Following the decision by the Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) to move some of its services in-house and terminate the Alexandra Forbes administrative functions’ contract, Botswana’s richest fund and arguably one of the wealthiest institutions in the land is set to bolster its wealth accumulation and asset expansion business.
Speaking to their 5 year strategy set to commence next year January, the BPOPF Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Boitumelo Molefhe indicated that by the end of the 5 years in 2022, the Fund’s treasury in assets worth, will be sitting at a whopping 90 billion pula.
Speaking at a press briefing recently, Molefhe said BPOPF will to do so simultaneously empowering Batswana to venture into the asset management business. She said her organization will play its part by awarding new contracts to asset managers that have at least 25% citizen ownership, and 50% locals’ representation in their Boards, and having a minimum of 70 % Batswana in their company executive management.
Molefhe who is a former Finance Chief at Debswana Pension Fund observed that the new guidelines are just the starting point for more citizen empowerment initiatives in the lucrative capital assets and fund management industry. She added that they will review the guidelines from time to time in order to give citizen owned firms more share in the business.
“The 25% is just the starting point, going forward the plan is to continuously review the threshold upwards. The intention is not to leave anyone out but to empower citizens. We have a lot of talented citizens that are doing most of the work for fund managers but are not appropriately remunerated,” she said.
Molefhe explained that they are not just about the talk, emphasizing that there will be a clear compliance framework to ensure robust implementation of these guidelines. “As for the fund managers already mandated with our assets, they will have to comply and meet our new guidelines, if at all they desire to be reengaged because most of their contracts end around February 2018,” she said.
BPOPF is of the view that their assets and capital should be managed by locals as the wealth is generated locally from Batswana public servants. “We cannot have most of the profits from our fund being taken outside the country, if a newly mandated fund manager doesn’t comply in the first year, we will reduce the size of their mandate by 10% and if non-compliance stretches to the second year, then BPOPF will withdraw the mandate totally,” she said.
BPOPF currently does millions worth of business with BIFM, Investec, African Alliance just to mention but a few. The inspiration that Batswana can bite big in the capital asset management business comes from Afena Capital, one of BPOPF mandated fund managers taking care of millions worth of assets and is 100 % owned by Batswana.
In addition, BPOPF revealed that they have half a billion pula ready to finance local asset management startups. “We are willing to inject 500 million pula to finance this bid to see more citizens venture into the capital investment management industry, we will also incubate these businesses to see them through until full establishment as they service back our loans,” Molefhe explained.
She added that they will do so by handholding fledging firms that have less than a billion pula asset management mandate, only those with 100% citizen ownership and at least 50 % locals in senior management. “The incubation is open to all asset classes and we want the businesses to eventually stand on their own and compete in the big league while also transferring skills to locals,” she added.
THE FIVE YEAR STRATEGY
Unpacking the 5 years strategy of which the new guidelines will apply to, Molefhe explained that their asset base has grown from P51 billion in 2015 to P55 billion today. However she noted that although the Fund asset value grew to P55 billion, total returns for its active and deferred members fell to 4.25% from 13.73% in the previous year due to the volatility in both the domestic and global markets. Currently BPOPF has 58% of its portfolio invested offshore.
“We will invest more in private equity and other asset classes such as infrastructure and property to diversify our portfolio amid low growth in the stock and bonds markets,” she said. According to Molefhe, the BPOPF has also appointed a German company, Monrovia Capital as its new private equity fund manager, effective January 2017.
BPOPF is the largest in Botswana housing over 150 000 members and have over 23 billion pula asset worth in Botswana. One of the Fund’s traditional cash spinning investments includes local mobile network giant, Mascom Wireless. BPOPF is the single largest institutional investor on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) owning a significant stake in 19 of the 22 companies listed on Thapelo Tsheole’s P48 billion domestic stock market.
The Fund further owns 16 % of stake in Barclays Botswana, around 25 percent in Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited (BIHL), the diversified financial services firm which has a major stake in other major companies such as the titanic micro-lender, Letshego Holdings Limited and Funeral Services Group (FSG).
Furthermore, Molefhe’s investment drive saw BPOPF recently acquiring shares worth P21 million in tourism company, Wilderness Safaris. The Fund also has a 23 percent stake in Chobe Holdings, another travel and tours operator. The two are the largest and only listed safari services firms. BPOPF owns around 12 percent in the regional fast growing supermarket group, Choppies Enterprises.
As if it is not enough, BPOPF also owns a significant stake in listed petroleum services firm Engen Botswana, at 13.7 percent, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) is the largest company trading on the BSE, BPOPF owns 13.4 percent of Steven Bogatsu’s 8.8 billion pula chunk. BPOPF also owns 10 percent in the security services giant, G4S, and a further 9 % in industrial property company, Letlole La Rona (LLR).
