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Barclays still open for business in Africa

Barclays Bank Botswana is still open for business and is committed to investing in Botswana, Barclays Botswana Managing Director Rienette van der Merwe said this week.

This follows the UK banking group Barclays Group’s intention to sell its 62.3% stake in Barclays Africa Group. Barclays is scaling back its presence in Africa, by selling down its 62.3 per cent stake in  Barclays Africa Group, its Johannesburg-listed subsidiary, over two to three years to a level that allows it to be deconsolidated from the group.

Barclays Bank Plc currently owns 62.3% of Barclays Africa Group Limited (BAGL) which controls banks in 10 African countries including Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Addressing the media, van der Merwe said “This announcement will not affect you, our customers, in any way and we at Barclays Bank Botswana will continue to serve you as we have done for over 65 years.”

Barclays is being forced to sell assets, such as its  "Barclays set to exit African business" African subsidiary, because of punitive fines by authorities. Barclays Group said Absa is a well-diversified business and a high quality franchise.

The Chief Executive Director of the Barclays group, Jes Staley said “however the stake in BAGL presents specific challenges to Barclays as owners, such as the level of capital held in respect of BAGL, the international reach of the UK Bank Levy, the GSIB buffer, and MREL/TLAC and other regulatory requirements.”

“When conduct charges consume our profits, as they have for the past three years, we have no choice but to meet them by shrinking our franchise selling or closing businesses which reduces our capacity to support the real economy.”

The bank carries 100% responsibility with only 62.3% benefits, it said at its results presentation. Barclays said the sell-down will lead to further simplification of the group, resulting in cost reductions.

Barclays has seen its share price fall over 30 percent over the last two years amid a tumultuous period of changing leadership and restructuring.

Potential investors would need to raise nearly $4bn to buy Barclays. The intended sale is subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals.

The announcement came as the UK bank announced net losses more than doubled last year.

Barclays Group Africa on Tuesday reported a 17% return on equity for 2015 in its stand alone local currency results versus the 8.7% return reported for Africa Banking in Barclays’ results, the group said.

Staley said in his year-end review on Tuesday Africa Banking performed well despite currency headwinds. “Through Barclays Africa, we have excellent franchises in Africa, with a great management team,” said Staley.

Barclays Group Africa's share price dropped 3.20% to R131.65 shortly after the announcement.

BARCLAYS AFRICA REPORTS HEADLINE EARNINGS GROWTH OF 10%

Meanwhile Barclays Africa Group Limited this week announced a 10% increase in headline earnings for the year ended 31 December 2015, delivering a solid performance underpinned by a three-year strategy implemented in 2014.

Maria Ramos, Chief Executive of Barclays Africa Group Limited says: “We delivered solid results, demonstrating that our strategy is working. Our ambition to be Africa’s leading bank remains unchanged. We are a strong, well-capitalised and independently funded business that is uniquely positioned to achieve our goals across the continent.”

Group headline earnings increased to R14.3 billion on the back of increased income while costs remained well managed. 

Costs increased by only 5%, even as the group continued to make appropriate investments in our infrastructure to deliver material improvements to our service.

Return on equity improved to 17%, the highest level since 2008 and Barclays Africa is now top three by revenue in four of our five largest markets; that is, South Africa, Botswana, Ghana and Zambia. We are gaining revenue traction in key focus areas across geographies and businesses and we have seen strong loan growth in the right areas.

Retail and Business Banking (RBB), the group’s largest business unit, continued its turnaround and had another strong year with headline earnings growing 14%, playing a key role in driving overall Barclays Africa growth. RBB recorded solid revenue growth and managed costs well. The continued improvement in the quality of the home loans book and a strong collections performance in personal loans resulted in lower credit impairment. RBB’s non-interest income rose 7%.

“We added 855,000 new-to-bank customers in 2015 – an achievement that I am particularly pleased with,” says Ms Ramos. “Our RBB unit continues to make good progress in its turnaround and we have had one of our strongest revenue months on record in January 2016,” Ms Ramos says.

Improvements in the branch network and other channels, supported by investments in mobile and other technologies supported RBB’s progress.

In Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), headline earnings increased 6% to R3.9 billion. The group’s pan-African strategy is working, with CIB’s business outside of South Africa increasing to now account for 37% of overall earnings, demonstrating that clients are seeing the benefit of the group’s integrated regional presence.

Wealth, Investment Management and Insurance (WIMI) delivered strong growth in headline earnings, increasing 11%. The WIMI offering was expanded into East Africa, with the launch of Barclays Life Assurance Kenya and the acquisition of a controlling stake in First Assurance, which also gives the group scale and presence in Tanzania.

While the commodity downturn and reduced economic growth weakened general sentiment towards the continent, Barclays Africa’s operations in the rest of Africa performed well and enhanced group growth. This shows that creating the Barclays Africa group in 2013 is working.

Revenue from operations outside of South Africa increased to 14% while headline earnings grew 17%. Operations outside of South Africa accounted for just over a fifth of revenue during 2015 and earnings growth in this region should continue to exceed those of South Africa. There is a clear path to increasing return on equity from those operations.

While the focus of the numbers we released today is on financial performance, this is only one component of our success as a business.

Barclays Africa has adopted a Shared Growth approach which for us, means generating a positive impact on society while delivering shareholder value.

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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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