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Real architects of Botswana diamond beneficiation

When the true history of Botswana diamond beneficiation is finally written, the names of Israeli diamond billionaire Lev Leviev and Greek gemologist Yianni Melas will feature prominently as the main architects who provided the initial blue print that formed the basis of the current experiment in diamond value add.

Their business case presented to the Botswana media at Hotel Mondeo on that auspicious day in 2004, enabled Botswana to gain confidence to proceed to negotiate better – but not the best – terms with De Beers which resulted, among others,  in the relocation of the Diamond Trading Company from London to Gaborone.

From that day onwards Botswana’s diamond beneficiation debate gained momentum and intensity despite much negative publicity and opposition from both government and De Beers. De Beers and Botswana Government finally somersaulted in their opposition in a rather strange turn of events due to intense public debate and concerted media onslaught in support of diamond value addition.

The change of heart was clearly opportunistic, self serving and mere face saving in the light of mounting public condemnation and debate. The real reason seemed to have been De Beers’ paranoia and the need to block its strongest and most feared and effective international rival billionaire, Lev Leviev from entering Botswana’s diamond beneficiation market.

This was after Leviev had made a compelling business case in support of beneficiation which in turn exposed De Beers and some of its harmful business practices against Botswana. De Beers apparently had not been acting in good faith in its opposition to diamond value add.

Indications are Botswana's diamond beneficiation is a poor and half hearted  plagiarism of billionaire Lev Leviev's original business model presented in 2004 at various media briefings in Gaborone through his gemologist consultant, Yianni Melas at a time when Botswana government and De Beers dismissed the idea as nonsense and unworkable. De Beers sought to keep Botswana out of diamond beneficiation for its own benefit.

Leviev was able to demonstrate how Botswana was probably being cheated and not realizing the true value of its rough diamonds because there was no independent way of grading and determining the price at the time. De Beers over decades was conflicted for having had a hand in the appointment of a sole diamond valuer to grade and price Botswana diamonds, which in turn were all sold to its wholly owned marketing arm in London- the Central Selling Organization.

It was a national shock to learn that Botswana’s leadership and the public for long did not know the true price and value of their diamonds in the absence of an independent and competent grading and valuing system as De Beers alone was a player and referee at the same time.

Leviev and his Greek consultant, Yianni Melas recommended for the first time that Botswana should engage the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to provide an independent and credible grading, valuing and pricing for her diamonds as well as provide training in all aspects of diamond beneficiation as a basis for building a strong foundation for the emerging beneficiation industry. 

Unable to find a coherent, cogent and convincing reason against Leviev’s proposal, the Botswana government, De Beers and their supporters in the media resorted to mudslinging, conspiracy theories and a smear campaign against Leviev and his supporters.

As a test case for those in doubt, Melas and Leviev had proposed for the first time, that Botswana set aside only ten per cent of her rough diamond production, a basis for a local diamond cutting and polishing segment to support an emerging jewelry manufacturing and retail industry.

Unlike local supporters of beneficiation who tended to appeal to nationalistic sentiments and rhetoric of patriotism, Leviev argued from an informed position as a practitioner with deep gemological knowledge, experience and understanding of the entire diamond value chain.

According to Melas, cutting and polishing segments were not meant to be stand alone but to be fully integrated through backward and forward linkages in the entire diamond value to move Botswana diamond industry a step further as a new and emerging diamond jewelry manufacturing and retail center in order to derive maximum returns from rough diamond production.

Melas and Leviev were advocating for branding Botswana internationally as a major diamond producer, by producing locally, "made in Botswana" an assortment of diamond jewelry, in turn creating new synergies and supporting new enterprises and other sectors of the economy such as air transport and tourism.

Leviev’s business case envisaged a scenario where international jewelry buyers would be persuaded through marketing and advertising to travel to Botswana to buy "made in Botswana" branded diamond jewelry at shops set up at major tourism and urban centers in Botswana like Kasane, Maun and Gaborone, at the same time, promoting the country as a premier retail, tourist, wedding and honeymoon destination.

For instance, for sentimental reasons, newlyweds were to be more pursued through advertising and marketing to prefer to travel to buy their piece of diamond jewelry where it is produced and probably wed and honeymoon at one of Botswana's world renowned and unique ecosystems such as various game reserves and the Okavango.