One of the biggest companies on the BSE, Letshego, also a pan-African micro-finance firm is 23 percent owned by BPOPF directly. â€¨BPOPF investments are endless, for instance in the New African Properties (NAP), a company that owns the classic Riverwalk Mall in Gaborone, BPOPF owns over 167 million shares. It further has a 17 percent stake in another property firm, Prime Time Holdings, as well as RDC Properties at 8.13 percent.
In Sechaba Breweries Holdings, the brewers of St Louis Lager, BPOPF owns 22 percent. The fund has a controlling stake in Sefalana, Choppies’ largest competitor, at 33 percent. It has 8.6 percent in Standard Chartered Bank Botswana and around 30 percent in Turnstar, the owners of Game City and Mlimani City malls.
A number of lucrative investment under property portfolio also includes the 300 million pula injected in Central Business Department(CBD) to erect the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel and the purchase of two strategic properties at the fast growing second city, Francistown from Prime Time Properties at tune of P71 million. BPOPF property investment is worth over P1.5 billion including other transactions, of which the mandate is being handled by asset manager, Messidor.
BPOPF Chief Executive Molefhe however expresses worry over their BSE Investment which she observed to be trading southwards since the beginning of the year. Under the new guidelines commenced and encored on Molefhe’s vision 2022, BPOPF will introduce initiatives to encourage skills transfer, local procurement of goods and services such as back office services like performance reports, accounting and compliance, and HR services.
“We have seen instances where the feedback reports we get from our fund managers are complied outside the country including other back office functions such as accounting. We need such services to be done here in Botswana so that skills are transferred to locals,” she said.
Botswana’s economy showed slight growth signs in the first quarter of 2021, following a devastating year in 2020.
During 2020, the entire second quarter was on zero economic activity as the country went on total lockdown in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
Diamond trade plummeted to record low levels as global travel restrictions halted movement of both goods and people and muted trade.
The end result was a significant decline for the local economy, at an estimated 7 percent contraction, just marginally below the 2008/09 global financial crises.
According to figures released by Statics Botswana this week, the country’s nominal Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter of 2021 was P47.739 billion compared to a revised P45.630 billion registered during the previous quarter.
This represents a quarterly increase of 4.6 percent in nominal terms between the two periods.
During the quarter, Public Administration and Defence became the major contributor to GDP by 18.4 percent, followed by Wholesale & Retail by 11.4 percent. The contribution of other sectors was below 6.0 percent, with Water and Electricity Supply being the lowest at 1.6 percent.
Real GDP for the first quarter of 2021 increased by 0.7 percent compared to a contraction of 4.6 percent registered in the previous quarter.
The improvement in the first quarter 2021 GDP reflected continued efforts to reopen businesses and resume activities that were postponed or restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The real GDP increased by 0.7 percent during the period under review, compared to an increase of 1.2 percent in the same quarter of 2020.
The recovery in the domestic economy was observed across majority of industries except Accommodation & Food Services, Mining & Quarrying, Manufacturing, Construction, Other Services and Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing.
The overall slow performance of the economy was mainly due to the impact of measures that were put in place to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Non-mining GDP increased by 4.1 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 4.0 percent increase registered in the same quarter of the previous year.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry decreased by 2.0 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, relative to a contraction of 5.2 percent registered during the same quarter of 2020.
The main driver of the unfavorable performance stems from a decrease in real value added of Livestock farming by 3.0 percent.
Mining and Quarrying registered a decrease 11.4 percent in the real value added, this was mainly influenced by the drop in the Gold and Diamond real value added by 17.5 and 12.5 percent respectively.
Diamond production in carats went down by 12.1 percent while the tonnage of Gold produced went down by 17.5 percent.
The poor performance of the diamond sub-industry is attributed to the reduction in production due to a lower grade feed to the plant at Orapa in response to heavy rainfall and operational issues, including continued power supply disruptions.
With regard to Gold is due to diminishing resource base which affect production.
The Manufacturing industry recorded a decline of 7.4 percent in real value added during the first quarter of 2021, compared to a decrease of 2.3 percent registered in the corresponding quarter of 2020.
The deep low performance in the industry is observed in the two major sub-industries of Beverages & tobacco and Diamond cutting, polishing and setting by 57.0 and 38.5 percent respectively.
The reduction in Beverages is attributed to alcohol sale ban imposed during the quarter under review in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. On the other hand, exports of polished diamonds went down by 24.9 percent compared to a decrease of 11.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year.
The construction industry recorded a decline of 4.8 percent compared to an increase of 4.3 percent realized in the corresponding quarter in 2020.
This industry comprises of buildings construction, civil engineering and specialized construction activities. The industry is still showing signs of the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic. The industry recorded a negative growth of 7.4 percent in the previous quarter.
