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Lifting of BSE suspension puts supermarket giant Choppies on new growth path

Ram Ottapathu

Sale of loss-making operations, new deputy CEO, incoming new CFO and recapitalisation as CEL heightens corporate governance

Supermarket giant Choppies Enterprises Limited (CEL) is poised for a trajectory of growth as it resumes trading on the stock market.

This follows the announcement by the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) that with effect from the Monday 27 July 2020, Choppies Enterprises Limited securities will again trade on the market following a decision to lift their suspension by the BSE.

The Company has published the following financial statements, bringing it into compliance with BSE requirements: a) 31 December 2018 Reviewed Interim Financial Statements and the Auditor’s Review Report; b) 30 June 2019 AFS and the accompanying Independent Auditor’s Report; and c) 31 December 2019 Reviewed Interim Financial Statements and the Auditor’s Review Report.

An elated Ram Ottapathu, CEO and founder of Choppies, said the lifting of the stock market suspension paves the way for Choppies to regain its top position as a retailer in Botswana and reclaim the pride and support of the people.

The man who built what is arguably the Southern Africa region’s most ambitious retail brand said Choppies will claw its way back to being a star corporate performer with tighter governance structures, a clear succession plan and a watchful board.

The multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana, has undertaken aggressive restructuring.  It has recapitalised itself; appointed a Deputy CEO with over 25 years of grocery retail experience in Southern Africa, has appointed a new Chief Financial Officer (CFO); and appointed new auditors – international auditing firm, Mazars.

“We have made major strides in creating a solid foundation for the group to build on and believe this has set the course for a rebirth of the company which offers value for money to its customers in a challenging economic environment,” says Mr Uttum Corea, interim Chairman of Choppies Enterprises Ltd.

Choppies heightened corporate governance actions include:

  • the recapitalisation of the business by Pula 150 million comprising a loan of P100m from founding shareholders, Messrs Ottapathu and Ismail, and P50m from trading operations.
  • amendments to the employment contract of Mr Ottapathu in accordance with the King IV Code on Corporate Governance. This includes a 43% reduction in the current guaranteed portion of the CEO’s remuneration to facilitate the introduction of short-term incentives;
  • the appointment of a Deputy Chief Executive Officer with over 25 years of grocery retail experience in Southern Africa, who is expected to join during April 2020; and
  • the appointment of a Chief Financial Officer from mid-April 2020. The CFO, a South African Chartered Accountant brings extensive JSE-listed company experience (including Nampak Group and Edcon). This is subject to the issuing of a work permit by the Botswana authorities.

The latest financials show negative equity for the Group owing to:

  • Unrealised foreign currency translation reserves of P300.8 million. The effect of the deterioration of the Zimbabwean currency alone accounts for P323.2 million of this amount with the balance of P22.4 million made up of a net profit on translating other currencies. These unrealised losses from Zimbabwe were partly offset by the recognition of a hyperinflation reserve of P71.3 million.
  • Trading losses of P435.6 million (2018: P375.1 million) from regions that were closed/discontinued since the June 2019 year-end namely South Africa P306.6 million (2018: P273.8 million), Kenya P95.3 million (2018: P83.7 million), Tanzania P18.2 million (2018: P5.9 million) and Mozambique P15.5 million) (2018:P11.7 million).

The above realised losses were mainly from South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique. As a result, the board took a decision to reduce the losses by exiting these operations.

Going forward, this is expected to build-up value for the Group as management’s focus will be on the profit-making operations, namely Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia, which should help stabilise the Group and increase shareholder value.

The Board does not expect any material uncertainty over the Company or Group’s ability to continue as going concerns in the foreseeable future.

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P230 million Phikwe revival project kicks off

19th October 2020
industrial hub

Marcian Concepts have been contracted by Selibe Phikwe Economic Unit (SPEDU) in a P230 million project to raise the town from its ghost status.  The project is in the design and building phase of building an industrial hub for Phikwe; putting together an infrastructure in Bolelanoto and Senwelo industrial sites.

This project comes as a life-raft for Selibe Phikwe, a town which was turned into a ghost town when the area’s economic mainstay, BCL mine, closed four years ago.  In that catastrophe, 5000 people lost their livelihoods as the town’s life sunk into a gloomy horizon. Businesses were closed and some migrated to better places as industrial places and malls became almost empty.

However, SPEDU has now started plans to breathe life into the town. Information reaching this publication is that Marcian Concepts is now on the ground at Bolelanoto and Senwelo and works have commenced.  Marcian as a contractor already promises to hire Phikwe locals only, even subcontract only companies from the area as a way to empower the place’s economy.

The procurement method for the tender is Open Domestic bidding which means Joint Ventures with foreign companies is not allowed. According to Marcian Concepts General Manager, Andre Strydom, in an interview with this publication, the project will come with 150 to 200 jobs. The project is expected to take 15 months at a tune of P230 531 402. 76. Marcian will put together construction of roadworks, storm-water drains, water reticulation, street lighting and telecommunication infrastructure. This tender was flouted last year August, but was awarded in June this year. This project is seen as the beginning of Phikwe’s revival and investors will be targeted to the area after the town has worn the ghost city status for almost half a decade.

