The Botswana Stock Exchange’s domestic company index (DCI) is up by 0.04%, giving a hint of recovery after the previous year’s dismal performance that saw the benchmark rate decline by 11.63% on the back of struggling blue chip stocks.
Unlike in the previous year, the global markets opened with an upward momentum as major indices continue to post gains thanks in part to absence of major market disruptions so far. The DCI’s positive momentum has been spurred by the resurgent Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) which has been on a winning streak since late last year.
BTC which listed in April boasts of a large pool of investors who snapped up shares on offer during the oversubscribed Initial Public Offering (IPO). Although the IPO was restricted to citizens, the historic IPO ushered in about 47, 125 new investors, representing 65% of all registered investors. The BTCL share price debuted at P1 and quickly reached highs of P1.34 on the first weeks of trading but the share price later retreated following a raft of negative news.
The share price started dropping after the company recorded a once off impairment loss which was larger than expected. While investors were trying to wrap their heads around that, the telecommunication giant announced that it will not be renewing the Mr. Paul Taylor’s contract as managing director. The news shocked investors as there had not been an indication that Mr. Taylor’s contract will not be renewed. The share price then tanked to new lows of 0.85t, representing a loss of 15% from the IPO price.
However BTC has since reversed those losses as the share price is up by 6.12% in year to date returns to trade at P1.04, representing a 4% premium to the listing price. The stock continues to be one of the most traded and it might prove to be a hit with investors considering that it has gained the most in a short period of time after delivering stellar financial performance as well as enticing future prospects. The company with large cash reserves and zero leverage has so far declared dividends in every reporting period.
The DCI’s upswing in the past two weeks was also helped by a slight 0.41% increase in Choppies stock price. The blue chip stock lost the most in 2016 as it tumbled by almost 50% signalling distresses in the retail sector. New African Properties (NAP) is up by 0.34% to trade at P2.95. NAP was the best performing property stock in 2016 after the share price appreciated by 10.94% and it looks like this property company might continue with its winning streak.
The trajectory of the DCI remains uncertain as blue chip stock counters that dragged the index down in the previous year are still failing to find their footing. The influential banking and retail sector stocks have started the year on the negative with the struggling Standard Chartered Bank Botswana losing 1.92% of its share price, Letshego is down by 0.43%, Sefalana is trailing behind the DCI with a loss of 0.38% after its successful rights issues.
Other losers include First National Bank, the largest company by market value, which has lost 0.33% so far this year, adding to its more than 22% share price loss in 2016. The country’s largest bank is facing a potential profit drop following its still yet to be determined exposure to the fallen BCL group.
The resilient Barclays Bank Botswana which bucked the trend that plagued other banks-reduced profits and falling share price- is down by 0.19%, a stark reminder that past performances in the stock market cannot be used to predict future performances.
This century is always looking at improving new super high speed technology to make life easier. On the other hand, beckoning as an emerging fierce reversal force to equally match or dominate this life enhancing super new tech, comes swift human adversaries which seem to have come to make living on earth even more difficult.
The recent discovery of a pandemic, Covid-19, which moves at a pace of unimaginable and unpredictable proportions; locking people inside homes and barring human interactions with its dreaded death threat, is currently being felt.
Member of Parliament for Kanye North, Thapelo Letsholo has cautioned Government against excessive borrowing and poorly managed debt levels.
He was speaking in Parliament on Tuesday delivering Parliament’s Finance Committee report after assessing a motion that sought to raise Government Bond program ceiling to P30 billion, a big jump from the initial P15 Billion.
Government Investment Account (GIA) which forms part of the Pula fund has been significantly drawn down to finance Botswana’s budget deficits since 2008/09 Global financial crises.
The 2009 global economic recession triggered the collapse of financial markets in the United States, sending waves of shock across world economies, eroding business sentiment, and causing financiers of trade to excise heightened caution and hold onto their cash.
The ripple effects of this economic catastrophe were mostly felt by low to middle income resource based economies, amplifying their vulnerability to external shocks. The diamond industry which forms the gist of Botswana’s economic make up collapsed to zero trade levels across the entire value chain.
The Upstream, where Botswana gathers much of its diamond revenue was adversely impacted by muted demand in the Midstream. The situation was exacerbated by zero appetite of polished goods by jewelry manufacturers and retail outlets due to lowered tail end consumer demand.
This resulted in sharp decline of Government revenue, ballooned budget deficits and suspension of some developmental projects. To finance the deficit and some prioritized national development projects, government had to dip into cash balances, foreign reserves and borrow both externally and locally.
Much of drawing was from Government Investment Account as opposed to drawing from foreign reserve component of the Pula Fund; the latter was spared as a fiscal buffer for the worst rainy days.
Consequently this resulted in significant decline in funds held in the Government Investment Account (GIA). The account serves as Government’s main savings depository and fund for national policy objectives.
However as the world emerged from the 2009 recession government revenue graph picked up to pre recession levels before going down again around 2016/17 owing to challenges in the diamond industry.
Due to a number of budget surpluses from 2012/13 financial year the Government Investment Account started expanding back to P30 billion levels before a series of budget deficits in the National Development Plan 11 pushed it back to decline a decline wave.
When the National Development Plan 11 commenced three (3) financial years ago, government announced that the first half of the NDP would run at 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. Drawing down from government cash balances meant significant withdrawals from the Government Investment Account.
The Government Investment Account (GIA) was established in accordance with Section 35 of the Bank of Botswana Act Cap. 55:01. The Account represents Government’s share of the Botswana‘s foreign exchange reserves, its investment and management strategies are aligned to the Bank of Botswana’s foreign exchange reserves management and investment guidelines.
Government Investment Account, comprises of Pula denominated deposits at the Bank of Botswana and held in the Pula Fund, which is the long-term investment tranche of the foreign exchange reserves.
In June 2017 while answering a question from Bogolo Kenewendo, the then Minister of Finance & Economic Development Kenneth Mathambo told parliament that as of June 30, 2017, the total assets in the Pula Fund was P56.818 billion, of which the balance in the GIA was P30.832 billion.
Kenewendo was still a back bench specially elected Member of Parliament before ascending to cabinet post in 2018. Last week Minister of Finance & Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, when presenting a motion to raise government local borrowing ceiling from P15 billion to P30 Billion told parliament that as of December 2019 Government Investment Account amounted to P18.3 billion.
Dr Matsheka further told parliament that prior to financial crisis of 2008/9 the account amounted to P30.5 billion (41 % of GDP) in December of 2008 while as at December 2019 it stood at P18.3 billion (only 9 % of GDP) mirroring a total decline by P11 billion in the entire 11 years.
Back in 2017 Parliament was also told that the Government Investment Account may be drawn-down or added to, in line with actuations in the Government’s expenditure and revenue outturns. “This is intended to provide the Government with appropriate funds to execute its functions and responsibilities effectively and efficiently” said Mathambo, then Minister of Finance.
Acknowledging the need to draw down from GIA no more, current Minister of Finance Dr Matsheka said “It is under this background that it would be advisable to avoid excessive draw down from this account to preserve it as a financial buffer”
He further cautioned “The danger with substantially reduced financial buffers is that when an economic shock occurs or a disaster descends upon us and adversely affects our economy it becomes very difficult for the country to manage such a shock”