Canadian based top gem producer Lucara Diamond Corporation, which wholly owns Botswana’s Karowe Mine, has decided to hold onto some of its dividends despite impressive revenue in 2019 coupled with a successful year of cost containment and production efficiency.
According to the company‘s financial results for the year ended 31st December 2019 released this week, the multi-listed rare gem behemoth has suspended the quarterly dividend payment of C$0.025 per share, effective as of Q4 2019. In November 2019, the company announced the results of a positive feasibility study for development of an underground mine at its 100 percent owned Karowe Diamond Mine.
Information from Vancouver, Canada reveals that concurrently with the announcement of the feasibility study, Lucara’s Board of Directors determined that it would be in the best interest of the company and its shareholders to suspend the quarterly dividend payment of C$0.025 per share, effective as of Q4 2019. During the first three quarters of 2019, Lucara paid a CA$0.025 quarterly dividend, returning $22.4 million, CA$0.075 per share to shareholders in 2019, compared to a dividend pay-out of $30.3 million or CA$0.10 per share in 2018.
Since inception in June 2014, Lucara has paid $271 million in dividends to its shareholders. According to Lucara, the Karowe underground feasibility study demonstrated the potential to extend the mine life to 2040, while generating significant economic benefits for the company, its shareholders, employees, the communities surrounding the mine and the government of Botswana.
Furthermore, Lucara noted that after the mine expansion was given the green light, the Board of Directors decided to re-direct the company’s available cash to the early works of the underground including detailed engineering, procurement initiatives and project financing. The underground mining operation combined with the current open pit mining is expected to yield production figures of up to 7.8 million carats out to 2040 and $5.25 billion in Gross Revenue. These activities will be funded from operating cash-flow in 2020, under a Board approved budget of up to $53 million (over P587 million).
YEAR END PERFORMANCE
During the year 2019 Lucara raked in $192.5 million in revenues, mirroring 8 percent increase from the 2018 figure of $176.2 million, beating the 2019 global diamond market downturn and the company’s guidance of $170 million to $180 million. Karowe Mine continued on its upward trajectory of unearthing rare diamonds in unprecedented carat weight and value. Single diamonds in excess of 10.8 carats from the mine’s direct milling ore reached heights of 786 stones totalling 24,424 carats recovered, including 31 diamonds in excess of 100 carats, of which 2 stones were in excess of 300 carats.
This included the historic 1,758ct Sewelô diamond which was recovered in April 2019. Specials were also recovered in treatment of historic, pre-XRT recovery tailings, including a 375 carat stone in Q3 2019. Operating cash costs for the year ended December 31, 2019 were $31.88 per tonne processed down from 2018’s $39.92 per tonne processed. This was also slightly lower than the full year forecast cash cost of $32-$37 per tonne processed, indicative of Lucara’s fruitful cost containment drive.
Lucara explained in the financial results that operating cash cost per tonne processed was positively impacted by a combination of higher tonnes processed and lower overall tonnes mined as planned in 2019 following the completion of a waste stripping campaign in 2018. “Cost optimisation initiatives and favourable foreign exchange contributed to the lower operating cash cost per tonne compared to guidance. We expect operating cash costs for 2020 to continue to trend between $32-$36 per tonne processed” said Company Directors this week.
Adjusted EBITDA ended the year at $73.1 million as compared to adjusted EBITDA for the same period in 2018 of $60.5 million mirroring and increase of 21 percent. Further highlights indicate that Net income for the year ended December 31, 2019 was $12.7 million compared to net income of $11.7 million in 2018. As at December 31, 2019, Lucara had cash and cash equivalents of $11.2 million, sitting on approximately P120 million with no debt. In 2019, the company invested $29.0 million in the business, primarily towards the completion of an underground feasibility study, and, improvements to plant and equipment to maximise carat recoveries.
Clara, Lucara’s digital diamond trading and sales platform completed its first year of operations with a total of 15 sales, 27 customers and volume transacted of $8.4 million. Development activities were completed under budget at $0.4 million in 2019. Lucara says Clara is poised to achieve significant growth in 2020 with the addition of further customers and third-party production.
Commenting on the performance for the year, Lucara President and Chief Executive Officer, Eira Thomas noted that the company’s strong operating results for 2019 reflect Lucara’s continued focus on safe, reliable operations that have delivered increased productivity at lower costs. Thomas explained that this provides a solid foundation to support Lucara’s next stage of growth, an underground expansion at Karowe which has the potential to extend the mine life to 2040, add net cash flow of $1.22 billion and gross revenues of $5.25 billion.
