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Weaker Pula boosts profits

Furnmart Limited’s interim results for the current year have shown marked improvement in profitability following the furniture retailer’s decision to close its Zambian operations in the previous year. The half year results were boosted by the weakening pula against the rand.


“This performance must be seen against the backdrop of a difficult trading environment. Lower economic growth, higher prices driven by currency weakness, high levels of consumer indebtedness and unemployment, rising food inflation and the drought in the region, have all contributed to this unsatisfactory performance. Furthermore, our main regional competitors have rationalised their positions in South Africa and are expanding into Botswana and Namibia,” this was revealed in a statement signed by Furnmart chairman, John Tobias Mynhard, and Daniel le Roux, the group’s managing director.


In the latest figures, the group’s revenue slightly increased by 0.3 percent to P624 million following lower trading volumes. On the other hand, operating income decreased by 25.8 percent to P55.8 million. The group says this mainly due to the winding down sales of the Zambian operations as well as strong competition in the region. Furthermore, the operating income was also dragged down by higher operating expenses and lower finance income earned.


While the Group’s operating profit is 32.5 percent lower than the 2016 interim results, Furnmart managed to post profit before tax of P41 million, up by more than 500 percent. The growth in profit before tax was largely in part to the weaker pula against other currencies where Furnmart operates. “The exchange gain of P6.4m is substantially better than last year’s exchange loss of P45.2m. This gain was the result of the weakening of the Pula against the Group’s other functional currencies,” the group said in a statement.


The group’s profit after tax for the current interim results is at P23.7 million, a major improvement from the P4.4 million recorded in the 2016 interim results. The group’s profitability in the past has been negatively impacted by currency fluctuations, forcing Furnmart to exit the Zambian market. In 2015, the Zambian economy was under pressure due to the fall in copper prices, leading to the weakness of the Kwacha currency. This resulted in currency exchange losses when translating currency to the stronger Pula which is the functional currency at group level.


Furnmart management, startled by the interim loss and the pressures from tough trading conditions, decided to take active measures in late 2016 to turn around the struggling business. Part of the measures involved closing down loss-making branches while non-performing stores were to be subjected to a turn-around strategy. Furnmart commenced the winding up of the Zambian operations on the 1st of November 2016, with the management confident that these measures will have a positive impact on future profitability of the group.


In the full year end results for 2016, the group managed to reduce the significant currency exchange loss which was recorded in the interim results of that year. This led to Furnmart posting a profit of P47.7 million; however this was down by 14.9 percent from the 2015 full year results.


With profits declining, the management decided not to declare dividend as it will not make business sense to do so. The management further stated that it intends to build up reserves so that it could resume making dividend payouts in the next interim reporting stage. Now with Zambian headache out of the way and subsequent recovery in the interim results for this year, Furnmart has held true to its end of the deal.


“As indicated at year-end, the Company will resume dividend payments at this interim reporting stage. In line with the Group’s dividend policy, a gross interim dividend of 1.30t per share was declared on 11th April 2017 and is payable to shareholders registered on 12th May 2017, for payment on 26th May 2017,” the group announced in a statement accompanying the latest interim results.


The big dividend payout will help soothe shareholders who were left bruised by Furnmart’s performance on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) in the previous years.  Furnmart ended the year as one of the biggest losers in the stock market after its share price went down by as much as 35 percent. The drop in share price in 2016 was in addition to another 48 percent share price loss in 2014. The company’s improved profitability in the latest interim results did little to excite investors as the share price remained stubbornly at 0.65t, down by 7.1 percent this year.

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

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

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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