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Stan Chart CEO in shock resignation

The Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Botswana, Mr. Moatlhodi Lekaukau, on Wednesday resigned from the troubled bank, leaving more questions than answer.


The resignation of Mr. Lekaukau comes amid allegations of improper behaviour by the bank in handling one of their client’s accounts, possible investigation by the regulator and falling profits. However the board chairman, Prof. Bojosi Botlhogile, and Mr. Lekaukau have denied insinuations that the CEO was pushed out in the face of the emerging scandal. Instead they offered that Mr. Lekaukau, a chartered accountant and former partner at PriceWater House Coopers, will be pursuing other interests.


Mr. Lekaukau’s departure marks five years since he walked through the banking corridors in early 2012 at the time when the economy was recovering following a slump in diamond production caused by subdued global demand. The bank that year recorded a 0.9% decline in profit despite strong set of results that showed slight increase in net interest income and a reduction in bad debt impairment charge. Also contained in the 2012 final year results is a small clue that offers a rare view in what has come to haunt the bank, its obsession with strengthening the balance sheet and its affinity for the risky yet lucrative mining sector.


Standard Chartered Bank Botswana under Mr. Moatlhodi continued with its plans and risky appetite to be the choice financier for the mining industry.  It seemed to have been working out for them as the bank’s corporate segment recorded an impressive growth of about 21%. Furthermore, during that period the bank opened two branches (Gaborone and Francistown) and also introduced the first of its kind in the local banking industry, a 24-hour full service call centre. Despite the 0.9% decline in profit that year, the bank paid P200 million in dividends.


The year 2013 was definitely a good one for the Bank and its CEO. In that period, for the first time ever, the bank exceeded the P1 billion revenue mark. And not only that, the bank was hitting good numbers: profit before tax increased by 28%, total impairment decreased by 57%, and of course the bank emphasised that the balance sheet continues to strengthen with loans to customers increasing by 26% and deposits from non-bank customers increasing  by 8%. For that period, the bank paid P192.9 million in dividends.


The momentum slowed in 2014 when Standard Chartered Botswana recorded profit after tax of P319.184, a decline of o.74% from the previous period. However the bank was satisfied with growth in total income that was 7% above that of 2013, with the balance sheet growing by 28% on the back of advances to customers that grew by 29%. The bank also managed to reduce impairment by 94%. The bank was once more generous with the dividend payout that amounted to P213 million.


Now this is where things started going downhill for the bank. In 2015 delivered its worst set of results in terms of bottom line. The bank’s profit after tax declined from P319.1 million to P47.3 million. The group’s performance in 2015 was impacted by the challenging trading environment characterised by subdued macroeconomic conditions, low interest rates and significant decline in market liquidity. Operating income was down by 18% from 2014 reflecting the challenging market conditions.

 

In 2014, Bank of Botswana had imposed a two year moratorium on banking fees and charges, effectively starving off banks from increasing their revenues through hiking charges and fees. In what shocked shareholders and investors, the oldest bank in the country announced that the shocking decline in profit should not be much of concern. In fact, the bank said part of the reason operating income went down was because they took a strategic management decisions to strengthen the balance sheet at the expense of short term performance. And for all those efforts the balance sheet only grew by 3%.


While the shocking drop in profit was downplayed, the pressure in the bank was becoming more palpable. Other banks were posting declining profits but not as steep as Standard Chartered Bank Botswana. Then details started to emerge, painting a picture of a bank caught off guard by the commodity slump in 2015. The commodity slump in 2015 was a result of waning global demand that resulted in lower productions and lower prices.

 

The bank which has set out to be a financier of choice in the mining industry found itself in a vulnerable position. The bank was later to admit that part of the fall in profit was a result of one of their top corporate client that was having a difficult time financing its loan following the slump in diamond production and sales. As a sign of pressure mounted for the bank, they announced that to maintain capital resilience of the bank and to manage growth expectations in the near future, the Board will consider a dividend declaration in 2016.


