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Choppies posts impressive 2020 results

Choppies Ramachandaran Ottapathu

Last year was a brutal one for businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions and safety concerns. But with the vaccine slowly rolling out throughout 2021, many companies are optimistic of a rebound soon – retail giant, Choppies would want to do so on the backdrop of impressive financials from the torrid year.

The food retailer Choppies released its Reviewed Interim Financial Statements for the six months ended 31 December 2020, and the numbers are quite remarkable, as compared to the previous half year ended 30 June 2020. In 2018, Choppies results were delayed by more than a year and a forensic investigation uncovered accounting irregularities. New auditors PwC, who had replaced KPMG, refused to sign them off.  Its 2017 results were also restated, moving from a profit to a loss.

Nonetheless, Choppies reported its first profit since 2016 of P37.7 million (2019: Loss of P139.2 million), as the benefits from restructuring the business following the exit from underperforming investments, were realized. The 2019 loss was perpetuated by the strain of the COVID-19.

The group said in its financial report last year that the pandemic had negative impacts on sales and production, supply-chain, customers, equity and revenue. Choppies suffered from donations made towards the State COVID-19 Relief Fund and other devastating economic consequences.

During the year ended 31 December 2020, the group’s revenue decreased by 8.7% to P2 711 million (2019: P2 969 million). This decrease was a result of negative volume growth due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and currency weaknesses in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Choppies has approximately five stores in Zambia.

Choppies has sold its stores and distribution centres in South Africa to King Investments for R1, due to huge losses incurred over the years. The losses were worsened by the “lack of cash flow (that) resulted in trade creditor suppliers not being paid on their applicable due date and hence refusing to supply stock, causing stores in South Africa to become understocked and lose market share.”

The group said it was not able to continue to fund the losses of the South Africa subsidiaries from Botswana. It said the continued failure to service debt exposed it to threats of application for the winding up of the South Africa subsidiaries.

In spite of the lock downs implemented in the group’s largest operations, being Botswana and Zimbabwe, coupled with the currency depreciation in Zambia and Zimbabwe, the group did well to reduce the possible huge revenue losses which resulted in a reduced impact on the gross profit.

Consequently, gross profit margins reduced slightly to 22.0% (2019: 22.9%). In response to lower volumes, the group managed costs aggressively by reducing its total expenditure by 14.3% resulting in a 4.7% decline in EBIT as the drop in gross profit was offset by lower expenditure.

During FY2020, the board decided to discontinue its operations in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. Accordingly, the results of these operations are disclosed with effect from 1 July 2019 in terms of IFRS 5 “Non-current Assets Held for Sale and Discontinued Operations”. As a result, total assets for the period under review are significantly lower than the December 2019 levels.

The Botswana business continued to show strong resilience in an increasingly competitive operating environment and poor trading conditions. Revenue declined by 4.6% despite volumes reducing by 6.4%. The gross profit margin, albeit lower at 22.3% (2019: 24.5%) remains relatively healthy despite the extremely challenging trading conditions. Expenditure was well controlled with total expenditure reducing by 15.6% negating some of the decline in gross profit. One additional store was opened bringing the total number of stores in Botswana to 91 stores (2019: 90 stores).

The Namibian operation continued to show improvement in gross profit even though it still has a very small footprint. Revenue for this segment increased by 3.2% with gross profit margins improving to 19.3% (2019: 17.9%). EBIT losses reduced by 95% due to improved gross profit margins coupled with an 8.2% reduction in expenditure.

The Zambia operation also showed an improvement in gross profit but the continued weakness of the Kwacha against the Pula had a very significant impact on the trading results and expenses. Even though the Pula revenue declined by 28.5%, revenue in Kwacha grew by 2.4% despite volumes reducing by 8.9%, gross profit margins improved to 18.9% (2019: 16.5%) driven by price inflation.  EBIT losses reduced by 33% due to effective cost control. The Zambian segment consists of 25 stores (2019: 21).

The changes and volatility of the Zimbabwean currency makes operating in this market extremely difficult, as gains obtained at country level gets eliminated when converted at group level due to the weak currency when compared to the Botswana Pula.

Revenue declined by 21.3% to P211.4 million (2019: P268.6 million) resulting from a weakening of the local currency against the Pula during the previous 6 months. Gross profit margins improved to 24.1% (2019: 18.3%). EBIT reduced to P7.9 million (2019: P10.2 million).

Even though this business remains self-sustaining without any cash flow constraints, repatriation of profits to Botswana will continue to be difficult until the economy undergoes a structural change. The segment consists of 32 stores (2019: 32). The Board has considered it prudent not to declare a dividend for the period under review.

