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Trans Kalahari Rail line is on track – Mokaila

The Governments of Botswana and Namibia a determined to see through, the construction of the Trans Kahalari railway line, despite concerns raised in some quarters over its viability.


Low oil prices have kept inflation low, taking down with it commodity prices such as coal, of which the Trans Kalahari railway line are pivoted on.


Economists have raised the alarm on the viability of the railway due to the depressed coal prices globally. Coal prices currently hover at around US$50 per tonne.


 “The construction of TKR is increasingly unlikely with current price levels (of coal) prohibitive, narrowing the window of opportunity,” said Bogolo Kenewendo from eConsult, earlier this year.


The other concerns raised are that of major buyer markets such as China and India being under pressure from environmental lobbyists to switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives.


Minister Mokaila said that there are possibilities of the railway line being a multi commodity transit option hence the feasibility of coal will not ring the death knell on the whole project.


The pre feasibility study by Aurecon, handed over to Government in January also revealed that The efficiency of the railway line coal supply chain is expected to be maximized by Copper resources in North West Botswana identified to boost TKR viability, Manganese ore resources in southern Botswana identified to add to the viability of the TKR. Mineral resources along the TKR corridor in Namibia also have the ability to further improve the viability of the TKR.


“The railway line can even be a people carrier,” said Mokaila emphatically. Mokaila said the TKR office will be opened next month and staff will be hired. The next step in the process is to perform bankable feasibility study for the project.


Meanwhile, coal explorers in Botswana are reported to be pressing ahead with plans to start production and use existing rail capacity to ports in South Africa and Mozambique instead of waiting for a line being built to Namibia, according to statements attributed to the Botswana Chamber of Mines.


Minister Mokaila revealed at a press conference held on Thursday this week that, he held a meeting with his Zimbabwean counterpart recently where they discussed the possibility of carrying 10 billion tons of coal on the Zimbabwean railway line.


On why there are no set timelines for the project, Mokaila said that cross national projects are difficult because of different sets of legislation that need to be harmonized as well as events that cannot be controlled such as elections that were held in Namibia, which meant that the newly appointed Executive could not deal with the railway line issues at all.


The railway line is expected to unlock the monetisation of Botswana’s coal resources, which are seen as a way to augment the depleting diamond resources that have been the mainstay of the country’s economy.


 “There are a few things that need ironing out such as the funding by both governments but President Khama made it very clear to me that he wanted the project to start as soon as possible,” Namibia’s High Commissioner to Botswana, Mbapeua Muvangua, recently after a visit to Office of the President in Gaborone. “As we all know this project involves other stakeholders that need consultations but I am very confident the project is on track,” added Muvangua.


 “The office will be staffed by seconded staff from both parties,” the National Planning Commission told Namibian media earlier this year.


He said the project is being developed through a public-private partnership based on a DBOOT contractual arrangement whereby developer undertakes the financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the project.


“The developer operates the project over the concession period to recover its investment, operating and maintenance expenses for the project under such tariff structure as may be agreed upon in the concession agreement or the specific project regulatory framework; and developer transfers the project at the end of the concession period to the jointly owned company, which is composed of government agencies from both parties responsible for rail in their countries,” he explained.


Early last year in Walvis Bay, a bilateral agreement was signed between the governments of Namibia and Botswana on the development of the Trans-Kalahari railway.


Also, an agreement on the Trans-Kalahari project management office was signed in Gaborone and it was agreed that the office would be in Windhoek.


The 1 500km railway line will traverse the vast semi-arid, sandy savannah of the Kalahari desert from Botswana to Namibia, with the sole benefit of connecting the landlocked Botswana to Namibia’s port of Walvis Bay, thus unlocking the value of coal mining in Botswana and power generation in the region.


The railway line will mirror the existing Trans-Kalahari Highway or corridor, which links Botswana to  Walvis Bay, and will stretch 1 900km from Walvis Bay through Windhoek, Gaborone in Botswana and Johannesburg to Pretoria in South Africa.


Aurecon, the Australian project consultant, has given the resultant capital expenditure costs at a total of USD14.2 billion ( P140 billion), comprising USD8.6 billion for electrified rail, and USD1.9 billion for above rail, and USD3.6 billion for the port.

