The Botswana Stock Exchange’s benchmark index is at its lowest levels last seen two years ago as investors favourites crumble while small cap stocks punch above their weight. The BSE’s domestic company index is down by 11.63%, a stark contrast to 2015 when then stock tracking index appreciated by 11.65%. We take a look at the top gainers and losers.
The DCI which comprises of 21 listed local companies on the main domestic counter and 2 on the venture capital board is a market weighted index. That means it is sensitive to the performance of companies with large market capital value. In 2015, the share prices of 16 companies appreciated compared to 12 companies this year. It has turned out to be the most frustrating year for investors: the local interest rates are at their lowest in over 23 years, inflation rates for most of the year has been bubbling under the central bank’s 3-6% medium term range, while the economy has been sluggish with increasing job losses across the sectors.
When the economy is under duress, analysts say the markets will be the first to reflect those cracks. The decline of the DCI hence comes as little surprise given the prevailing economic circumstances. Listed companies annual reports have been characterised by leading terms such as “tough trading conditions”, “stagnated wages”, “weak economic growth”, and “increasing regulatory controls”.
The DCI’s decline this year serves as an example why investors are taught why it is never a good idea to put your eggs in one basket. Some sectors have been hit the hardest, resulting in negative and low returns for investors. However not all was lost as some sectors proved their resilience in the face of headwinds.
Cresta-Up by 19.62%
The company has recently been in the news for the wrong reasons as the company found itself in a financial scandal that led to the dismissal of the Chief Financial Officer and the resignation of the Managing Director. Nonetheless the tourism and leisure company has outperformed domestic listed companies. The profits look good and the company is optimistic about future demand as it expands to top tourist destinations like Maun.
The company must be chuffed by the spotlight the country is receiving following the release of the United Kingdom film which depicts an actual love and political story of the founding president. It’s expected that the movie will arouse the curiosity of frequent travellers to come see the country where the film was shot.
Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited- 15.46%
Under the leadership of Catherine Lesetedi-Letegele, the financial services behemoth with three subsidiaries that spans the insurance and investment management sector has been a consistent performer throughout the year. The company has held its own in a sector that faces enormous challenges from intense competition, stagnated wages, falling premiums and increased claims from retrenchments. While analysts are closely monitoring the company’s stock, investors are cheering them on, buoyed by the company’s expansion plan.
The group took bold steps in increasing its product mix; from acquisitions to brokering deals with banks, tapping into bancassurance as well as looking at regional expansions. BIHL is a financial services titan originally established in 1975.BIHL has been listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange since 1991 and is the holding company for three subsidiaries (Botswana Insurance Fund Management, Botswana Life Insurance Ltd and Legal Guard) and holds a stake in two associate companies; Letshego Holdings and Funeral Service Group as well as a 21.5% stake in Nico holdings in Malawi.
Engen-Up by 15.15%
A surprise performance from the stock with a market valuation of P1.5 billion that really gets mentioned with the BSE’s blue chip stocks. What impresses the most about this stock is that it began the year down at -10%, dragged down by concern over oil prices which were also at their lowest from 2015 to early 2016. However the stock remained solid and pulled spectacular move when its share price started rising in line with improved market sentiments as oil prices begun to rise.
Chobe Holdings- Up by 13.23%
This tourism listed outfit is the second best performing stock in the tourism sector. The company ended the year with impressive financials: revenue was up by 33% and profits before tax increased by 45%. With its luxury lodges, the group will benefit from increased tourism activities. Through its wholly owned subsidiaries, Chobe Holdings Limited owns and operates ten eco-tourism lodges and camps on leased land in Northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip in Namibia with a combined capacity of 290 beds under the brands Desert & Delta Safaris and Ker & Downey Botswana. Safari Air, a wholly owned air charter operator, provides air transport services to the group's camps and lodges.
Desert and Delta Safaris (SA) (Pty) Ltd, another wholly owned subsidiary operating in South Africa, provides reservation services to the group. This year, the group, through its wholly owned subsidiary North West Air (Pty) Ltd, acquired Air Charter Botswana (Pty) Ltd’s aircraft maintenance operation at Maun International Airport.
G4s- Up by 12.70%
Here is another company that began the year on a back foot following a dismal stock performance in 2015. Michael Kampani, G4s Managing Director, is leaving a happy man after he steered the group to profitability since he joined it in 2013. Under his leadership, G4s has focused on its core services as well as expanding its product mix. The stock market has taken note of his stellar performance as evidenced by the company’s share price appreciation.