In the last know financial performance, the bank’s interim profit for the half year ended June 2016 dropped by 5% from the corresponding period, sparking fresh fears that the bank’s 2016 year end results might be as dismal as the previous year if not worse. The results were once more impacted by a 42% surge on net impairments losses  that resulted in the bank posting profit before tax of P80.1 million, while the profit after tax fell to P63 million.


Despite the fall in profit, the bank remained bullish: they had grown the balance sheet by 3% and they were bolstered by a significant earnings recovery in the first half of the year culminating in first half earnings exceeding total earnings for 2015. However, the optimism was now tampered with caution. The bank announced that it has further strengthened its capital position, tightened risk tolerance and established more robust controls as it continues to focus on driving initiatives to realise long term sustainable gains. During the period, P90 million dividends were declared and paid.


With recovery in sight, the bank had the rug pulled under their feet when the government announced that BCL Group will be put under provisional liquidation. The announcement created a flurry of chatter and confusion, with no doubt that this liquidation is going to have a serious impact on the economy. As it is normally the case, the financial services industry soon found itself affected by the contagion.

 

When the noise settled and calm returned, Standard Charted Bank Botswana dropped a bombshell: they had significant exposure to the BCL group and it was likely to impact their financial performance for 2016. With the hopes of a quick recovery up in smoke, the company’s stock took a drubbing at the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE).


The shareholders who were used to large and consistent payouts were rattled and they acted. When 2015 came to an end, Standard Chartered Bank Botswana’s stock plunged by 11%. The selloff extended to 2016 as the stock became one of the worst performers, plummeting by as much as 30%. The stock is now trading at P7.60 after losing 1.92% in the past two months.


Mr. Lekaukau’s exit could not have come at a worse time, prompting analyst to ask questions if he was pushed out over dismal results or the man is simply pursuing greener pastures. Those who contend he is pushed out point to the bank’s past performances and the falling stock price while those who are convinced he is jumping shipping are saying he actually took longer than expected given the frustrations of the job. Industry insiders and those familiar with the matter say the banking industry in Botswana is controlled from outside by parent companies (Botswana has no indigenous commercial bank).


While banking heavyweights like First National Bank Botswana and Barclays Bank Botswana also answer to superiors outside the country, Mr. Lekaukau was in different circumstances altogether. FNBB and Barclays Botswana are owned by parent companies that are based in South Africa hence understand the African business dynamics and can respond quickly to opportunities and threats.

 

As for Standard Chartered Bank Botswana, despite being the oldest bank in Botswana, the shots came from Kenya to Dubai, Singapore and London. Standard Chartered Bank Plc, the global banking group, has most of the time treated its Botswana operations as an extension of the Kenya operations. This has made it difficult for the Botswana operations to be innovative and responsive.


But for now, Mr. Lekaukau’s resignation will be the least of the bank’s worries after the bank found itself embroiled in a scandal that is expected to unveil the shadowy operations of the banking sector. The bank is being accused by Mr. Majakathata Pheko of Oseg Group for playing fast and loose with his businesses accounts. Mr. Pheko has made damning allegations that the bank was negligent and gave unauthorised overdrafts.

 

Furthermore, the businessman says the bank’s handling of the issue bordered on clear violations of the bank’s own internal controls and runs afoul of the regulations set by the regulatory body. Still on that, Mr. Pheko has written to the central bank to intervene while in the meantime he has lodged a lawsuit against the bank.

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Business

Slight growth in GDP as economy battles return

28th July 2021
Peggy-Serame

Botswana’s economy showed slight growth signs in the first quarter of 2021, following a devastating year in 2020.

During 2020, the entire second quarter was on zero economic activity as the country went on total lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Diamond trade plummeted to record low levels as global travel restrictions halted movement of both goods and people and muted trade.

The end result was a significant decline for the local economy, at an estimated 7 percent contraction, just marginally below the 2008/09 global financial crises.

According to figures released by Statics Botswana this week, the country’s nominal Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter of 2021 was P47.739 billion compared to a revised P45.630 billion registered during the previous quarter.