Business

Debswana-Botswana Oil P8 billion fuel partnership to create 100 jobs

18th May 2022
Head-of-Stakeholder-Relations

The partnership between Debswana and Botswana Oil Limited (BOL) which was announced a fortnight ago will create under 100 direct jobs, and scores of job opportunities for citizens in the value chain activities.

In a major milestone, Debswana and BOL jointly announced that the fuel supply to Debswana, which was in the past serviced by foreign companies, will now be reserved for citizen companies. The total value of the project is P8 billion, spanning a period of five years.

“About 88 direct jobs will be created through the partnership. These include some jobs which will be transferred from the current supplier to the new partnership,” Matida Mmipi, Head of Stakeholder Relations at Botswana Oil, told BusinessPost.

“We believe this partnership will become a blueprint for other citizen initiatives, even in other sectors of the economy. Furthermore, this partnership has succeeded in unlocking opportunities that never existed for ordinary citizens who aspire to grow and do business with big companies like Debswana.”

Mmipi said through this partnership, BOL and Debswana intend to impact citizen owned companies in the fuel supply value chain that include transportation, supply, facilities maintenance, engineering, customs clearance, trucks stops and its support activities such as workshop / maintenance, tyre services, truck wash bays among others.

“The number of companies to be on-boarded will be determined by the economics at the time of engagement,” she said. BOL will play a facilitatory role of handholding and assisting emerging citizen-owned fuel supply and fuel transportation companies to supply Debswana’s Jwaneng and Orapa Letlhakane Damtshaa (OLDM) mines with diesel and petrol for their operations.

“BOL expects to increase citizen companies’ market share in the fuel supply and transportation industries, which have over the years been dominated by foreign-owned suppliers. Consequently, the agreement will also ensure security of supply for Debswana operations, which are a mainstay of the Botswana economy,” Mmipi said.

“Furthermore, BOL will, under this agreement, transfer skills to citizen suppliers and transporters during the contract period and ensure delivery of competent and skilled citizen suppliers and transport companies upon completion of the agreement.”

Mmipi said the capacitating by BOL is limited to providing citizen companies oil industry technical capability and capacity to deliver on the requirements of the contract, when asked on helping citizen companies to access funding.

“BOL’s mandate does not include financing citizen empowerment initiatives. Securing funding will remain the responsibility of the beneficiaries. This could be through government financing entities including CEDA or through commercial banks. Further to this, there are financial institutions that have already signed up to support the Debswana Citizen Economic Empowerment Programme (CEEP),” Mmipi indicated.

While BOL is established by government as company limited by guarantee, it will not benefit financially from the partnership with Debswana, as citizen empowerment in the petroleum value chain is core to BOL’s mandate.

“BOL does not pursue citizen facilitation for financial benefit, but rather we engage in citizen facilitation as a social aspect of our mandate. Citizen facilitation comes at a cost, but it is the right thing to do for the country to develop the oil and gas industry,” she said.

Mmipi said supplying fuel to Debswana comes with commercial benefits such as supply margins. These have traditionally been made outside the country when supply was done by multi-nationals for a period spanning over 50 years. With BOL anchoring supply for Debswana, this benefit will accrue locally, and BOL will be able to pay taxes and dividends to the shareholders in Botswana.

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Business

VAT in Africa Guide 2022 – Africa re-emerging

18th May 2022

PwC Africa has presented the eighth edition of the VAT in Africa Guide – Africa re-emerging. This backdrop of renewal informs on the re-emergence of African economies and societies which have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In this edition, which has been compiled by PwC Africa’s indirect tax experts, covers a total of 41 African countries. It is geared towards sharing insight with our clients based on the constantly changing tax environments that can have a significant impact on business operations.

Within Africa, governments continue to focus on expanding the tax net by improving revenue collection through efficient compliance systems and procedures. PwC Africa has observed that revenue authorities also continue to take a keen interest in indirect taxes as part of revenue mobilisation initiatives.

Maturing VAT system and upskilling SARS 

“In South Africa, VAT is becoming more relevant as a revenue source for the government,” says Matthew Besanko, PwC South Africa’s Indirect Tax Leader. “Strides have been made to upskill South African Revenue Service (SARS) staff and identify VAT revenue leakages, particularly in respect of foreign suppliers of electronic services to people and businesses in South Africa.”

Broadening the tax base and digital economy

In the past year, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe saw updates to their VAT legislation, or introduced specific legislation targeting electronically supplied services (ESS), which is in line with the global trend of attempting to tax the digital economy. “The expectation is that Botswana will also introduce VAT legislation in due course, while the National Treasury in South Africa has also made mention of revising the rules to account for further developments in the digital economy,” Besanko says.