Other spinoffs of his business model was support for the development of hotel accommodation and bringing the huge investment and budget  in marketing, advertising and promotions of diamonds and their transactions to Botswana which is currently done overseas.

However instead of seriously considering Leviev’s proposal and according him the opportunity to spearhead the new beneficiation industry because he was more competent than most, Botswana missed the boat by making the wrong policy choices by succumbing to the hostility and rivalry from De Beers.

There was no cogent reason for Botswana to have turned down Leviev’s business case since he was more competent and world renowned to deliver because he was already active and successful at participating in all levels of the diamond chain worldwide.

Botswana’s beneficiation model has been overtaken by events, because the trend now is for greater consolidation and integration through backward and forward linkages of the entire segments of the diamond value chain. In fact other African countries and Industry players are no longer content with specializing in mining and selling diamonds raw at low prices but to add value to them and invest in the entire value chain.

Because of lack of transparency in the valuation /and pricing of diamonds generally, Leviev also recommended use of other independent authorities to improve transparency and create an electronic trading platforms for diamonds such as IDEX, Guaranteed Diamond Transactions (GDT system, Rapport Net and DIAMDAX, which collects and supplies polished diamonds price data to a number of firms and utilizes online exchange that offers online trading platforms for polished diamonds using real time spot prices.

Leviev has a track record of being De Beers' most feared competitor after pulling the rug under the  feet of De Beers on many occasions for lucrative diamond deals in Russia and successfully putting an end to De Beers' pervasive spell, dominance and gridlock hold on Southern Africa's diamond resources in Namibia and Angola. 

Leviev called De Beers' bluff by demonstrating that indeed beneficiation was indeed not only desirable and overdue but also feasible as demonstrated by his impeccable track record internationally at all levels of the diamond value chain. Leviev’s proposal to Botswana diamond value add was unprecedented, more detailed, ambitious and innovative than what Botswana and De Beers ultimately settled for.

Unlike Levier's well thought out proposal, a reluctant De Beers gave Botswana a rope to herself by choosing to concentrate not only on cutting and polishing, but in venturing into the equally risky area aggregation and selling of selling rough stones. This is so because every diamond valuation is subjective.

Two appraisers can differ in their valuations of the same diamond by as much as 30%. A key consideration in diamond pricing is a stone's grade – not a monetary value – which is by no means an exact science but a subjective consideration, so that the same diamond often receive markedly different grades from different laboratories, resulting in large variations in the prices of comparable stones.

Tracing the diamond value chain is not the only way of measuring how African diamond producers lose on revenue and miss vast opportunities to diamond processing countries overseas.

By way of illustration, Botswana produces an estimated 33% of global diamond production and 75% by value of all the global diamond production and profit enjoyed by De Beers. Jwaneng mine in Botswana is the largest diamond mine in the world by value and third largest by carat volume.

In 2015, industry sources reveal that it is estimated to produce 11.0 million carats valued at $2.4 billion. The second largest diamond producer by value and volume, Orapa also in Botswana is estimated to produce 12.0 million carats in 2015 or $1.2 billion worth of diamonds up from 12.1 million in 2013.

Rio Tinto owned Argyle mine in Australia is the world’s largest in terms of production volume and is estimated to produce 17.5 million carats in 2015 up from 9.2 million in 2014 and expected to reach 20 million carats per annum in 2016. But Arygle diamonds, like those in Zimbabwe’s Marange, are of relatively low quality and colour are expected to fetch much less revenue than both Jwaneng and Orapa.

Yet the so called world diamond hubs have no significant diamond mines but where most of the diamonds from diamond producing countries like Botswana are sold and fully beneficiated makes such diamonds producers a laughing stock of the world and a shame to present future generations.

For example there are six major diamond hubs which aggregate a variety of industry activities in a single venue, including diamond trading centers, dealers and sales offices of cutting and polishing companies.

Spot trading of rough and polished diamonds between a buyer and a seller takes place in the sales offices. By contrast, Botswana generates revenues roughly of between US$1-2 billion on average per annum from its massive diamond production, and yet the traditional hub of New York, produces $35 – 40 billion turnover per year, hosts about 2600 diamond businesses.