This represents a quarterly increase of 4.6 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.

During the quarter, Public Administration and Defence became the major contributor to GDP by 18.4 percent, followed by Wholesale & Retail by 11.4 percent. The contribution of other sectors was below 6.0 percent, with Water and Electricity Supply being the lowest at 1.6 percent.

Real GDP for the first quarter of 2021 increased by 0.7 percent compared to a contraction of 4.6 percent registered in the previous quarter.

The improvement in the first quarter 2021 GDP reflected continued efforts to reopen businesses and resume activities that were postponed or restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The real GDP increased by 0.7 percent during the period under review, compared to an increase of 1.2 percent in the same quarter of 2020.

The recovery in the domestic economy was observed across majority of industries except Accommodation & Food Services, Mining & Quarrying, Manufacturing, Construction, Other Services and Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing.

The overall slow performance of the economy was mainly due to the impact of measures that were put in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Non-mining GDP increased by 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 4.0 percent increase registered in the same quarter of the previous year.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry decreased by 2.0 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, relative to a contraction of 5.2 percent registered during the same quarter of 2020.

The main driver of the unfavorable performance stems from a decrease in real value added of Livestock farming by 3.0 percent.

Mining and Quarrying registered a decrease 11.4 percent in the real value added, this was mainly influenced by the drop in the Gold and Diamond real value added by 17.5 and 12.5 percent respectively.

Diamond production in carats went down by 12.1 percent while the tonnage of Gold produced went down by 17.5 percent.

The poor performance of the diamond sub-industry is attributed to the reduction in production due to a lower grade feed to the plant at Orapa in response to heavy rainfall and operational issues, including continued power supply disruptions.

With regard to Gold is due to diminishing resource base which affect production.

The Manufacturing industry recorded a decline of 7.4 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, compared to a decrease of 2.3 percent registered in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The deep low performance in the industry is observed in the two major sub-industries of Beverages & tobacco and Diamond cutting, polishing and setting by 57.0 and 38.5 percent respectively.

The reduction in Beverages is attributed to alcohol sale ban imposed during the quarter under review in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On the other hand, exports of polished diamonds went down by 24.9 percent compared to a decrease of 11.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year.

The construction industry recorded a decline of 4.8 percent compared to an increase of 4.3 percent realized in the corresponding quarter in 2020.

This industry comprises of buildings construction, civil engineering and specialized construction activities. The industry is still showing signs of the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. The industry recorded a negative growth of 7.4 percent in the previous quarter.

Water and Electricity Water and Electricity value added at constant 2016 prices for the first quarter of 2021 was P506.2 million compared to P378.2 million registered in the same quarter of 2020, recording a growth of 33.8 percent.

In the first quarter of 2021, Electricity recorded a significant growth of 62.4 percent compared to a decrease of 67.6 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2020.

The local electricity production increased by 22.4 percent while Electricity imports decreased by 33.3 percent during quarter under review. The water industry recorded a value added of P231.3 million compared to P209.0 million registered in the same quarter of the previous year, registering an increase of 10.7 percent.

Wholesale and Retail Trade real value added increased by 11.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to an increase of 5.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The industry deals with sales of fast moving consumer goods.

Diamond Traders recorded a significant growth of 112.7 percent as opposed to a decline of 22.7 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter last year. The positive growth is due to improved demand of diamonds from the global market.

The Transport and Storage value added increased by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to a 2.4 percent increase recorded in the same quarter of the previous year.

The slight improved performance of the industry was mainly attributed to the increase in real value added of Road Transport and Post & Courier Services by 4.3 and 2.1 percent respectively.

The slow growth was influenced by a significant reduction in Air Transport services of 69.7 percent due to reduced number of passengers carried. Rail goods traffic in tonnes went down by 6.4 percent and passenger rail transport was not operating during the quarter under review.

Accommodation and Food Services Accommodation and Food Services real value added declined by 31.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a decrease of 4.4 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The reduction is largely attributed to a decrease of 42.1 percent in real value added of the Accommodation activities subindustry.

