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Lucara posts impressive earnings in Q1

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.”

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Business

Pula smiles at COVID-19 vaccine

25th November 2020
COVID-19 vaccine

A squeaky and glittering metaphoric smile was the look reflected from the Pula against the greenback this week and money market researchers lean this on optimism following Monday’s announcement of another Covid-19 vaccine which is said to have boosted emerging market economies.

With other emerging market currencies, the Pula too reacted to optimism and fanfare on the new Covid-19 vaccine against the weakening US dollar which has been losing its shine since the uncertainty laden US elections.

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Choppies high on JSE rollercoaster volatility

25th November 2020
CHOPPIES

After bouncing back into the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) last week Friday, following a year of being in the freezer, the Choppies stock started this week with much fluidity.

Choppies was suspended in both the Botswana Stock Exchange and its secondary listing at the JSE for failure to publish financial results. Choppies suspension on Botswana Stock Exchange was lifted on 27 July 2020. On Friday last week, when suspension was being lifted, Choppies explained that this came into fruition “following extensive engagement with the JSE.”

Choppies stock, prior to suspension, hit a mammoth decline in value of more than 60 percent, especially in September 2018. Waking from a 24 month freezer, last week the Choppies share price was at R0.64 and the stock did not make any movement.

However, Monday was the day when Choppies stock moved vibrantly, albeit volatile. Choppies’ value was on a high volatile mood on Monday, reaching highs of 200 percent. At noon, the same Monday, the Choppies share had reached R1.05. Before taking an uphill movement, Choppies stock slightly slipped by 2 cents. But the Choppies share rode up high and by lunch time the stock had reached the day’s summit of R2.00 and that was at 13:30 when investors were buying the stock for lunch.

The same eventful Monday saw gloom on the faces of Choppies rivals, when Choppies gained by 220.31 percent around lunch time its rivals in the JSE Food & Drug Retailers sector were licking wounds. Spar lost 2.94 percent, Pick Pay fell by 2.43 percent, Shoprite 7.52 percent and Dis-Chem 1.98 percent. The only gainer was Clicks by a paltry 0.51 percent.

In an interview with BusinessPost, Choppies sponsors at the JSE PSG Capital Managing Director Johan Holtzhausen explained that the retailer’s stock was in high demand after a long suspension. He said when a company list or a suspension is lifted the market needs to find itself on the pricing of the share.

“Initially when the suspension was lifted there were more buyers than sellers. As far as we could see this created a shortage of shares so to speak and resulted in the price at which the shares traded going to R1.20 and eventually R2.05 before finding its level around R0.80 sent from a JSE perspective.

This is marked dynamics and reflect that there are investors that are positive about the stock in the long run. This is a snapshot over a short period and one requires a longer period to draw further conclusions,” said Holtzhausen in an interview talking about the Choppies stock.

On Monday this week where the Choppies value grew by 200 percent, the stock took a turn looking down, closing the day at R0.87 from a high of R2.00. According to local stockbroker Motswedi Securities on Monday while there was no movement by Choppies in the local stock exchange as the retailer appeared on the board as 141,000 shares traded at P0.60 each.

However in Choppies’ secondary listing the stock price rallied to over 200 percent during intraday trading on Monday before losing steam and declining to around R0.87 share.

Before press yesterday Choppies opened the market with the stock starting the day at R0.80 then went flat for few hours before taking a slide downward, dropping 5 cents in 30 minutes. Choppies then went flat at R0.75 for 50 minutes yesterday before going up at 10:20 am where it nearly recovered the open day price of 80 cents, but was shy of 1 cent. From 79 cents the price went flat until noon.

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Foschini-Jet merger, a class and rivalry conundrum dissection

25th November 2020
Foschini

Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) has revealed that in its assessment of the Jet take over by Foschini, there were considerations on possible market rivalry and a clash in targeted classes.

According to a merger decision notice seen by this publication this week, high considerations were made to ensure that Foschini’s takeover of Jet is not anyhow an elimination of rivalry or competition or if the two entities; the targeted and the acquiring enterprise serves the same class of customers or offer the same products, to elude the anti-trust issues or a stretch of monopoly.