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IMF projects deeper recession for 2020, slow recovery for 2021

19th October 2020

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has slashed its outlook the world economy projecting a significantly deeper recession and slower recovery than it anticipated just two months ago.

On Wednesday when delivering its World Economic Outlook report titled “A long difficult Ascent” the Washington Based global lender said it now expects global gross domestic product to shrink 4.9% this year, more than the 3% predicted in April.  For 2021, IMF experts have projected growth of 5.4%, down from 5.8%. “We are projecting a somewhat less severe though still deep recession in 2020, relative to our June forecast,” said Gita Gopinath Economic Counsellor and Director of Research.

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Botswana partly closed economy a further blow of 4.2 fall in revenue

19th October 2020

The struggle of humanity is now how to dribble past the ‘Great Pandemic’ in order to salvage a lean economic score. Botswana is already working on dwindling fiscal accounts, budget deficit, threatened foreign reserves and the GDP data that is screaming recession.

Latest data by think tank and renowned rating agency, Moody’s Investor Service, is that Botswana’s fiscal status is on the red and it is mostly because of its mineral-dependency garment and tourism-related taxation. Botswana decided to close borders as one of the containment measures of Covid-19; trade and travellers have been locked out of the country. Moody’s also acknowledges that closing borders by countries like Botswana results in the collapse of tourism which will also indirectly weigh on revenue through lower import duties, VAT receipts and other taxes.

Latest economic data shows that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter of 2020 with a decrease of 27 percent. One of the factors that led to contraction of the local economy is the suspension of air travel occasioned by COVID-19 containment measures impacted on the number of tourists entering through the country’s borders and hence affecting the output of the hotels and restaurants industry. This will also be weighed down by, according to Moody’s, emerging markets which will see government losing average revenue worth 2.1 percentage points (pps) of GDP in 2020, exceeding the 1.0 pps loss in advanced economies (AEs).

“Fiscal revenue in emerging markets is particularly vulnerable to this current crisis because of concentrated revenue structures and less sophisticated tax administrations than those in AEs. Oil exporters will see the largest falls but revenue volatility is a common feature of their credit profiles historically,” says Moody’s. The domino effects of containment measures could be seen cracking all sectors of the local economy as taxes from outside were locked out by the closure of borders hence dwindling tax revenue.

Moody’s has placed Botswana among oil importers, small, tourism-reliant economies which will see the largest fall in revenue. Botswana is in the top 10 of that pecking order where Moody’s pointed out recently that other resource-rich countries like Botswana (A2 negative) will also face a large drop in fiscal revenue.

This situation of countries’ revenue on the red is going to stay stubborn for a long run. Moody’s predicts that the spending pressures faced by governments across the globe are unlikely to ease in the short term, particularly because this crisis has emphasized the social role governments perform in areas like healthcare and labour markets.

For countries like Botswana, these spending pressures are generally exacerbated by a range of other factors like a higher interest burden, infrastructure deficiencies, weaker broader public sector, higher subsidies, lower incomes and more precarious employment. As a result, most of the burden for any fiscal consolidation is likely to fall on the revenue side, says Moody’s.

Moody’s then moves to the revenue spin of taxation. The rating agency looked at the likelihood and probability of sovereigns to raise up revenue by increasing tax to offset what was lost in mineral revenue and tourism-related tax revenue. Moody’s said the capacity to raise tax revenue distinguishes governments from other debt issuers.  “In theory, governments can change a given tax system as they wish, subject to the relevant legislative process and within the constraints of international law. In practice, however, there are material constraints,” says Moody’s.

‘‘The coronavirus crisis will lead to long-lasting revenue losses for emerging market sovereigns because their ability to implement and enforce effective revenue-raising measures in response will be an important credit driver over the next few years because of their sizeable spending pressures and the subdued recovery in the global economy we expect next year.’’

According to Moody’s, together with a rise in stimulus and healthcare spending related to the crisis, the think tank expects this drop in revenue will trigger a sizeable fiscal deterioration across emerging market sovereigns. Most countries, including Botswana, are under pressure of widening their tax bases, Moody’s says that this will be challenging. “Even if governments reversed or do not extend tax-easing measures implemented in 2020 to support the economy through the coronavirus shock, which would be politically challenging, this would only provide a modest boost to revenue, especially as these measures were relatively modest in most emerging markets,” says Moody’s.

Botswana has been seen internationally as a ‘tax ease’ country and its taxes are seen as lower when compared to its regional counterparts. This country’s name has also been mentioned in various international investigative journalism tax evasion reports. In recent years there was a division of opinions over whether this country can stretch its tax base. But like other sovereigns who have tried but struggled to increase or even maintain their tax intake before the crisis, Botswana will face additional challenges, according to Moody’s.

“Additional measures to reduce tax evasion and cutting tax expenditure should support the recovery in government revenue, albeit from low levels,” advised Moody’s. Botswana’s tax revenue to the percentage of the GDP was 27 percent in 2008, dropped to 23 percent in 2010 to 23 percent before rising to 27 percent again in 2012. In years 2013 and 2014 the percentage went to 25 percent before it took a slip to decline in respective years of 2015 up to now where it is at 19.8 percent.

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