The trailblazing retail giant, Choppies, has posted impressive half year results for the year ended December 2015.
The unaudited group financial results for six months shows that Choppies has not lost steam despite the challenging operating environment made more difficult by slow economic growth.
The Choppies group still relies heavily in its investments in Botswana as its other operations in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia failed to make a thundering positive impact in the latest results.
The group posted a revenue of P3 530 669 000, a 17 percent increase from the corresponding period in 2014. The Earnings Before Interest Tax Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) was up 5 percent, while profit before tax stood at P133 474 000, a slight increase of 3 percent. In the end Choppies raked in profit after tax of P104, 103, 000, up by 0.8 percent compared to the six months ended in 2014.
The Botswana based stores remain the main anchor of the group as they contributed 64 percent of the revenue. The revenue was up by 13 percent from the half year period ended in 2014. This modest growth in revenues was despite the sharp devaluation of the rand putting pressure on pula based sales prices.
“However, profitability continued to improve from the scale benefits of our mature infrastructure. We expect this process to continue going forward,” reads part of the statement. In the current period under review, Choppies opened 5 new stores bringing the total number of stores in Botswana to 78.
The Zimbabwe market showed glimpses of opportunity as the revenue shot up to 49 percent but brought in P952, 000 profit before tax, a sharp decline of 87 percent in the previous corresponding period.
“Profitability was negatively impacted by an aggressive pricing and promotions strategy in new stores, and start-up costs for the 8 new stores opened during the period.
Macroeconomic pressures in Zimbabwe continue to affect the spending power of consumers. In addition, deflationary trends have continued due to the strength of the US Dollar” read part of the statement explaining the large drop in profitability.
Choppies entered the Zambian market in November, a month before the end of the six months statement preparation. The late entry brought in a loss before tax of P1 627, 000, amid challenging trading conditions in Zambia which is underpinned by the struggling Kwacha due to the depressed copper prices, the mainstay of the Zambia economy. The resilient Choppies is planning a further expansion of 10 stores in 2016.
In South Africa, the challenging trading conditions saw Choppies fall behind their profitability forecasts as the company posted a loss of about P40 million before taxation.
Despite this, Choppies seems to have an appetite for the elusive South African market as it continues with its expansion; opening 4 new stores to bring the total number of stores in South Africa to 40. In another bold move, the Botswana based company recently acquired 21 Jwayaleni stores in South Africa. This acquisition does not form part of the current financial results as it was concluded after.
The Choppies group boasts of a war chest that comprises of cash and cash equivalents of P221 668 000, after the company spent more than P200 million in investment activities for the period under the review.
The Choppies expansion in Africa follows the Brownfield model, which involves buying existing businesses; this has been confirmed by Ram Ottapathu, co-founder of Choppies in previous interviews. The latest acquisitions involve 10 existing stores in Kenya and the 21 Jwayelani stores in South Africa.
The 21 stores might be Choppies biggest gamble yet as it promises big returns but with the usual risks lurking in the background. The Jwayelani brand generated revenues of over R1 billion with a gross profit margin of 20.35 percent and profit before taxation up by 2.84 percent while the gross profit went up by 8.93 percent.
However, Choppies could lose big time as it still struggles in the South African market which operates on the backdrop of labour strikes, weakening rand, low investor confidence and power shortages. But the Choppies group is confident that the acquisition creates a platform for profitable growth in the South African operations.
A closer look at the recent acquisitions reveals that Choppies is moving away from mining towns whose spending power is largely tied to commodity prices, and with the commodity prices currently down, Choppies is hoping for a safe haven in the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape through Jwayelani brand.
The investors will be full of anticipation when Choppies finally releases audited results for the end of year in June. Among other things, they will looking at how the recent acquisitions in Kenya and South Africa are faring, and overall it will the group’s expansion plans that will be on trial. No interim dividend has been declared, a final dividend will be declared and distributed after the finalisation of the financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2016.
The partnership between Debswana and Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) which was announced a fortnight ago will create under 100 direct jobs, and scores of job opportunities for citizens in the value chain activities.
In a major milestone, Debswana and BOL jointly announced that the fuel supply to Debswana, which was in the past serviced by foreign companies, will now be reserved for citizen companies. The total value of the project is P8 billion, spanning a period of five years.