Water and Electricity Water and Electricity value added at constant 2016 prices for the first quarter of 2021 was P506.2 million compared to P378.2 million registered in the same quarter of 2020, recording a growth of 33.8 percent.
In the first quarter of 2021, Electricity recorded a significant growth of 62.4 percent compared to a decrease of 67.6 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2020.
The local electricity production increased by 22.4 percent while Electricity imports decreased by 33.3 percent during quarter under review. The water industry recorded a value added of P231.3 million compared to P209.0 million registered in the same quarter of the previous year, registering an increase of 10.7 percent.
Wholesale and Retail Trade real value added increased by 11.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to an increase of 5.5 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The industry deals with sales of fast moving consumer goods.
Diamond Traders recorded a significant growth of 112.7 percent as opposed to a decline of 22.7 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter last year. The positive growth is due to improved demand of diamonds from the global market.
The Transport and Storage value added increased by 0.6 percent in the first quarter of 2021, compared to a 2.4 percent increase recorded in the same quarter of the previous year.
The slight improved performance of the industry was mainly attributed to the increase in real value added of Road Transport and Post & Courier Services by 4.3 and 2.1 percent respectively.
The slow growth was influenced by a significant reduction in Air Transport services of 69.7 percent due to reduced number of passengers carried. Rail goods traffic in tonnes went down by 6.4 percent and passenger rail transport was not operating during the quarter under review.
Accommodation and Food Services Accommodation and Food Services real value added declined by 31.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to a decrease of 4.4 percent registered in the same quarter of the previous year. The reduction is largely attributed to a decrease of 42.1 percent in real value added of the Accommodation activities subindustry.
The suspension of air travel occasioned by Covid-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering the borders of the country and hence affecting the output of Hotels and Restaurants industry. COVID-19 restriction measures resulted in reduced demand for leisure and conferencing activities, as conferences are largely held through virtual platforms.
Finance, Insurance and Pension Funding industry registered a positive growth of 8.3 percent due to the favorable performance from monetary intermediation and Central Banking Services by 16.4 and 5.4 percent respectively during quarter under review.
It is still tough in the tourism industry — big players in this sleeping giant are not having it easy, but options are being explored to keep the once vibrant multibillion Pula sector alive until the world gets back to normalcy.
One of the primary measures against the spread of Covid-19 is to stay home; this widely pronounced precaution against the global contagion that has claimed over 4 million lives across the world is however a thorn in the flesh of one of the major industries in the global economy — the tourism sector .
This sector is underpinned by travel – an act which is the virus‘ number one mode of spread, especially across borders.
Chobe Holdings Limited, one of Botswana’s leading high end eco-tourism giants said its survival strategies are underpinned by well-crafted stakeholder engagements in the mist of these unprecedented times of muted trading activity.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chobe continued to invest in and strengthen its relationships with key stakeholders in both its traditional markets and the SADC region,” the company directors updated shareholders this week.
To keep the business afloat, the company which owns and operates some of the exquisite tourism destinations along the banks of the mighty Chobe said it has triggered its existing available debt financing avenues.
Chobe revealed that its current overdraft of BWP 25 million has been extended on favourable terms.
The company shared that it has negotiated a further USD 1.5 million (over P16 million) standby loan with a flexible settlement terms and preferable cost implications to the bottom line.
“We are confident that the Group has sufficient cash inflows, cash reserves and un-utilized prearranged borrowing in place to settle any liabilities falling due and support the smooth recovery of operations in the short and medium term,” the company directors said, noting that they will retain the flexibility to vary operations should market conditions change.
Early this year, Chobe announced that the ongoing crisis in the tourism industry forced the company to draw from its prearranged overdraft facility of P25 million to the extent of P11.6 million.
Last year Chobe’s occupancy levels around its lodges and hotels went down 89 percent. This resulted in unprecedented revenue decline of 93% to P27.78 million from the P373.94 million in the previous year ended February 2020.
Operating profits went down 159% with profit after tax down 170%, mirroring a loss of over P67 million.
Chobe management said during the last half of the financial year they have done all they could to contain costs across the company’s operations.
During the last half of the year Chobe’s marketing and reservations teams continued to pursue the “don’t cancel but defer policy”.
“We thus continue to hold advance travel receipts, to the value of about P34 million at the financial year end,” the company revealed early this year.
Chobe said it continues to engage Government, through HATAB and BTO to prioritize the vaccination of workers in the tourism sector.
“Throughout the pandemic we have ensured that employees are trained in and comply with COVID-19 infection mitigation protocols as well as ensuring that all visitors to our remote camps and lodges as well as our staff and contractors are tested for COVID-19 before reaching the camp or lodges,” the company said.