South Africa’s National Treasury has also drafted legislation with the intention to introduce a reverse charge on gold, which is expected to come into effect later in 2022. While in Zimbabwe, revenue authorities have introduced a tax on the export of raw medicinal cannabis ranging between 10% and 20%, which came into effect on 1 January 2021.

ESG and carbon tax 

Key strides have also been made within the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) space. “ESG leadership, strategising and reporting is essential now for organisations that wish to flourish and remain relevant,” Kabochi says. He adds that companies need to consider how ESG and tax intersect, since tax is a significant value driver when businesses need to deliver on their ESG goals.

In South Africa, a carbon tax regime, which is being implemented in three phases, has been adopted. The second phase was scheduled to start in January 2023, however phase one was extended by three years until 31 December 2025.

Until then, taxpayers will enjoy substantial tax-free allowances which reduce their carbon tax liability. At the beginning of 2022, the South African government increased the carbon tax rate to R144 (about US$9), which is expected to increase annually to enable South Africa to uphold its COP26 commitments.

With effect from 1 January 2023, carbon tax payers in South Africa will also be required to submit carbon budgets and adhere to the provisions of the carbon budgeting system which will be governed by the Climate Change Bill. Where set carbon budgets are exceeded, the government plans to impose penalties. “At PwC, we are continuously focused on our renewed global strategy, ” The New Equation,” Kabochi says. “Through this strategy, a key focus area for PwC Africa is to support clients in adding value to their ESG ambitions and building trust through sustained outcomes.”

The New Equation is also an acknowledgement of the fundamental changes in the business environment in which PwC’s clients and other stakeholders operate. PwC continues to reinvent and adapt to these changes as a community of problem solvers, combining knowledge and human-led technology to deliver quality services and value.

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Business

Economists project lower economic growth for Botswana

18th May 2022
CBD

Local and international economists have lowered their projections on Botswana’s economic growth for 2022 and 2023, saying the country is highly likely to fail to maintain high growth rate recorded in 2021 hence will not reach initial forecasts.

Economists this week lowered 2022 forecasts for Botswana’s economic growth rate, from the initial 5.3% to 4.8% and added that in 2023 growth could further decline to 4.0%. The lower projections come on the backdrop of an annual economic growth that recovered sharply in 2021 with figures showing that year-on-year real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth increased to 11.4%, up from a contraction of 8.7% in 2020.

Economists from the local research entity, E-consult, this week stated that the 2021 double digit growth that exceeded projections made at the time of the 2022 budget may be short lived due to other developments taking place in the global economy. E-consult Economist Sethunya Kegakgametse stated that the war in Ukraine has worsened supply problems in the global economy and added that before the war, macroeconomic indicators were seen as improving and returning to pre-COVID levels.

According to the economist the global economy was projected to improve in 2022 and 2023. Recent figures show that global growth projections have been revised downwards from the initial forecast of 4.9% in 2022 with the World Bank’s new estimate for global growth in 2022 at 3.2%.

The statistics also shows that International Monetary Fund revised their growth projections for 2022 and 2023 down by 0.8% and 0.2% respectively, falling to 3.6% for both years. “The outbreak of war has severely dampened the global recovery that was under way following the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the economist.

She stated that despite Botswana being geographically removed from the conflict, the country has not and will not be exempt from the disruptions in the global economy. “The disruptions to global supply chains resulting from the war will have a negative effect on both Botswana’s growth and trade activities.

The economic sanctions against diamonds from Russia will add uncertainty to the market which will have knock on effects to Botswana’s growth, exports, and government revenues,” said the economists who added that the disruptions are driving prices up and result with very high inflation in the local economy.

Kegakgametse projected that in an attempt to limit inflation Bank of Botswana will be forced to raise interest rate “Should the sharp increase in both global and local inflation persist, Bank of Botswana much like other central banks around the world will be forced to raise interest rates in a bid to control rising prices. This would mean an end to the expansionary monetary policy stance that had been adopted post COVID-19 to aid economic growth,” she said.

In the latest projections, the UK based economic research entity Fitch Solutions lowered 2022 real GDP growth forecast for Botswana from 5.3% to 4.8% “In 2023, we see economic growth rate decelerating to 4.0%,” said Fitch Solutions economists who also noted that the 2022 and 2023 economic growth projections may come out lower than the current forecasts, as it is possible that new vaccine-resistant virus variants may be identified, which could result in the re-implementation of restrictions. “In such circumstances, we cannot rule out that Botswana’s economy may post weaker growth than our baseline scenario currently assumes,” said the economists.

According to the projections, Fitch Solution stated that there is limited scope for Botswana government to increase diamond production and exports, following the economic sanctions imposed on Russian diamond mining companies operating in Botswana. The research entity added that De Beers is unlikely to scale up diamond output from Botswana in order to prop up diamond prices.

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