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.
Parliament last week adopted the new National Energy Policy, a blueprint crafted to catapult Botswana to an industrial hub of alternative and renewable energy.
Presented by Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Lefoko Maxwell Moagi, the policy was hailed by lawmakers from both the ruling party and opposition ranks as long overdue.
Moagi, who is also Member of Parliament for Ramotswa, explained that the National Energy Policy (NEP) is intended to guide the management and development of Botswana’s energy sector, especially the penetration of new and renewable energy sources into the country’s energy mix in order to attain energy self-sufficiency and increased security of supply.
“The NEP is expected to create a conducive environment that will not only facilitate investment in the energy sector but also add value to export revenues, facilitate production in other sectors of the economy and create employment within the energy sector,” he said.
Moagi said that the new policy will set a foundation that will steer the utilization of locally available energy resources optimally and efficiently to ensure that Botswana attains a sustainable and low carbon economic development.
Botswana has experienced some constraints in the energy sector in recent years, which to some extent have negatively impacted the country’s economic development prospects.
A devastating power supply and demand mismatch was encountered between the years 2008 and 2014, and this breached the country’s power supply security even to date.
Moagi noted that this encounter, and other such misfortunes have motivated the new policy to outline the principles, prospects and choices that are required to optimise the role of energy in the economy and maximise Botswana’s potential for the desired economic growth in line with the country’s Vision 2036.
Commenting on the Policy Vice President Slumber Tsogwane said the new energy roadmap would contribute towards achievement of national prosperity and economic diversification.
“This envisages Botswana’s transition from being a net energy importer to being self-sufficient and having surplus energy for export into the region, we applaud the minister for bringing this important document,” Tsogwane said.
Botswana has abundant coal resources, estimated at about 212 billion tonnes. Estimates of 196 trillion cubic feet of coal bed methane (CBM) have also been recorded and there is ongoing exploration of this resource.
Most of the coal extracted goes to power generation at Morupule power plant and the remaining small percentage is shared between local industrial use and export.
For CBM, commercially viable gas exploration is required to firm up resource quantification and associated development programs around this resource.
Botswana receives over 3,200 hours of sunshine per year, with an average insolation on a flat surface of 21MJ/m2.
Satellite images have revealed that Botswana has abundant countrywide irradiation presenting the highest values of direct normal irradiance (DNI) and global horizontal irradiance (GHI) the western and south-western regions, with a slight decrease towards the east.
The lowest values of irradiation are in a range of about 2,000 kWh/m²/annum (~5, 5 kWh/m²/day) DNI and GHI on average. This amount of insolation is among the highest in the world, making solar energy a promising renewable energy resource for Botswana.
Reasonable wind speeds exist within the country with the highest wind resources potential located in the South-West, Central and Eastern parts of the country, with averaging wind speeds above 7m/s, wind power density above 200W/m2 and annual energy production above 4.5 GWh/year.
The wind potential has not been fully explored and has primarily been used on windmills for water pumping by farmers.
Botswana has theoretical biomass energy potential of 32 million GJ per year, estimated from a considerable biomass potential of 20 million tonnes per year.
The use of livestock residues (cow-dung) seems to offer the highest practical opportunity for energy production in Botswana, while municipal solid waste (MSW) can also contribute to the improvement of energy generation, especially at the city level.
Other residues such as crop and agro-industrial residues, only offer a limited energy potential that could be tapped by rural communities.
Botswana is highly reliant on imports of refined petroleum products to meet the liquid fuels demand since the country does not have any proven crude oil reserves/refineries.
By far, a large amount of liquid fuels supply comes from South Africa. As at 2018, the local consumption of petroleum products stood at about 1.2 billion litres per annum for petrol, diesel and illuminating paraffin combined, and about 20 million litres of aviation fuels per annum.
Commenting on the National Energy Policy, opposition members of parliament said effective implementation of the policy would require a legislation and/or regulations for robust development of the new and renewable energy subsector.
Moagi reiterated that the provision of energy services is capital intensive and heavily reliant on technology. “It is thus important to come up with innovative ways of delivering these services”
Currently, there is no research institution dedicated to carrying out energy research and development (R&D) to inform policy.
However, there exists various institutions or think tanks that carry out energy research from various perspectives.
These include Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI), the University of Botswana (UB), Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN), and Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH).
Moagi shared that however regrettably, there is neither a clearly defined collaboration among and/or between these researchers nor is there any between the researchers, the industry and the policy makers.
Recognising that coordination of efforts in R&D is key to promoting innovation, technology application and development for deployment of appropriate modern energy services; the NEP seeks to aid coordination of research activities in the energy sector as well as facilitate development and establishment of academic/industry strategic research alliances.
Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) moved swiftly this week to suspend BBS Limited from trading its securities following a brawl between Board of Directors and Managing Director, Pius Molefe, which led to corporate governance crisis at the organisation.
In an interesting series of events that unfolded this week, incumbent board Chairperson, Pelani Siwawa-Ndai moved to expel Molefe together with board Secretary, Sipho Showa, who also doubles up as Head of Marketing and Communications. It is reported that Siwawa-Ndai in her capacity as the board Chairperson wrote letters of dismissals to Molefe and Showa.
Following receipt of letters, the duo sought and was furnished with legal opinion from Armstrong Attorneys advising them that their dismissals were unlawful hence they were told to continue to report to work and carry out their duties.
Documents seen by BusinessPost articulate that in the meeting which was held on the 1st of April, the five outgoing board members, unlawfully took resolutions to extend their contracts by a further 90 days after April 30 2021 as they face tough competition from five other candidates who had expressed interest to run for the elections.
Moreover, at the said meeting, management explained that neither management nor the board have the authority to decline nominations submitted by shareholders or the interested parties which is in line with Companies Act and also BBS Limited constitution.
Molefe also revealed that as management they cautioned the board that it was conflicted and it would be improper for it to influence the election process as it seems they intended to do so. “Nonetheless, in a totally unprecedented move in the history of BBSL, the board then collectively passed the unlawful resolutions below. Leading to the illegitimate decisions, the board had brazenly directed that its discussions on the Board elections should not be recorded totally violating sound corporate governance,” reads the statement released by management this week.
When giving their legal advice, Armstrong Attorneys noted that notice for the AGM should state individuals proposed to be elected to the board and directors have no legal authority to prevent the process.
Armstrong Attorneys also noted that, “due process” cited by board members are simply to ensure that the five retiring Directors avoid competition from interested candidates to be appointed to the BBS Limited board. The law firm further opined that the resolution of the 90 day extension of term of the five directors pending re-election or election was unlawful.
Molefe expressed with regret that BBS has been suspended from trading by BSE until the current matter has been resolved. “I am concerned by this development and other potentially harmful actions on the business. As management, we are engaging with stakeholders to mitigate any negative impact on BBS Limited,” expressed a distressed Molefe.
He assured shareholders and the rest of Management that they are working very hard to ensure that the issues are being dealt with in a mature manner. BBS which hopes to become the first indigenous commercial bank has seen its shares halted barely four months after BSE lifted the trading suspension of shares for BBS following submission of their published 2019 audited financial statements.
According to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the local bourse, Thapelo Tsheole said the halting of shares of BBSL is to maintain fair, efficient and orderly securities trading environment. “The securities have been suspended to allow BBS to provide clarity to the market concerning the recent allegations which have been brought to the attention of the BSE relating to the company’s Board of Directors and senior management,” said Tsheole.
Meanwhile in their audited financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2020, BBS recorded a loss of P14.6 million as at 31 December 2020 compared to the loss of P35.7 million for the comparative year ended 31 December 2019. According to Molefe the year under review was the most challenging for the bank, its shareholders and customers endured the difficult economic environment and the negative impact of the coronavirus.
He revealed that as the bank, they were forced to put in place several measures to ensure that the business withstands the impact of coronavirus and also to cushion mortgage customers from the effects of the pandemic. “Since April 2020 up to the end of December 2020, BBS assisted 555 mortgage customers with a payment holiday,’’ he said.
This is the bank whose total balance sheet declined by 12 percent from P4, 626 billion for the year ended. 31 December 2019 to P4, 088 billion as at 31 December 2020. As if things were not bad enough, total savings and deposits at the bank declined by 14 percent from a balance of P2, 885 billion as at 31 December 2019 to P2, 494 billion as at 31 December 2020.
On a much brighter side, BBSL mortgage loans and advances improved from P3, 401 billion to P3.408 billion with impairment allowance significantly improving to P78, 648 million from P102, 532 million for the year under review, representing a positive variance of 23 percent. BBS maintained a strong capital base with capital adequacy ratios of 26.32% for the year ended 31 December 2020.
Molefe was optimistic and anticipated a positive outcome during the implementation of the new BBS corporate strategy, whose main drive is commercialization of operations, which is in full force. “It will be spurred on by the positive results we have achieved for the year ended 31 December 2020, and our planned submission of our banking license application to Bank of Botswana which we anticipate to operate as a commercial bank in the third quarter of 2021,” he alluded.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Premium Nickel Resources Botswana (PNRB), Montwedi Mphathi, has said his company will resuscitate the formerly owned BCL assets and deliver a new, sustainable and cutting edge mining operation.
The new mine which will leverage on modern and next generation technology, will be environmentally sensitive and cognisant of the needs of its people and that of the communities around the area of influence.
