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Investors advised to Buy BTCL stock

Investment Analysts at Motswedi securities have strongly recommend investors to BUY the stock during the IPO and also subsequent to listing as Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL) provides significant growth potential to investors.

BTCL has opened an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of 462mn shares at a price of P1 per share with a minimum offer of 1,000 shares. The offer is expected to close on Friday, the 4th of March 2016 with the shares expected to list on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) on the 8th of April 2016.

“With a listing PE of 5.5x, which is way below the market average PE of 14.7x, the share price has more scope for upside potential. We are targeting a price of 180 thebe for the stock, using a conservative valuation method. This gives an 80% upside potential against the IPO price of 100 thebe per share,” writes Gary Juma and Tlotlo Ramalepa who had embarked on a research project to appraise investors on the viability of the BTCL stock.

WHERE IS THE GROWTH STORY?

According to Juma and Ramalepa, the BTCL growth strategy is centred on leveraging its fixed, mobile and convergent products and services potential. The strategy is intended to leverage BTCL’s unique market position as the only fixed and mobile network operator in Botswana by creating competitive advantages for the company through the provision of traditional fixed and mobile broadband, information and content capabilities.

The two investment analysts further state that the BTCL’s strategic plan focuses on:
• Leveraging BTCL’s unique market position in Botswana, as the sole fixed and mobile operator, combining its mobile and fixed networks coverage, to smartly package unique fixed and mobile value propositions.

Moving BTCL Wholesale to higher value managed services, by offering managed (hosted) data services to mitigate the threat posed by direct competition with BoFiNet and others entering the managed data services market; • Defending the existing business through sophisticated bundling and packaging of traditional products, promoting BTCL tariffs, which are the lowest in Botswana, and marketing the BTCL network presence, and increased focus on customer satisfaction.
• controlling costs through business transformation by unifying networks and minimising the IT platforms estate, ensuring flexibility and agility in products and service offerings.
•innovating and growing revenues through building strategic alliances and partnerships, so as to improve levels of innovation, research and development capabilities within BTCL;

THE DOWNSIDE…

Increased competition in the telecoms sector within the country as a result of market liberalisation and this has led in some instances BTCL losing some of its key clients to competitors.

The business is a high volume business with profitability very sensitive to variation in margins. This is because, BoFinet determines the margins available to network operators and in some cases BTCL may not be able to pass on to the retailer any margin compression enforced by BoFinet and this will eat on margins and profitability.
However, Juma and Ramalepa point out that BTCL has a profitable and strong business model.  They opine that the company has been able to increase its revenue from P1.0bn in 2011 to P1.47bn in 2015, while profit after tax has risen from P177mn in 2011 to a high of P273.6mn in 2013 before falling to P146.8mn in 2015.
“BTCL has been paying a very good dividend of 5.66thebe per share in 2011, 7.11thebe in 2012 and 50.68thebe per share in 2014, reflecting a healthy cash flow position and profitability.”

WHY INVEST IN BTCL

Juma and Ramalepa demonstrate that BTCL has a number of strengths and competences which translate to certain key advantages over other players in the Botswana communications sector.

They first show a measure of the BTCL as a Profitable Company : “BTCL has a profitable and strong business model. The company has been able to increase its revenue from P1.0bn in 2011 to P1.47bn in 2015, while profit after tax has risen from P177mn in 2011 to a high of P273.6mn in 2013 before falling to P146.8mn in 2015.”
BUSINESS MODEL

The two analysts share on the BTCL business model: “BTCL offers its products and services through two operating business units namely: a. BTCL Wholesale – the wholesale arm of BTCL’s business; and b. FMC Organisation – which combines beMobile, Broadband and Fixed into a single business unit.”
Wider Network footprint

Juma and Ramalepa write that BTCL through its BeMobile unit has gained significant competitive advantage in the mobile domain, BTCL has a PTO Licence issued by the regulator, BOCRA. It is one of the three local PTO Licence operators (with the others being Mascom Wireless and Orange Botswana).

“BTCL is, however, the only PTO Licence holder operating both the traditional fixed and mobile networks. The BeMobile unit has gained significant competitive advantage in the mobile domain, particularly in remote areas because of its extensive mobile coverage. This network strength resulted in a 65% market share in fixed broadband and data services, 90% in fixed network voice services and 17% in mobile connections,” they state.  