The suspension of air travel occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering the borders of the country and hence affecting the output of Hotels and Restaurants industry. COVID-19 restriction measures resulted in reduced demand for leisure and conferencing activities, as conferences are largely held through virtual platforms.

Finance, Insurance and Pension Funding industry registered a positive growth of 8.3 percent due to the favorable performance from monetary intermediation and Central Banking Services by 16.4 and 5.4 percent respectively during quarter under review.

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Business

Chobe Holdings secures P16 million for dark days

28th July 2021
Chobe Holdings

It is still tough in the tourism industry — big players in this sleeping giant are not having it easy, but options are being explored to keep the once vibrant multibillion Pula sector alive until the world gets back to normalcy.

One of the primary measures against the spread of Covid-19 is to stay home; this widely pronounced precaution against the global contagion that has claimed over 4 million lives across the world is however a thorn in the flesh of one of the major industries in the global economy — the tourism sector .

This sector is underpinned by travel – an act which is the virus‘ number one mode of spread, especially across borders.

Chobe Holdings Limited, one of Botswana’s leading high end eco-tourism giants said its survival strategies are underpinned by well-crafted stakeholder engagements in the mist of these unprecedented times of muted trading activity.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chobe continued to invest in and strengthen its relationships with key stakeholders in both its traditional markets and the SADC region,” the company directors updated shareholders this week.

To keep the business afloat, the company which owns and operates some of the exquisite tourism destinations along the banks of the mighty Chobe said it has triggered its existing available debt financing avenues.

Chobe revealed that its current overdraft of BWP 25 million has been extended on favourable terms.

The company shared that it has negotiated a further USD 1.5 million (over P16 million) standby loan with a flexible settlement terms and preferable cost implications to the bottom line.

“We are confident that the Group has sufficient cash inflows, cash reserves and un-utilized prearranged borrowing in place to settle any liabilities falling due and support the smooth recovery of operations in the short and medium term,” the company directors said, noting that they will retain the flexibility to vary operations should market conditions change.

Early this year, Chobe announced that the ongoing crisis in the tourism industry forced the company to draw from its prearranged overdraft facility of P25 million to the extent of P11.6 million.

Last year Chobe’s occupancy levels around its lodges and hotels went down 89 percent. This resulted in unprecedented revenue decline of 93% to P27.78 million from the P373.94 million in the previous year ended February 2020.

Operating profits went down 159% with profit after tax down 170%, mirroring a loss of over P67 million.

Chobe management said during the last half of the financial year they have done all they could to contain costs across the company’s operations.

During the last half of the year Chobe’s marketing and reservations teams continued to pursue the “don’t cancel but defer policy”.

“We thus continue to hold advance travel receipts, to the value of about P34 million at the financial year end,” the company revealed early this year.

Chobe said it continues to engage Government, through HATAB and BTO to prioritize the vaccination of workers in the tourism sector.

“Throughout the pandemic we have ensured that employees are trained in and comply with COVID-19 infection mitigation protocols as well as ensuring that all visitors to our remote camps and lodges as well as our staff and contractors are tested for COVID-19 before reaching the camp or lodges,” the company said.

However, the company said vaccinating the tourism staff will provide the best way to ensure that both employees and guests are protected from the virus.

“We continue to manage our cashflow through stringent cost control measures, balanced against the protection of the Group’s physical assets and the wellbeing and retention of its people,” the company said.

Chobe has successfully retained its top management through the pandemic.  To this end the company directors continue to closely monitor the Group’s recovery from COVID-19 and adjust salary reductions to support operations and aid retention.

Domestic and regional travel resumed during the second quarter of the 2020/21 financial year with the Group opening a strategic mix of camps and lodges.

A comprehensive domestic, regional and international marketing plan was put in place to support these openings.

International travel resumed in the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year with occupancies forecast to steadily increase, albeit from a low base, through the second quarter.

The company is optimistic that forward bookings are strong for the 2022/23 financial year.