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Pula smiles at COVID-19 vaccine

25th November 2020
COVID-19 vaccine

A squeaky and glittering metaphoric smile was the look reflected from the Pula against the greenback this week and money market researchers lean this on optimism following Monday’s announcement of another Covid-19 vaccine which is said to have boosted emerging market economies.

With other emerging market currencies, the Pula too reacted to optimism and fanfare on the new Covid-19 vaccine against the weakening US dollar which has been losing its shine since the uncertainty laden US elections.

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Choppies high on JSE rollercoaster volatility

25th November 2020
CHOPPIES

After bouncing back into the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) last week Friday, following a year of being in the freezer, the Choppies stock started this week with much fluidity.

Choppies was suspended in both the Botswana Stock Exchange and its secondary listing at the JSE for failure to publish financial results. Choppies suspension on Botswana Stock Exchange was lifted on 27 July 2020. On Friday last week, when suspension was being lifted, Choppies explained that this came into fruition “following extensive engagement with the JSE.”

Choppies stock, prior to suspension, hit a mammoth decline in value of more than 60 percent, especially in September 2018. Waking from a 24 month freezer, last week the Choppies share price was at R0.64 and the stock did not make any movement.

However, Monday was the day when Choppies stock moved vibrantly, albeit volatile. Choppies’ value was on a high volatile mood on Monday, reaching highs of 200 percent. At noon, the same Monday, the Choppies share had reached R1.05. Before taking an uphill movement, Choppies stock slightly slipped by 2 cents. But the Choppies share rode up high and by lunch time the stock had reached the day’s summit of R2.00 and that was at 13:30 when investors were buying the stock for lunch.

The same eventful Monday saw gloom on the faces of Choppies rivals, when Choppies gained by 220.31 percent around lunch time its rivals in the JSE Food & Drug Retailers sector were licking wounds. Spar lost 2.94 percent, Pick Pay fell by 2.43 percent, Shoprite 7.52 percent and Dis-Chem 1.98 percent. The only gainer was Clicks by a paltry 0.51 percent.

In an interview with BusinessPost, Choppies sponsors at the JSE PSG Capital Managing Director Johan Holtzhausen explained that the retailer’s stock was in high demand after a long suspension. He said when a company list or a suspension is lifted the market needs to find itself on the pricing of the share.

“Initially when the suspension was lifted there were more buyers than sellers. As far as we could see this created a shortage of shares so to speak and resulted in the price at which the shares traded going to R1.20 and eventually R2.05 before finding its level around R0.80 sent from a JSE perspective.

This is marked dynamics and reflect that there are investors that are positive about the stock in the long run. This is a snapshot over a short period and one requires a longer period to draw further conclusions,” said Holtzhausen in an interview talking about the Choppies stock.

On Monday this week where the Choppies value grew by 200 percent, the stock took a turn looking down, closing the day at R0.87 from a high of R2.00. According to local stockbroker Motswedi Securities on Monday while there was no movement by Choppies in the local stock exchange as the retailer appeared on the board as 141,000 shares traded at P0.60 each.

However in Choppies’ secondary listing the stock price rallied to over 200 percent during intraday trading on Monday before losing steam and declining to around R0.87 share.

Before press yesterday Choppies opened the market with the stock starting the day at R0.80 then went flat for few hours before taking a slide downward, dropping 5 cents in 30 minutes. Choppies then went flat at R0.75 for 50 minutes yesterday before going up at 10:20 am where it nearly recovered the open day price of 80 cents, but was shy of 1 cent. From 79 cents the price went flat until noon.

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Foschini-Jet merger, a class and rivalry conundrum dissection

25th November 2020
Foschini

Competition and Consumer Authority (CCA) has revealed that in its assessment of the Jet take over by Foschini, there were considerations on possible market rivalry and a clash in targeted classes.

According to a merger decision notice seen by this publication this week, high considerations were made to ensure that Foschini’s takeover of Jet is not anyhow an elimination of rivalry or competition or if the two entities; the targeted and the acquiring enterprise serves the same class of customers or offer the same products, to elude the anti-trust issues or a stretch of monopoly.

The two entities are South African retailers whose services stretched to Botswana shores.  Last month local anti-trust body, CCA, received an acquisition proposal from South African clothing retailer, Foschini, stating their intentions to take-over Jet.