Barclays Bank Botswana- Up by 12.22%
The bank this year was in its element, churning out new products and services and delivering impressive financial results. It is not a surprise that investors have been rallying behind the company which often touts its 5 year transformation strategy as something to reckon with. Indeed, the results show that the strategy is having some positive results.
The bank which seeks to be the leading bank in Botswana and your bank of choice doubled its profit in its interim results for the year. The second largest listed bank becomes the only one in the banking sector that has delivered capital gains to shareholders so far this year. With most financial institutions under pressure from the prevailing tough conditions, Barclays seems to be an exception to the rule as investors rally behind it.
NEW AFRICAN PROPERTIES- Up by 10.94%
This property listed stock deserves a special mention that extends beyond its exploits in the property market. Not only did it outperform property listed stocks, it also broke records on the BSE after the single biggest day trade in the history of the BSE after the company traded 26% of its issued capital worth P457.3 million. This year’s performance extends the gains the company enjoyed last year as it delivered 22%.
NAP was listed on the BSE in 2011, with a total of 604 397 124 issued units. The largest unit holder is Cash Bazaar Holdings (Pty) Ltd with 79.3 percent stake. NAP owns properties such as Riverwalk Mall, Riverwalk Plaza and Kagiso Mall in Gaborone, Mafenyatlala Mall in Molepolole, Kasane Mall and Mokoro Centre in Maun. The portfolio comprises primarily of prime retail sites with a strong tenant base, including Pick ‘n Pay, Spar, Choppies, Mr Price, Woolworths, Pep, Cashbuild, Furnmat, CB Stores, Ackermans, Cape Union Mart, Exclusive Books, FNB, Hi-Fi Corporation, Home Corp, Incredible Connection, Jet, KFC, Nando's, New Capitol Cinema, Mugg & Bean, JB Sports, Truworths and many others.
Choppies-Down by 49.77%
The retail giant’s stock has been pummelled in the stock market, causing the biggest upset of the year as far as stocks are concerned. Choppies is a leading retailer in the fast moving consumable goods industry, targeting low-income to middle class buyers and the company has been doing well for the past 20 years, growing in leaps and bounds. The dual listed company, both in the BSE and Johannesburg Stock Exchange, has been pursuing regional expansions in the last two years. The company’s profit after tax nearly halved due to costs associated with the expansion.
What has been particularly worrying investors is that the expansion plans are yet to bring results. The South African and Zimbabwean Stores are still not making profits profits. Choppies faces other myriad challenges as its core customers’ disposable income diminishes through retrenchments while in Zimbabwe the recently rolled out bond notes will have an impact on the retailers operations.However, Ram Ottapathu led Choppies surprised many when it launched its own clothing line with its hyper stores. This move was seen in a positive light as it added a new revenue stream.
Furnmart- Down by 35.77%
This player also belongs to the retail and wholesaling sector that has been dragged down by economic factors. The Group continues to trade steadily in an ever more challenging environment. Drought conditions, currency weakness, high unemployment, an increase in retrenchments and the over-indebtedness of customers, continue to plague the region.
Low commodity prices on world markets and the slowdown in the Chinese economy have hampered growth in the countries in which Furnmart trades. The group says continued trading losses, a weakening economy, US Dollar-based rentals and a volatile currency have culminated in management’s decision to cease trading in Zambia
Furthermore, regulators continue to introduce burdensome restrictions and administrative processes on consumer credit providers, in an attempt to protect consumers from risky or unfair exposure.
Standard Chartered Bank Botswana- Down by 30.80%
The bank popularly known as Stanchart has extended its losses to 2016. The bank ended 2015 with a share price depreciation of about 11% and took the biggest fall this year. The financial sector, particularly banking, lists low interest rates, stagnated wages, unemployment and retrenchments as factors that have greatly impacted their operations. The bank’s 2015 end of year profit went down by 87% while the latest interim results reflect a decline in profits.
Stanchart was the first bank to publicly admit to its large exposure to the BCL Group which is under provisional liquidation. While the stock is being battered, the Moatlhodi Lekakau led bank is busy at work trying to turn around its fortunes. It has increased its bancassurance offerings and recently opened a digital bank branch at the country’s biggest airport.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK BOTSWANA- Down by 22.51%
FNBB is the largest bank in the country both by market value, industry profits and assets. This giant has been weakening since 2015 on the pressure of enhanced competition, the recently lifted moratorium on bank charges, low interest rates and limited spending power in the economy.