“Our second business, Clara, continues to deliver solid results and is on track to steadily grow third party supply to the platform over the course of the coming year. In 2019 Lucara also continued to explore ways and means to maximise the value it receives for its diamonds,” she said. Thomas further added that Lucara will in the year 2020 and going forward enter into cutting edge partnerships to explore opportunities in the horizon.
“Our ground-breaking agreement with Louis Vuitton in January 2020 is another example of how we are delivering on this commitment. Through this agreement, we will demonstrate that greater collaboration within the supply chain can unlock value and increase transparency from mine to consumer,” she said.
Newly established wholly indigenous citizen owned retail chain Payless Retail (PTY) Ltd is set to partake in the first session of Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE)’s Tshipidi Mentorship Program (TMP) on Monday June 29th.
The TMP aims to train and capacitate SMEs so they can operate as corporates and eventually list on the local bourse. According to local bourse, BSE, the program aims to provide practical training to potential issuers through a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.
Payless Retail is a newly established supermarket chain whose mission is to become a convenient one-stop shopping destination as it is one of the Botswana oldest retailing brands. It started off as Corner Supermarket in January 1976, and to date boasts of nine stores in, among others, Gaborone, Mochudi, Molepolole and Tlokweng. Payless was recently acquired by Ellis Retail Group, which is led by businessman Elliot Moshoke.
The takeover catapulted Ellis Retail to the envious position of being the first wholly indigenous owned major retail chain. “We jumped at this opportunity because it gave us a chance to prove to Batswana that the retail business is open and lucrative.”
The objective is to create a proudly Botswana retail chain that fully supports our national Vision, economic development and citizen economic empowerment ambitions,” Moshoke told BusinessPost.
He further emphasized that Batswana are capable and able to run large scale businesses hence they need to accept invite foreign investors who will come in to support us not take the business. “Our win as Payless in the Fast Moving Consumer goods (FMCG) industry is a win for Batswana. We need their support in this difficult and challenging journey.
As you are aware, Payless is the only retail chain in the hands of Batswana ba Sekei. We need to take advantage of this to generate employment and create small businesses in retail and Agri businesses,” he explained.
The retailer has also partnered with Botswana Investment & Trade Center (BITC) on their #PushaBW campaign with a view to initiating earnest engagement with local producers to iron out bottlenecks and ensure seamless trading.
“Local producers have to be part of the phenomenal growth of the Payless brand. This will in turn facilitate employment creation and economic growth. We did this because we have the utmost respect for local manufacturers and producers,” he mentioned.
Payless is currently restocking all of its stores; a development that Moshoke says is testament to the retailer’s commitment to growing the brand and ensuring continuity of business. He further revealed that renowned retail suppliers like PST and CA Sales have reignited their trust in Payless, opening their doors for Payless as they have faith in the retailer’s new owners.
The takeover has reportedly saved more than 200 jobs and gave a new lease of life to the previously fledging Payless brand. According to a press release from the management team, the Payless work forces are also extremely excited about what the future holds. The TMP is a comprehensive and interactive program that covers the key themes necessary to position a company to list on the BSE.
The program is administered by experts within the listing ecosystem and seeks to bring the potential issuers closer to the listings advisers, investors and leaders of already listed companies. “As a strategic initiative, the BSE decided to set up this mentorship program in a bid to assist SMEs to strategize, corporatize and acclimatize in order to list to access equity finance and expand operations,” said the BSE.
The TMP will avail to SMEs practical insights, knowledge and feedback from institutional investors, increased awareness of the BSE listing requirements as well as an intimate network of advisors and CEOs of listed companies. After training, Payless will graduate with improve governance structures and better knowledge of articulating its business strategy. The retailer will also gain increased visibility through BSE marketing platforms.
Despite Covid-19 interrupting trade worldwide, exporting companies in Botswana which benefited from the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) services realised P2.96 billion in export earnings during the period from April 2020 to March 2021.
In the preceding financial year, the sale of locally manufactured products in foreign markets had registered export revenue of P2, 427 billion against a target of P3, 211 billion BITC, which celebrates 10 years since establishment, continues to carry out several initiatives targeted towards expanding the Botswana export base in line with Botswana’s desire to be an export led economy, underpinned by a robust export promotion programme in line with the National Export Strategy.
The main products exported were swamp cruiser boats, pvc tanks and pvc pipes, ignition wiring sets, semi-precious stones, veterinary medicines, hair braids, coal, textiles (towels and t-shirts) and automobile batteries. These goods were destined mainly for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Austria, Germany, and Namibia.
With Covid-19 still a problem, BITC continues to roll out targeted virtual trade promotion missions across the SADC region with a view to seeking long-lasting market opportunities for locally manufactured products.
