The chairman of PrimeTime, Petronella Matumo and her Managing Director, Alexander Kelly have said despite numerous challenges in both of the countries in which they operate, the company achieved a substantial year-on-year increase in revenues and operating profit.
The Prime Time annual report for the year ending 31st August 2015 actually gives a sneak preview of Botswana’s property market. Matumo and Kelly are of the view that the property investment landscape has changed significantly in the 12 months that have passed.
“Economic growth in Botswana has been meagre in comparison to the long-term average, which has been evidenced by weaker demand from tenants. Furthermore, the well documented liquidity constraints that hit the market in late 2014, coupled with the depressed economic conditions will have checked the pace of growth of our portfolio’s capital value,” they write in their annual statement.
However, Matumo and Kelly note that despite no acquisitions, the portfolio stood at P764 million (including assets classified as held for sale) at the end of August, an increase of 4% over the course of the year meant real growth was still achieved in a period where inflation has been running at close to 3%.
The value of the Prime Time portfolio is underpinned by the strength of our occupier base and the relationships we have established with our tenants.
“At the end of August 2015, vacancies stood at just 1%, a phenomenal achievement when one considers conditions in the occupier market. Our space at Prime Plaza is now 100% occupied. We were pleased to welcome Botswana Life to the complex during the course of the year and Barclays absorbed the remainder of the space in Building 4, giving them a standalone facility.”
Petronella Matumo and Alexander Kelly note that adding to the existing challenges in the domestic market – primarily the limitation of its size, supply issues and the intensity of competition for good quality investments – has been the difficulty in securing funding. The Prime Time officials note that the terms on offer from the commercial banks are stifling activity with some lenders raising interest rates on existing facilities when the opportunity has arisen.
What does this mean for PrimeTime and how are we responding?
“With our traditional route of funding now proving prohibitively expensive, we are looking at alternative means of raising debt which will offer greater flexibility to enable the growth of the company while at the same time offering us better value. This may include raising a bond in the local market,” they wrote.
Work in progress and opportunities
As part of the intended plan to grow and diversify PrimeTime’s asset base, Matumo and Kelly say they are busy with a number of projects. “As we write this, the sales of Blue Jacket Square and Barclays Plaza in Francistown to the BPOPF are close to completion. While these properties have proved to be ‘cash cows’, which is good for the likes of a pension fund, they are likely to show limited growth going forward. The combined sale price of P71 million, represented an excellent return on our initial investment and will enable us to redeploy the proceeds into projects that we believe offer far greater growth potential in the long-term.”
Amongst these is the development of the Pilane Crossing Shopping Centre, a circa P100 million project we entered into following shareholder approval in June 2015. With completion not due until the middle of next year, we have agreed heads of terms or signed leases on 90% of the first phase. The Mochudi/Pilane area has long been in need of a well-designed retail centre, as this demand led project has demonstrated. Amongst the tenant mix to already agree terms are our anchor Choppies, FNB, Puma, Clicks, Jet, Mr Price, Beaver Canoe, Style and Bata, as well as Cashbuild for the second phase. Pilane Crossing will add 9,247 sqm of retail to our offering.
According to Matumo and Kelly, there are still opportunities to be found in Botswana, but we will have to work harder to find them. They note that in the CBD office market, with Prime Plaza fully let, “we may have appetite for more offices, despite the abundance of new space to be delivered in the coming year and a number of existing schemes laying empty or only partially occupied. We have found there is still demand out there and believe we have identified a niche which works well for a variety of occupiers.”
Prime Time also wants to expand into Zambia. “Our expressed intention of expanding our footprint in Zambia, and potentially elsewhere in the region, is gaining traction. At the year-end we had agreed terms to acquire an office park in Lusaka. Despite current negativity surrounding the Zambian economy, with the downward trajectory of the copper price and in mid to late 2015 the subsequent depreciation of the Kwacha, our long-term view remains positive. As an investor driven by long-term wealth creation, the present trepidation in Zambia may give us openings that previously didn’t exist, while at the same time offering an opportunity to cultivate a US$ based income stream for PrimeTime.”
They add: “Further investments, both in terms of standing assets and developments, continue to be analysed, which with our increased understanding of the market there and strengthening relationships with the local market players we are now in a position to proceed at greater speed than has previously been the case. Our investments into Zambia are being structured through a Mauritian subsidiary primarily for tax efficiencies.”
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”