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The Pula willy-wally as volatile winds shakes Rand and Dollar amid uncertain US polls

Prior to the climax of America’s globally anticipated polls, foreign exchange markets looked like the local currency. The Pula was caught in between as a wind of volatility shook two of its most dependent currencies, the US Dollar and the South African Rand.

Botswana might be far from the US or seem not affected by the recent polls which took place about 7936.59 miles from its borders, but the Pula finds itself participating indirectly in the US polls because of the dynamics of the foreign exchange market which places the local currency in a trade synonym with the US dollar and the Rand.

The Pula is pegged against the Rand and the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) which consists of the US dollar, Japanese Yen, Chinese Renminbi, the Euro and the British Pound.  Botswana’s current exchange rate arrangement is that the Pula is pegged to a currency basket comprising of the Rand and the SDR, in a forward-looking crawling band mechanism.

Early this year President Mokgweetsi Masisi decided to maintain the Pula basket weights at 45 percent Rand and 55 percent SDR, at the recommendation of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and Bank of Botswana. The ministry that time said pegging the Pula against major currencies ensures its stability and protects investments against volatile currency fluctuations.

The ministry further stated that the annual review of the Pula Exchange Rate Policy Framework is undertaken by the government, with a view to maintain a stable and competitive real effective exchange rate of the Pula. Furthermore, a downward rate of crawl of 1.51 per cent per annum has been implemented, since the beginning of this year.

This week, building up to the much anticipated US polls counting, the Pula was in the middle of its brothers, the Rand and US Dollar in the mist of uncertainty. “This elections are driving the foreign exchange market a bit crazy. The results will determine if we end up with a weaker or stronger dollar. If Biden wins then the weaker and stronger if Trump wins. Pula dynamics will still be driven to a large extend by Rand performance though,” said Gomolemo Basele, Quantitative Analyst at RMB Global Markets Research in a short chat with this publication.

The morning of 30 October 2020, just before the much hysterical US polls, the Rand opened at 1.4307 to the Pula. According to RMB Global Markets Research’s Botswana Daily Update, this was after the South African finance minister delivered the Medium-Term Budget Speech, noting that the country needs to take action to avoid a sovereign debt crisis. According to RMB Global Markets Research, the Rand came under pressure, touching low levels yesterday.

However on Tuesday morning, the Rand edged higher slightly against the Pula, opening the day stronger at 1.4190/1.4220 as the US elections drew nearer to counting. On the same Tuesday, Joe Biden was leading his nemesis Donald Trump in the highly contest elections clouded by a cloud of uncertainty.

RMB economist, Siobhan Redford, when taking the Pula into this context and delving into American politics said, while some states have seemingly been won over by Biden from Trump, “…a Biden trade versus Trump trade will result in choppy markets as a lot depends on the outcome, with the fiscal stimulus plan also weighing heavily.

A Biden win would probably result in a larger stimulus package being put forth as opposed to a Republican win. This morning, the Dollar opens little changed at 0.0875/77 to the Pula,” he said midweek.  When doing another research update on the Pula’s performance against the Dollar or Rand, Redford on Wednesday morning said the Rand opened little changed at 1.4140 to the Pula as election results from the US come under much scrutiny with counting far from over.

“A very well contested race has caused volatility in the market, with the Rand weakening overnight but later reverting to stronger levels. This morning, the Dollar opens little changed from yesterday’s (Tuesday) close at 0.0880 to the Pula. Ahead of the Fed’s rate decision later today, the general sentiment is that it will be a non-event, with the Fed expected to leave rates unchanged. We expect volatility around the election results to continue as announcements of state winners trickle in,” said Redford during the counting of votes.

In reaching the apex where a Biden upset was much more likely than Trump consolidation of power, the Democrat elect led his Republican counterpart on votes, but seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate were a bit tied on Thursday. Protests, and riots erupted as Trump was crying foul, lodging a legal appeal against the State on irregularities in counting. That time the Dollar opened at a rate of 0.0886/88 to the Pula, a record low as markets find comfort in a Biden win.

Head of RMB Global Markets Research, Nema Ramkhelawan-Bhana, said risk assets are impervious to US election noise but the risk rally is devoid of virus concerns, even though momentum will probably slow. In the South African economy or the Rand, she said the country is awaiting presidential guidance amid concerns of a second wave.