Steven Bogatsu finds himself in charge of a bank that recently reported its lowest profit in two years, continuing the trend of declining profits in the banking sector. In efforts to lure customers and get them to spend, the bank has introduced a number of initiatives such as smart devices scheme and ebucks rewards program. The bank has also bolstered its newly created insurance division, striking deals with BIHL, the country’s leading insurer.
Letshego- Down by 20%
This financial giant has made its fortunes from micro-lending, with its strong customer base made up of government workers and state owned enterprises. In the stock market, the company tops the charts of domestic companies in terms of volume and value of trades. Simply put, Letshego stock is the most liquid, exchanging hands quickly and easily. This could account for the stock’s decline this year.
The company which breached the P1 billion mark in revenue for the year ended 2015, released interim results for 2016 which showed declining profit. However the group says results show satisfactory growth in an environment of depreciating exchange rates, higher inflation and interest rates and lower economic activity in most of the markets in which Letshego operates.
In its 2015 annual report, Letshego says it will continue to drive its inclusive financial services strategy and to strengthen its operations through investment in people, technology and strategic partnerships. Moreover, the group’s Board of Directors is confident that the Pan African financial services titan is well positioned to benefit from the growing markets in which it is active and views inorganic expansion via strategic acquisitions as important to the acceleration of Letshego’s strategy.
The newly elected Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) Executive Committee led by Pastor Reverend Thuso Tiego has declared their disapproval of homosexuality saying it is anti-Christianity and Botswana culture.
Speaking at a Media Briefing this past week, BMD President Tiego said Botswana has been a country that respects culture hence endorsing homosexuality will be catastrophic.
‚ÄúOur young generation grew up being taught about types of families, if homosexuality is passed, at what age will our children be introduced to homosexuality?‚ÄĚ he rhetorically asked.
He continued: ‚ÄúIf we are going to allow homosexuality then the next day, another person will come and say he wants to practice bestiality. What are we going to do because we have already allowed for this one (homosexuality) and at the end it will be a total mess.‚ÄĚ Bestiality is sexual relations between a human being and an animal
This according to Tiego will give those people an opportunity thus disrupting known Botswana beliefs. He however dismissed any notion that the decision to condemn homosexuality should not be linked to the top two of the committee who are men of cloth. ‚ÄúThis is a decision by the whole committee which respects the culture of Botswana and it should not be perceived that because we are clergymen we are influencing them, but even if we do, politics and religion are inter-related.‚ÄĚ
Of late the church and the human rights organization have been up in arms because of the high court decision to allow for same sex marriages. Ministries ganged up, petitioned parliament and threatened to vote out any legislator who will support the idea. The ruling party, BDP which was to table the amendment in the constitution, ended up deferring it.
BMD President further revealed that he is aware of what really led to the split of the party and he is on course to transform as they approach 2024 elections.
‚ÄúThere are so many factors that led to split of party amongst others being leadership disputes, personal egos and ambitions, toxic factionalism and ideological difference just to mention a few, but we are transforming the party and I am confident that we will do well in the coming elections.
In addition, Tiego is hopeful that they will take the government as they feel it is time to rebrand Botswana politics and bring in fresh blood of leaders.
He further hinted that they are coming with positive transformation as they eye to better the lives of Batswana.
‚ÄúWhen we assume government, we promise to be transparent, free and fair electoral processes and encourage pluralism as way of getting back to our roots of being a democratic country as it seems like the current government has forgotten about that important aspect,‚ÄĚ Tiego explained.
Reeling under the increasing barrage of stinging international sanctions, the isolated North Korean regime is reportedly up to its old trickery, this time in a more complicated web of murky operations that have got the authorities of five southern African countries at sixes and sevens as they desperately try to tighten their dragnet around Pyongyang‚Äôs spectral network of illicit ivory and rhino horn trade.
It is an intricate network of poaching for elephant tusks and rhino horns that spans Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, with the main sources of the contraband being Botswana and South Africa.
The syndicate running the illegal trafficking of the poached contraband is suspected to be controlled by two shadowy North Korean government operatives with close links to one Han Tae-song, a disgraced North Korean career diplomat who, while serving as the second secretary at his country‚Äôs embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe, was expelled in 1992 after he was fingered as the mastermind behind a similar illegal ring that was busted by the country‚Äôs authorities.
This disturbing tale of malfeasance by North Korean state actors is as real as it gets.
Recent reports indicate that authorities in the source countries are jointly battling to plug holes created by the shadowy syndicate which allegedly has on its payroll, park rangers, border officials and cross-border truck drivers.
Even more disturbing are allegations that some wildlife officials are conniving in misrepresenting numbers of retrieved rhino horns and ivory from poachers and getting kickbacks for their involvement in the pilfering of ivory and rhino horns from government stockpiles especially in South Africa.
