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Imara Board fights back to halt hostile takeover

The Independent Board of Imara has recommended that Imara Shareholders reject the offer by FWA Financial Limited to acquire the entire issued ordinary share capital of the company that it does not already own.

The recommendation comes a month after FWA offered shareholders a cash offer consideration of P2.10 per offer share, which is 19% lower than the current share price. FWA is a financial holding company registered in Mauritius, and the company is the single largest shareholder in Imara with a 28.97% stake. In its offer, FWA has proposed to buy the remaining 71% of Imara shares which are currently not held by them. Furthermore, the offer was not a combined offer as it was made directly to shareholders, which means shareholders do not need approval to sell to FWA hence making a hostile takeover possible.


When making the offer, FWA reasoned that the offer price of P2.10 per share is attractive to shareholders, providing a liquidity event as well as representing a fair value proposition. The Mauritius based company is hoping to leverage their offer on the absence of liquidity for Imara shares on the Venture Capital Board of the BSE and meet shareholders desire for a return of the cash proceeds associated with the sale in 2015 of Imara SP Reid Proprietary Limited either through share buyback or declaration of special dividends.


THE FRUSTRATIONS


FWA as the main shareholder has taken the role of the activist investor as the company appears to question certain decisions taken by Imara, furthermore the offer to buy the whole of Imara seems to stem from the concerns regarding the future operations of Imara.

FWA appears to be disappointed that the share buyback programme approved by shareholders last year October to buy back 15 million shares has not been implemented, denying shareholders capital gains accrued and also the chance to offload the hard to sell stock. Moreover, FWA said when making the offer that the potential for Imara to keep its shareholders happy through a special dividend is unlikely as the company simply doesn’t have sufficient cash reserves to finance an attractive special dividend.

FWA argues that Imara’s distributable reserves amounting to P39.2 million equates to a maximum potential dividend of P0.66 per share, approximately 31.4% of the FWA offer price. FWA’s offer to take over the whole of Imara is motivated appears to be driven by the desire to save the company from collapse as they highlighted that Imara finds itself in a tough spot.

FWA says Imara has experienced difficult trading conditions in the sub-Saharan African markets in which it is active. African economies have suffered a sharp decline in the past 18 months, driven by weak commodity prices which led to declines in currencies versus the US Dollar, difficult economic conditions, currency controls, reduced liquidity, lower share prices and reduced equity trading volumes.

Indicative of the challenges experienced by Imara is the 50% drop in the value of the flagship Imara African Opportunities Fund in US Dollar terms in the period from 30 April 2015 to 30 September 2016 as a result of the decline in African equity values and redemptions.


In the five years to 30 April 2016, Imara generated profits Attributable to Owners of the Parent in two out of the five years. Cumulative Losses Attributable to Owners of the Parent totalled BWP24.6 million in the five years to 30 April 2016. In the year to 30 April 2016 IHL reported a pre-tax loss of BWP13.38 million from continuing operations before the profit on disposal of Imara SP Reid Proprietary Limited, exchange rate gains and goodwill impairments.

FWA has also noted that Imara has high central costs for a company of its size, adding that the high central costs reflect the fixed costs associated with its listing on the Venture Capital Board of the BSE as well as fixed costs associated with the complexity of its business model.


DETERMINING THE OFFER PRICE


“In determining the Offer price, FWA has taken into account IHL’s track record, the value of IHL’s balance sheet at 30 April 2016 and IHL’s growth prospects. FWA therefore considers that the all-cash nature of the Offer allows Shareholders to realise their entire investment at a fair value given the uncertainties facing African economies and IHL at this time,” the acquiring company said.


FWA has also revealed that should it manage to buy the required shares, it intends to make an application for a delisting of Shares on the Venture Capital Board of the BSE. The reasons for de-listing include the lack of liquidity in the Botswana market for small-cap shares and thus the ability to set proper market prices becomes compromised; the limited liquidity to raise capital as a small-cap stock; management having to spend a significant amount of time to focus on investor relations and compliance with the BSE Listing Requirements and ongoing fixed costs associated with BSE Listing Requirements compliance and regulatory oversight.


While it appeared that FWA had made a convincing case for the takeover, the independent board has not only rejected the offer price but also quashed some of FWA’s claims regarding the operations of Imara. The board of directors of Imara were obligated to form the Independent Board for the purpose of considering the terms and conditions of the Offer. The Independent Board, in accordance with its obligations in the Takeover Regulations, appointed KPMG as an Independent Expert to provide it with a fair and reasonable opinion regarding the fairness and reasonable of the Offer Consideration. Following receipt of that fair and reasonable opinion, the Independent Board is required to communicate the contents thereof to Shareholders, together with the Independent Board’s opinion on whether or not the Shareholders should accept the Offer.