In a research released on Friday, Ramkhelawan-Bhana wrote that the dollar lost further ground against the pula on Thursday ahead of the Fed decision and amid heightened market caution as US election counting continued. She further observed that volatility increased as either candidate could win. This came with the dollar dropping from opening levels of 0.0884 to the day’s low of 0.0890.

But the Rand edged up against the Pula, according to Ramkhelawan-Bhana, taking its cue from the USD/ZAR performance, which firmed below the 16.00 level. RMB research team expect the Pula/USD to open this morning(Thursday) little changed from closing levels at 0.0888/90,while Pula/Rand should open at 1.4062/93 compared with 1.4048/83 at close.
In her analysis, Ramkhelawan-Bhana said there is a strong air of fatigue permeating through global stocks and bonds. She believes a Democratic flip of the Senate could refresh stimulus hopes and enthuse exhausted investors.

The RMB lead researcher observed that Chinese assets are being priced for a more conservative approach to US-Sino relations in the event of a Biden win. “A dicey play. While the former VP advocates a more multilateral approach, lightening trade restrictions might not be entirely in America’s best interests. The relationship will remain tenuous regardless of the presidential outcome, limiting downside on US Dollar /Chinese Yen,” she said.

The risks and Covid-19 watching US elections furore

According to Ramkhelawan-Bhana the rand market is baffled by recent spot movements. The local unit’s breach of USD/ZAR16.00 is bizarre considering SA’s fundamental weakness, though the trade surplus might be a point of differentiation, said Ramkhelawan-Bhana. She said the currency’s carry trade appeal, though the extent of the rally is more than anticipated given the overarching global risk.

“Virus concerns will outlive the furore over US elections, creating intermittent bouts of risk aversion to which markets are well accustomed. Whether that drives the Rand weaker is questionable, given its recent resilience to EUR/USD’s dip in the wake of the European lockdowns. Although risk assets have rallied strongly, the momentum will probably fade as the US elections play out, which should allow the Rand to consolidate at current levels against the major crosses,” said Ramkhelawan-Bhana.

There is a gloomy expectation in the South African economy for President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce Covid-19 restrictions, fears by economists like Ramkhelawan-Bhana is that this could unsettle Rand investors. The good thing is that this is unlikely to dislodge the Rand from its 50c trading range.

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Business

Sefalana releases best ever HY Financial results

23rd February 2021
Sefalana MD: Chandra Chauhan

Sefalana released their best ever half year financial results. Revenue grew by 2.3% to BWP2.91 billion (HY 2019: BWP2.85 billion). Gross profit increased by 17.4% to BWP215.1 million (HY 2019:

BWP183.3 million) yielding an improved gross profit margin of 7.4% (HY 2019: 6.4%). Administrative expenses went up by 7.8% to BWP97.0 million (HY 2019: BWP90.0 million). EBITA shot up by 31.5% to BWP138.6 million (HY 2019: BWP105.4 million) translating to EBITA margin of 4.8% (HY 2019: 3.7%).

Investment income was BWP22.8 million (HY 2019: BWP28.2 million). Profit before tax increased by 22.8% to BWP148.7 million (HY 2019: BWP121.1 million). Effective tax rate was lower at 23.9% (HY 2019: 28.4%) translating to a 30.7% hike in profit after tax to BWP113.2 million (HY 2019: BWP86.7 million).

Local Trading consumer goods segment was resilient despite a marginal decline in revenue. Revenue declined by 1.6% to BWP1.59 billion (HY 2019: BWP1.62 billion), however a 2.0% decline in cost of goods sold offset decline in revenue to see gross profit increase by 7.6% to BWP75.6 million (HY 2019: BWP70.3 million), an improved gross profit margin of 4.8% (HY 2019: 4.3%) was realized as a result.

Profit for the period was down 2.4% to BWP34.8 million (HY 2019: BWP35.7 million) mainly impacted by restrictions on liquor sales which have been in place for the entire reporting period. At the beginning of the financial year, the group manned 4 Hyper Stores (“Sefalana Hyper”), 25 Cash& Carry stores (“Sefalana Cash& Carry”) and 29 supermarket retail stores (“Sefalana Shopper”).During the period, Sefalana Shopper retail store in Shakawe, Sefalana Liquor outlet in Tlokweng were opened, and Sefalana Shopper Molepolole store was refurbished.

