Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) has managed to grow its revenues across its core services, returning the telecommunication giant back to profitability after a major impairment loss in the previous year end financial results.
“The half year results for the six months period ended 30 September 2016, reflect a continued growth in BTC revenues. The increase in revenue is a result of more focus on high revenue growth areas, both in the retail and wholesale sectors,” the board said in a statement signed by Ms. Lorato Boakgomo-Ntakhwana, the board chairperson.
BTC increased its revenue to P774 million, up by 4% from the previous P741 million. This increase was largely driven by a 4.6% increase in sales of goods and services. The highest revenue growth achievements were mainly in the areas of National Telephony which went up by 9%, followed by a 6% increase in mobile services and an 8% surge in data services.
There was also marked improvement in the gross profit which went up by 4.5% to P468 million. However, the gross profit was later eroded by a slight increase in total costs. Total costs in the period under review totalled P400 million, a 3% increase from the previous corresponding period. While the uptick in total costs is in line with the prevailing inflation rate, the company’s board and management says the increase in costs calls for more robust cost management initiatives that will ensure long-term growth in net earnings and company value.
In the end BTC declared a profit of P88 million, an impressive increase of 19% from the previous interim results. BTC further announced that it remains well capitalised to fund its capital expenditures from internal resources. The company has grown its cash reserves by 23% to P502 million, putting it in an enviable position considering that the company has no large borrowings.
The company’s return to profitability in 6 months comes as little surprise as the company and analysts have always maintained that the company has a healthy balance sheet underpinned by strong operations. But it hasn’t been an easy road for BTC after its historic listing in the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE).
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.
Mr. Garry Juma, Head of Research at Motswedi Securities, says the listing of BTCL was met with great excitement from investors. “There was lots of buying especially from those investors who missed out during the IPO.” Mr. Juma went on to say that after BTCL released its financials which showed a loss, the market reacted negatively despite prior warning from BTCL contained in their IPO prospectus that the corporation will incur a once off impairment charge. Perhaps it was the larger than expected loss that rattled the investors as evidenced by how quickly the share price fell in the usually slow to react stock exchange.
“There was panic selling. Some investors were selling at any price. Unfortunately because of the demand side which was low, we had a market in which there were many sellers but not many buyers, creating a mismatch which pushed the price down to current levels,” Mr. Juma said. With the share price at 0.90t, representing a 10% discount of the IPO price, Mr Juma says real investors who know the value of shares see BTC as a sitting duck as the share price is low therefore creating opportunities. Mr. Juma is one of the analysts who maintained that BTC will quickly return to profitability in its next set of financials hence stabilization in the share price.
“So investors are now seeing value. We are also seeing lots of buying from participants. As a market maker we have not participated much because our role is only to interfere as the last resort to avoid a mismatch between sellers and buyers.” The company’s board of directors was bolstered with an addition of experienced administrators, signalling a new dawn for telecommunication titan.
The appointment of two independent non-executive directors, Ms Lorato Boakgomo-Ntakhwana and Mr. Maclean Letshwiti, was well received by investors as the duo are highly revered in the business circles following impressive track records in managing and running successful companies. BTC further announced that Ms Boakgomo-Ntakhwana has been appointed the board chairperson, replacing Daphne Matlakala whose tenure had expired. The board has since appointed Mr. Anthony Masunga as managing director after a brief stint as the acting managing director.
Now with the company back to profitability and with the share price stabilised, the board and management of BTC are now looking forward with optimism. “Our future focus therefore is to derive an increased proportion of our revenues from broadband and data related products and services. This shall be backed by continued investments in the fixed and mobile broadband solutions, making use of new and more efficient fibre based technologies and latest Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile solutions,” the board said, also adding that the business product mix shall continue to include the traditional fixed and mobile voice businesses, which have showed a significant increase, during the reporting period.
The board also announced that their journey continues to be premised on customer focus in conjunction with seamless delivery of fixed and mobile and convergence based products and services. Furthermore, the board says the journey will require being responsive to changing needs of the market. “With increasing performance of our revenue streams, both fixed and mobile, and heightened levels of cost management, the Board remains confident of meeting the forecast for March 2017 outturn, which is projected to be an improvement on the previous year’s performance.”
For the period under review, the board declared a 3.6t dividend to shareholders who will also be buoyed by the 4t jump in share price to trade at P0.92.
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”