The two entities are South African retailers whose services stretched to Botswana shores.  Last month local anti-trust body, CCA, received an acquisition proposal from South African clothing retailer, Foschini, stating their intentions to take-over Jet.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year after finding out that Jet’s mother company, Edcon, is falling apart, made a decision that Foschini can buy Jet for R480 million. This means that Foschini will add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents.

However the main headache for the CCA decision which was released this week, is distinguishing the targeted and the acquiring entity businesses and services.

When doing a ‘Competitive Analysis and Public Interest’ assessment, CCA is said to have discovered that Foschini is classified as a “standard retailer” which targets middle-to-upper income consumers and it competes with stores such as; Truworths and Woolworths. The targeted entity, Jet, is on the lower league when compared to its acquirer, it serves customers of lower classes and is regarded as a discount/value retailer targeting lower income consumers or a mass market. This makes Jet to be in direct competition with Ackermans, Pepkor, Cash Bazaar and Mr Price.

“Therefore, a narrower view of the market is that Foschini through its stores trading in Botswana is not a close competitor to Jet. Additionally, there exist other major rivals who will continue to exercise competitive constraints on the merged enterprise post-merger,” concluded CCA this month.

The anti-trust body continued to explain that in terms of the Acquisition of a Dominant Position, the analysis shows that the acquisition of the target business by Foschini Botswana will result in an insignificant combined market share in the relevant market.

This made CCA reach to a conclusion that there is no case of an acquisition of a dominant position in the market under consideration or any other market on the account of the proposed transaction.

What supports the merger according to CCA is that it is in compliance with regards to ‘Public Interest Considerations’ because the findings of the assessment revealed that the transaction is as a result of the need for a Business Rescue by the target enterprise. This is so because in the event that the proposed transaction fails, it will translate into the loss of the employment positions at the target business.

“On that note the Authority (CCA) found it necessary to ensure that the proposed merger does not result in any retrenchments or redundancies. In light of this, the assessment revealed the critical need to protect the employees of the merged entity from possible merger specific retrenchments/ redundancies,” said CCA.

Before making a determination that the recently proposed transaction is not likely to result in the prevention or substantial lessening of competition or endanger the continuity of the services offered in the relevant market, CCA said it then moved into a concern for public interest which is a protection enshrined in the Competition Act of 2018.

CCA’s concern was mostly loss of livelihood or employment by 126 Batswana workers at Jet stores, stating that possible retrenchments or redundancies may arise as a result of implementation of the proposed merger.

Much to the desire of trade union or labour movements in Botswana and across Southern Africa where the Jet stores are stemmed-who also raised concerns about the retail’s workers job security- CCA subjects Foschini to keep the target entity 126 workers.

“There shall be no merger specific retrenchments or redundancies that may affect the employees of the merged enterprises. For clarity, merger specific retrenchments or redundancies do not include (the list is not exhaustive): i. voluntary retrenchment and/or voluntary separation arrangements; ii. Voluntary early retirement packages; iii. Unreasonable refusals to be redeployed; iv. Resignations or retirements in the ordinary course of business; v. retrenchments lawfully effected for operational requirements unrelated to the Merger; and vi. Terminations in the ordinary course of business, including but not limited to, dismissals as a result of misconduct or poor performance,” said CCA.

CCA also orders that Foschini informs it about all the details of 126 Jet employees within thirty (30) days of the merger approval date. CCA should also know information of when Foschini is implementing the merger, within 30 days of the approval date.

Other conditions include Foschini sharing a copy of the conditions of approval to all employees of the Jet or their respective representatives within ten (10) days of the approval date.

“Should vacancies arise in the target, the merged enterprise shall consider previous employment at one of the non-transferring Jet stores to be a positive factor to be taken into account in the consideration of offering potential employment,” said CCA.

According to CCA, in cases of any job losses, for the Authority to assess whether the retrenchments or redundancies are merger specific, at least three months before (to the extent that this deadline can be practically achieved and in terms of the prevailing and legally required employment practices) any retrenchments or redundancies are to take place, inform the Authority of:  i. The intended retrenchments; ii. The reasons for the retrenchments; iii. The number and categories of employees affected; iv. The expected date of the retrenchments.

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