According to Juma and Ramalepa, the mobile market share is notable in so far as it has been achieved within seven years against two very prominent and well established brands. No other operator has assets deployed as widely across both fixed and mobile services space as BTCL.
Vodafone Partnership

According to the Motswedi Securities analysts, BTCL has entered into a strategic partnership with one of the world’s leading communications services providers, Vodafone.

They state that this partnership will enable Vodafone and BTCL the option to cooperate and deploy certain products and services (including third party products and services); enabling BTCL to gain access to the Vodafone knowledge bank; and permitting the parties to carry out capability assessments and co-operate on procurement for the benefit of BTCL in Botswana for a period of three years.

Juma and Ramalepa argue that the existence of BTCL’s copper access network means BTCL is the only operator with capacity and capability to offer ADSL services. They posit that this affords BTCL a market opportunity to offer voice and ADSL services through the copper network to its clients. With the advent of new technologies such as Ethernet over Copper BTCL will in future be able to offer improved broadband internet speeds over its copper network.

BTCL IN BRIEF

“BTCL was established in 1980 to provide, develop, operate and manage Botswana’s national and international telecommunications services. Since then, BTC has evolved to become one of the leading providers in Botswana of voice telephony (both fixed and mobile), as well as national and international internet, data services, virtual private networks and customer equipment to the nation. Part of the Company’s growth and success stems from the acquisition of the PTO Licence in 2007, which was one of the three licences issued by BOCRA (then the Botswana Telecommunications Authority).

The PTO Licence permits BTCL to offer services of any kind, using any technology, connected with public telecommunications. BTCL is the only PTO Licence holder operating both the traditional fixed and mobile networks,” shares Juma and Ramalepa in their research document.

‘IPO Ya Rona Rotlhe’

Juma and Ramalepa state that BTCL was identified in the Privatisation Master Plan of 2005 as a candidate for privatisation. To facilitate BTCL’s privatisation process,

Parliament, in 2008, passed the Transition Act to enable Government to convert BTC from a statutory body to a limited liability company under the Companies Act. Government further adopted a privatisation model for BTCL in 2010. The key features of the Privatisation Model include, amongst others, the following:
44% of BTCL’s equity would be made available for ownership by Batswana via the BSE;

Government would retain 51% equity, together with the Trans- Kalahari Optic Fibre Network, the Gaborone-Francistown Loop and other backbone infrastructure assets and contracts which would be placed under a separate entity, wholly owned by Government.

Prior to Listing, 5% of the total equity of BTCL would be allocated to BTCL’s citizen employees and an Employee Share Trust will be established to manage and hold these shares for the employees.

Trading of shares in the BSE would be permitted amongst Citizen investors only;

WHY LIST?

Provide an opportunity to Batswana, who have supported BTCL over the years.

Allow Batswana to share in the growth and profitability of BTCL.

Raise the company profile and investor awareness of BTCL locally.

Raise equity capital for the company.

Enable government to privatise BTCL in line with the Privatisation Master Plan of 2005.
 

WHO CAN INVEST?

The Offer is available only to:

a. Natural persons who are citizens of Botswana.
b. Corporate entities registered or operating in Botswana which are wholly citizen owned.
c. Unincorporated associations, partnerships, and investment funds (whether managed directly or by institutional investors registered in Botswana) which are wholly Citizen owned.
d. Trusts whose ultimate beneficiaries are all Botswana citizens.
e. Local Pension Funds managed by institutional investors registered in Botswana.

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Business

Global recovery from COVID-19 remains unbalanced

2nd March 2021
Global recovery

As COVID-19 and its variants continue to cast a shadow over the world’s health systems and economies, the level of uncertainty and strength of the economic recovery will vary across countries. The real GDP in all G-20 countries is expected to grow compared to the previous year, but some countries will take longer than others to return to full capacity.

According to Mooody’s Global Macro Outlook 2021-22 report released this week, precautionary behavior and official restrictions are still hampering interpersonal interactions. The resulting toll on global economic activity has been staggering, even as the economy has also shown a remarkable degree of resilience.

