LESEDI LA RONA: The 813 carat stone held in inventory at March 31, 2016
In the latest string of good news from Lucara Diamond Corporation, the miner has announced that it has had a terrific first quarter following improved diamond sales, marking a departure from 2015 which was fraught with low diamond prices and subdued sales. In the latest announcement, Lucara reported strong demand and pricing for its first quarter diamond sale and will commence the sales process for the Lesedi La Rona diamond, the world’s second largest gem quality diamond ever recovered and the largest ever to be recovered over a century since the discovery of the world largest diamond; the 3,106-carat Cullinan.
In the first quarter of the year, Lucara’s revenue shot up by 70% to deliver $50.6 million following marked improvement in diamond prices which increased from an average of $278 to $649 per carat, representing 133% increase. Earnings Before Interest Tax Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) for the period was $30.7 million, a 158% surge from previous corresponding period, with an EBITDA margin of 61%. The company also improved on its Net cash position of $144.3million (Q12015: $87.5 million, FY 2015: $134.8 million).
The company’s impressive performance was in part due to costs containment. Year to date costs at $25 per tonne ore processed continue to be well controlled and below forecast. First quarter 2016 earnings per share were $0.05 per share (Q1 2015: $0.02 per share). The company recently got a boost following the end of quarter one, as the first exceptional stone tender achieved $51.3 million, resulting in year to date revenue exceeding $100 million.
In another strategic move to cut costs and extract efficiencies, the trailblazing miner completed the transfer of its shares of Mothae Diamonds Pty Ltd and the site bulk sample plant to the Government of Lesotho. In consideration, the company was released from any rehabilitation liability for the Mothae Project, which had been accrued in the accounts for approximately $2 million. The completion of the sale now leaves Lucara to focus on its lucrative Karowe mine which has proved to be an excellent investment for the company. Karowe mine has been a rare source of exceptional diamonds with its consistent recovery of large high value diamonds. Although it produces less than 1% of world’s diamonds, the mine is recovering more than 50% of the world’s diamonds larger than 100 carats
William Lamb, President and Chief Executive Officer, Commented “Lucara’s high quality stones and production assortment has resulted in strong customer demand for our product generating revenues of over $100 million this year. With management’s focus on cost control we continue to achieve high operating margins and returns. Lucara’s exploration program continues to advance and with the deep 2 drilling of the Karowe resource due to commence in the second quarter we are excited by the prospects for the remainder of 2016 and the potential organic growth opportunities. The sale of the Lesedi La Rona diamond, the 1,109 carat stone discovered in November has commenced and is resulting in a great deal of interest and excitement for this magnificent, historic stone, culminating in an auction during the month of June”.
The buoyant Lucara has upped its stakes with forecast revenue between $200 million and $220 million for the year ending December 31, 2016. This excludes the anticipated sale of the two high value diamonds, the Lesedi La Rona and the 813 carat stone held in inventory at March 31, 2016. While it appears that the company will most likely exceed its forecast following the improved sentiments in the first quarter of the year, the recent reports from diamond industry insiders still point to a shaky and fragile industry that has not yet fully recovered from last year’s slump.
“The first quarter of 2016 was relatively positive for the diamond trade. However, trading was largely driven by dealers looking to replenish select inventory to fill existing orders.
Jewellers and diamond dealers are carefully managing their inventory, while consumer demand is uncertain,” this was according to Rapaport Group, an international network of companies providing added-value services that support the development of fair, transparent, efficient, and competitive diamond and jewellery markets.
In its latest press release this week, Rapaport has noted that polished diamond trading slowed in April due to sluggish demand at the start of a seasonally-quiet period.
Sentiment weakened as the positive momentum from the first quarter failed to gain traction. Supplies significantly increased due to high rough sales and polished production in the first quarter. Furthermore, the Rapaport Monthly Report highlighted concern among diamond traders that consumer demand is weak. While a steady U.S. market supported the diamond industry, sentiment in the Far East and European markets remained cautious.
