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Mining sentiment capsizing…

An unabridged market and economic survey by this publication has picked bearish sentiments towards a key sector of Botswana; mining, as well as the energy exploring firms.

A suggestion that when the new normal came by, humanity sought safety and refuge from the virus while taking less consideration in digging the soil for natural resources hence dwindling sentiments.  With Botswana key sectors economically under siege, this should already sound like a deafening and creepy siren to Botswana if the current struggle of some mining and energy firms is anything to go by.

Botswana with a power deficit of almost 600 MW is dwarfed in the other sector discussed, energy, but observers said there should be investment on it hence there is potential growth and a lot of opportunities. Most companies discussed offer coal energy exploration. When the GDP shot down by 27 percent from the first quarter to the second quarter of this year, it was mining which suffered the most.

For the same GDP data, Mining and Quarrying had a big decrease in the real value added GDP by 60.2 percent which was mainly influenced by Diamond and Coal real value added. There are many private companies in the coal and mining business, some which are listed in the local stock exchange are perpetually losing value.

Diamond production in carats went down by 67.0 percent while Coal production in tonnes decreased by 40.7 percent. For the recent quarterly statistics, the Index of Mining Production stood at 30.0 percent during the second quarter of 2020, showing a year-on-year decrease of 65.1 percent from the index of 85.9 recorded during the second quarter of 2019.

According to Statistics Botswana, this was the biggest decline ever recorded in the mining activity since the decline of 91.6 percent recorded in the first quarter of 2009, when diamond registered zero production due to the economic recession.

The current decline came as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown regulations (2nd April to 18th May 2020) which affected the operations of the business community at large, according to Stats Bots. The rating agencies suggested that countries which are mostly dependent on mining, like Botswana on diamonds, are vulnerable to external factors due to their reliance on diamond exports.

The latest Market Performance by the Botswana Stock Exchange shows that the stocks which were hard hit by Covid-19 were of companies whose business lean on extraction of the ground or mining and exploration.

These companies are mostly in the mining and energy sector.

While the local stock exchange managed to stand when all the world’s exchanges collapsed just towards the end of the first quarter of 2020, when BSE took a hit in April, it was mining and energy companies were seen at the bottom of the dark pit.

According to a performance survey recently released by BSE for the period 1 January to 31 October 2020, diamond miner Lucara and coal-bed methane (CBM) gas explorer Tlou Energy, made the biggest declines in share prices, a decline of 61.5 percent and 58.8 percent respectively.

The other companies in the same or related sectors also had their share price eroded in the first three quarters of the year and for the month of October 2020. This could be a sense of the sentiment towards soil digging companies in the markets or domestic economy.

Coal miner Minergy, a market competitor to Lucara in the Basic Materials sector, is in the top 5 of the biggest losers for the past 10 months, with a share price decline of 27.3 percent for the period 1 January to 31 October 2020.  A foreign company with a niche for this country’s precious stones, Botswana Diamonds, is in the top 10 of biggest losers of the 10 months period with a share price decline of 20.0 percent. Another soil explorer, coal explorer Shumba Energy, is languishing with a share loss of 13.6 percent in the same period.

Botswana’s diamond partner Anglo American has never shook or let alone increased in value, but remained flat with a price of 21800 thebe for all the periods under review. In its Q3 2020 market report released last week which showed “a bearish market amidst economic downturn,” Stockbrokers Botswana said miners, Tlou Energy and Lucara, were again caught in the red.

Tlou Energy lost 60 percent while Lucara lost 23.5 percent as the Domestic Company Index registered a plunge of 2.2 percent. Stockbrokers Botswana also showed that in Q2 2020 it was time for Minergy (22.7 percent) and Shumba (13.6 percent) to lose.

A trend graph by Stockbrokers Botswana shows that on the domestic companies’ index, Minergy value began cracking in the second quarter of 2020 where the stock declined by 25 thebe. Anglo American stock on the foreign counter has been flat since last year’s two quarters.

Botswana Diamonds began losing value by 2 thebe last year in the fourth quarter in a seemingly non-Covid-19 related effect. The company maintained its 13 thebe price amid Covid-19 lockdowns before it tripped to 12 thebe just in the just ended third quarter of 2020.

Lucara price began tumbling when crossing over to 2020 from the third quarter of 2019, falling by almost 50 percent which was a reflection of losing 660 thebe. Lucara further lost by 157 thebe in the third quarter of this year. Shumba lost 15 thebe in the second quarter of this year while Tlou Energy went down by 48 thebe.

Books reflecting losses by soil drillers

Owners of Karowe mine, Lucara, in their recently released Q3 2020 financials where the company had a net loss of $5.4 million compared to last year’s $ 4.0 million. Diamonds from the Karowe mine in Botswana are said to be large, high value diamonds and have historically accounted for approximately 60 percent to 70 percent of Lucara’s annual revenues.

Lucara’s revenue of $82.9 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2020 from the sale of 268,101 carats or $309 per carat reflecting a decrease from revenue of $136.5 million recognized for the nine months ended September 30, 2019 (313,189 carats sold at an average price of $436 per carat).

