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Selibe Phikwe could house Botswana Oil Coal Liquefaction Plant

Selibe Phikwe might be considered for the multibillion pula Coal Liquefaction Project (CLP) by Botswana Oil Limited, Acting Minister in the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, Nonofo Molefhi had told Parliament.


Minister Molefhi was addressing a question tabled by Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West, Dithapelo Keorapetse, who wanted parliament to be updated on the progress of the much anticipated coal-to-liquids project, what it entails, the current stage of project implementation and timelines as well as projected employment opportunities to be created by the  billion dollar petroleum end product undertaking.


The youthful Selibe Phikwe lawmaker also wanted to know the prospects of Selibe Phikwe being considered for housing the plant as part of the town’s resuscitation and economic recovery undertakings after the sudden demise of BCL mine late last year, which resulted in thousand job losses.


In response, Molefhi who was standing in  for Minister Sadique Kebonang, who was reported to be abroad on BCL acquisition matters, told parliament  that the Ministry of was currently going through proposals from interested petroleum companies from the private sector who put forth expressions to develop a Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) Plant. The plant is expected to convert Botswana ‘s abundant tones of coal to petroleum fluids.


“Mr Speaker, my Ministry is inundated with requests and proposals from the private sector to develop Coal to Liquids plant (CTL) in Botswana together with Botswana Oil Limited (BOL)” Molefhi said, explaining that their interest was to have Botswana Oil Limited as the anchor customer of their petroleum products.


“As you are aware, Botswana imports all her petroleum requirements (approximately 1.2 billion liters per year) from the Republic of South Africa with small quantities coming from Namibia and Mozambique” he noted. It is believed that the development of the CTL plant will go a long way in ensuring that Botswana becomes fuel self-sufficient with further potential of being a net exporter of petroleum products in Southern Africa and the African region.

 

Reports from parliament indicate that the coal to liquids projects require substantial investment; it is estimated that the plant which would meet Botswana’s current annual demand of 1.2 billion of petroleum products could costs between US $ 3 – 4 billion (P40 billion) over a four (4) to five (5) year construction period.


According to Minister Molefhi although the Government recognizes the importance of the project as well as its potential turn around to economic diversification efforts, the Selibe Phikwe East Lawmaker observes that it will however be very expensive for the state to develop the plant alone. “Though this would replace the current importation of approximately one billion liters of petroleum products annually, the expenditure will be too high for Government under the current financial pressures to bear” he said.


Molefhi also added that currently government through the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security is readying itself for assessment processes in which it will screen and come up with qualified private companies to partner with Botswana Oil Limited: “As things stand, my Ministry has developed a Pre-Qualification criteria which will be used to select companies that can be facilitated in order to realize the project. The Pre-Qualification Notice will be in the media platforms soon” He said.


The Acting Minister noted that the project will be a private sector led investment, with Government’s role limited to being that of facilitator. “Botswana Oil Limited as a company mandated to ensure Botswana‘s petroleum self sufficiency is engaging experts in the field to provide Technical Advisory Services to Botswana Government.” He revealed that currently the project was at concept stage with no detailed studies conducted as yet.


“The project schedule and timelines will become realistic once consultants are on the ground and that of course is being planned for end of this month, the private sector also continues to explore avenues of implementing the project’” Said Molefhi.


PROSPECTS OF THE CTL PLANT BEING SET UP IN PHIKWE


Following the placing of Bamangwato Concessions Limited (BCL) under provisional liquidation, Botswana government has devised economic recovery strategies to revitalize the town and the entire Region which used to be lively before the demise of its economic engine, BCL mine.


Selibe Phikwe West Member of Parliament, Dithapelo Keorapetse wants government and Botswana Oil to facilitate the Coal-to Liquids plant towards being built in Phikwe, a project he explains will make a permanent economic turnaround in the town and the entire SPEDU region. When posing a supplementary question after Minister Molefhi‘s description of the project in parliament last week “Thank you Honourable Minister.

 

I just wanted to find out from you, in light of what you have said about the cost of the project, whether you are working with any multilateral or bilateral development partners in that regard? Also concerning Selibe Phikwe, don’t you think that this is a project in which Selibe Phikwe must be given priority given the recent placement of BCL under provisional liquidation?”


In response however, Minister Molefhi, who is also an MP for Selebi Phikwe East,  noted that the location of the project will depend largely on the feasibility studies by consultants and potential investors. He added that the availability of resources and accessibility of raw materials being coal, will influence the decision of plant location.


 “The location of the CTL plant will be greatly influenced by the availability of raw materials, the distance from the plant will be critical, of course that will also take into consideration lowering of costs of production to ensure that they are manageable. My Ministry through Botswana Oil Company will work closely with the private sector and other sectors of Government to ensure that the project addresses the current challenges and facilitate the investment by the private sector” he explained.


Molefhi stipulated that considering the situation in Selibe Phikwe after closure of BCL mine, the shortlisted investors will have the discretion to decide on the location of the plant, “The consultants will manage the guideline and the framework which has been designed for the selection and the short listing of potential investors.