However, the company said vaccinating the tourism staff will provide the best way to ensure that both employees and guests are protected from the virus.
“We continue to manage our cashflow through stringent cost control measures, balanced against the protection of the Group’s physical assets and the wellbeing and retention of its people,” the company said.
Chobe has successfully retained its top management through the pandemic. To this end the company directors continue to closely monitor the Group’s recovery from COVID-19 and adjust salary reductions to support operations and aid retention.
Domestic and regional travel resumed during the second quarter of the 2020/21 financial year with the Group opening a strategic mix of camps and lodges.
A comprehensive domestic, regional and international marketing plan was put in place to support these openings.
International travel resumed in the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year with occupancies forecast to steadily increase, albeit from a low base, through the second quarter.
The company is optimistic that forward bookings are strong for the 2022/23 financial year.
“There is pent-up demand from our traditional source markets to travel now, but this is tempered by uncertainty and access constraints,” the company stated.
“Both the domestic and international markets are sensitive to such uncertainty, and it is critical that both the private and public sector work together to develop and publish clear, authoritative and consistent travel information in order to build confidence”
Chobe entered the pandemic with the Shinde camp rebuild in progress — one of its high end camps and this was completed in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year accounting for the majority of the Group’s capital expenditure for that period.
De Beers Group, the world’s leading rough diamonds producer by value and Botswana’s partner in the diamond business, ramped up its production in the second quarter of 2021, in response to stronger demand for rough diamonds in the global markets.
The London headquartered diamond mining giant revealed in its production report this week that rough diamonds output increased by 134% to 8.2 million carats in the three(3) months of quarter 2 2021, “reflecting planned higher production to meet stronger demand for rough diamonds”.
This was against the backdrop of curtailed demand in the same quarter last year, mirroring the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns across southern Africa during that period.
In Botswana, where De Beers sources majority of its rough diamonds through partly government owned Debswana, production increased by 214% to 5.7 million carats. The percentage jump mirrored planned low production in the second quarter of 2020 where output was adjusted to market demands and implemented Covid-19 protocols.
Debswana operates four (4) Mines: Jwaneng Mine- being its flagship producer and largest revenue contributor. Jwaneng Mine which is the wealthiest diamond mine in the world by value is envisaged for multi-billion expansion to an underground operation in future to stretch its existence by few more decades.
The underground project which is anticipated to cost a whooping P65 billion will be the world‘s largest underground diamond mine.
The company which accounts for over 65 % of De Beers’s global production also operates Orapa Mine- one of the world’s largest by area, Letlhakane Mine currently a tailings treatment operation and Damtshaa Mine which is under care and maintenance following market shrink in 2020.
Namibia production decreased by 6% to 0.3 million carats, primarily due to planned maintenance of the Mafuta vessel which was completed in the quarter and another vessel remaining demobilized. In Namibia De Beers sources diamonds both in land and marine through Namdeb and Debmarine respectfully.
In South Africa-the spiritual home ground of De Beers Group, production increased by 130% to 1.3 million carats, due to planned treatment of higher grade ore from the final cut of the Venetia open pit, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown in Q2 2020.
Production in Canada increased by 14% to 0.9 million carats, primarily reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 measures implemented in Q2 2020.
De Beers said consumer demand for polished diamonds continued to recover, leading to strong demand for rough diamonds from midstream cutting and polishing centers, despite the impact on capacity from the severe Covid-19 wave in India during April and May.
Rough diamond sales totaled 7.3 million carats (6.5 million carats on a consolidated basis), from two Sights, reflecting the impact of the reduced Indian midstream capacity on Sight 4, compared with 0.3 million carats (0.2 million carats on a consolidated basis) from two Sights in Q2 2020, and 13.5 million carats (12.7 million carats on a consolidated basis) from three Sights in Q1 2021.
The H1 2021 consolidated average realized price increased by 13% to $135/ct (H1 2020: $119/ct), driven by an increased proportion of higher value rough diamonds sold.
While the average price index remained broadly flat, the closing index increased by 14% compared to the start of 2021, reflecting tightness in inventories across the diamond value chain as well as positive consumer demand for polished diamonds.
Full Year Guidance Production guidance is tightened to 32–33 million carats (previously 32-34 million carats (100% bases)), subject to trading conditions and the extent of any further Covid-19 related disruptions.
When commenting to 2021 quarter 2 production figures, Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of Anglo American- De Beers parent, said the entire Anglo American Group delivered a solid operational performance supported by comprehensive Covid-19 measures to help safeguard the lives and livelihoods of its workforce and host communities.
“We have generally maintained operating levels at approximately 95% of normal capacity and, as a consequence, production increased by 20% compared to Q2 of last year, with planned higher rough diamond production at De Beers” he said.