Overall economic outcomes in 2020 exceeded Moody’s forecasts in most countries because of stronger-than-expected rebounds in the second half of the year. Aided by technology, many people and businesses quickly adapted so that they could carry on with daily activity with reduced in-person interactions.

However, Moody’s says the recovery remains unbalanced, with the pandemic affecting individual businesses, sectors and regions very differently. According to the group, goods demand has almost fully recovered because goods can be produced and consumed with limited in-person interactions, while the recovery in service continue to lag.

Within services, businesses that were able to effectively deliver their products at arms-length have stabilized, if not prospered. Large businesses with access to cheap funding have performed better than small and mid-sized firms. According to the report, the transportation, hospitality and leisure and arts sectors continue to languish, but the information technology, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and financial sectors have thrived.

According to the report, many individuals around the world (including Botswana), have lost their jobs and continue to face employment uncertainty, but on the flip side, the forced decline in household consumption and the rise in asses prices have buttressed household financial balances at an aggregate level. Moody’s reported that all G-20 countries will post growth rates in 2021 and 2022, but the pace of recovery will vary significantly.

“The COVID-19 shock has exposed differences between countries in terms of political leadership, community health management, fiscal and monetary policy response, economic structures and inherent economic dynamism. Public health considerations drove the economic shock of the pandemic. In that sense, the steep declines in GDP in 2020 across advanced and emerging market countries were less a reflection of underlying weaknesses in the economy, and more a function of the combined effects of the spread of the virus and the stringency of lockdown measures,” says Moody’s.

Economic outcomes will remain closely tied to the pandemic, Moody’s said. “The quicker countries can curb the spread of the virus, the faster their economic activity will recover. Otherwise the costs of keeping parts of the economy shut, in terms of lost income and revenue, will keep adding up. The longer the crisis lasts, the more difficult it will be for governments to compensate the private sector for its continuing losses.”

Without adequate government support, Moody’s predict that large-scale deterioration in asset quality will ensue. Such detrimental effects, it says, could eventually transmit the shock through financial channels to other parts of the economy.

“We have cut or estimate of the 2020 contraction for the G-20 countries. We now expect a collective contraction of 3.3%, compared with our previous estimate of 3.8%, because of a better-than-expected recovery across a wide range of advanced and emerging market economies in the second half of the year. We expect the G-20 countries to grow by 5.3% in 2021 and 4.5% in 2022, up from our prior forecasts of 4.9% and 3.8% respectively.”

US ECONOMY TO LEAD THE GLOBAL SERVICES DEMAND RECOVERY

The US economy advanced at a 4.0% annualized rate in the fourth quarter 2020, but the headline figure masks the fact that the economy has lost momentum since November, when COVID-19 cases began to rise. Moody’s says it expects this current moderation in economic growth to be temporary. Economic momentum will likely puck up pace over the course of 2021 and 2022, supported by: enhanced pandemic control, significant additional fiscal support to the economy and a more predictable policy environment.

With infection rates now starting to fall, economic momentum should naturally pick up in the second quarter and into the summer as individual states progressively ease up social distancing restrictions, Moody’s reports.  “We believe that a stronger pandemic management response from the Biden administration, will increase public confidence and allow for a relation of restrictions over this year and next.”

COVID-19 SHOCK EXACERBATES EXISTING STRUCTURAL CHALLENGES IN SOUH AFRICA

South Africa’s economy is expected to growth by 4.5% in 2021 and by 11% in the following year, following an estimated 7.0% contraction last year. According to Moody’s, this will make South Africa’s recovery one of the weakest among emerging market countries. The economy has struggled to build momentum for many years, and as a result suffers from chronically high unemployment. The COVID-19 shock has made the economic situation all the more challenging, says Moody’s.

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BOL, MDC advised to take interest in Kavango oil tale

2nd March 2021
BOL-MDC

Reconnaissance Africa, a Canadian exploration company has started piercing the natural resource-rich lands of Kavango basin in Namibia, the company in searching for oil and gas.

The prospective area stretches into North West district of Botswana, the company through its local subsidiary Recon Africa Botswana has been given the nod by Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security to explore petroleum mineral for four (4) years.