IMARA INDEPENDENT BOARD FIGHTS BACK


“The Independent Board, taking into account the opinion of the Independent Expert that the terms and conditions of the Offer are not fair and not reasonable, has considered the Offer and is of the opinion that the Offer undervalues the Company and, on that basis, recommends that Imara Shareholders reject the Offer.”


 The Independent Board considers the Offer to be an opportunistic move to take advantage of the current short-term adverse trading environment for the IHL Group and to acquire control of it cheaply. The independent board stopped short of accusing FWA of being disingenuous by using inside information to drive their agenda.

The board has revealed that while FWA is critical of the recent and current performance of the company, the management team of Imara currently comprises of four executive directors, three of whom are also directors of FWA. In an interesting twist, the independent says Imara’s board of directors has been pressing the management team, most of the members of which are now directors of the FWA, for its promised strategy proposals, which have not been forthcoming and have delayed the implementation of various key decisions by the board of directors.


 “The Independent Board considers that a conflict of interests is created when members of the management of the Company, who have not articulated a strategy to deal with the numerous issues facing the Company, form part of the Offeror, which has made the Offer at an Offer Price which the Independent Expert has confirmed undervalues the Company.”


Given the prevailing financial environments in countries where Imara operates, the short to medium term prospects of the company are uncertain and the Independent Board is unable to confirm that the business of the Company, in its current format, will be profitable on a sustainable basis, until there is an improvement in the current adverse cyclical factors affecting it.

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MD, Board in BBS battle for supremacy

12th April 2021

Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) moved swiftly this week to suspend BBS Limited from trading its securities following a brawl between Board of Directors and Managing Director, Pius Molefe, which led to corporate governance crisis at the organisation.

In an interesting series of events that unfolded this week, incumbent board Chairperson, Pelani Siwawa-Ndai moved to expel Molefe together with board Secretary, Sipho Showa, who also doubles up as Head of Marketing and Communications.  It is reported that Siwawa-Ndai in her capacity as the board Chairperson wrote letters of dismissals to Molefe and Showa.

Following receipt of letters, the duo sought and was furnished with legal opinion from Armstrong Attorneys advising them that their dismissals were unlawful hence they were told to continue to report to work and carry out their duties.

Documents seen by BusinessPost articulate that in the meeting which was held on the 1st of April, the five outgoing board members, unlawfully took resolutions to extend their contracts by a further 90 days after April 30 2021 as they face tough competition from five other candidates who had expressed interest to run for the elections.

Moreover, at the said meeting, management explained that neither management nor the board have the authority to decline nominations submitted by shareholders or the interested parties which is in line with Companies Act and also BBS Limited constitution.

Molefe also revealed that as management they cautioned the board that it was conflicted and it would be improper for it to influence the election process as it seems they intended to do so.
“Nonetheless, in a totally unprecedented move in the history of BBSL, the board then collectively passed the unlawful resolutions below. Leading to the illegitimate decisions, the board had brazenly directed that its discussions on the Board elections should not be recorded totally violating sound corporate governance,” reads the statement released by management this week.

When giving their legal advice, Armstrong Attorneys noted that notice for the AGM should state individuals proposed to be elected to the board and directors have no legal authority to prevent the process.

Armstrong Attorneys also noted that, “due process” cited by board members are simply to ensure that the five retiring Directors avoid competition from interested candidates to be appointed to the BBS Limited board.  The law firm further opined that the resolution of the 90 day extension of term of the five directors pending re-election or election was unlawful.

Molefe expressed with regret that BBS has been suspended from trading by BSE until the current matter has been resolved. “I am concerned by this development and other potentially harmful actions on the business. As management, we are engaging with stakeholders to mitigate any negative impact on BBS Limited,” expressed a distressed Molefe.

He assured shareholders and the rest of Management that they are working very hard to ensure that the issues are being dealt with in a mature manner.  BBS which hopes to become the first indigenous commercial bank has seen its shares halted barely four months after BSE lifted the trading suspension of shares for BBS following submission of their published 2019 audited financial statements.

According to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the local bourse, Thapelo Tsheole said the halting of shares of BBSL is to maintain fair, efficient and orderly securities trading environment. “The securities have been suspended to allow BBS to provide clarity to the market concerning the recent allegations which have been brought to the attention of the BSE relating to the company’s Board of Directors and senior management,” said Tsheole.

Meanwhile in their audited financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2020, BBS recorded a loss of P14.6 million as at 31 December 2020 compared to the loss of P35.7 million for the comparative year ended 31 December 2019. According to Molefe the year under review was the most challenging for the bank, its shareholders and customers endured the difficult economic environment and the negative impact of the coronavirus.

He revealed that as the bank, they were forced to put in place several measures to ensure that the business withstands the impact of coronavirus and also to cushion mortgage customers from the effects of the pandemic. “Since April 2020 up to the end of December 2020, BBS assisted 555 mortgage customers with a payment holiday,’’ he said.

