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FNBB’s focus on customer-centric strategy fired up the balance sheet

First National Bank Botswana FNBB released its unaudited summarised consolidated financial results recently in Gaborone. The financials depict a strong balance sheet for the six months ended 31 December 2019.

During the past six months, the Bank continued to place focus on improving credit discipline with concentrated efforts on the distressed debt portfolio. According to the Bank, priority was given to customer-centric strategy through continued investment in infrastructure and digital customer solutions, with the roll-out of new products such as Cash Plus together with contactless POS devices and cards.  When announcing the results, FNBB’s Chief Financial Officer, Luke Woodford noted that the Bank’s funding increased year-on-year by 5 percent, with customer deposits increasing by 10 per cent. ‘’This is largely attributable to a 12 percent increase in demand deposits in line with the Bank’s strategy to enhance its transactional offering base, and a 3 percent decline in fixed and notice deposits.

During the year under review, the Bank increased the funding pool by issuing Tier II Capital amounting to P196 Million. Woodford announced that gross customer advances growth of 3 percent year-on-year was predominantly driven by retail lending although offset by further reductions in the business portfolio due to the intentional reduction of key high-risk accounts.
He further shared that ewallet volumes increased by 31 percent over the period while Pay 2 Cell increased by 41 percent, as customer continued to take up to the Bank’s convenient solutions. These factors combined with an overall increase in digital transactions resulted in a 29 percent growth in card and merchant commissions.

FNBB says its forward-thinking approach to technology and innovation will remain a constant focus point as the Bank enters the next era of rapid technological development around the world. The Bank has launched contactless point of sale devices and cards to further streamline and develop the customer and merchant experience.  ‘’Creating a seamless channel experience for our customer remains a focal point, with further developments planned for the FNB banking App. The Bank seeks to provide its clients with the flexibility to serve themselves in the form of convenient, value-added services. Combatting the ever-changing nature of cyber security remains paramount. The Bank deploys significant resources in this area and remains constantly vigilant to the evolving nature of the risk,’’ reads a statement from the Bank.

According to the Bank’s financial results, profit after tax jumped 12 percent due to the strong growth in income and resulting in an improved return on equity of 25.4 percent as compared to 24.6 percent in 2018. Interest income rose by 5 per cent against a gross advances growth of 3 percent.  ‘’The increase in average client rates was driven by a change in the portfolio mix towards retail as the Commercial portfolio continued to experience attrition. Set against the significant liquidity pressures seen in the prior period, the easing of liquidity in the current period and the success of the Bank in increasing transactional balances across all segments saw the interest expenses reduce significantly by 17 percent,’’ said Woodford.

Woodford also indicated that the impairment charge for the period indicated an increase of 10 percent against the prior year, following continued default pressure in the retail portfolio and further impacted by an extension of the collateral realisation period in the provisioning models. The impairment charge was further increased by the rise in retail personal loans which in turn now carry a higher expected credit loss provisions at initial origination.

Furthermore, the Bank’s non-interest revenue grew surged by 10 percent over the period from increases in volumes of customer transactions, as well as, from merchant service revenue following improved connectivity in the point-of-sale machines and an increase in machines in use. Revenue from foreign exchange reduced by 3 percent on the prior year, during which exchange rate volatility increased demand above usual levels.

The improvement in the cost-to-income ratio from 48 percent to 47 percent is largely due to the strong growth in NIR and reduced funding costs. It also reflects continued cost management initiatives, with the overall expenditure remaining within an acceptable range. For the six months ended 31 December 2019, the Bank continued to operate above the regulatory minimum capital adequacy ratios. As at the end of the final year period, the total capital adequacy ratio was 20.77 percent and is above the regulatory minimum of 15 percent.

FNBB declared an interim dividend of 6 thebe per share for the half year ended 31 December 2019. This dividend is payable to all shareholders registered in the books of the company at close business on 31 March 2020. The dividend will be paid on or about 25 March 2020 less withholding tax at the rate of 7.5 percent. Meanwhile, FNBB reiterated its commitment to its social responsibility to the community and performs this function through its foundation. The Bank has committed to contributing up to 1 percent of each year’s profit after tax to the Foundation. Since its inception in 2001, the Bank has made grants of more than P57 Million to the Foundation, which has been invested appropriately in qualifying beneficiaries.

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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

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

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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