Amid all the negative reports around the company’s drilling activities in the Kavango basin, which covers ecosystem components feeding into the mighty Okavango Delta, the bottom line is that there are prospects of billions of dollars beneath the area in form of oil and gas-and Recon Africa is out to unearth the treasures.

Member of Parliament for Selibe Phikwe Dithapelo Keorapetse says Botswana should strive to participate in the exploration and development of these potential oil and gas deposits in the North West district. Contributing to the 2021/22 budget speech on Monday Keorapetse cautioned government against watching from afar while a potential multi-billion pula industry unfolds in the Okavango area.

He implored Botswana Oil Limited(BOL) and Mineral Development Corporation Botswana (MDCB) both state owned enterprises, to take up equity stakes in the exploration activities as early as now to “ rather than being spectators and waking up late when the foreigners are enjoying the billions”.

ReconAfrica through its subsidiary Recon Botswana was issued an exploration license under the Petroleum Act to explore for petroleum minerals in the North West District of Botswana, on 1 June 2020, for a period of four years.

“Botswana Oil as the country ‘s petroleum investment company together with MDC-a state owned mineral interest holding company must come together and acquire a stake in the ongoing exploration activities ,not to wait until Recon is making money and you say you want shares”. Keorapetse made reference to Karowe mine which Botswana’s diamond mining partner De Beers Group sold to Lucara over a decade ago while still at exploration stage.

Lucara bid on the site, and its internal partner Lundin provided a bank guarantee to De Beers for fifty million dollars, capturing some seventy per cent of the stake.Soon afterward, Lucara bought the remaining stake by acquiring De Beers’s London-based junior venture partner, African Diamonds. Lucara now owns AK6 (now Karowe Mine), having spent a little more than seventy million dollars.

The mine has since developed into a prolific rare gem producer celebrated worldwide, having unearthed some the world’s largest diamond ever in history , such as the over 1000 carats Lesedi La Rona, Sewelo and the magnificent 813 carats Constellation.

“We are now mulling acquisition of shares in Lucara but when transactions were happening in 2009 we were just spectators, we could have acquired shares back then when they were affordable now it is expensive to buy into Karowe mine, we must not make the same mistake with this oil and gas projects” said Keorapetse urging Government to be pro-active and move quickly to approach Recon Africa for a stake in Recon Africa Botswana.

ReconAfrica is a junior oil and gas company engaged in the exploration and development of oil and gas in North East of Namibia and North West of Botswana—the Kavango Basin. The company officially launched the oil and gas exploration project in Namibia in early January 2021. The exploration activities are taking place in the Kawe area, Kavango East Region, Namibia.

ReconAfrica holds a 90% interest in a petroleum exploration license in Namibia which covers the entire Kavango sedimentary basin in Namibia, the remaining 10% is owned by Government of Namibia. The exploration licence covers an area of 25,341.33 km2 (6.3 million acres), and based on commercial success, it entitles ReconAfrica to obtain a 25-year production license.

Further, ReconAfrica holds a 100% interest in petroleum exploration rights in Botswana over the entire Kavango sedimentary basin in the country. This covers an area of 8,990 km2 (2.2 million acres) and entitles ReconAfrica to a 25-year production license over any commercial discovery. The company acquired a high-resolution geomagnetic survey of the license area and conducted a detailed analysis of the resulting data and other available data, including reprocessing and reinterpretation of all existing geological and geophysical data.

The survey and analysis confirm that the Kavango Basin reaches depths of up to 9,000 m (30,000 feet) under optimal conditions to preserve a thick interval of organic rich marine source rock, and is anticipated to hold an active petroleum system.

“We believe that the Kavango Basin is another world class Permian basin, analogous to the Permian basin in Texas It is estimated that the oil generated in the basin could be billions of barrels. Recon Africa’s initial goal is to establish the presence of an active petroleum system with its fully funded 3-well drilling program starting early January 2021.

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Lucara suffers P287 million loss in 2020

2nd March 2021
LUCARA

Canadian mining company, Lucara Diamond Corporation, well known globally for producing rare gems of unprecedented quality, has not been spared by the 2020 global market downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their financial results for the year ended 31st December 2020, released from Vancouver Canada late Monday, the junior minor reported a significant net loss of $26.3 million for the year (approximately P287 in Botswana currency).