Lesotho has seen its revenue increase by 30.9% to BWP295.7 million (HY 2019: BWP225.8 million). Profit before tax spiked 162.4% to BWP1.9 million (HY 2019: -BWP3.1 million). Namibia has performed well to place it as the largest contributor to profit before tax. The segment’s revenue increased by 5.5% to BWP896.8 million (HY 2019: BWP850.2 million). Gross profit rose by 25.4% to BWP60.9 million (HY 2019: BWP48.6 million) translating to an improved gross profit margin of 6.8% (HY 2019: 5.7%). Profit before tax went up by 40.6% to BWP39.8 million (HY 2019: BWP28.3 million).

The Manufacturing arm had an excellent performance. Revenue rose by 26.7% to BWP125.0 million (HY 2019: BWP98.7 million). Gross profit increased by 39.4% to BWP28.6 million (HY 2019: BWP20.5 million), producing a gross profit margin of 22.9% (HY 2019: 20.8%). Profit before tax shot up by 96.5% to BWP16.0 million (HY 2019: BWP8.1 million). The profitability of this business is largely driven by the timing of orders placed by Government for its various feeding schemes and availability of raw material.

The milling division has for all six months manufactured and supplied in full to the Government, however only one third of the total contract volumes was awarded to the business in respect of the 24 month contract issued in April 2020. Raw materials have been procured and contracts entered into for procurement of grain to fulfill any additional volumes that the Government might require.

Beverages division was awarded a 24 month supply of milk tender to the Government for the children’s feeding scheme in March 2019 which is currently being fulfilled. There has been a shortage in raw materials in the region due to a reduced number of dairy cows during the pandemic as farmers placed more focus on meat production. Despite an underway catch up on reinstating dairy cow population the business expects shortages to continue in early 2021.

The Trading others segment experienced a decline on its top and bottom line figures. Revenue went down by 43.9% to BWP42.2 million (HY 2019: BWP75.2 million). Gross profit went down by 23.9% to BWP11.5 million (HY 2019: BWP15.1 million). Profit before tax went down 56.8% to BWP3.2 million (HY 2019: BWP7.4 million). The segment was impacted by a reduction in sales of motor vehicles as customers prioritized spending on essential goods and services.

The Property segment in Botswana performed well, with all most all properties tenanted for leases ranging between two-six years. Setlhoa site is complete, comprising of Sefalana Shopper store, petrol station and rentals to Ital Tiles and CTM. Just over 5000sqm of land remains vacant. The space initially set out for the group’s Motor Dealership will be considered for other alternative options in a bid to optimize return from the site. In contra, Zambia performed below the previous period as the past two years elapsed in search of replacement tenants for their premises due to an influx of similar properties.

A 3000sqm warehouse space is expected to commence development in February 2021 to house bottled water and fruit juice plants. Milling division anticipates expansion by the end of 2021, the expansion is to include a wheat milling plant which will leverage on existing infrastructure and complement existing milling activities.

A phase 2 investment in Australian business is expected in May 2021. Five more stores will be acquired through this investment to bring the stores to a total of 12 in that market. The investment amount is anticipated to be around P80 million, to be funded through existing cashflows.

The preference share agreement on the South African consortium matures in July 2022. The group’s appetite for conversion of its investment in to a 30% equity stake will be influenced by the covid-19 pandemic impact. As such a decision will be made closer to maturity date.

The group maintains that its 40% interest in Grow Mine Africa (Pty) Limited, the Preferred Bidder in the National Lottery remains in place. According to management, the judgement of urgent application was in favor of Grow Mine and the formal ruling by the courts will be issued next week. Accordingly, further negotiations with the Gambling Authority are expected in quarter one of 2021.

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Botswana Diamonds secures funding for CKGR exploration

23rd February 2021
Sekaka-Diamonds-Exploration

Botswana Diamond PLC, a Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) listed exploration company has moved a step closer towards developing it’s much talked about gem deposits around the Central Kalahari area in Botswana.

On Tuesday the company notified its shareholders through a circular published on the BSE, that it has entered into a cooperation agreement to fund exploration of its prospecting licence assets in Botswana with Diamexstrat Botswana Pty Ltd (DESB), which in turn has an alliance agreement with Burgundy Diamond Mines Limited, an Australia Stock Exchange (ASX) listed mining company.