In a statement last week, Premium Nickel Resources Botswana and its parent company, the Canadian headquartered Premium Nickel Resources announced that they have now completed the Exclusivity Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Liquidator.
The MOU will govern a six-month exclusivity period to complete its due diligence and related purchase agreements on the Botswana nickel-copper-cobalt (Ni-Cu-Co) assets formerly operated by BCL Limited (BCL), that are currently in liquidation.
On February 10, 2021, Lefoko Moagi, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security of Botswana, affirmed in Parliament a press release by the Liquidator for the BCL Group of Companies, stating that PNR was selected as the preferred bidder to acquire assets formerly owned by BCL.
“This is encouraging for the company and for Botswana. Our ambition in this new project dubbed “Tsholofelo” is to redevelop the former BCL assets into a modern, environmentally sensitive, efficient NI-Cu-Co-water producer where sustainability and the people are at the forefront of the decisions we make,” said Mphathi in a statement last Thursday.
“We also understand that no matter how successful we are at building the “New BCL” , our success will only be measured at our ability to create local wealth , skills and support the continued transition of local economy to a longer term sustainable base.”
The next step during the exclusivity period will be the completion of the definitive agreement. Simultaneous to this the PNRB will be conducting additional investigative work on site to further its understanding of the potential of these assets.
Specifically the company will complete an environmental assessment, a metallurgical study, a review of legal and social responsibilities, a review of the mine closure and rehabilitation plans and an on-site inspection of the legacy mining infrastructure and equipment that has been under care and maintenance.
Mphathi said they continue to monitor the global Covid-19 developments noting that they are committed to working with health and safety authorities as a priority and in full respect of all government and local Covid-19 protocol requirements. PNRB has developed Covid-19 travel, living and working protocols in anticipation of moving forward to on site due diligence.
“We will integrate these protocols with the currently applicable protocols of Ministry of Health & Wellness as well as District Health Management Team ( DHMT) and surrounding communities,” reads a statement released by the Gaborone based Premium Nickel Resources team.
PNRB is looking to become a catalyst in participating and building a strong economy for Botswana, with a purpose where respect and trust are core to every single step that will be taken. “Our success will mean following international best-in-class practices for the protection of Botswana’s environment and the focus on its people, building partnerships and earning respect, through cooperation and collaboration,” explains PNRB on its website.
“We are committed to Governance through transparent accountability and open communication within our team and with all our stakeholders.” Mphathi, a former BCL Executive, is widely celebrated for achieving unprecedented profitability at the mine during his tenure as General Manager.
The Serowe-born mining guru obtained a Diploma in Mining Technology from Haileybury School of Mines in Canada. He later obtained a B.Eng. Mining degree from the Technical University of Nova Scotia. Mphathi went on to City University in London, UK and obtained a M.Sc. in Industrial and Administrative Sciences.
Before ascending to the top country managerial role of Premium Nickel Resources. Mphathi was General Manager of Botswana Ash (Botash), Southern Africa’s leading salt and soda ash producer. He was at some point linked to Debswana top post, which is still to date not substantively filled following the death of Managing Director, Albert Milton, in August 2019.
With Mphathi out of the race and now leading the rebuilding of his former employer, the top post at De Beers- Botswana joint venture is likely to be filled by current acting Managing Director Lynette Armstrong, a seasoned finance executive with unparalleled experience in the extractive industry.
“We are happy to hear that former General Manager of BCL, Mr Montwedi Mphathi, has a relationship with the new Company that intends to resuscitate the mine, he is an experienced Mining Executive who knows BCL better, we want the mine to be brought back to life so that our people can be employed ” said Dithapelo Keorapetse Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West recently in Parliament.
BCL was liquidated in October 2016 following a series of losses and government bailout occasioned by low Copper prices and allegedly poor Investment decisions and maladministration. Recently PNR CEO, Keith Morrison said his team of seasoned experts both from Canada and Botswana are committed to resuscitate the BCL assets and deliver a high performance mining operation.
“The World, Botswana and the mining industry have changed dramatically since mining first started at the former BCL assets in the early 1970s. The nickel-copper-cobalt resources remaining at these mines are now critical metals, required for the continued development of a decarbonized and electrified global economy,” he said.
Morrison added: “As we move forward, it is our goal to demonstrate the potential economics of re-developing a combination of the former BCL assets to produce Ni-Cu-Co and water in a manner that is inclusive of modern environmental, social and corporate governance responsibilities.”
He explained that to attain this, extensive upgrades to infrastructure will be required with an emphasis on safety, sustainability and the application of new technologies to minimize the environmental impact and total carbon footprint for the new operations.
“Our team remains committed to working with the local communities and all of the stakeholders throughout this period and we encourage anyone with questions or feedback to reach out to us directly,” he noted.