Dubai with no single diamond mine, makes $40 -45 billion per year, and provides services to more than 500 regional and international diamond companies and is the fastest growing hub in recent years, according to the Bain report and INDEX.

Antwerp generates $50-56 billion per year, hosts four major diamond exchanges and 1500 diamond companies and is the largest diamond hub in the world. Mumbai attracts between $25-30 billion in turnover, is home to 2500 diamond offices and handles 60% of diamond exports from India.

The diamond hubs of Dubai and Hong Kong are luring trade with zero taxes on imports and exports and by exploiting their proximity to the cutting and polishing industry in China and India, while the traditional hubs on Antwerp, New York and Tel Aviv have opted to specialize by focusing on high value stones, well developed infrastructure and favorable tax revenues.

Botswana's potential to grow into a major cutting and polishing center is therefore limited on the basis of the opinion of Bains and Company report.  It argues among others that the country's labour costs are high compared to those of China and India and its cutters lack expertise comparable to that of the craftsmen in Europe, Israel and the US.

The growth of Botswana's cutting industry may well be limited until it is better able to compete on cost with the industry in India and China. Cutting and polishing costs average range from approximately $100 per carat in Antwerp, New York and Tel Aviv, to $20 to $56 in China and Thailand and $10 to $30 in India.

However, Botswana still enjoys much competitive advantages to excel in diamond beneficiation across the entire value chain because unlike other cutting and polishing centers, she has access to secure supplies of rough diamonds and ability to resell.

But cost competition amongst cutters and polishers has intensified, making new investments in efficiency necessary while financing for working capital is growing harder and harder to obtain. Competition for access to key customers in jewelry manufacturing is heating up, while there is a never ending challenge of securing stones at prices that make economic sense. 

At the upstream end of the value chain, the key challenges for retailers are to secure a supply of diamonds jewelry appropriate to their customer base and ensure that the diamonds in their jewelry are ethically secured, forcing many firms into more consolidation and integration of the entire value chain, according to the Bains and Company report.

Moreover, Botswana beneficiation model in aggregation and the sale of rough diamonds has severe limitations because there is no spot market for rough or polished diamonds, which are primarily sold through private contracts, with no public disclosure of negotiated prices.

Diamond producers have a compelling motivation to realize the highest possible price as prices directly affect their profitability. This desire may negatively affect the profitability of cutters and polishers who are in need of secure access to supplies of rough diamonds and ability to resell at competitive prices.

Cost competition among cutters and polishers has intensified naming new investments in efficiency necessary at a time when financing for working capital growing harder and harder to obtain. Competition for access to key customers in jewelry manufacturing is heating up.

There is also a never ending challenge of securing access to stones that make economic sense on the evidence of the Bains and Company report.

Unlike Leviev's well thought out proposal, a reluctant De Beers has been calculative and seems to have given Botswana a rope to herself by choosing to concentrate not only on cutting and polishing, but in venturing into the equally risky area aggregation and selling of selling rough stones. This is so because every diamond valuation is subjective.

Two appraisers can differ in their valuations of the same diamond by as much as 30%. A key consideration in diamond pricing is a stone's grade – not a monetary value – which is by no means an exact science but a subjective consideration, so that the same diamond receives markedly different grades from different laboratories, resulting in large variation in the prices of comparable stones.

Although a substantial mark- up occurs at the cutting and polishing stages, it is only the countries and firms that are able to find the most cost effective, quality assured and increasingly safest means of doing so that will be globally competitive in the future.

Moreover, says Bains and Company, there is no spot market for rough or polished diamonds, which are primarily sold through private contracts, with no public disclosure of negotiated prices. Diamond producers have a compelling motivation to realize the highest possible price as prices directly affect their profitability.

This desire may negatively affect the profitability of cutters and polishers who are in need of secure access to supplies of rough diamonds and ability to resell at competitive prices. Cost competition among cutters and polishers has intensified naming new investments in efficiency necessary at a time when financing for working capital is growing harder and harder to obtain. Competition for access to key customers in jewelry manufacturing is heating up.