“There is pent-up demand from our traditional source markets to travel now, but this is tempered by uncertainty and access constraints,” the company stated.

“Both the domestic and international markets are sensitive to such uncertainty, and it is critical that both the private and public sector work together to develop and publish clear, authoritative and consistent travel information in order to build confidence”

Chobe entered the pandemic with the Shinde camp rebuild in progress — one of its high end camps and this was completed in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year accounting for the majority of the Group’s capital expenditure for that period.

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Business

De Beers Q2 production jumps in response to strong rough diamond demand

28th July 2021
De-Beers -jwaneng-mine

De Beers Group, the world’s leading rough diamonds producer by value and Botswana’s partner in the diamond business, ramped up its production in the second quarter of 2021, in response to stronger demand for rough diamonds in the global markets.

The London headquartered diamond mining giant revealed in its production report this week that rough diamonds output  increased by 134% to 8.2 million carats in the three(3) months  of quarter 2 2021, “reflecting planned higher production to meet stronger demand for rough diamonds”.

This was against the backdrop of curtailed demand in the same quarter last year, mirroring the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns across southern Africa during that period.

In Botswana, where De Beers sources majority of its rough diamonds through partly government owned Debswana, production increased by 214% to 5.7 million carats. The percentage jump mirrored planned low production in the second quarter of 2020 where output was adjusted to market demands and implemented Covid-19 protocols.

Debswana operates four (4) Mines: Jwaneng Mine- being its flagship producer and largest revenue contributor. Jwaneng Mine which is the wealthiest diamond mine in the world by value is envisaged for multi-billion expansion to an underground operation in future to stretch its existence by few more decades.

The underground project which is anticipated to cost a whooping P65 billion will be the world‘s largest underground diamond mine.

The company which accounts for over 65 % of De Beers’s global production also operates Orapa Mine- one of the world’s largest by area, Letlhakane Mine currently a tailings treatment operation and Damtshaa Mine which is under care and maintenance following market shrink in 2020.

Namibia production decreased by 6% to 0.3 million carats, primarily due to planned maintenance of the Mafuta vessel which was completed in the quarter and another vessel remaining demobilized.  In Namibia De Beers sources diamonds both in land and marine through Namdeb and Debmarine respectfully.

In South Africa-the spiritual home ground of De Beers Group, production increased by 130% to 1.3 million carats, due to planned treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the Venetia open pit, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in Q2 2020.

Production in Canada increased by 14% to 0.9 million carats, primarily reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 measures implemented in Q2 2020.

De Beers said consumer demand for polished diamonds continued to recover, leading to strong demand for rough diamonds from midstream cutting and polishing centers, despite the impact on capacity from the severe Covid-19 wave in India during April and May.

Rough diamond sales totaled 7.3 million carats (6.5 million carats on a consolidated basis), from two Sights, reflecting the impact of the reduced Indian midstream capacity on Sight 4, compared with 0.3 million carats (0.2 million carats on a consolidated basis) from two Sights in Q2 2020, and 13.5 million carats (12.7 million carats on a consolidated basis) from three Sights in Q1 2021.

The H1 2021 consolidated average realized price increased by 13% to $135/ct (H1 2020: $119/ct), driven by an increased proportion of higher value rough diamonds sold.

While the average price index remained broadly flat, the closing index increased by 14% compared to the start of 2021, reflecting tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain as well as positive consumer demand for polished diamonds.

Full Year Guidance Production guidance is tightened to 32–33 million carats (previously 32-34 million carats (100% bases)), subject to trading conditions and the extent of any further Covid-19 related disruptions.

When commenting to 2021 quarter 2 production figures, Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of Anglo American- De Beers parent, said the entire Anglo American Group delivered a solid operational performance supported by comprehensive Covid-19 measures to help safeguard the lives and livelihoods of its workforce and host communities.

“We have generally maintained operating levels at approximately 95% of normal capacity and, as a consequence, production increased by 20% compared to Q2 of last year, with planned higher rough diamond production at De Beers” he said.

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