing the ERTP initiatives. Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Botswana grew by 4.9 percent in the twelve months to June 2021, compared to a contraction of 5.1 percent in the corresponding period in 2020.

The increase in output is attributable to the expansion in production of both the mining and non-mining sectors, resulting from an improved performance of the economy from a low base in the corresponding period in the previous year. Mining output increased by 3 percent in the year to June 2021, because of a 3.2 percent increase in diamond mining output, compared to a contraction of 19.3 percent in 2020. Similarly, non-mining GDP grew by 5.4 percent in the twelve-month period ending June 2021, compared to a decrease of 0.7 percent in the corresponding period in 2020.

The increase in non-mining GDP was mainly due to expansion in output for construction, diamond traders, transport and storage, wholesale and retail and real estate.  Projections by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggest a rebound in economic growth for Botswana in 2021. The Ministry projects a growth rate of 9.7 percent in 2021, moderating to a growth of 4.3 percent in 2022.  On the other hand, the IMF forecasts the domestic economy to grow by 9.2 percent in 2021; and this is expected to moderate to a growth of 4.7 percent in 2022. The growth outcome will partly depend on success of the vaccine rollout.

According to the October 2021 World Economic Outlook (WEO), global output growth is forecast at 5.9 percent in 2021, 0.1 percentage point lower than in the July 2021 WEO update.  The downward revision reflects downgrades for advanced economies mainly due to supply disruptions, while the growth forecast for low-income countries was lowered as the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccines weigh down on economic recovery.  Meanwhile, global output growth is anticipated to moderate to 4.9 percent in 2022, as some economies return to their pre-COVID-19 growth levels.

The South African Reserve Bank, for its part, projects that the South African GDP will grow by 5.3 percent in 2021, and slow to 1.7 percent in 2022.  The MPC notes that the short-term adverse developments in the domestic economy occur against a growth-enhancing environment.  These include accommodative monetary conditions, improvements in water and electricity supply, reforms to further improve the business environment and government interventions against COVID-19, including the vaccination rollout programme.

In addition, the successful implementation of ERTP should anchor the growth of exports and preservation of a sufficient buffer of foreign exchange reserves, which have recently fallen to an estimate of P47.9 billion (9.8 months of import cover) in September 2021.  Overall, it is projected that the economy will operate below full capacity in the short to medium term and, therefore, not creating any demand-driven inflationary pressures, going forward.

The projected increase in inflation in the short term is primarily due to transitory supply-side factors that, except for second-round effects and entrenched expectations (for example, through price adjustments by businesses, contractors, property owners and wage negotiations), do not normally attract monetary policy response. In this context, the MPC decided to continue with the accommodative monetary policy stance and maintain the Bank Rate at 3.75 percent.  Governor Moses Pelaelo noted that the Bank stands ready to respond appropriately as conditions warrant.

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SEZA to boost investment through Mayors forum

25th October 2021
SEZA-CEO-Lonely-Mogara

The Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) recently launched the Mayor’s forum. The Authority will engage with local governments to improve ease of doing business, boost investment, and fast track the development of Botswana’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs).

The Mayors Forum was established to recognise the vital role that local authorities play in infrastructure development; as they approve applications for planning, building and occupation permits. Local authorities also grant approvals for industrial licenses for manufacturing companies.
SEZA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lonely Mogara explained that the Mayor’s Forum was conceptualised after the Authority identified local authorities as critical partners in achieving its mandate and improving the ease of doing business. SEZA intends to develop legal instructions for different Ministries to align relevant laws with the SEZ Act, which will enable the operationalisation of the SEZ incentives.

“Engaging with local government will bring about the much-needed transformation as our SEZs are located in municipalities. For us, a good working relationship with local authorities is the special ingredient required for the efficient facilitation of SEZ investors, which will lead to their competitiveness and ultimate growth,” Mogara stated.

The Mayors Forum will focus on the referral of investors for establishment in different localities, efficient facilitation of investors, infrastructure and property development, and joint monitoring and evaluation of the SEZ programme at the local level. SEZA believes that collaborating with local authorities will bring about much-needed transformation in the areas where SEZs are located and ultimately within the national economy. Against this background, the concept of hosting a Mayors Forum was birthed to identify and provide solutions to possible barriers inhibiting ease of doing business.

One of the key outcomes of the Mayors Forum is the free flow of information between SEZA and local authorities. Further, the two will work together to change the business environment and achieve efficiency and competitiveness within the SEZs. Francistown Mayor Godisang Rasesigo was elected as the founding Chairman of the Mayors Forum. The forum will also include the executive leadership of all city, town and district councils, among them Mayors, City or Council Chairpersons, Town Clerks and District Commissioners.

Mogara explained that initial efforts would engage the local government in areas that host SEZA’s eight SEZs: Gaborone, Lobatse, Selebi Phikwe, Palapye, Francistown, Pandamatenga and Tuli Block. Meanwhile, Mogara told WeekendPost that they are confident that a modest 150 000 jobs could be unleashed in the next two to five years through a partnership with other government entities. He is adamant that the jobs will come from all the nine designated economic zones.