This is the bank whose total balance sheet declined by 12 percent from P4, 626 billion for the year ended. 31 December 2019 to P4, 088 billion as at 31 December 2020. As if things were not bad enough, total savings and deposits at the bank declined by 14 percent from a balance of P2, 885 billion as at 31 December 2019 to P2, 494 billion as at 31 December 2020.

On a much brighter side, BBSL mortgage loans and advances improved from P3, 401 billion to P3.408 billion with impairment allowance significantly improving to P78, 648 million from P102, 532 million for the year under review, representing a positive variance of 23 percent. BBS maintained a strong capital base with capital adequacy ratios of 26.32% for the year ended 31 December 2020.

Molefe was optimistic and anticipated a positive outcome during the implementation of the new BBS corporate strategy, whose main drive is commercialization of operations, which is in full force.
“It will be spurred on by the positive results we have achieved for the year ended 31 December 2020, and our planned submission of our banking license application to Bank of Botswana which we anticipate to operate as a commercial bank in the third quarter of 2021,” he alluded.

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Mphathi promises people centred, environmentally sensitive new BCL

12th April 2021
CEO of Premium Nickel Resources Botswana: Montwedi Mphathi

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Premium Nickel Resources Botswana (PNRB), Montwedi Mphathi, has said his company will resuscitate the formerly owned BCL assets and deliver a new, sustainable and cutting edge mining operation.

The new mine which will leverage on modern and next generation technology, will be environmentally sensitive and cognisant of the needs of its people and that of the communities around the area of influence.

In a statement last week, Premium Nickel Resources Botswana and its parent company, the Canadian headquartered Premium Nickel Resources announced that they have now completed the Exclusivity Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Liquidator.

The MOU will govern a six-month exclusivity period to complete its due diligence and related purchase agreements on the Botswana nickel-copper-cobalt (Ni-Cu-Co) assets formerly operated by BCL Limited (BCL), that are currently in liquidation.

On February 10, 2021, Lefoko Moagi, the Minister of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security of Botswana, affirmed in Parliament a press release by the Liquidator for the BCL Group of Companies, stating that PNR was selected as the preferred bidder to acquire assets formerly owned by BCL.

“This is encouraging for the company and for Botswana. Our ambition in this new project dubbed “Tsholofelo” is to redevelop the former BCL assets into a modern, environmentally sensitive, efficient NI-Cu-Co-water producer where sustainability and the people are at the forefront of the decisions we make,” said Mphathi in a statement last Thursday.

“We also understand that no matter how successful we are at building the “New BCL” , our success will only be measured at our ability to create local wealth , skills and support the continued transition of local economy to a longer term sustainable base.”

The next step during the exclusivity period will be the completion of the definitive agreement. Simultaneous to this the PNRB will be conducting additional investigative work on site to further its understanding of the potential of these assets.

Specifically the company will complete an environmental assessment, a metallurgical study, a review of legal and social responsibilities, a review of the mine closure and rehabilitation plans and an on-site inspection of the legacy mining infrastructure and equipment that has been under care and maintenance.

Mphathi said they continue to monitor the global Covid-19 developments noting that they are committed to working with health and safety authorities as a priority and in full respect of all government and local Covid-19 protocol requirements. PNRB has developed Covid-19 travel, living and working protocols in anticipation of moving forward to on site due diligence.

“We will integrate these protocols with the currently applicable protocols of Ministry of Health & Wellness as well as District Health Management Team ( DHMT) and surrounding communities,” reads a statement released by the Gaborone based Premium Nickel Resources team.

PNRB is looking to become a catalyst in participating and building a strong economy for Botswana, with a purpose where respect and trust are core to every single step that will be taken. “Our success will mean following international best-in-class practices for the protection of Botswana’s environment and the focus on its people, building partnerships and earning respect, through cooperation and collaboration,” explains PNRB on its website.

“We are committed to Governance through transparent accountability and open communication within our team and with all our stakeholders.” Mphathi, a former BCL Executive, is widely celebrated for achieving unprecedented profitability at the mine during his tenure as General Manager.

The Serowe-born mining guru obtained a Diploma in Mining Technology from Haileybury School of Mines in Canada. He later obtained a B.Eng. Mining degree from the Technical University of Nova Scotia. Mphathi went on to City University in London, UK and obtained a M.Sc. in Industrial and Administrative Sciences.

Before ascending to the top country managerial role of Premium Nickel Resources. Mphathi was General Manager of Botswana Ash (Botash), Southern Africa’s leading salt and soda ash producer.
He was at some point linked to Debswana top post, which is still to date not substantively filled following the death of Managing Director, Albert Milton, in August 2019.