Recently, the Centre facilitated participation for Botswana companies at the Eastern Cape Development Council (ECDC) Virtual Export Symposium, the Botswana-Zimbabwe Virtual Trade Mission, the Botswana-Zambia Virtual Trade Mission, Botswana-South Africa Virtual Buyer/Seller Mission as well as the Botswana-Namibia Virtual Trade Mission.
BITC has introduced an e-Exporting programme aimed at assisting Botswana exporters to conduct business on several recommended e-commerce platforms. Due to the advent of COVID-19, BITC is currently promoting e-trade among companies through the establishment of e-commerce platforms and is assisting local companies to embrace digitisation by adopting e-commerce platforms to reach export markets as well as assisting local e-commerce platform developers to scale up their online marketplaces.
During the 2019/2020 financial year, BITC embarked on several initiatives targeted at growing exports in the country; facilitation of participation of local companies in international trade platforms in order to enhance export sales of local products and services into external markets.
BITC also helped in capacity development of local companies to compete in global markets and the nurturing of export awareness and culture among local manufacturers in order to enhance their skills and knowledge of export processes; and in development and implementation of trade facilitation tools that look to improve the overall ease of doing business in Botswana.
As part of building export capacity in 2019/20, six (6) companies were selected to initiate a process to be Organic and Fair Trade Certified. These companies are; Blue Pride (Pty) Ltd, Motlopi Beverages, Moringa Technology Industries (Pty) Ltd, Sleek Foods, Maungo Craft and Divine Morula.
In 2019 seven companies which were enrolled in the Botswana Exporter Development Programme were capacitated with attaining BOBS ISO 9001: 2015 certification. Three (3) companies successfully attained BOBS ISO 9001:2015 certification. These were Lithoflex (Pty) Ltd, General Packaging Industries and Power Engineering.
BITC’s annual flagship exhibition, Global Expo Botswana (GEB) to create opportunities for trade and strategic synergies between local and international companies. The Global Expo Botswana) is a premier business to business exposition that attracts FDI, expansion of domestic investment, promotion of exports of locally produced goods and services and promotion of trade between Botswana and other countries.
The portal also provides information on; measures, legal documents, and forms and procedures needed by Botswana companies that intend on doing business abroad. BITC continues to assist both potential and existing local manufacturing and service entities to realise their export ambitions. This assistance is pursued through the ambit of the Botswana Exporter Development Programme (BEDP) and the Trade Promotion Programme.
BEDP was revised in 2020 in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with a vision to developing a diversified export-based economy. The programme focuses mostly on capacitating companies to reach export readiness status.
Prices for goods and services in this country continue to increase, with the latest figures from Statistics Botswana showing that in May 2022, inflation rate rose to 11.9 percent from 9.6 percent recorded in April 2022.
According to Statistics Botswana update released this week, the largest upward contributions to the annual inflation rate in May 2022 came from increase in the cost of transport (7.2 percent), housing, water, electricity, gas & other Fuels (1.4 percent), food & non-alcoholic beverages (1.1 percent) and miscellaneous goods & services (0.8 percent).
With regard to regional inflation rates between April and May 2022, the Rural Villages inflation rate went up by 2.5 percentage points, from 9.6 percent in April to 12.1 percent in May 2022, according to the government owned statistics entity.
In the monthly update the entity stated that the Urban Villages inflation rate stood at 11.8 percent in May 2022, a rise of 2.4 percentage points from the April rate of 9.4 percent, whereas the Cities & Towns inflation rate recorded an increase of 1.9 percentage points, from 9.9 percent in April to 11.8 percent in May.
Commenting on the national Consumer Price Index, the entity stated that it went up by 2.6 percent, from 120.1 in April to 123.2 in May 2022. Statisticians from the entity noted that the transport group index registered an increase of 7.3 percent, from 134.5 in April to 144.2 in May, mainly due to the rise in retail pump prices for petrol and diesel by P1.54 and P2.74 per litre respectively, which effected on the 13th of May 2022.
The food & non-alcoholic beverages group index rose by 2.6 percent, from 118.6 in April 2022 to 121.6 in May 2022 and this came as a result of increase in prices of oils & fats, vegetables, bread & cereal, mineral waters, soft drinks, fruits & vegetables juices, fish (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen) and meat (Fresh, Chilled & Frozen), according to the Statisticians.
The Statisticians said the furnishing, household equipment & routine maintenance group index rose by 1.0 percent, from 111.6 in April 2022 to 112.7 in May 2022 and this was attributed to a general increase in prices of household appliances, glassware, tableware & household utensils and goods & services for household maintenance.
The prices for clothing & footwear group index moved from 109.4 to 110.4, registering a rise of 0.9 percent during the period under review. Bank of Botswana has projected higher inflation in the short term, associated with the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices and added that the possible increase in public service salaries could add also upward pressure to inflation in this country.