In a shocking and well-orchestrated movie-style heist in South Africa, thieves in June this year made off with 51 rhino horns after breaking into a very secure government stockpile facility of the North West Parks Board (NWPB).
While some suspects from South Africa and Malawi were nabbed in a government sting operation, none of the rhino horns – 14 of which were very large specimens that can fetch serious money on the black market ‚Äď were recovered.
A report of the heist said the police were lethargic by eight hours in responding to an emergency alert of the robbery which was described by North West police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone as ‚Äú‚Ä¶ a case of business robbery‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ
Thabang Moko, a security analyst in Pretoria says the military precision in the burglary, delays in police response, and failure to recover the stolen rhino horns is dubious. ‚ÄúThis development lends credence to suspicions that some government officials could be part of a shadowy syndicate run by foreign buyers of rhino horns and ivory,‚ÄĚ Moko says.
It is understood that in light of the rhino horns heist in North West, South Africa‚Äôs Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy on 1 August, shared her concerns to her counterparts in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique calling for greater regional cooperation to combat the illegal wildlife trafficking which she believes is being masterminded by the Far East‚Äôs buyers of the ill-gotten horns and ivory.
It is believed that foreign kingpins involved in perpetuating the illegal trade are mainly North Koreans vying against Vietnamese and Cambodian buyers in the quest for dominance of the illicit trade in rhino horns and ivory sourced from southern Africa.
Creecy‚Äôs concerns, which she also shared to South Africa‚Äôs state-run broadcaster SABC, echoed Moko‚Äôs worries that the North West heist may have been an inside job.
According to Creecy, there was a need for the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol)‚Äôs greater involvement in joint investigations by affected countries as there were indications of ‚Äėlocal knowledge‚Äô of the North West job and that syndicates, ‚ÄúHigher up the value chain actually recruit park rangers to the illegal ivory trade network.‚ÄĚ
Botswana‚Äôs Environment and Tourism Minister Philda Kereng is on national record admitting that poaching was a source of headaches to her government, especially considering that the daring poachers were making successful incursions into secure areas protected by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).
This came after poachers gunned down two white rhinos at the BDF-protected Khama Rhino Sanctuary in August 2022 despite Kereng putting the time frame of the killings between October and November 2022.
Kereng hinted at the existence of Asian controlled syndicates and acknowledged that the surge in poaching in Botswana is driven by the ‚Äúincreased demand¬†for rhino horn on the international market‚ÄĚ where in Asia rhino horns are believed to be potent in traditional medicines and for their imagined therapeutic properties.
Botswana has in the past recorded an incident of a group of an all-Asian reconnaissance advance team teams being nabbed by the country‚Äôs intelligence service in the Khama Rhino Sanctuary.
Masquerading as tourists, the group, with suspected links to North Korea and China, was discovered to be collecting crucial data for poachers.
Also according to reliable information at hand, an undisclosed number of wildlife parks rangers were arrested between September 2022 and January this year, after information surfaced that they connived in the smuggling of rhino horns and ivory from Botswana.
One of the rangers reportedly admitted getting paid to falsify information on recovered horns and ivory which were smuggled out of the country through its vast and porous eastern border with South Africa, and making their way to their final destination in Mozambique via back roads and farmlands in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
‚ÄúWe are aware that in the past year, some rhino horns and ivory illegally obtained from Botswana through poaching activities and shady deals by some elements within our wildlife and national parks department, have found their way out of the country and end up in Mozambique‚Äôs coastal ports for shipment to the Far East,‚ÄĚ a Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) source says.
Independent investigations reveal that two North Korean buyers, one of them only identified as Yi Kang-dae [confirmed to be an intelligence official in the country‚Äôs state security apparatus], acting on behalf of the disgraced Han Tae-song, financed the entire operation on two occasions between 2022 and 2023, to move at least 18 rhino horns and 19 elephant tusks from Botswana, including pay-offs – mostly to border patrol and customs officials for safe passage – along the knotty conduit across South Africa‚Äôs north western lands, then across south-eastern Zimbabwe into Mozambique.
According to a trusted cross-border transport operator in Zimbabwe, the rhino horns and elephant tusks were illegally handed over to smugglers in Mozambique at an obscure illegal crossing point 15km north of Zimbabwe‚Äôs Forbes Border Post in November 2022 and February this year.
