De Beers ends year on a low but better off
Anglo American Plc has posted the lowest diamond sales for De Beer’s tenth sales cycle of 2016, amounting to $418 million, but a much higher figure compared with the $248 million value of the last cycle of 2015. The diamond sales figures from De Beers, the world’s biggest diamond producer, are highly monitored worldwide as they act as an indicator of the health of the diamond industry.
“We continued to see good demand for De Beers rough diamonds in our latest sales cycle. While the trade in lower value rough diamonds is experiencing a temporary slowdown as a result of the demonetisation programme in India, demand across the rest of the product mix continued to be healthy and overall sales remained in line with seasonal expectations. Pleasingly, sales were also significantly higher than those for the equivalent cycle in 2015,” said Bruce Cleaver, CEO of De Beers.
The figures fit in with expectations of slowing sales in the second half of the year. The diamond industry is seasonal, with the holiday period from thanksgiving in November through the Lunar New Year in Asia in January or early February the busiest period for jewellery sales. Rough diamond prices have rebounded by 7.4 percent this year, a marked contrast to the slump experienced in 2015 when sales slumped by 18%.
The slowdown in diamond sales in India follows the decision by India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to remove large denominations-the 500-rupee and 1000 rupee banknotes- as part of the government’s efforts to curtail money laundering and crackdown on tax evasion as well as counterfeit money. The process of demonetization has affected consumer spending in a country that prefers to hold large holdings of cash by hand instead of banking.
De Beers which holds ten Global Sightholder Sales and Auction Sales every year started 2016 strongly after a disappointing 2015. The sights or auction sales are restricted to the top 85 customers and it’s held in Gaborone. In the first cycle of the year, the diamond behemoth sold $545 million worth of diamonds, up from the $248 million of sales realised in the tenth cycle of 2015. The company followed up with $617 worth of sales in the second cycle before ramping up diamond sales in the third cycle, bringing $666 million in sales which remains the highest of the year.
In the first three months of the year, the diamond sales came to $1.8 billion, sparking concerns that the diamond producer might be selling too much too soon. Part of the diamond slump in 2015 was due to buyers holding too many stones in their inventories which were not moving as fast as expected following a slowdown in China’s economy.
In the second quarter of the year, De Beers’s auction sales recorded dwindling numbers. Philippe Millier who was De Beers CEO at the time said the slump in the fourth cycle was due to normal seasonal trends returning to the market and added that the company is encouraged by the continued stability of demand for rough diamonds shown in the fourth sales cycle. The seventh sales cycle defied expectations, as diamond sales went up by 21 % from the previous cycle.
Mr. Cleaver said the $639 million worth of sales was a result of healthy demand for the company’s rough diamonds as manufacturers bought forward some of their demand in order to cut and polish rough diamonds in time for the important retail selling season. However, the uptick in the diamond sales proved to be temporarily as rough diamond sales for the eighth cycle went down by 22.6% to $494 million on the back of normal seasonal patterns coupled with the shorter than usual period between sights 7 and 8, and the forthcoming holidays in some of the major diamond cutting centres. The ninth cycle sales were also lower, bringing in $476 million
De Beers which is majority owned by Anglo American Plc and the Botswana government which holds 15 percent, is also the other half of Debswana, a joint venture with the government. Debswana operates four diamond mines in the country (Orapa, Letlhakane, Damtshaa and Jwaneng). Jwaneng mine is largest and most valuable mine in the world. Diamonds are the mainstay of Botswana’s economy since they were discovered shortly after the country gained independence.
The partnership between the government and De Beers is one of the longest known public-private partnerships, stretching to 50 years. The country is yet to diversify its economy from resources based despite imminent threats in the diamond industry that include competition from synthetic diamonds, stagnated growth in leading economies and the slowdown in China that affected several commodity prices.
In 2015 when diamond production fell due to waning demand, the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 1.9 percent year on year, representing negative growth. However the diamond sector has rebounded and on its way to recovery as the country’s GDP for the first and second quarter have been positive. The International Merchandise Trade Statistics show that the country exported over P48.6 billion worth of diamonds in the past eight months, representing more than 85 percent of the total export revenues so far this year.
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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.
The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices. Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.
Food import bill slightly declines
The latest figures released by Statistics Botswana this week shows that food import bill for Botswana slightly declined from around P1.1 billion in November 2022 to around P981 million in December during the same year.
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