 

The decision on the location of the plant is a decision to be made by the investors. Taking into account what is also available for Selibe Phikwe as incentive packages, Government would soon be announcing the extent of packages and that is designed to motivate people to consider Selibe Phikwe as an investment zone”.


Since location of the project will also be influenced by the cost benefit analysis, if it is found that locating project in Selibe Phikwe away from where the abundance of the resources are (Palapye), can be accommodated, at that point a decision would be made by the investors and of course they will take into consideration the incentive packages which Government would extend or has decided to extend to Selibe Phikwe as a  Special Economic Zone


When speaking to WeekendPost this past week, Keorapetse added that since structures and mechanism is already in place, which transported coal from Morupule to BCL mine, the same infrastructure can be sourced and used, if the plant is in Selibe Phikwe.
“Since government is somewhat constrained to immediately start the project because of unavailability of resources.

 

The state should amenably engage multilateral and bilateral development partners like it did with projects such as Kazungula Bridge, for instance, for sourcing out resources to immediately start this project and give Selibe Phikwe a priority, especially given that the primary raw material for the project is coal and this coal was used by BCL from Morupule Colliery and it can just be a continuation of the usage of that coal’’ he said


The Acting Minister who is also in this regard Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe East told this publication that consultations have been extensive in terms of looking at the scope of the project, its potential and cost of investment and therefore government will be putting up the project to public tender.


“We will be doing so, so that we are able to select the experts who will provide Government with the appropriate advice. On the basis of that, we would then progress the project to the next level where the selected companies would then determine the extent of the investment, at this point in time, it is difficult to give an estimated number of people the project can employ. Like I said, we are still at concept design stage,” Molefhi explained.

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Pula smiles at COVID-19 vaccine

25th November 2020
COVID-19 vaccine

A squeaky and glittering metaphoric smile was the look reflected from the Pula against the greenback this week and money market researchers lean this on optimism following Monday’s announcement of another Covid-19 vaccine which is said to have boosted emerging market economies.

With other emerging market currencies, the Pula too reacted to optimism and fanfare on the new Covid-19 vaccine against the weakening US dollar which has been losing its shine since the uncertainty laden US elections.

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Choppies high on JSE rollercoaster volatility

25th November 2020
CHOPPIES

After bouncing back into the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) last week Friday, following a year of being in the freezer, the Choppies stock started this week with much fluidity.

Choppies was suspended in both the Botswana Stock Exchange and its secondary listing at the JSE for failure to publish financial results. Choppies suspension on Botswana Stock Exchange was lifted on 27 July 2020. On Friday last week, when suspension was being lifted, Choppies explained that this came into fruition “following extensive engagement with the JSE.”

Choppies stock, prior to suspension, hit a mammoth decline in value of more than 60 percent, especially in September 2018. Waking from a 24 month freezer, last week the Choppies share price was at R0.64 and the stock did not make any movement.

However, Monday was the day when Choppies stock moved vibrantly, albeit volatile. Choppies’ value was on a high volatile mood on Monday, reaching highs of 200 percent. At noon, the same Monday, the Choppies share had reached R1.05. Before taking an uphill movement, Choppies stock slightly slipped by 2 cents. But the Choppies share rode up high and by lunch time the stock had reached the day’s summit of R2.00 and that was at 13:30 when investors were buying the stock for lunch.

The same eventful Monday saw gloom on the faces of Choppies rivals, when Choppies gained by 220.31 percent around lunch time its rivals in the JSE Food & Drug Retailers sector were licking wounds. Spar lost 2.94 percent, Pick Pay fell by 2.43 percent, Shoprite 7.52 percent and Dis-Chem 1.98 percent. The only gainer was Clicks by a paltry 0.51 percent.

In an interview with BusinessPost, Choppies sponsors at the JSE PSG Capital Managing Director Johan Holtzhausen explained that the retailer’s stock was in high demand after a long suspension. He said when a company list or a suspension is lifted the market needs to find itself on the pricing of the share.

“Initially when the suspension was lifted there were more buyers than sellers. As far as we could see this created a shortage of shares so to speak and resulted in the price at which the shares traded going to R1.20 and eventually R2.05 before finding its level around R0.80 sent from a JSE perspective.

This is marked dynamics and reflect that there are investors that are positive about the stock in the long run. This is a snapshot over a short period and one requires a longer period to draw further conclusions,” said Holtzhausen in an interview talking about the Choppies stock.

On Monday this week where the Choppies value grew by 200 percent, the stock took a turn looking down, closing the day at R0.87 from a high of R2.00. According to local stockbroker Motswedi Securities on Monday while there was no movement by Choppies in the local stock exchange as the retailer appeared on the board as 141,000 shares traded at P0.60 each.

However in Choppies’ secondary listing the stock price rallied to over 200 percent during intraday trading on Monday before losing steam and declining to around R0.87 share.