BOD’s prospecting assets comprise the recently acquired Sekaka Diamonds Exploration Pty Ltd (Sekaka) database and Prospecting Licenses, as well as the Prospecting Licences held by BOD’s subsidiary, Sunland Minerals Pty Ltd (Sunland Minerals).

According to the statement from Botswana Diamond, Diamexstrat Botswana and its partner, Burgundy would earn up to a 70% interest in BOD’s Botswana Sunland Minerals and Sekaka’s Prospecting Licences.

On the other hand BOD can earn a 15% interest in Prospecting Licences held by Diamexstrat and its partners on the first US$1.5m spent on exploration by Diamexstrat where BOD’s database assists in the discovery of a primary kimberlite.

On 3rd party Prospecting Licences where targets are identified in BOD’s database, a joint earn-in will be negotiated at the time. For new Botswana Prospecting Licences, Diamexstrat, and its partner, Burgundy can earn up to 70%.  Under the Agreement, the parties have agreed to utilize BOD’s diamond exploration database, which it acquired in last year as part of the acquisition of Sekaka Diamonds Exploration Pty Ltd (Sekaka).

The database contains the results of work undertaken by Sekaka’ former owner, Petra Diamonds, since 2005, and includes data in respect of airborne, including the Falcon survey, and ground magnetics (including gravity and EM), in addition to heavy mineral sampling.

DESB has six months to conduct an initial review of BOD’s database , in order to identify exploration targets within any of BOD’s existing Sunland and Sekaka Prospecting Licences (excluding the KX36 Kimberlite held by Sekaka) (the “Designated PL”).

DESB will be entitled to earn a 50% interest in a Designated PL by meeting the annual minimum exploration expenditure commitment on the Designated PL and in addition either discovering a kimberlite through the intersection of kimberlite in any drill holes or a potential secondary diamondiferous alluvial deposit through the intersection of gravels in a drill hole or pit.

DESB shall be entitled to earn an additional 1%, to hold 51% in any Designated PL, by proving the primary kimberlite or alluvial deposit to be diamondiferous through funding the required micro-diamond analysis or bulk sampling.

DESB will also be entitled to earn a further 19%, to hold 70% in the Designated PL, by subsequently funding and delivering a bankable feasibility study. Any Prospecting Licence not selected by DESB at the end of the six-month period will remain wholly-owned by BOD.

Where it is agreed that geological data present in the database that was not previously available to DESB has assisted in the discovery of a kimberlite or a secondary alluvial deposit within the Exploration Area , BOD shall be granted a 15% free carry for the initial approved US$1.5 million of Exploration Expenditure by DESB on the discovery. Once the Exploration Expenditure has been incurred, each party will contribute funding in accordance with its interest or be diluted pro-rata.

Sunland Minerals holds 12 active Prospecting Licences in the Gope/CKGR (Kalahari) area. As at 30 June 2020, the audited carrying value of BOD’s Sunland Minerals assets amounted to £1.1 million and Sunland’s loss before tax amounted to £43,101.

In the year ended 30 June 2020, Sunland’s Exploration Expenditure, mainly comprising licence fees and the costs of maintaining the licence in good standing, together with agreed fixed costs and expenses, amounted to £65,760.

On 30 November 2020, Botswana Diamonds completed the acquisition of Sekaka which holds three Prospecting Licences in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, PL169/2019, PL058/2007 and PL224/2007, which includes the KX36 kimberlite pipe.

The acquisition also included an extensive database. The consideration comprised a cash payment of US$300,000 and a 5% royalty on future revenues.  The first deferred consideration cash payment of US$150,000 will be payable on 27 November 2021, being the first anniversary of completion of the acquisition and the balance on or before 27 November 2022.

In Sekaka’s audited annual financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2019, Sekaka reported a loss before taxation of Pula 16,875,179 (equivalent to approximately £1.16 million, which included a non-cash foreign exchange loss of Pula 11,688,432 (equivalent to approximately £0.8 million) on the carrying value of the historic intercompany debt which was extinguished on acquisition.

As at 30 June 2019, Sekaka had audited total assets of Pula 6,565,700 (equivalent to approximately £425k). Diamexstrat is a privately owned company focused on diamond exploration in Botswana chaired by Gerard de la Vallee Poussin and with Barry Bayly as the Chief Executive Officer. Both Gerard and Barry have extensive experience in the exploration for diamondiferous kimberlites in Africa.