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Gambling Authority expects bumper attendance at IAGR conference

26th September 2023

With just four weeks to go, the Gambling Authority of Botswana has revealed that it is expecting a record attendance at the much anticipated International Association of Gambling Regulators (IAGR) Conference, which will be held in Botswana from 16 – 19 October 2023.

According to a communique from the IAGR, the Gambling Authority will most probably break the record in the number of accredited countries that will attend the conference in Botswana.

“We are on track to match and potentially exceed the incredible delegate turnout we saw in Melbourne last year,” read a statement from IAGR’s.

In its global reach alert, IAGR revealed a glimpse of jurisdictions that will be represented at the conference, among them Australia, Canada, Denmark, Japan, Jersey, Mauritius, United Kingdom, United States and Netherlands. African countries that have so far confirmed attendance include Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi.

Commenting on the expected bumper attendance, IAGR said the amazing diversity elevates the conference to a whole new level, which will enrich discussions with a tapestry of regulatory perspectives and insights.

Botswana won the bid to host this year’s conference last year in Melbourne, Australia. The IAGR consists of representatives from gaming and gambling regulatory organizations from around the world; with a common mission to advance the effectiveness and efficiency of gaming regulation.

According to Gambling Authority Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Peter Kesitilwe, the Authority is a member of the IAGR by dictates of the Gambling Act; which compels it to align with international organizations whose objectives are to regulate gambling, and build collaboration among regulators.

“The IAGR conference is held annually and hosted by different member jurisdictions. It provides opportunities for gambling and gaming regulators from around the world to engage, learn and network with industry peers through events, workshops, research, information sharing, and the development of best practices,” explained Kesitilwe.

Funding requirements for the conference are shared between IAGR, the host country and conference participants. The government of Botswana has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the Gambling Authority to host IAGR; as it is in line with its objectives of promoting the country as a Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism destination.

According to Kesitilwe, the conference is coordinated by a Technical Committee of IAGR; together with a Local Organizing Committee (LOC) that comprises of representatives from the Ministries of Trade, Tourism, Foreign Affairs, Botswana Police Service and other stakeholders.

“We promise to deliver this hugely important event and showcase the best that Botswana has to offer. In addition to the exchange of ideas and culture capital, the Organizing Committee will also ensure maximum benefits for the tourism, hotel and hospitality industry, entertainment, transport, telecommunications, vendors, hawkers of cultural artifacts,” said Kesitilwe.

As part of preparations to host IAGR2023, the Gambling Authority recently went on a benchmarking mission to Great Britain.

“What we learnt there can assist the Gambling Authority as we enter a new era of growth and expansion. The meeting also provided a timely opportunity to catch up on preparations for IAGR2023. We are ready to host the conference and we look forward to meeting other regulators from across the world to share best practice, discuss common challenges and tackle illegal gambling,” concluded Kesitilwe.

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BDC on Diversity and Inclusion in the Corporate Sector and Workplace

26th September 2023

In recent years, diversity and inclusion have emerged as crucial aspects of the corporate sector. Recognising the importance of inclusivity, the Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) has taken significant steps to signal its commitment to the inclusion of all regardless of age, gender, background. By implementing a comprehensive Diversity and Inclusion policy, BDC aims to create an environment that fosters equality, attracts top talent, and promotes creativity and innovation.

BDC has demonstrated its commitment to inclusion by crafting and implementing a bespoke Diversity and Inclusion policy. This policy recognises and values the differences within its workforce, striving to create a culture of equality. By fostering an environment where all employees feel respected and supported, BDC aims to attract and retain top talent, which in turn contributes to the organisation’s overall success.

The Corporation has implemented policies and strategies that promote diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. The Diversity and Inclusion policy emphasises the value and respect for employees from diverse backgrounds, creating an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive. By having this policy in place, BDC ensures that all employees are treated fairly and have equal opportunities for growth and development within the organisation.

In the realm of inclusivity, leading firms and companies have emerged as trailblazers, championing diversity and equity by implementing progressive policies and initiatives. These organisations have made significant strides in demonstrating their commitment to inclusivity through actions that support individuals with disabilities and foster work-life balance for all employees.