“Rough demand is expected to slow from May as manufacturing levels have stabilized. Polished trading is also expected to remain slower this month. Amid declining global demand, dealers have shifted focus to the U.S. ahead of the Las Vegas shows that begin May 31.”
The recent study on youth entrepreneurship in Botswana has identified difficult access to funding, land, machinery, lack of entrepreneurial mindset and proper training as serious challenges that continue to hamper youth entrepreneurship development in this country.
The study conducted by Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) in collaboration with University of Botswana has confirmed that despite the government and private sector multi-billion pula entrepreneurship development initiatives, many young people in Botswana continue to fail to grow their businesses into sustainable and successful companies that can help reduce unemployment.
University of Botswana researchers Gaofetege Ganamotse and Rudolph Boy who compiled findings in the 2022 study report for Botswana stated that as part of the study interviews were conducted with successful youth entrepreneurs to understand their critical success factors.
According to the researchers other participants were community leaders, business mentors, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture, financial institutions, higher education institutions, non-governmental institutions, policymakers, private organizations, and support structures such as legal and technical experts and accountants who were interviewed to understand how they facilitate successful youth entrepreneurship.
The researchers said they found that although Botswana government is perceived as the most supportive to businesses when compared to other governments in sub-Saharan Africa, youth entrepreneurs still face challenges when accessing government funding. “Several finance-related challenges were identified by youth entrepreneurs. Some respondents lamented the lack of access to start-up finance, whereas others mentioned lack of access to infrastructure.”
The researchers stated that in Botswana entrepreneurship is not yet perceived as a field or career of choice by many youth “Participants in the study emphasized that the many youth are more of necessity entrepreneurs, seeing business venturing as a “fall back. Other facilitators mentioned that some youth do not display creativity, mind-blowing innovative solutions, and business management skills. Some youth entrepreneurs like to take shortcuts like selling sweets or muffins.”
According to the researchers, some of the youth do not display perseverance when they are faced with adversity in business. “Young people lack of an entrepreneurial mindset is a common challenge among youth in business. Some have a mindset focused on free services, handouts, and rapid gains. They want overnight success. As such, they give up easily when faced with challenges. On the other hand, some participants argue that they may opt for quick wins because they do not have access to any land, machinery, offices, and vehicles.”
The researchers stated that most youth involved in business ventures do not have the necessary training or skills to maintain a business. “Poor financial management has also been cited as one of the challenges for youth entrepreneurs, such as using profit for personal reasons rather than investing in the business. Also some are not being able to separate their livelihood from their businesses.
Lastly, youth entrepreneurs reported a lack of experience as one of the challenges. For example, the experience of running a business with projections, sticking to the projections, having an accounting system, maintaining a clean and clear billing system, and sound administration system.”
According to the researchers, the participants in the study emphasized that there is fragmentation within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whereby there is replication of business activities without any differentiation. “There is no integration of the ecosystem players. As such, they end up with duplicate programs targeting the same objectives. The financial sector recommended that there is a need for an intermediary body that will bring all the ecosystem actors together and serve as a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and build mentorship programs that accommodate the business lifecycle from inception to growth.”
Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) is said to have recorded an operating surplus of P61 Million, an improvement compared to the previous year. The housing, office and other building needs giant met with stakeholders recently to share how the business has been.
The P61 million is a significant increase against the P6 million operating loss realized in the prior year. Profit before income tax also increased significantly from P2 million in the prior year to P72 million which resulted in an overall increase in surplus after tax from P1 million prior year to P64 million for the year under review.
Chief of Finance Officer, Diratsagae Kgamanyane disclosed; “This growth in surplus was driven mainly by rental revenue that increased by 15% from P209 million to P240 million and reduction in expenditure from P272 million to P214 million on the back of cost containment.” He further stated that sales of high margin investment properties also contributed significantly to the growth in surplus as well as impairment reversals on receivables amounting to P25 million.
It is said that the Corporation recorded a total revenue of P702 million, an 8% decrease when compared to the P760 million recorded in the prior year. “Sales revenue which is one of the major revenue streams returned impressive margins, contributing to the overall growth in the gross margin,” added Kgamanyane.