Before press yesterday Choppies opened the market with the stock starting the day at R0.80 then went flat for few hours before taking a slide downward, dropping 5 cents in 30 minutes. Choppies then went flat at R0.75 for 50 minutes yesterday before going up at 10:20 am where it nearly recovered the open day price of 80 cents, but was shy of 1 cent. From 79 cents the price went flat until noon.

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Foschini-Jet merger, a class and rivalry conundrum dissection

25th November 2020
Foschini

Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) has revealed that in its assessment of the Jet take over by Foschini, there were considerations on possible market rivalry and a clash in targeted classes.

According to a merger decision notice seen by this publication this week, high considerations were made to ensure that Foschini’s takeover of Jet is not anyhow an elimination of rivalry or competition or if the two entities; the targeted and the acquiring enterprise serves the same class of customers or offer the same products, to elude the anti-trust issues or a stretch of monopoly.

The two entities are South African retailers whose services stretched to Botswana shores.  Last month local anti-trust body, CCA, received an acquisition proposal from South African clothing retailer, Foschini, stating their intentions to take-over Jet.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year after finding out that Jet’s mother company, Edcon, is falling apart, made a decision that Foschini can buy Jet for R480 million. This means that Foschini will add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents.

However the main headache for the CCA decision which was released this week, is distinguishing the targeted and the acquiring entity businesses and services.

When doing a ‘Competitive Analysis and Public Interest’ assessment, CCA is said to have discovered that Foschini is classified as a “standard retailer” which targets middle-to-upper income consumers and it competes with stores such as; Truworths and Woolworths. The targeted entity, Jet, is on the lower league when compared to its acquirer, it serves customers of lower classes and is regarded as a discount/value retailer targeting lower income consumers or a mass market. This makes Jet to be in direct competition with Ackermans, Pepkor, Cash Bazaar and Mr Price.

“Therefore, a narrower view of the market is that Foschini through its stores trading in Botswana is not a close competitor to Jet. Additionally, there exist other major rivals who will continue to exercise competitive constraints on the merged enterprise post-merger,” concluded CCA this month.

The anti-trust body continued to explain that in terms of the Acquisition of a Dominant Position, the analysis shows that the acquisition of the target business by Foschini Botswana will result in an insignificant combined market share in the relevant market.

This made CCA reach to a conclusion that there is no case of an acquisition of a dominant position in the market under consideration or any other market on the account of the proposed transaction.

What supports the merger according to CCA is that it is in compliance with regards to ‘Public Interest Considerations’ because the findings of the assessment revealed that the transaction is as a result of the need for a Business Rescue by the target enterprise. This is so because in the event that the proposed transaction fails, it will translate into the loss of the employment positions at the target business.

“On that note the Authority (CCA) found it necessary to ensure that the proposed merger does not result in any retrenchments or redundancies. In light of this, the assessment revealed the critical need to protect the employees of the merged entity from possible merger specific retrenchments/ redundancies,” said CCA.

Before making a determination that the recently proposed transaction is not likely to result in the prevention or substantial lessening of competition or endanger the continuity of the services offered in the relevant market, CCA said it then moved into a concern for public interest which is a protection enshrined in the Competition Act of 2018.

CCA’s concern was mostly loss of livelihood or employment by 126 Batswana workers at Jet stores, stating that possible retrenchments or redundancies may arise as a result of implementation of the proposed merger.

Much to the desire of trade union or labour movements in Botswana and across Southern Africa where the Jet stores are stemmed-who also raised concerns about the retail’s workers job security- CCA subjects Foschini to keep the target entity 126 workers.

“There shall be no merger specific retrenchments or redundancies that may affect the employees of the merged enterprises. For clarity, merger specific retrenchments or redundancies do not include (the list is not exhaustive): i. voluntary retrenchment and/or voluntary separation arrangements; ii. Voluntary early retirement packages; iii. Unreasonable refusals to be redeployed; iv. Resignations or retirements in the ordinary course of business; v. retrenchments lawfully effected for operational requirements unrelated to the Merger; and vi. Terminations in the ordinary course of business, including but not limited to, dismissals as a result of misconduct or poor performance,” said CCA.

CCA also orders that Foschini informs it about all the details of 126 Jet employees within thirty (30) days of the merger approval date. CCA should also know information of when Foschini is implementing the merger, within 30 days of the approval date.

Other conditions include Foschini sharing a copy of the conditions of approval to all employees of the Jet or their respective representatives within ten (10) days of the approval date.

“Should vacancies arise in the target, the merged enterprise shall consider previous employment at one of the non-transferring Jet stores to be a positive factor to be taken into account in the consideration of offering potential employment,” said CCA.

According to CCA, in cases of any job losses, for the Authority to assess whether the retrenchments or redundancies are merger specific, at least three months before (to the extent that this deadline can be practically achieved and in terms of the prevailing and legally required employment practices) any retrenchments or redundancies are to take place, inform the Authority of:  i. The intended retrenchments; ii. The reasons for the retrenchments; iii. The number and categories of employees affected; iv. The expected date of the retrenchments.

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