Microsoft actively recruits individuals with disabilities and fosters an inclusive workplace through accommodations and a dedicated resource group. Netflix offers generous paternity leave, Unilever supports surrogate parenthood and gender-neutral caregiver benefits, while IBM provides comprehensive adoption support. Companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook establish employee resource groups to amplify underrepresented voices. Adobe prioritises inclusive workplace design, and Accenture and Deloitte focus on diverse leadership representation. These companies set a powerful example, demonstrating the value of diversity and fostering a more inclusive corporate landscape.

Rising to the challenge, BDC has also taken several measures to respond to the different needs of its work force. These measures include fostering open and respectful communication, encouraging the formation of employee resource groups or affinity networks, and promoting diverse perspectives and contributions. The Corporation has also shown its commitment to inclusivity by recruiting persons with disabilities, providing paternity leave benefits, and recognising and supporting surrogate parenthood, primary caregiver benefits regardless of gender, as well as the adoption of children. These efforts demonstrate BDC’s progressive approach to embracing diversity and supporting employees in all aspects of their lives.

By so doing, The Corporation exemplifies the essence of progressiveness, embracing inclusivity as a core value. By championing diverse talent, providing supportive benefits, and fostering inclusive cultures, BDC is part of a movement that is shaping a future where every individual is valued and empowered.

Inclusion and diversity are not only moral imperatives but also strategic investments for success. BDC’s commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion, sets an example for other organisations in Botswana and beyond. By implementing policies and strategies that create an inclusive environment, celebrating diversity, and supporting employees from all walks of life, BDC paves the way for a more equitable and inclusive corporate sector in Botswana. Embracing diversity is not only the right thing to do; it also drives innovation, boosts employee morale, and contributes to the overall success of organisations.


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Sales, Profit up as Choppies new strategy pays off

26th September 2023

Choppies Enterprises Limited, a supermarket chain led by Botswana businessman Ramachandran Ottapathu, reported an increase in profit after tax which is up 3.4%, hence improving from P145 million realized in 2022, to P150 million in 2023.

The results demonstrate sustained increases in consumer demand, improved operational flexibility, efficiency, cost-effectiveness and despite stiff competition, the Group managed reduce its debt levels by paying off P263 million debt from the previous fiscal year.

The chain supermarket realized growth in Group retail sales which went up 6.5% to BWP6 433 million compared to P6 042 recorded in 2022. The growth is attributed to a broad presence across Botswana and a growing footprint in three other African countries, being South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to a recently financial results statement.

In Pula terms, gross profit grew by 4.0% to BWP 1 359 million (2022: BWP 1 307 million) despite the challenging economic environment. Botswana and Namibia marginally grew gross profit rates while rates in Zambia and Zimbabwe declined.

During the period under review, the group’s Group net cash generated from operating activities rose by 4.5% to P484 million, this is a significant improvement when compared to P463 million recorded in 2022. This segment was boosted by strong showing from Botswana and Namibia, which performed exceptionally despite the challenging trading conditions. Furthermore, it was driven by sixteen new stores coupled with price growth of 6.8%.

As a result of the robust financial performance, the group’s total assets increased from P1 886 million to P2 177 million, while retained losses decreased from P811 million to P664 million.

Meanwhile, the Group faced a demanding economic environment characterised by stubbornly high inflation, higher interest rates and unemployment, all of which continue to constrain consumer spending and the consumer’s ability to digest higher prices. Sales volumes were lower in many categories, exacerbated by competitor discounting, with cost pressures only partly recovered through price increases.


According to the audited results, the gross profit margin accordingly reduced to 21.1% from last year’s 21.6% due to higher supply chain costs, including fuel and managing prices in response to higher cost inflation and competitor discounting.


Furthermore, while expenses increased 5.1% excluding the depreciation restatement, expenses grew 9.8% partly due to new stores and inflation. Foreign exchange losses on lease liabilities of P31 million (against a gain of P28 million last year) were partly offset by foreign exchange gains on Zimbabwean legacy debt receipts of P18 million (2022: BWP15 million).


Operating profit (EBIT) reduced by 1.8% from BWP 279 million to BWP 274 million whilst Adjusted EBIT, which excludes foreign exchange gains and losses on lease liabilities, movements in credit loss allowances, Zimbabwean legacy debt receipts and the reassessment of depreciation, reduced by 7.5% as costs grew faster than gross profit.