The end buyers in Mozambique? ‚ÄúIt is quite an embarrassment for us, but we have solid evidence that two North Korean buyers, one of them who is linked to a former notorious diplomat from that country who has been in the past involved in such illegal activities in Zimbabwe, oversaw the loading of rhino horns and ivory onto a China-bound ship from one of our ports,‚ÄĚ a top government source in Maputo said before declining to divulge more information citing ongoing investigations.
Yi Kang-dae and his accomplice‚Äôs whereabouts are presently unclear to Mozambican authorities whose dragnet reportedly recently netted some key actors of the network. Han Tae-song currently serves as North Korea‚Äôs ambassador to the United Nations in Switzerland.
North Korean diplomats have in the past used Mozambique as a final transit point for the shipment of rhino horns to the Far East.
In May 2015, Mozambican authorities nabbed two North Koreans, one of them a Pretoria-based diplomat and political counsellor identified as Pak Chol-jun after they were caught in possession of 4.5kg of rhino horn pieces and US$100,000 cash.
Pak‚Äôs accomplice, Kim Jong-su, a Taekwondo instructor also based in South Africa, was fingered as a North Korean spy and returned to North Korea under suspicious circumstances on the heels of Pak‚Äôs expulsion from South Africa in November 2016.
A security source in Zimbabwe closely following current developments says there is a big chance that Han Tae-song may have revived the old smuggling network he ran while posted in Zimbabwe in the 90s.
‚ÄúThe biting international sanctions against North Korea in the past decade may have prompted Han to reawaken his network which has been dormant for some time,‚ÄĚ the source says. ‚ÄúThere is no telling if the shady network is dead now given that Han‚Äôs two front men have not been nabbed in Mozambique. More joint vigilance is needed to destroy the operation at the source and at the end of the line.‚ÄĚ
North Korean diplomats have, as early as October 1976, been fingered for engaging in illegal activities ranging from possession of and trade in ivory pieces, trade in diamonds and gold, the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit currencies, pharmaceuticals, and the sale on the black market, of a paraphernalia of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and other trinkets on the back of protracted and biting international sanctions against the reclusive state for its gross human rights abuses against its own people and flagrant nuclear tests.
These illegal activities, according to a US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, have raked in at least US$500m annually for the Pyongyang regime. Other global studies estimate that North Korea‚Äôs illegal earnings from the black market are around $1bn annually, and are being channelled towards the country‚Äôs nuclear weapons programme, while ordinary North Koreans continue to die of mass starvation.
In February 2014, Botswana, citing systematic human rights violations, severed ties with North Korea with the former‚Äôs president Mokgweetsi Masisi (then vice president) calling North Korea an ‚Äėevil nation‚Äô on 23 September 2016, at a United Nations General Assembly forum in Washington, USA.
Botswana has¬†close to 132,000¬†elephants, more than any of its four neighbouring countries, namely Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to a 2022 Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) Elephant Survey.
The rhino population in Botswana has significantly dwindled, with poaching a leading cause of the decimation of the country‚Äôs rhinos. Despite dehorning and relocating its diminishing rhino population from the extensive Okavango Delta to undisclosed sanctuaries, Botswana has since 2018, lost 138 rhinos to poachers.
The sharp spike in rhino poaching in Botswana came after the country‚Äôs government made a controversial decision to disarm park rangers in early 2018.
In a statement delivered in November 2022 to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) CoP-19 in Panama, the Botswana government instead blamed the surge in poaching to a shift of foreign-sponsored organised poaching organisations from South Africa to Botswana.
‚ÄúThis increase in rhino poaching in Botswana coincided with a decline of rhino poaching in South Africa from 2018 to 2020, suggesting a displacement of the poaching syndicates from South Africa to Botswana,‚ÄĚ the statement reads. ‚ÄúThe recent decline in rhino poaching in Botswana (2021 and 2022, relative to 2020) coincides with the increase in rhino poaching in Namibia and South Africa, further suggesting displacement of the poaching syndicates across the sub-region.‚ÄĚ
According to the Botswana government, as of 13 November 2022 the country has secreted its shrinking rhinos (only 285 white rhinos and 23¬†black rhinos) in undisclosed locations within the country‚Äôs borders.
South Africa has close to 15,000 rhinos. Between January and June 2022 alone, poachers killed 260 rhinos in South Africa for their horns. The country is home to the majority of Africa‚Äôs white rhinos, a species whose existence remains under threat of extinction due to poaching.
The major threat posed by foreign state actors including those from North Korea, to southern Africa‚Äôs rhino and elephant population remains grim as the bulk of the rhino horns and elephant tusks reportedly continue finding their way to the Far East, where China is being used as the major distribution centre.