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New mall brave attempt to breathe life into Lobatse

Once one of the most prominent and respectable metropolitan towns in the colonial era, with architectural designs to ravel visitors, Lobatse was the hub of growth and development. Colonizers invested in it, built it and became a vocal point of trade.  

Such was the case of Lobatse; a legendary 123 year old town which was nearly made this country’s capital city, failed to hang onto the economic value of the 66 year old beef abattoir that was built by Botswana’s colonial master, subsequently becoming a ghost town. One of the reasons why Lobatse died is because the beef abattoir, now known as Botswana Meat Commission (BMC), is not doing well financially and its workers left the town more than a decade ago leaving the economic status of the town moribund.

But someone has hope that the town of Lobatse will somehow revive and become what the colonialists had in mind more than a century ago. A daring and brave property investment company; Prime Time is building a P116 million mall in Lobatse at Lot 14076, situated at the town’s main bus terminal.  The shopping mall is to be known as Lobatse Junction mall.

According to Botswana Stock Exchange listed Prime Time, it has found a niche in a town which has never seen new shopping centre buildings for 15 years. Lobatse holds a small population of close to 30 000, but Prime Time is hopeful that, “a steady stream of traffic passing through it as a border town (border to economic giant and biggest trading partner to Botswana, South Africa) and its position on the A1 as strategic.

“Current retail provision is concentrated in a few small malls, stand-alone units and traditional high street retail. Existing offerings are therefore generally dated with tenants holding onto premises due to a lack of other options in the market. New entrants to the Lobatse market are also frustrated by a lack of available premises,” said Prime Time justifying the idea of a mall in Lobatse and why it should be in high demand.

But this was not the first time the company invested in Lobatse and its first investment never lived up to expectations as it seemed to be swallowed or overshadowed by the ghost town. According to Prime Time, the Hillside Mall property is currently subject to a shortening ground lease and will diminish in value as the lease runs down. However, according to Prime Time, Lobatse Junction mall acquisition will protect the company’s position as a major player in the retail market in Lobatse.

According to independent valuer Benedict Kgosilentswe who valued the mall property on 13 September 2019, the 4.4204 Ha land is going to be developed with a shopping complex measuring approximately 8,805 m2. Prime Time said the property measures 4.42 hectares and is held on a 30-year lease from Lobatse Town Council with an option to renew for a period of a further 30 years. According to Kgosilentswe, the land use specifies “Mixed Use (Commercial and Civic and Community)”.

“Spar will be the anchor tenant to occupy about 1,900m2, the promoter/developer will also sign up a mixture of National and South African National stores. At the time of our survey, construction of the mall had not yet commenced,” said Kgosilentswe, a Chartered Surveyor with more than 20 years’ experience undertaking valuations of fixed property assets, commercial property valuation, agency and consultancy.

Tenants expected to join major tenant Spar are; Botswana Life, BBS, Ackermans, PEP, Jet, Clicks and Bradlows. “The proposed shopping complex will comprise a parade of 30 retail units, 10 kiosks, 15 small informal traders’ kiosks, 20 larger informal traders’ kiosks and two ATM kiosks to have 263 surface car parking bays, 14 bicycle parking bays,” said Kgosilentswe.

“I have inspected signed leases and expressions of interest and can confirm tenant demand for leasing space at the property has been exceptionally strong. The majority of interest from tenants is from regional and national players which will provide a secure income stream,” said Kgosilentswe. Kgosilentswe said Lobatse lacks high quality retail provision which will be addressed by Lobatse Junction. He said the mall is excellently located and will benefit from the busy traffic created by the bus and railway stations.

The valuer of Lobatse Junction mall also said Time Projects is providing Prime Time with a rental guarantee of 8 percent which will protect the company’s return on investment during the centre’s first year of operation, which can often be turbulent as tenants bed down.
Prime Time Linked Unitholders, who holds more than 5 percent of the issued Linked Units are Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) with 77,621,910 units which is 31.72 percent, Linwood Services with 16. 36 percent, Tati Company with 22, 873, 86 which is 9.35 percent and Debswana Pension Fund with 7.99 percent.

Primetime Unitholders to be paid 8.32 thebe on March

For the year ended 31 August 2019 Primetime had final interest distribution comprising of interest of 2.00 thebe per linked unit and it has been declared payable. The 2.00 thebe declared last year will be added into an interim interest distribution comprising interest of 6.32 thebe per linked unit in respect of the year ended 31 August 2020 (covering the 4-month period to 31 December 2019) which has been declared payable. Next month on the 23th unitholders will be paid a total of 8.32 thebe per linked unit (gross).

Linked unitholders or investors have been told that the company has started road shows to institutional investors regarding a fund raising through a rights issue and issuance of further debt instruments under the Company’s existing domestic medium term bond programme. According to Primetime’s latest cautionary announcement, the company is raising funds “to support its continuing growth strategy.”

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Botswana on high red alert as AML joins Covid-19 to plague mankind

21st September 2020
Botswana-on-high-alert-as-AML-joins-Covid-19-to-plague-mankind-

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.

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Finance Committee cautions Gov’t against imprudent raising of debt levels

21st September 2020
Finance Committe Chairman: Thapelo Letsholo

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.

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Gov’t Investment Account drying up fast!  

21st September 2020
Dr Matsheka

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”

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