Sechaba Brewery Holdings limited stock price has plunged the most since the beginning of this year. The fall in Sechaba share price, is an occurrence repeated across the wholesaling and retail sector in the Botswana Stock Exchange, marked by falling share prices amid tough operating conditions.
The wholesaling and retail sector has dragged the BSE’s domestic company index (DCI) down by 3.61% since the beginning of the year. The sector’s drag spills over from last year when the DCI declined by 11.3% after the wholesaling and retail sector lost 7.1% to become the worst performing sector in the local stock market. This was a reversal of fortunes from 2015 when the DCI finished the year 11.6% up with the wholesale and retail sector being the second best performing sector at 4.2%.
The performance of the sector this year reflects a broader trend that started earlier last year when African states battled with the fall in commodity prices due to waning demand across major markets. Furthermore wholesaling and retail stocks were under pressure from the El Nino phenomenon that affected many farmers, particularly in Southern Africa. By nature of their business, wholesaling and retail companies’ revenue is directly affected by the spending power of consumers and any negative shocks to the economy that affects government and consumer spending power rattles investors.
Sechaba’s shock share price drop was rapid but not totally unexpected. The group has so far lost 22% of its share value amid a challenging environment that investors have no appetite for. The woes of Sechaba dates back to the introduction of the alcohol levy in 2008. The levy has had an impact on the volumes shipped thus reducing the bottom line margins. However, the brewery giant was able to remain resistant, delivering profits and investors cheering them on the stock market.
A spanner was once more thrown in the works when the government introduced the traditional beer regulation that affected some of the group’s operations. The combination of the levies and regulations are now weighing heavily on Sechaba’s operations. To compound the matter further, investors are weary now considering the future of the group under new owners: in 2015, Anheuser-Busch InBev finally offered SABMiller PLC £68 billion in a takeover bid, creating a brewing giant making about a third of the world’s beer.
In Botswana, SABMiller Plc has a stake in Sechaba Brewery Holdings which trades in the domestic exchange market. According to Botswana Stock Exchange, Sechaba Brewery Holdings limited is an investment holding company with interest in Kgalagadi Breweries (Pty) Limited (KBL).Sechaba holds 60% of the shares of KBL while SABMiller Botswana B.V. holds 40%. SABMiller Plc has management control in the operating company. Their involvement brings management, technical and brand building expertise of the three largest brewing companies in the world to KBL.
The question in the minds of Sechaba’s existing shareholders is will the new owners put up with the government’s hard stance on alcohol and if they do what measures will be put on place to system against the swelling pressure. On the other hand some investors have made their minds to exist their positions sooner than wait to find out what’s in store from the new owners.
Moreover, the drop in share price follows the shocking financial performance from Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), the sole associate of Sechaba, in the interim results ended September 2016. Sechaba’s share of results from KBL fell by 39.6%, operating profit went down by 40.1%, profit after tax decreased by 40.7% while basic and diluted earnings per share declined by 40.8%.
Sechaba said the decline in the financial performance of the company is mainly attributable to the current regulatory challenging environment in which the company operates. The other losing stock in the past month is Sefalana Holding Company, also a key player in the wholesaling and retail sector. Sefalana’s stock price took a huge hit in the last three weeks of January. Shares of Sefalana have plummeted by 15.46% to trade at P10.99.
The precipitous drop in the group’s stock price makes it the second worst performing stock under the local counter on the BSE. Combined with 5.8% losses in the previous year, the stock is under pressure from investors who are used to the stock’s good returns last seen in 2015 when it grew by almost 50%.
Through the four decades of operating, Sefalana Group has grown into a large and diverse business, operating in a number of sectors including 67 stores in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector within Botswana and Namibia. Whilst its core business is in the FMCG sector, the Group remains well diversified with a solid property portfolio in Botswana, Zambia and Namibia, 3 motor dealerships (MAN, TATA and Honda), agencies for the sale of industrial and agricultural equipment, a well-established grain mill in Serowe, providing nutritious meals for the country’s population and a UHT milk plant, which commenced operations this year. Group remains the only listed company without a controlling shareholder. The single largest shareholder is Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund at 42.85%. Citizens hold a total of 91.87% of all issued shares.