This according to the financials is a loss of $0.07 loss per share, which is a significant decline when compared to net income of $12.7 million ($0.03 per share) in 2019. The company which wholly owns and runs Botswana’s Karowe mine registered total revenues of $125.3 million (over P1.3 billion), a 34 percent drop compared to $192.5 million (almost P2 billion) recorded in 2019 or $335 per carat from $468 per carat in 2019.

The decrease in revenue resulted in adjusted EBITDA of $18.4 million, a decline when compared to adjusted EBITDA for the same period in 2019 of $73.1 million. Lucara executives explained that total revenue decline was a result of challenging market conditions, a longer ramp-up for production and polished sales in the latter half of 2020 under the HB supply agreement.

“As a result, revenue from certain polished diamonds from Lucara’s highest value stones that would otherwise have been recorded as revenue in 2020, is now expected to be realized in 2021.” reads a commentary alongside the figures.

During the year ended December 31, 2020, Lucara sold 373,748 carats at an average price of $335 carat. Diamond sales for the fourth quarter of 2020 were held through a combination of regular tenders, Clara, for diamonds less than 10.8 carats, and through HB under the supply agreement for those diamonds greater than 10.8 carats.

The Company recognized revenue of $42.4 million or $402 per carat from the sale of 105,648 carats. Price recovery was observed in most size and quality classes. Of note, prices achieved for goods sold on Clara (under 10.8 carats in size) in January 2021 have now recovered to the level of pricing achieved early in 2020.

For the year ended December 31, 2020, Lucara registered revenue totaling $55.2 million from the two agreements with HB, including an accrual for variable consideration of $7.2 million related to “top-up” payments arising from polished diamond sales in excess of the initial purchase price paid to Lucara.

With global restrictions impeding travel for many diamantaires, Lucara says interest in Clara grew significantly in 2020 and the number of buyers on the platform increased from 27 to 75.
During 2020, Clara began selling stones on behalf of third party sellers, which was a significant objective for the year.

“As Clara becomes the online marketplace of choice for rough buyers, discussions are underway with several producers to begin trials for the sale of their diamonds on Clara” the company said
Amidst challenging circumstances for the diamond industry in 2020 Lucara forged ahead with the Karowe mine underground project.

During the year period under review $18.7 million (over P190 million ) was spent on project execution activities including the following: Site earthworks (consisting of laydown preparation and clearing of shaft and surface infrastructure locations), geotechnical test pitting and drilling, and completion of two pilot holes at the shaft locations, a 746 metre hole for the ventilation shaft and a 768 metre hole for the production shaft.

The Company was able to complete on-site earth works and geotechnical studies by using local contractors while a State of Emergency remained in effect in Botswana.  Long lead time item orders were also placed for shaft muckers, and hoist and winder refurbishment was initiated. In addition, power line engineering and detailed shaft design and engineering (consistent with original targets for 2020) progressed.

In Q4 2020, the Government of Botswana approved the proposed powerline route and granted a 25-year extension to the Karowe Mine License to 2046, sufficient to cover the remaining open-pit life (to 2026) and the expected life of the proposed underground expansion, currently planned to 2040.

Lucara says it’s currently actively exploring opportunities to arrange debt financing for the underground expansion for those amounts which are expected to exceed the Company’s cash flow from operations during the construction period. The underground expansion program has an estimated capital cost of $514 million (over P5 billion) and a five year period of development.

President & Chief Executive Officer of Lucara Diamond Corporation, Eira Thomas said the measures that Lucara took early in the pandemic, including the decision not to sell rough diamonds in excess of +10.8 carats after Q1, helped protect and support prices for large, high value diamonds that account for more than 70% of the company’s revenues.

“These efforts in conjunction with our transformational supply agreement with HB Antwerp executed in July, resulted in strong price recoveries by Q4, a trend which has continued into 2021.”
Thomas said the recent recovery of two, high value +300 carat stones “continue to highlight the extraordinary nature of the Karowe resource and underpin the rationale for underground expansion, extending our mine life out to at least 2040”.

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