With Mphathi out of the race and now leading the rebuilding of his former employer, the top post at De Beers- Botswana joint venture is likely to be filled by current acting Managing Director Lynette Armstrong, a seasoned finance executive with unparalleled experience in the extractive industry.

“We are happy to hear that former General Manager of BCL, Mr Montwedi Mphathi, has a relationship with the new Company that intends to resuscitate the mine, he is an experienced Mining Executive who knows BCL better, we want the mine to be brought back to life so that our people can be employed ” said Dithapelo Keorapetse Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe West recently in Parliament.

BCL was liquidated in October 2016 following a series of losses and government bailout occasioned by low Copper prices and allegedly poor Investment decisions and maladministration. Recently PNR CEO, Keith Morrison said his team of seasoned experts both from Canada and Botswana are committed to resuscitate the BCL assets and deliver a high performance mining operation.

“The World, Botswana and the mining industry have changed dramatically since mining first started at the former BCL assets in the early 1970s. The nickel-copper-cobalt resources remaining at these mines are now critical metals, required for the continued development of a decarbonized and electrified global economy,” he said.

Morrison added: “As we move forward, it is our goal to demonstrate the potential economics of re-developing a combination of the former BCL assets to produce Ni-Cu-Co and water in a manner that is inclusive of modern environmental, social and corporate governance responsibilities.”

He explained that to attain this, extensive upgrades to infrastructure will be required with an emphasis on safety, sustainability and the application of new technologies to minimize the environmental impact and total carbon footprint for the new operations.

“Our team remains committed to working with the local communities and all of the stakeholders throughout this period and we encourage anyone with questions or feedback to reach out to us directly,” he noted.

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Lucara extends sales deal with Belgian diamond cutter

12th April 2021
Lucara extends HB Antwerp’s contract Signum technologies

Lucara Diamond Corporation, the Canadian 100% owners of iconic Karowe mine, this week announced the extension of its supply deal with Belgian diamond midstream giant HB Antwerp.

The definitive supply agreement is in respect of all diamonds produced in excess. of 10.8 carats in size from its rare gem producing Karowe diamond mine located in the Boteti district of Botswana.
Large, high value diamonds in excess of 10.8 carats in size account for approximately 70% of Lucara’s annual revenue.

Though the Karowe mine has remained fully operational throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucara made a deliberate decision not to tender any of its +10.8 carat inventory after early March 2020 amidst the uncertainty caused by the global crisis.

Under the terms of this novel supply agreement with HB, extended to December 2022, the purchase price paid for each +10.8 carat rough diamond is based on the estimated polished outcome, determined through state of the art scanning and planning technology, with a true up paid on actual achieved polished sales thereafter, less a fee and the cost of manufacturing.

“Lucara is beginning to see the benefits of this strategy in accessing a broader marketplace and delivering regular cash flow based on final polished sales,” said Lucara CEO, Eira Thomas on Wednesday.

“We believe these early results warrant an extension of the arrangement for at least 24 months to determine if superior pricing and market stability for our large, high-value diamonds can be sustained longer term.”

The Canadian junior miner initiated a supply agreement with HB for large stones from its Botswana Karowe mine in July 2020, after pausing its tenders shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The deal enables Lucara to sell the rough diamonds to HB at a price based on an estimate of the polished outcome, which the companies determine using diamond scanning and planning technology.
Once HB sells the goods, it adjusts the price that Lucara receives based on the actual selling price of the polished, minus a fee and manufacturing costs.

The extended supply deal will follow the same payment terms as the initial agreement, and will be in effect through to December 2022. Lucara said in a statement this week that the agreement also provides increased tax revenue and beneficiation opportunities for the government of Botswana, and creates a streamlined supply chain for Karowe’s rough.

“More than a supply agreement, this collaboration structurally embeds a new transparent and sustainable way of working in the diamond-value chain,” said HB CEO, Oded Mansori.
“For the first time, different partners of the value chain are fully aligned, sharing data and information throughout the process from mine to consumer.”

Mansori added: “We are truly proud with this innovative and straightforward collaboration that has proven itself through the volatile and uncertain reality of 2020. We are confident to achieve even better results during the term of this new contract and demonstrate the power of a true partnership.”

Lucara, which early this year secured extension of Karowe mining license to 2040, announced over P2.4 billion funding for Karowe underground mining expansion project a fortnight ago. The Vancouver headquartered top large diamond producer says this supply agreement deal extension with HB will bring about regular cash flow for Lucara using polished pricing mechanism. Furthermore, the company says the deal has potential revenue upside, particularly suited for Lucara’s large, exceptional diamonds.

In the main, Botswana will benefit increased tax revenue and additional beneficiation opportunities for the Government and communities around Karowe mine. A streamlined supply chain that achieves alignment between Lucara and HB to maximize the value of each +10.8 carat diamond produced at Karowe.

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