Commenting on the cooperation between BOD and Diaexstrat , James Campbell, Managing Director, of BOD said the partnership will progress the extensive and highly prospective exploration assets in Botswana which comprises Sekaka Diamonds and with our own drill-ready prospects in Sunland Minerals.

“I look forward to working with the Diamexstrat and Burgundy teams made-up of complimentary highly experienced and leading experts in the field of diamond exploration and project development”.  John Teeling, Chairman of Botswana Diamonds Board of Directors said Botswana is one of the world’s best addresses for diamond exploration. He explained that the combination of a fresh approach and advanced technology, supported by a recovering diamond market, presents both parties with significant opportunities.

“I am delighted to announce this partnership with experienced Diamexstrat, and its ASX listed-partner, Burgundy, which expands and deepens our exploration work.”

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Business

Tlou Energy announces first carbon neutral plant

23rd February 2021
Tlou-Enegery

As countries continue to battle climate change which is a result of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, local coal-bed Methane (CBM) exploration outfit, Tlou Energy this week revealed intent to make the Lesedi Power project the first carbon neutral power project in Botswana.

The multi-listed company, which is focused on generating cleaner power in Botswana for supply into the local and regional power markets said they have already negotiated land access and leasing agreements with relevant land-holders for the power generation facility and new field operations camp.

According to a statement from Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) listed energy entity, there have been recent steps taken to acquire additional land for carbon sequestration and there is also availability of land and labour within the Lesedi project which favours Tlou Energy in developing carbon neutral power project.

Carbon sequestration involves capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere so that it potentially reduces its contribution to global warming.  It is essentially the long-term storage of carbon in soil, plants, and geological formations. Carbon sequestration can occur naturally and as a result of human activities and typically refers to the storage of carbon that has the immediate potential to become carbon dioxide gas.

Tlou Energy Managing Director, Tony Gilby commented: “There is considerable scope for using the savanna ecosystem of the Lesedi region for carbon sequestration by protecting it from burning and intensive grazing leading to an increase in the ability of the vegetation to store carbon over time.” “This will assist Tlou to be able to supply carbon neutral power to the considerable number of potential customers in the region.”

Gilby also revealed that the regional power consumer, Orapa diamond mine operated by Debswana and located north of Tlou’s gas fields has publicly stated their objective to decrease their carbon footprint. According to Tlou Energy MD, the Lesedi project area is considered as shrub savanna containing various tree species. He however noted that subdivisions found within Tlou’s project area are predominantly rural with most of the land being deployed due to livestock agriculture.

“Tlou  is  in  the  process  of  negotiating  the  acquisition  of  land  to  reduce  livestock numbers  and  implement  fire mitigation measures. This will substantially increase the amount of available woody biomass which can be used to claim carbon credits within the project area,” he said.

The company said carbon credits will be offset against the carbon dioxide associated with Lesedi’s gas fired power generation component noting that the gas will in any event produce considerably less carbon dioxide compared to the ones generated by coal and diesel.

“Carbon reduction is part of Tlou’s commitment to the environment and part of the company’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) program aimed at enhancing the lives of the local population and regional communities,” said Tlou energy MD.

“Tlou has a track record of supporting local charities and youth groups and looking to grow local employment with investment in community ventures. This includes programs aimed at growing higher nutritional value crops for local livestock so grazing could be reduced and biomass preserved, as well as promoting wildlife.”

Meanwhile, last month Botswana Government through Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology & Energy Security (MMGE) underscored its intention to support power generation through Coal-Bed- Methane (CBM). Tlou’s MD Gilby commented, “It is great to see that Botswana is open for business and the Government is motivated to get the gas industry up and running.

Gilby revealed that his company plans to start development of the Lesedi project as soon as possible noting that “confirmation of the Government’s enthusiasm to provide the necessary support to ensure commercial development of CBM is very well received.” “In addition, we have also recommenced negotiations with Botswana based project financiers this month as we aim to close a deal for funding as soon as possible.

After what was an extremely challenging year the Company is already making progress in 2021 and anticipate further advancement on all fronts in the coming term. We look forward to updating the market with further developments in due course,” he concluded.

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