He further stated professional fees revenue line declined significantly by 64% to P5 million from P14 million in the prior year which attributed to suspension of planned projects by their clients due to Covid-19 pandemic. “Facilities Management revenue decreased by P 24 million from P69 million recorded in prior year to P45 million due to reduction in projects,” Kgamanyane said.
The Corporation’s strength is on its investment properties portfolio that stood at P1.4 billion at the end of the reporting period. “The Corporation continues its strategy to diversify revenue streams despite both facilities management income and professional fees being challenged by the prevailing economic conditions that have seen its major clients curtailing spending,” added the CEO.
On the one hand, the Corporation’s Strategic Performance which intended to build 12 300 houses by 2023 has so far managed to build 4 830 houses under their SHHA funding scheme, 1 240 houses for commercial or external use which includes use by government and 1 970 houses to rent to individuals.
BHC Acting CEO Pascaline Sefawe noted that; BHC’s planned projects are said to include building 336 flat units in Gaborone Block 7 at approximately P224 million, 100 units in Maun at approximately P78 million, 13 units in Phakalane at approximately P26 million, 212 units in Kazungula at approximately P160 million, 96 units at approximately P42 million in Francistown and 84 units at approximately P61 million in Letlhakane. Emphasing; “People tend to accuse us of only building houses in Gaborone, so here we are, including other areas in our planned projects.”
Researchers from some government owned regulatory institutions in the financial sector have projected that the banking sector’s profitability could increase, following Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee recent decision to increase monetary policy rate.
In its bid to manage inflation, Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee last month increased monetary policy rate by 0.50 percent from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent, a development which resulted with commercial banking sector increasing interest rate in lending to household and companies. As a result of BoB adjustment of Monetary Policy Rate, from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent commercial banks increased prime lending rate from 5.76 percent to 6.26 percent.
Researchers from Bank of Botswana, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, the Financial Intelligence Agency and the Botswana Stock Exchange indicated that due to prospects of high inflation during the second half of 2022, there is a possibility that the Monetary Policy Committee could further increase monetary policy rate in the next meeting in August 25 2022.
Inflation rose from 9.6 percent in April 2022 to 11.9 percent in May 2022, remaining above the Bank of Botswana medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent. According to the researchers inflation could increase further and remain high due to factors that include: the potential increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts, logistical constraints due to lags in production, the economic and price effects of the ongoing Russia- Ukraine conflict, uncertain COVID-19 profile, domestic risk factors relating to possible regular annual administered price adjustments, short-term unintended consequences of import restrictions resulting with shortages in supplies leading to price increases, as well as second-round effects of the recent increases in administered prices “Furthermore, the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices could add upward pressure to inflation,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that Bank of Botswana could be forced to further increase monetary policy rate from the current 2.15 percent if inflation rises persistently. “Should inflation rise persistently this could necessitate an upward adjustment in the policy rate. It is against this background that the interest rate scenario assumes a 1.5 percentage points (moderate scenario) and 2.25 percentage points (severe scenario) upward adjustment in the policy rate,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that while any upward adjustment on BoB monetary policy rate and commercial banks prime lending rate result with increase in the cost of borrowing for household and compnies, it increase profitability for the banking sector. “Increases in the policy rate are associated with an overall increase in bank profitability, with resultant increases in the capital adequacy ratio of 0.1 percentage points and 0.2 percentage points for the moderate and severe scenarios, respectively,” said the researchers who added that upward adjustment in monetary policy rate would raise extra capital for the banking sector.
“The increase in profit generally reflects the banking industry’s positive interest rate gap, where interest earning assets exceed interest earning liabilities maturing in the next twelve months. Therefore, an increase of 1.5 percentage points in the policy rate would result in industry gains of P71.7 million (4.1 percent increase), while a 2.25 percentage points increase would lead to a gain of P173.9 million (6.1 percent increase), dominated by large banks,” said the researchers.