In its recent communication to investors Lucara said, the reduction in revenue results from a combination of a 15% decrease in the number of carats sold and a deliberate decision not to sell any diamonds +10.8 carats in favour of entering into a committed supply agreement for these diamonds for the remainder of the year.

“Though the mine has remained fully operational throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Lucara made a deliberate decision not to tender any of its +10.8 carat production after early March 2020 amidst the uncertainty caused by the global crisis and the significant weakness observed in the rough diamond market,” said Lucara.

Coal miner Minergy on the other hand suffered Covid-19 loses from March 2020 onwards, with 25 percent of the financial year impacted. Minergy suffering was part of the 15 weeks border closure, challenges with border crossing by its essential staff, the weakening of the South African Rand and the sales which were at 10 percent of pre-COVID-19 volumes.

According to another coal explorer, Shumba Energy, the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and the subsequent lockdowns in both Botswana and South Africa meant that the coal trading business was only able to operate for 9 months out of the year.

While heading towards April this year, the trading business was on track to grow by 15 percent year on year. But the company dealt a blow of a 15.6 percent decline in income from the business.
In its Annual Report 2020, Tlou Energy suffered a loss for the year of $12,950,601 (30 June 2019: $3,216,695).

Tlou Energy did not report that it was hit hard by Covid-19 like its counterparts in the mining sector, but explained that the loss was due to the impairment of some of the Group’s non-core prospecting licences.

Botswana also mines soda ash with a company called Botash which has felt the pinch of Covid-19. Botash’s main export partner Sasol from South Africa, is said to have shut down part of its salt processing units, subsequently stopping buying from the Botswana companies. More woes are on Botash which is reported to be retrenching.

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Business

China’s GDP expands 3% in 2022 despite various pressures

2nd February 2023
China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expanded by 3% year-on-year to 121.02 trillion yuan ($17.93 trillion) in 2022 despite being mired in various growth pressures, according to data from the National Bureau Statistics.

The annual growth rate beat a median economist forecast of 2.8% as polled by Reuters. The country’s fourth-quarter GDP growth of 2.9% also surpassed expectations for a 1.8% increase.

In 2022, the Chinese economy encountered more difficulties and challenges than was expected amid a complex domestic and international situation. However, NBS said economic growth stabilized after various measures were taken to shore up growth.

Industrial output rose 3.6% in 2022 over the previous year, while retail sales slightly shrank by 0.2% data show that fixed-asset investment increased 5.1% over 2021, with a 9.1% hike in manufacturing investment but a 10% fall in property investment.

China created 12.06 million new jobs in urban regions throughout the year, surpassing its annual target of 11 million, and officials have stressed the importance of continuing an employment-first policy in 2023.

Meanwhile, China tourism market is a step closer to robust recovery. Tourism operators are in high spirits because the market saw a good chance of a robust recovery during the Spring Festival holiday amid relaxed COVID-19 travel policies.

On January 27, the last day of the seven-day break, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism published an encouraging performance report of the tourism market. It said that domestic destinations and attractions received 308 million visits, up 23.1% year-on-year. The number is roughly 88.6% of that in 2019, they year before the pandemic hit.

According to the report, tourism-related revenue generated during the seven-day period was about 375.8 billion yuan ($55.41 billion), a year-on-year rise of 30%. The revenue was about 73% of that in 2019, the Ministry said.

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Business

Jewellery manufacturing plant to create over 100 jobs

30th January 2023

The state of the art jewellery manufacturing plant that has been set up by international diamond and cutting company, KGK Diamonds Botswana will create over 100 jobs, of which 89 percent will be localized.

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Business

Investors inject capital into Tsodilo Resources Company

25th January 2023

Local diamond and metal exploration company Tsodilo Resources Limited has negotiated a non-brokered private placement of 2,200, 914 units of the company at a price per unit of 0.20 US Dollars, which will provide gross proceeds to the company in the amount of C$440, 188. 20.

According to a statement from the group, proceeds from the private placement will be used for the betterment of the Xaudum iron formation project in Botswana and general corporate purposes.

The statement says every unit of the company will consist of a common share in the capital of the company and one Common Share purchase warrant of the company.

Each warrant will enable a holder to make a single purchase for the period of 24 months at an amount of $0.20. As per regularity requirements, the group indicates that the common shares and warrants will be subject to a four month plus a day hold period from date of closure.

Tsodilo is exempt from the formal valuation and minority shareholder approval requirements. This is for the reason that the fair market value of the private placement, insofar as it involves the director, is not more than 25% of the company’s market capitalization.

Tsodilo Resources Limited is an international diamond and metals exploration company engaged in the search for economic diamond and metal deposits at its Bosoto Limited and Gcwihaba Resources projects in Botswana.  The company has a 100% stake in Bosoto which holds the BK16 kimberlite project in the Orapa Kimberlite Field (OKF) in Botswana.

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