Late last year, Sefalana undertook a Rights Issue program when the board issued an additional 27,858,523 new shares thus increasing stated capital comprising of ordinary shares from 222,868,186 shares to 250,726,709 shares. The additional shares were offered to existing shareholders in a ratio of 1 Offer Share for every 8 shares held by shareholders at a price of P12.60 per offer share, representing a 10% discount to the Sefalana share price at the time.
The rights issue was able to raise P351 million. The trailblazing group said the capital will be used to finance the acquisition of the Lesotho Business (TFS), to make an investment in a South Africa Consortium, to assist with future acquisition opportunities, to fund property acquisitions relating to these Transactions, and for other working capital requirements of the Sefalana Group.
In the latest interim financial results released a week ago, Chandra Chauhan, the group Managing Director, says in the face of continued strain on the economic climate in Botswana, following the closure of a number of institutions that has led to an increase in unemployment across the country, Sefalana has had to remain competitive and weather the storm of lower consumer spending.
“Some of our business units in Botswana have generated a lower level of profitability than in the previous year as a result of increased pressure on margins as we attempt to provide our customers with the best possible price in these difficult times. Government spending in some areas has also declined and this has adversely impacted those businesses that are reliant on recurring tenders.” He added that fortunately for the group as a whole, the Namibian business has grown sufficiently to offset the decline experienced locally.
The Group’s overall profit before tax for the 6 months ended 31 October 2016 of P81.1 million was marginally up on the comparative period ended 31 October 2015 at P80.4 million. The group managed to reach the P2 billion threshold in terms of turnover for the current six month period – a long standing target for the group. The overall total comprehensive income for the period is significantly up on the comparative period at P60.1 million compared to P18.5 million at October 2015.
Other financial highlights for the 6 months to 31 October 2016, show that the group’s revenue was P2.0 billion – up 9% on prior period; Gross profit was P152 million – up 4% on prior period; Earnings before interest, tax and amortization (EBITA) was P82.2 million, up 4% on prior period; and Profit before tax was P81.1m – marginally up on the prior period.
Following a devastating first half of the year 2020 due to COVID-19, the global diamond industry started gaining positive momentum towards the end of the year as key markets entered into thanks giving and holiday season.
However Bruce Cleaver, Chief Executive Officer of De Beers Group cautioned that the industry is not out of the woods yet, citing prevailing challenges ahead into 2021.
The first half of 2020 was characterized by some of the worst challenges in history of global diamond trade.
The midstream, where rough diamonds are traded in wholesale and bulk to cutters and polishers, was for the most part of second quarter 2020, suffocated by international travel restrictions as countries responded to the contagious Corona Virus.
This halted movement of buyers and shipment of the rough goods , resulting in unprecedented decline of sales, in turn ballooning stockpiles as the upstream operations produced with little uptake by the midstream.
The situation was exacerbated by muted demand in the downstream where jewelry industries and tail end retailers closed to further curb the spread of COVID-19.
However towards the end of third quarter getting into the last quarter of the year, demand in both midstream and downstream started to steadily pick up as countries relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.
De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer by value started reporting significant recovery in sales in the sixth and seventh cycle, figures began to reflect an upswing in sentiment as well as increase in uptake of rough goods by midstream.
Sales for the sixth cycle amounted to $116 Million, following a sharp downturn in the previous cycles, significant jump was realized during the seventh cycle, registering $320 million, an over 175 % upswing when gauged against the proceeding cycle.
De Beers noted that diamond markets showed some continued improvement throughout August and into September as Covid-19 restrictions continued to ease in various locations.
