Despite slight decrease in Debswana’s total production in 2019, owing to trimmed output in Orapa, Botswana’s flagship mining company continued to rubberstamp its position in Global rough diamond production.
The over 50 years old mining giant accounted for more than 75 % of De Beers’s global diamond production for the year 2019. A year that was characterized by some of the worst global market challenges since 2008/9 global financial crises. This information is contained in Anglo American PLC’s 2019 full year financial report released this week; Anglo is De Beers Group parent company. According to figures highlighted in the report, De Beers’s production closed the year at just over 30.7 million carats, a significant decline from the 35.2 million carats achieved in 2018.
Much of De Beers total production decline during the year was attributable to 59 % decrease of production at South Africa’s Venetia Mine, which is currently on transition from open pit to underground mining. Of the 30.8 million carat output, Debswana brought to the table over 23.25 million carats. Though this is a slight decline from the 24.13 million carats achieved in 2018, significant yearend decline in South Africa and other De Beers operations in Namibia and Canada translated into Botswana’s production accounting for over 75.4 % of the De Beers Group total global output for the year.
This mirrored a significant increase in Botswana’s percentage contribution into De Beers global basket when compared to 68 .36 % in 2018 where Debswana brought in over 24 million carats of the 35.2 million carats Group total output. However output at Debswana itself declined by 4 % to 23.3 million carats from 24.1 million carats in 2018. This slight decrease in Debswana production is attributable to 12% decline at Orapa which came as a result of delay in infrastructure project and expected lower grades.
Orapa which produces some of the world’s best industrial diamonds slowed down to 10.8 million carats compared to 12.2 million carats achieved in 2018. The decline at Orapa regime which comprises of the Orapa ,Letlhakane & Damtshaa Mines, was however partly offset by 5 % increase at Jwaneng Mine, the world‘s richest by value.The “Prince of Mines” as popularly known in the corridors of the lucrative diamond mining business roared to a staggering 12.5 million carats beating the previous year end of 11.9 million carats.
OTHER DE BEERS MINES
In the overall, De Beers Rough diamond production decreased by 13% primarily driven by the reduction in South Africa. While trading conditions have improved somewhat since the third quarter of the year, production was lower in response to softer rough diamond demand conditions compared with 2018. Production decreased by 59% to 1.9 million carats from 4.7 million carats as the mining sequence at the Venetia open pit had a higher waste to ore ratio as it moves into its final years, prior to the transition to underground.
Production at Voorspoed ceased following the operation being placed onto care and maintenance in the final quarter of 2018. In Canada, production decreased by 13% to 3.9 million carats against 4.5 million carats as Victor reached the end of its life during the second quarter of 2019, resulting in a 55% decrease in output to 0.4 million carats against 0.9 million carats achieved in 2018. Gahcho Kué output remained flat at 3.5 million carats against the same in the prior year, with a planned grade reduction offset by strong plant performance.
Next door in Namibia where De Beers runs similar shareholding operation like Botswana arrangement, production decreased by 15% to 1.7 million carats from 2.0 million carats in 2018. Output from the marine operation under DebMarine outfit declined by 10% owing to routine planned maintenance for the Mafuta vessel.
NamDeb‘s inland operations production decreased by 29% to 0.4 million carats from 0.6 million carats registered in 2018. This was predominately as a result of placing Elizabeth Bay onto care and maintenance in December 2018. In September 2019, the sale of Elizabeth Bay was announced.
De Beers total revenue decreased by 24% to $4.6 billion from $6.1 billion in 2018. This was attributable to rough diamond sales falling by 26% to $4.0 billion from 2018’s sales figure of $5.4 billion, Significantly this was due to 8% decrease in consolidated rough diamond sales volumes to 29.2 million carats from 31.7 million carats and a 20% reduction in average realised price to $137 per carat from $171 per carat in 2018.
Anglo reports that the reduction in realised price was driven by a 6% decline in the average rough price index and from a lower value mix of diamonds sold, in response to the weaker demand for higher value diamonds. In response to the challenging midstream trading environment, De Beers offered increased supply flexibility to Sightholders and sold a lower value and volume of rough diamonds to the midstream, while increasing marketing expenditure to $178 million from $166 million in 2018, to further drive consumer demand for diamond jewellery.
Underlying Earnings Before Interest , Tax , Depreciation and Amortisation( EBITDA) decreased by 55% to $558 million from $1,245 million owing to lower sales volumes, a lower value sales mix which curtailed mining margins, and the lower rough price index which reduced margins in the trading business. However Anglo says profitability in the mining business was supported by improved efficiencies and cost savings.
“Although there was a 13% decline in production in response to weaker demand, with the business being impacted by mining cost inflation in southern Africa, unit cost increases were limited to 5%” Of the $558 million EBITDA, Botswana alone brought in $385 million with rough diamonds from Debswana having sold at $139 per carat on average. De Beers Group owns 50 % Of Debswana, and Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB).
De Beers Group’s other worldwide interest spans into the lucrative midstream and downstream space with business such as Foevermark, the Group’s jewelry retail outfit, ElementSix, the industrial technology and manufacturing company, as well as LightBox the newly established synthetic diamonds brand operating from United States. Botswana Government owns 15 % of De Beers Group, the remaining 85 % is owned by Anglo American PLC.
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.
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.
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.