According to the Choppies Enterprises financial statement commentary, the Group continues to manage its cash resources and liquidity prudently with a reduction of P132 million in debt with P87 million paid out of internally generated funds and the balance of P45 million paid out of the proceeds of the rights issue.

In addition, capital expenditure increased to P185 million when compared to 2022 fiscal year which had recorded P122 million. This was a result of the Group strategy to invest in new stores and maintaining the distribution fleet.

Choppies Enterprises raised BWP50 million from leases to fund the fleet, an improvement because in 2022 only P36 million was raised.

Despite the growth in sales, inflation and new stores, Choppies Enterprises inventory reduced by P20 million helped by more stable global supply and the benefits of implementing an inventory optimisation system.

Finally, commentary from the Choppies Enterprises Group observes that as the economies in which the Group operates recover and the new stores reach full potential, an improvement in margins is expected. “With a value proposition that resonates with customers and with the cost of everyday items still stubbornly high in too many categories, more customers are choosing Choppies for the value and assortment we are known for. While we have strong and resilient brands, affordability is a growing constraint for consumers, limiting their ability to digest higher prices,” reads a commentary on the Group’s Financial statement.

Choppies Enterprises Limited (“the Company”) is a Botswana-based investment holding company operating in the retail sector in Southern Africa. Dual-listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange (“BSE”) and Johannesburg Stock Exchange (“JSE”), its are food and general merchandise retailing as well as financial service transactions supported by centralised distribution channels through distribution and logistical support centres. Each week, approximately 2.0 million customers visit 177 stores under five formats in four countries. With annual revenue of more than BWP6 billion, Choppies employs 10 000 people and is the largest grocery retailer in Southern Africa, outside of South Africa.



On 19 July 2023, Choppies acquired 76% (seventy-six percent) of the Kamoso Group for BWP2.00 (two Pula) and took cession of shareholders’ loans to the value of BWP22 million. The Botswana Development Corporation (BDC) will retain its 24% stake.

This acquisition will take Choppies to become a P8 billion business in revenue with 11 000 employees and 274 retail stores.




According to the financial results, Botswana experienced sales growth to BWP4 459 million an improvement from P4 209 million recorded in 2022. This was supported by volume growth from new stores and double-digit price inflation. Sales from Botswana increased by 5.9% and like-for-like sales growth was 2.2%, as the business continued to show strong resilience in an increasingly challenging economic environment. The Botswana economy continues to experience elevated inflation, high unemployment, and low economic growth.


EBITDA grew 5.8% and adjusted EBITDA was flat on last year. The performance for the second half was much stronger than in the first half as our strategies, leadership and inventory optimisation system have started to come to fruition.


As for the Rest of Africa being Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe sales increased by 7.7% to P 1 974 million, yet another improvement from 2022, which had realized P1 833 million sales. The increase was driven by the addition of nine new stores, inflationary increases in Zimbabwe and Zambia and volume growth in Namibia and Zambia. “However, this was offset by a very weak Zimbabwean Dollar resulting in Zimbabwe’s Pula sales declining by 48.3%.”


Meanwhile Namibia has successfully turned around with sales growth of 60.0% and like-for-like sales growth of 14.4%. Five new stores were opened during the year. EBITDA grew 140% with EBIT loss reducing from BWP9 million to BWP2 million. Adjusted EBIT, excluding the depreciation reassessment, reduced from BWP9 million to BWP6 million.


Connectedly, Zambia continues to grow with sales up 44.7% and like-for-like sales growth of 33.3%. Three new stores were opened during the year. While EBITDA declined by 26.4% due to the foreign exchange loss on the lease liability, adjusted EBITDA grew 27.1%. Adjusted EBIT declined marginally at 2.6%. Choppies Enterprises Directors are confident that Zambia will generate taxable profits in the foreseeable future.


Lastly in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwean Dollar (ZWL) has significantly weakened especially in the last two months of the financial year. As a result of the above mentioned factors, Pula sales declined by 48.3%. EBIT and EBITDA declined by 151.6% and 125.5% respectively as cost inflation reduced margins. Adjusted EBIT and adjusted EBITDA declined 133.3% and 108.1% respectively.
















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