This publication gathers that the Authority is currently sitting on about P30 billion worth of investment. The investment, it is suggested, could be said to be locked up in government bureaucracy, awaiting the proper signatures for projects to take off. Mogara informed this publication that the Authority onboard investors who are bringing P200 million and above. He pointed out that more are injecting P1 billion investments compared to the lower stratum of their drive.

SEZA’s mandate hinges on the nine Special Economic Zones – being Gaborone (SSKIA), whose focus is of Mixed-use (Diamond Beneficiation, Aviation); Gaborone (Fairgrounds) for Financial services, professional services and corporate HQ village; Lobatse for Beef, leather & biogas park; Pandamatenga designated for Agriculture (cereal production); Selibe Phikwe area which is also of a Mixed-Use (Base metal beneficiation & value addition), Tuli Block Integrated coal value addition, dry port logistics centre, coal power generation and export; Francistown is set aside for International Multimodal logistics hub/ Mixed Use (Mining, logistics and downstream value-adding hub); whilst Palapye is for Horticulture.

The knowledge economy buzz speaks to SEZA’s agenda, according to Mogara. The CEO is determined to ensure that SEZA gets the buy-in from the government, parastatals and the private sector to deliver Botswana to a high economic status. “This will ensure more jobs, less poverty, more investment, and indeed wealth for Batswana,” quipped the enthusiastic Mogara. SEZA was established through the SEZ Act of 2015 and mandated with establishing, developing and managing the country’s SEZs. The Authority was tasked with creating a conducive domestic and foreign direct investment, diversifying the economy and increasing exports to facilitate employment creation.

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De Beers Q3 production up 28 %

25th October 2021
De-Beers

De Beers rough diamond production for the third quarter of 2021 increased by 28% to 9.2 million carats, reflecting planned higher Production to meet more robust demand for rough diamonds. In Botswana, Production increased by 33% to 6.4 million carats, primarily driven by the planned treatment of higher-grade ore at Jwaneng, partly offset by lower Production at Orapa due to the scheduled closure of Plant 1.

Namibia’s Production increased by 65% to 0.4 million carats, reflecting the marine fleet’s suspension during Q3 2020 as part of the response to lower demand at that time. South Africa production increased by 34% to 1.6 million carats due to the planned treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the Venetia open pit and an improvement in plant performance. Production in Canada decreased by 13% to 0.8 million carats due to lower grade ore being processed.

Demand for rough diamonds continued to be robust, with positive midstream sentiment reflecting strong demand for polished diamond jewellery, particularly in the key markets of the US and China. Rough diamond sales totalled 7.8 million carats (7.0 million carats on a consolidated basis) from two Sights, compared with 6.6 million carats (6.5 million carats on a consolidated basis) from three Sights in Q3 2020 and 7.3 million carats (6.5 million carats on consolidated basis) from two Sights in Q2 2021.

De Beers tightened Production guidance to 32 million carats (previously 32-33 million carats) due to continuing operational challenges, subject to the extent of any further Covid-19 related disruptions. Commenting on the production figures, Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of De Beers parent company Anglo American, said: “Production is up 2%(1) compared to Q3 of last year, with our operating levels generally maintained at approximately 95%(2) of normal capacity.

The increase in Production is led by planned higher rough diamond production at De Beers, increased output from our Minas-Rio iron ore operation in Brazil, reflecting the planned pipeline maintenance in Q3 2020, and improved plant performance at our Kumba iron ore operations in South Africa. “We are broadly on track to deliver our full-year production guidance across all products while taking the opportunity to tighten up the guidance for diamonds, copper, and iron ore within our current range as we approach the end of the year.

“Our copper operations in Chile continue to work hard on mitigating the risk of water availability due to the challenges presented by the longest drought on record for the region, including sourcing water that is not suitable for use elsewhere and further increasing water recycling.”
On Wednesday, De Beers announced the value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for the eighth sales cycle of 2021. The company raked in US$ 490 million for the cycle, a slight improvement when compared to US$467 million recorded in 2020 cycle 8.

Owing to the restrictions on the movement of people and products in various jurisdictions around the globe, De Beers Group has continued to implement a more flexible approach to rough diamond sales during the eighth sales cycle of 2021, with the Sight event extended beyond its normal week-long duration.   As a result, the provisional rough diamond sales figure quoted for Cycle 8 represents the expected sales value from 4 October to 19 October. It remains subject to adjustment based on final completed sales.

Commenting on the cycle 8 sales De Beers Group Chief Executive Officer Bruce Cleaver said that: “As the diamond sector prepares for the key holiday season and US consumer demand for diamond jewellery continues to perform strongly, we saw further robust demand for rough diamonds in the eighth sales cycle of the year ahead of the Diwali holiday when demand for rough diamonds is likely to be affected by the closure of polishing factories in India.”

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