“About 88 direct jobs will be created through the partnership. These include some jobs which will be transferred from the current supplier to the new partnership,” Matida Mmipi, Head of Stakeholder Relations at Botswana Oil, told BusinessPost.
“We believe this partnership will become a blueprint for other citizen initiatives, even in other sectors of the economy. Furthermore, this partnership has succeeded in unlocking opportunities that never existed for ordinary citizens who aspire to grow and do business with big companies like Debswana.”
Mmipi said through this partnership, BOL and Debswana intend to impact citizen owned companies in the fuel supply value chain that include transportation, supply, facilities maintenance, engineering, customs clearance, trucks stops and its support activities such as workshop / maintenance, tyre services, truck wash bays among others.
“The number of companies to be on-boarded will be determined by the economics at the time of engagement,” she said. BOL will play a facilitatory role of handholding and assisting emerging citizen-owned fuel supply and fuel transportation companies to supply Debswana’s Jwaneng and Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa (OLDM) mines with diesel and petrol for their operations.
“BOL expects to increase citizen companies’ market share in the fuel supply and transportation industries, which have over the years been dominated by foreign-owned suppliers. Consequently, the agreement will also ensure security of supply for Debswana operations, which are a mainstay of the Botswana economy,” Mmipi said.
“Furthermore, BOL will, under this agreement, transfer skills to citizen suppliers and transporters during the contract period and ensure delivery of competent and skilled citizen suppliers and transport companies upon completion of the agreement.”
Mmipi said the capacitating by BOL is limited to providing citizen companies oil industry technical capability and capacity to deliver on the requirements of the contract, when asked on helping citizen companies to access funding.
“BOL’s mandate does not include financing citizen empowerment initiatives. Securing funding will remain the responsibility of the beneficiaries. This could be through government financing entities including CEDA or through commercial banks. Further to this, there are financial institutions that have already signed up to support the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme (CEEP),” Mmipi indicated.
While BOL is established by government as company limited by guarantee, it will not benefit financially from the partnership with Debswana, as citizen empowerment in the petroleum value chain is core to BOL’s mandate.
“BOL does not pursue citizen facilitation for financial benefit, but rather we engage in citizen facilitation as a social aspect of our mandate. Citizen facilitation comes at a cost, but it is the right thing to do for the country to develop the oil and gas industry,” she said.
Mmipi said supplying fuel to Debswana comes with commercial benefits such as supply margins. These have traditionally been made outside the country when supply was done by multi-nationals for a period spanning over 50 years. With BOL anchoring supply for Debswana, this benefit will accrue locally, and BOL will be able to pay taxes and dividends to the shareholders in Botswana.
PwC Africa has presented the eighth edition of the VAT in Africa Guide – Africa re-emerging. This backdrop of renewal informs on the re-emergence of African economies and societies which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this edition, which has been compiled by PwC Africa’s indirect tax experts, covers a total of 41 African countries. It is geared towards sharing insight with our clients based on the constantly changing tax environments that can have a significant impact on business operations.
Within Africa, governments continue to focus on expanding the tax net by improving revenue collection through efficient compliance systems and procedures. PwC Africa has observed that revenue authorities also continue to take a keen interest in indirect taxes as part of revenue mobilisation initiatives.
Maturing VAT system and upskilling SARS
“In South Africa, VAT is becoming more relevant as a revenue source for the government,” says Matthew Besanko, PwC South Africa’s Indirect Tax Leader. “Strides have been made to upskill South African Revenue Service (SARS) staff and identify VAT revenue leakages, particularly in respect of foreign suppliers of electronic services to people and businesses in South Africa.”
Broadening the tax base and digital economy
In the past year, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe saw updates to their VAT legislation, or introduced specific legislation targeting electronically supplied services (ESS), which is in line with the global trend of attempting to tax the digital economy. “The expectation is that Botswana will also introduce VAT legislation in due course, while the National Treasury in South Africa has also made mention of revising the rules to account for further developments in the digital economy,” Besanko says.
South Africa’s National Treasury has also drafted legislation with the intention to introduce a reverse charge on gold, which is expected to come into effect later in 2022. While in Zimbabwe, revenue authorities have introduced a tax on the export of raw medicinal cannabis ranging between 10% and 20%, which came into effect on 1 January 2021.
