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PrimeTime expands in Zambia

Primetime Holdings Limited is in the process of acquiring property in Zambia at a time when local companies operating in Zambia are facing headwinds from the copper exporting country that has slid in economic quagmire following the fall in commodity prices, particularly copper prices.

"The board of Primetime Property Holdings Limited (“Primetime” or “the Company”) through its subsidiary Primetime Property Holdings (Mauritius) Limited, is pleased to advise linked unit holders the Company has provisionally entered into an agreement to acquire 100% of the shares in Luongo, a private company incorporated in Mauritius, whose only asset is shares in Tilson Limited, a private company incorporated in Zambia," the company announced in a trading statement.

Primetime also revealed that Tilson Limited’s only asset is a 35 year lease over a site in Kubulonga, Lusaka, Zambia on which it has constructed a Shopping Mall. The Mall comprises approximately 7,500 sqm of prime retail space. The acquired target is a prime retail development situated on subdivision 6 of Farm No 377 in the central Lusaka suburb of Kabulonga. The property is being purchased from the sellers on the basis of a guaranteed return of 9.25% in the first year of operation which will translate to a purchase price estimated to be US$17.1 million.

The statement from Primetime also reveals that the asset is registered in the name of a Zambian domiciled company, Tilson Limited, a company incorporated in accordance with the laws of Zambia, of which 99% is currently owned by Luongo and the remaining 1% owned by a private individual who is an unrelated party of the Primetime Group who will transfer their share as part of the Agreement. Luongo is a private company incorporated according to the laws of Mauritius which is owned 95% by Pylos Africa Limited and 5% by Qubicon Management Services Limited, both companies are incorporated under the laws of Mauritius.

Primetime says the transaction is part of the execution of Primetime’s strategy to continue growing and diversifying the property portfolio in order to create long-term value for linked unit holders and will enhance the current geographical spread and mix of properties. “The Board believes that while the effect on net asset value and earnings per. share will not be material in the short term, the medium term impact of this transaction on Primetime will be meaningful as the rental revenues and asset value rise in line with contracted escalations, inflation and general economic growth,” the company said.

Primetime’s expansion in Zambia comes at a time when other Botswana companies with operations in the copper rich country are experiencing difficult trading conditions brought about mainly by the falling kwacha, the country’s currency. Just recently, Furnmart announced that they are pulling out of the Zambian market. In Zambia, Primetime currently operates office space rented out to G4S in Lusaka and Kitwe. The plan to expand in Zambia has long been mulled as early as 2015. In its 2015 annual report, the property company said that despite the downturn in the Zambian market, the company’s long term vision remains positive.

“Our expressed intention of expanding our footprint in Zambia, and potentially elsewhere in the region, is gaining traction. At the year-end we had agreed terms to acquire an office park in Lusaka. Despite current negativity surrounding the Zambian economy, with the downward trajectory of the copper price and in mid to late 2015 the subsequent depreciation of the Kwacha, our long-term view remains positive. As an investor driven by long-term wealth creation, the present trepidation in Zambia may give us openings that previously didn’t exist, while at the same time offering an opportunity to cultivate a US$ based income stream for Primetime,” the company said in its chairman and managing director’s report contained in the annual report.


The property companies listed in the Botswana Stock Exchange have since 2014 been trying to diversify their property portfolio to mitigate against risks brought by slowing local and regional demand. This follows a consensus amongst the companies that the property market was rather subdued and unfavorable for almost all property sectors. Letlole La Rona, another property listed company, says several factors have also affected their operations.

Letlole La Rona's 2016 annual report highlighted that factors such as depressed world markets and slowdown in global economic growth have affected business operations in Botswana. Last year, in an attempt to stimulate economic activity, the central bank reduced its lending rate on two occasions. The said rate was reduced by one percentage point from 7.5% to 6.5% in February 2015, and was further reduced by half a percentage point from 6.5% to 6% in August 2015 then finally to 5.5% this year.

The report further states that for 2016, the BMI Research has projected a 4.0% in inflation for Botswana. This means that property investment  firms will continue to face the challenge of lower annual compound escalations as shrewd tenants motivate for lower rates riding upon rental reviews occasioned by lease renewals. In such cases, property investment  firms face the unenviable possibility of failing to achieve targeted growth, especially  firms which were beneficiaries of high compound escalations factored into long leases.

"In the short to medium term, property’s resilience to weakening economic conditions is always challenged. The property market in Botswana has not been spared from the economic climate facing the country. Almost all property sectors are affected. However, the longevity of investment potential of property relative to other investment classes will continue to place property at a reasonably competitive level," said Mr. Paul More, Chief Executive Officer of Letlole La Rona, in the mentioned annual report.
 

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

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.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

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.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

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”

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