South African government’s Business Rescue Practitioners earlier this year after finding out that Jet’s mother company, Edcon, is falling apart, made a decision that Foschini can buy Jet for R480 million. This means that Foschini will add Jet to its portfolio of 30 retail brands that trade in clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, homeware, cell phones, and technology products from value to upper market segments throughout more than 4085 outlets in 32 countries on five continents.

However the main headache for the CCA decision which was released this week, is distinguishing the targeted and the acquiring entity businesses and services.

When doing a ‘Competitive Analysis and Public Interest’ assessment, CCA is said to have discovered that Foschini is classified as a “standard retailer” which targets middle-to-upper income consumers and it competes with stores such as; Truworths and Woolworths. The targeted entity, Jet, is on the lower league when compared to its acquirer, it serves customers of lower classes and is regarded as a discount/value retailer targeting lower income consumers or a mass market. This makes Jet to be in direct competition with Ackermans, Pepkor, Cash Bazaar and Mr Price.

“Therefore, a narrower view of the market is that Foschini through its stores trading in Botswana is not a close competitor to Jet. Additionally, there exist other major rivals who will continue to exercise competitive constraints on the merged enterprise post-merger,” concluded CCA this month.

The anti-trust body continued to explain that in terms of the Acquisition of a Dominant Position, the analysis shows that the acquisition of the target business by Foschini Botswana will result in an insignificant combined market share in the relevant market.

This made CCA reach to a conclusion that there is no case of an acquisition of a dominant position in the market under consideration or any other market on the account of the proposed transaction.

What supports the merger according to CCA is that it is in compliance with regards to ‘Public Interest Considerations’ because the findings of the assessment revealed that the transaction is as a result of the need for a Business Rescue by the target enterprise. This is so because in the event that the proposed transaction fails, it will translate into the loss of the employment positions at the target business.

“On that note the Authority (CCA) found it necessary to ensure that the proposed merger does not result in any retrenchments or redundancies. In light of this, the assessment revealed the critical need to protect the employees of the merged entity from possible merger specific retrenchments/ redundancies,” said CCA.

Before making a determination that the recently proposed transaction is not likely to result in the prevention or substantial lessening of competition or endanger the continuity of the services offered in the relevant market, CCA said it then moved into a concern for public interest which is a protection enshrined in the Competition Act of 2018.

CCA’s concern was mostly loss of livelihood or employment by 126 Batswana workers at Jet stores, stating that possible retrenchments or redundancies may arise as a result of implementation of the proposed merger.

Much to the desire of trade union or labour movements in Botswana and across Southern Africa where the Jet stores are stemmed-who also raised concerns about the retail’s workers job security- CCA subjects Foschini to keep the target entity 126 workers.

“There shall be no merger specific retrenchments or redundancies that may affect the employees of the merged enterprises. For clarity, merger specific retrenchments or redundancies do not include (the list is not exhaustive): i. voluntary retrenchment and/or voluntary separation arrangements; ii. Voluntary early retirement packages; iii. Unreasonable refusals to be redeployed; iv. Resignations or retirements in the ordinary course of business; v. retrenchments lawfully effected for operational requirements unrelated to the Merger; and vi. Terminations in the ordinary course of business, including but not limited to, dismissals as a result of misconduct or poor performance,” said CCA.

CCA also orders that Foschini informs it about all the details of 126 Jet employees within thirty (30) days of the merger approval date. CCA should also know information of when Foschini is implementing the merger, within 30 days of the approval date.

Other conditions include Foschini sharing a copy of the conditions of approval to all employees of the Jet or their respective representatives within ten (10) days of the approval date.

“Should vacancies arise in the target, the merged enterprise shall consider previous employment at one of the non-transferring Jet stores to be a positive factor to be taken into account in the consideration of offering potential employment,” said CCA.

According to CCA, in cases of any job losses, for the Authority to assess whether the retrenchments or redundancies are merger specific, at least three months before (to the extent that this deadline can be practically achieved and in terms of the prevailing and legally required employment practices) any retrenchments or redundancies are to take place, inform the Authority of:  i. The intended retrenchments; ii. The reasons for the retrenchments; iii. The number and categories of employees affected; iv. The expected date of the retrenchments.

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