ESG and carbon tax
Key strides have also been made within the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) space. “ESG leadership, strategising and reporting is essential now for organisations that wish to flourish and remain relevant,” Kabochi says. He adds that companies need to consider how ESG and tax intersect, since tax is a significant value driver when businesses need to deliver on their ESG goals.
In South Africa, a carbon tax regime, which is being implemented in three phases, has been adopted. The second phase was scheduled to start in January 2023, however phase one was extended by three years until 31 December 2025.
Until then, taxpayers will enjoy substantial tax-free allowances which reduce their carbon tax liability. At the beginning of 2022, the South African government increased the carbon tax rate to R144 (about US$9), which is expected to increase annually to enable South Africa to uphold its COP26 commitments.
With effect from 1 January 2023, carbon tax payers in South Africa will also be required to submit carbon budgets and adhere to the provisions of the carbon budgeting system which will be governed by the Climate Change Bill. Where set carbon budgets are exceeded, the government plans to impose penalties. “At PwC, we are continuously focused on our renewed global strategy, ” The New Equation,” Kabochi says. “Through this strategy, a key focus area for PwC Africa is to support clients in adding value to their ESG ambitions and building trust through sustained outcomes.”
The New Equation is also an acknowledgement of the fundamental changes in the business environment in which PwC’s clients and other stakeholders operate. PwC continues to reinvent and adapt to these changes as a community of problem solvers, combining knowledge and human-led technology to deliver quality services and value.
Local and international economists have lowered their projections on Botswana’s economic growth for 2022 and 2023, saying the country is highly likely to fail to maintain high growth rate recorded in 2021 hence will not reach initial forecasts.
Economists this week lowered 2022 forecasts for Botswana’s economic growth rate, from the initial 5.3% to 4.8% and added that in 2023 growth could further decline to 4.0%. The lower projections come on the backdrop of an annual economic growth that recovered sharply in 2021 with figures showing that year-on-year real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth increased to 11.4%, up from a contraction of 8.7% in 2020.
Economists from the local research entity, E-consult, this week stated that the 2021 double digit growth that exceeded projections made at the time of the 2022 budget may be short lived due to other developments taking place in the global economy. E-consult Economist Sethunya Kegakgametse stated that the war in Ukraine has worsened supply problems in the global economy and added that before the war, macroeconomic indicators were seen as improving and returning to pre-COVID levels.
According to the economist the global economy was projected to improve in 2022 and 2023. Recent figures show that global growth projections have been revised downwards from the initial forecast of 4.9% in 2022 with the World Bank’s new estimate for global growth in 2022 at 3.2%.
The statistics also shows that International Monetary Fund revised their growth projections for 2022 and 2023 down by 0.8% and 0.2% respectively, falling to 3.6% for both years. “The outbreak of war has severely dampened the global recovery that was under way following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the economist.
She stated that despite Botswana being geographically removed from the conflict, the country has not and will not be exempt from the disruptions in the global economy. “The disruptions to global supply chains resulting from the war will have a negative effect on both Botswana’s growth and trade activities.
The economic sanctions against diamonds from Russia will add uncertainty to the market which will have knock on effects to Botswana’s growth, exports, and government revenues,” said the economists who added that the disruptions are driving prices up and result with very high inflation in the local economy.
Kegakgametse projected that in an attempt to limit inflation Bank of Botswana will be forced to raise interest rate “Should the sharp increase in both global and local inflation persist, Bank of Botswana much like other central banks around the world will be forced to raise interest rates in a bid to control rising prices. This would mean an end to the expansionary monetary policy stance that had been adopted post COVID-19 to aid economic growth,” she said.
In the latest projections, the UK based economic research entity Fitch Solutions lowered 2022 real GDP growth forecast for Botswana from 5.3% to 4.8% “In 2023, we see economic growth rate decelerating to 4.0%,” said Fitch Solutions economists who also noted that the 2022 and 2023 economic growth projections may come out lower than the current forecasts, as it is possible that new vaccine-resistant virus variants may be identified, which could result in the re-implementation of restrictions. “In such circumstances, we cannot rule out that Botswana’s economy may post weaker growth than our baseline scenario currently assumes,” said the economists.
According to the projections, Fitch Solution stated that there is limited scope for Botswana government to increase diamond production and exports, following the economic sanctions imposed on Russian diamond mining companies operating in Botswana. The research entity added that De Beers is unlikely to scale up diamond output from Botswana in order to prop up diamond prices.