The mining giant, Anglo American has reported a pre-tax loss of $5.5bn for 2015 as sinking commodity prices hit the mining giant.
The record loss is more than double the loss reported in 2014 as the company took charges of $3.8bn due to falls in commodity prices.
The company reported that its net debt at the end of 2015 stood at $12.9bn. This would fall to $10bn by the end of 2016 and to $6bn over the medium term.
Chief executive Mark Cutifani said the global economy had presented the mining industry with significant challenges.
The mining giant is targeting an extra $3bn to $4bn of asset sales this year as it plots a course to recover from the commodities rout by disposing of some of its largest and oldest business units.
The disposals will include Kumba Iron Ore, Africa's biggest miner of the steel-making ingredient. Anglo said its focus on just 16 assets would bring staff numbers down to about 50,000, from 128,000 at the end of last year. About 68,000 jobs will transfer with businesses while about 10,000 will be cut.
“The company has initiated a review to consider options to exit from KIO at the appropriate time, including a potential spin-out,” Anglo said.
Cutifani said that Anglo would sell its coal mining operations as well "at the right time, for the right value. Anglo would focus only on its copper, diamonds and platinum businesses.
Anglo is also suspending its dividend to conserve cash.
The group’s decision to step away from bulk commodities such as coal and iron ore reflects its more marginal cost positions in iron ore.
Other than that, Anglo also said that it acknowledged changing demand in China, with “evolution away from bulk commodity intensive infrastructure development to increasing demand for base and precious metals for homes, vehicles, household appliances and electronics, as well as for luxury goods”.
De Beers to cut more jobs in South Africa
Meanwhile De beers has joined the retrenchment move as it plans to cut 189 positions in South Africa to reduce costs as demand for gems dips, the company said on Tuesday.
Weakness in the rough diamond market weighed on the world’s largest diamond company in the financial year ended December 31 2015. A 36 percent decline in rough diamond sales pushed total revenue down 34 percent to $4.7bn.
Despite an 8% decline in its rough price index for the year, the Anglo American subsidiary managed a 5% increase in average realised diamond prices to $207/carat (ct).
De Beers cut diamond production by 12 percent to 28.7m ct from an initial target of 32m ct.
“We demonstrated, at that time, that production to demand is working. We saw the demand being a little bit shaky, we started to cut, we saw the perfect storm building up and we cut further and at the end it was the right response to the market,” Phillipe Mellier, CEO of De Beers said.
Despite tough trading conditions, the company said its Forevermark brand enjoyed double-digit sales growth. Forevermark, which recently relaunched De Beer’s famous “A Diamond is Forever” marketing campaign, increased its footprint by 14% and is now available in more than 1 700 outlets across 35 markets.
De Beers, which expects to produce 26-28m carats in 2016, said it will adjust production in accordance with trading conditions. It also plans to deliver $200m in cash savings through a reduction in production costs, overheads, and capex.
Describing the market as fragile, Mellier said the company has worked to “close 2015 on the right note” and ensure that stocks were close to normal levels at the end of the year. “We are now in a position to start 2016 and look at 2016 as a new cycle with a rebound,” he said.
Initial indications point to a slightly improved diamond market. De Beers and Alrosa, which together make up around two-thirds of the diamond market, sold close to $1bn worth of diamonds in their first sales of the year. However, he expects diamond prices to remain flat from where they ended in 2015.
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.
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.
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”