“Manufacturers focused on meeting retail demand for polished diamonds, particularly in certain product areas, accordingly, we saw a recovery in rough diamond demand in the seventh sales cycle of the year, reflecting these retail trends, following several months of minimal manufacturing activity and disrupted demand patterns in all major markets,” said De Beers Chief Executive, Bruce Cleaver in September last year.
The diamond mining behemoth continued to register impressive sales in the eighth and ninth cycle signaling the industry could end the year on a positive note.
The momentum was indeed carried into the last cycle of the year. The value of rough diamond sales (Global Sightholder Sales and Auctions) for De Beers’ tenth sales cycle of 2020 amounted to $440 million, a significant increase from the 2019 tenth sales cycle value.
Against what seemed like a positive year end that would split into the New Year Bruce Cleaver, CEO, De Beers Group, however warned the industry not to count eggs before they hatch.
“Positive consumer demand for diamond jewellery resulting from the holiday season is supporting the continuation of retail orders for polished diamonds from the diamond industry’s midstream sector. This in turn supported steady demand for De Beers’s rough diamonds at our final sales cycle of 2020,” Cleaver had said in December.
In caution the De Beers Chief noted that “While the diamond industry ends the year on a positive note, we must recognise the risks that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic presents to sector recovery both for the rest of this year and as we head into 2021.”
All segments of the supply chain were severely impacted by the global lockdown measures introduced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the first half of 2020.
After a strong US holiday season at the end of 2019, the rough diamond industry started 2020 positively as the midstream restocked and sentiment improved.
However, from February 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak began to have a significant impact on diamond jewellery retail sales and supply chain, with many jewelers suspending all polished purchases and/or delaying payments to their suppliers.
Rough diamond sales were materially affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions, delaying the shipping of rough diamonds into cutting and trading centers and preventing buyers from attending sales events.
These resulted in significant decline in total revenue for the business in the first six months of 2020. Total revenue decreased by 54% to $1.2 billion from $2.6 billion registered in the prior half year period ended 30 June 2019.
For the entire first six (6) months of the year 2020 De Beers Rough diamonds sales fell drastically to $1.0 billion from $2.3 billion in the prior H1 period ended 30 June 2019. Sales volumes decreased by 45% to 8.5 million carats compared to 15.5 million carats registered in the prior period.
Next month Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka will face the nation to deliver Botswana‘s first budget speech since COVID-19 pandemic put the world on devastating economic trajectory.
The pandemic that broke out in late 2019 in China has put the entire world on unprecedented chaos ,killing over P1 million people across the globe , shattering economies and almost rendering the year 2020 – a 12 months stretch of complete setback.
The 2021/22 budget speech will come at time when Botswana’s economy is still trying to emerge out of this.
National lockdowns and local travel restrictions have hit small medium enterprises hard, while international travel restrictions halted movement of both good and people, delivering by far some of the heaviest and worst catastrophic blows on the diamond industry and tourism sector, the likes of which this country has never seen before on its largest economic sectors.
As Minister Matsheka faces parliament next month, the reality on the ground is that Botswana’s national current cash resource, the Government Investment Account (GIA) is depleting at lightning speed.
On the other hand the COVID-19 economic mess is prevailing, the virus is reported to have taken a new dangerous shape of a deadly variant, spreading like fueled veld fire and causing some of the world’s super powers back to tough restrictions of lockdown.
According official figures released by Bank of Botswana, in October 2020 the GIA was running at P6 billion compared to the P18.3 billion held in the account in October 2019.
However reports indicate that the account could be currently holding just about P3 billion. The draw down from the GIA has been by exacerbated by declining diamond revenue, the country‘s largest cash cow. The sector was experiencing significant revenue decline even before COVID-19 struck.
When the National Development Plan (NDP) 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at a budget deficits.
This as explained by Minister of Finance in 2017 would be occasioned by decline in diamond revenue mainly due to government forfeiting some of its dividend from Debswana to fund mine expansion projects.
Cumulatively, since 2017/18 to 2019/20 financial year the budget deficit totaled to over P16 billion, of which was financed by both external and domestic borrowing and drawing down from government cash balances.
Taking into account the COVID-19 economic mess in 2020/21 financial year, the budget deficit could add up to P20 billion after revised figures.
Drawing down from government cash balances to finance these budget deficits meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account, hence the near depletion of this buffer.
Meanwhile should Botswana’s revenue streams completely dry up to zero levels; the country would only have 11 months, before calling out for humanitarian aids and international donors, because foreign reserves are also on slow down.
During 2019, the foreign exchange reserves declined by 8.7 percent, from Seventy One Billion, Four Hundred Million Pula (P71.4 billion) in December 2018 to Sixty Five Billion, Three Hundred Million Pula (P65.3 billion) in December 2019.
The reserves declined further in 2020, falling by 2.3 percent to Sixty Three Billion, Seven Hundred Million Pula (P63.7 billion) in July 2020. This was revealed by President Masisi during State of the Nation Address in November last year.
The decrease was mainly due to foreign exchange outflows associated with Government obligations and economy-wide import requirements.
However latest statistics(October 2020) from Bank of Botswana reveal that Botswana’s foreign reserves are estimated at P58.4 billion, with government’s share of these funds significantly low.
Government has since introduced several measures to contain costs and control expenditure with the most recent intervention being the halting of recruitment in government departments and parastatals.
Furthermore, Value Added Tax has been signaled to go up from 12% to 14% in April this year with more hikes and service fees anticipated as government embarks on unprecedented domestic revenue mobilization.
Botswana Stock Exchange listed hotel group Cresta Marakanelo Limited (“CML” or “the Company”) announced the signing of a lease agreement for Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Convention Centre, which will see CML extend its footprint by adding the 4 star Gaborone property to its already impressive portfolio. The agreement is subject to regulatory approvals therefore the effective date of the transaction is expected to be 1 February 2021.
CML brings a wealth of expertise to the lease and despite the difficult year for the tourism and hospitality industry, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, CML remains confident in the recovery of the sector and the need to invest in expanding the Company’s footprint.
CML Managing Director, Mr Mokwena Morulane commented: “Our continued efforts to improve our offerings, understand the market dynamics and modern day trends in the face of global challenges, means we are ready for the changing face of tourism and international travel, and this addition to the Cresta portfolio signals our confidence in the future.
“Despite the headwinds faced in 2020, Management has continued to focus on projects that enhance CML’s product offering such as the refurbishments at Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa in the tourism capital Kasane and the ongoing refurbishment of Cresta Marang Residency in Francistown. The signing of the lease for the 4 star Phakalane Golf Estate Hotel & Conference Centre is a great addition to the Cresta portfolio and will unlock shareholder value in the future.
“We remain vigilant to value-enhancing opportunities including acquisitions or leases, after having reconsidered our pipeline against current and expected market conditions.”
Commenting on the lease agreement, the Chief Executive Officer, Mr S Parthiban, speaking on behalf of Phakalane noted; “No hotel chain holds as much expertise in the region, understands our local culture and tastes and what hospitality is about better than Cresta Marakanelo Limited. We believe that the renovations done to the property has made Phakalane Hotel and Convention Centre a unique product in Botswana and at par with international facilities. We believe that this lease will benefit not only us as Phakalane , but the market in general as Cresta has run hotels successfully in Botswana for over 30 years and is therefore expected to bring new offerings that appeal to the local and international markets as well as the residents and visitors to the Golf Estate. We look forward to a long mutually beneficial relationship with Cresta.”
CML like the rest of the tourism and hospitality industry and the entire value chain was hard hit by lockdowns with the surge of COVID-19. By investing during the low period, the company hopes to realise the future value of spending time in preparing for the new consumer dynamics and behaviour. Despite business interruptions as a result of a six-month long state of emergency and several lock-down periods declared by the Government of Botswana to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Company is starting to record an increase in occupancies, which bodes well for the recovery of the industry and the Company’s future prospects.