Lucara Diamond Corporation performance continued on a full rebound trajectory during the third quarter of 2021 with a massive jump in revenue to $72.7 million (over P833 million) from $46.3 million recorded in the second quarter of the year 2021 and $41.3 million registered in the comparative third quarter of 2020.
According to figures and commentary released by Lucara on Wednesday, the 57% increase in revenue over the previous quarter, resulted from an average price per carat sold of $619.
PRODUCTION AT KAROWE
Lucara, which wholly owns Karowe Diamond Mine near Letlhakane reported strong production figures for the quarter with recovery of Specials (+10.8 carats) at 7.9% weight percent and Recovery of four pink diamonds from direct milling from the EM/PK(S) unit of the South Lobe, including a 62.7 carat high quality, fancy pink Type IIa gem diamond and a 22.21 carat pink gem of similar quality along with two additional pink gems of similar colour and purity weighing 11.17, and 5.05 carats.
Furthermore, Karowe mine unearthed a 393.5 carat top white Type IIa gem quality diamond from direct milling of ore sourced from the M/PK(S) unit of the South Lobe. This is the third gem quality +300 carat produced from the M/PK(S) unit in 2021, following the recovery of two top white gems (341 carats and 378 carats) in January 2021. In addition, a 257.7 carat top white Type IIa gem quality diamond was recovered during the August production month.
Ore and waste mined tallied 1.3 million tonnes and 0.6 million tonnes, respectively, 0.74 million tonnes of ore processed resulted in 97,412 carats recovered, achieving a recovered grade of 13.2 carats per hundred tonnes. A total of 212 Specials (+10.8 carats) were recovered from direct milling during the third quarter, representing 7.9% weight percentage of total direct milling recovered carats, a strong production quarter in terms of Specials recovered (Q3 2020: 6.5%). A Total Recordable Injury Frequency (“TRIF”) of 0 was achieved for the third consecutive quarter.
The three months revenue of $72.7 million was realized from prices levels of $619 per carat compared to $365 per carat in third quarter of 2020, and from the sale of 117,459 carats (Q3 2020: 112,943 carats). Lucara recorded net income of $12.8 million (P146.75 million) during Q3 2021 (earnings per share of $0.03), as compared to a net loss of $5.4 million for Q3 2020 (loss per share of $0.01).
Adjusted EBITDA of $36.8 million for the quarter was the result of a high proportion of Specials (+10.8 carat) recovered and sold, as well as overall higher market prices for diamonds, supported by incremental top-up payments received under the HB supply agreement for polished diamond sales. This compares to $9.9 million for the same period in 2020. As at September 30, 2021, the company had cash and cash equivalents of $26.6 million, an increase of $21.7 million from December 31, 2020. Following the achievement of Financial Close of the Facilities on September 2, 2021, first drawdown of $25 million occurred.
The outstanding balance on the working capital facility was reduced from $50.0 to $30.0 million. Clara platform transaction values totaled $6.6 million in Q3 2021, a 136% increase from the $2.8 million transacted in Q3 2020. Clara observed strong price increases continuing through the quarter and the number of buyers on the platform increased from 84 to 87 as of September 30, 2021. Sales under the HB supply agreement reached $50.5 million for the quarter, resulting in an average price per carat of $8,066. The strong performance reflects a high proportion of Specials (+10.8 carat) recovered and sold, higher market prices for diamonds, and top-up payments received for polished diamond sales.
KAROWE UNDERGROUND PROJECT
Work is underway to transform Lucara’s Karowe diamond mine into a world-class underground operation. The target is for the first diamonds to be unearthed from the underground tunnels in the fourth quarter of 2026. The Karowe Underground Project (UDP) will extend the mine life to at least 2040, with mining predominately from the highest value EM/PK(S) unit and is forecast to contribute approximately $4 billion (over 45 billion) in additional revenues, using conservative diamond prices.
Following Financial Close of the Facilities on September 2, 2021, the Company’s Board of Directors formally approved the UGP, which has a $534 million (P5.8 billion) capital cost and a five-year construction period. Mine ramp up is expected in Q1 2026 with full production from the UGP expected in Q4 2026. As at 31st September 2021 $64.6 million(Over P740 million) has been spent on the project primarily in relation to engineering and procurement of long lead items and the commencement of construction activities; the total planned spend for 2021 is up to $120.0 million (P1.37 billion).
During Q3 2021, the Company spent $32.0 million( P366 million) on project execution activities including full mobilization of the pre-sink shaft sinking contractor, commencing pre-sinking of the ventilation and production shafts, ventilation shaft scotch derrick erection and installation, continued surface infrastructure construction for shaft development and the second phase of a 200-person camp, and the commencement of bush clearing on the route for the 29 km 132kV transmission line bulk power upgrade.
The fourth quarter of Q4 2021 is expected to see the commissioning of scotch derrick cranes, completion of ventilation and production shaft pre-sinking, continuation of shaft civil works, mobilize headframe material and contractor to start headframe pre-assembly, continuation of detailed design and engineering of the underground mine infrastructure and layout.
Furthermore, there will be commissioning of temporary generators, commencement of bulk power supply infrastructure and foundation works for the transmission line towers, transmission line engineering, and completion of other site related infrastructure. Canadian top mining development experts JDS Energy & Mining Inc. (JDS) is the Engineering Procurement Construction Manager for the execution of the Karowe UGP. JDS is currently building up the on-site project team in conjunction with the Lucara owners’ team, while working closely with the Karowe Diamond Mine operations team.
The recent study on youth entrepreneurship in Botswana has identified difficult access to funding, land, machinery, lack of entrepreneurial mindset and proper training as serious challenges that continue to hamper youth entrepreneurship development in this country.
The study conducted by Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) in collaboration with University of Botswana has confirmed that despite the government and private sector multi-billion pula entrepreneurship development initiatives, many young people in Botswana continue to fail to grow their businesses into sustainable and successful companies that can help reduce unemployment.
University of Botswana researchers Gaofetege Ganamotse and Rudolph Boy who compiled findings in the 2022 study report for Botswana stated that as part of the study interviews were conducted with successful youth entrepreneurs to understand their critical success factors.
According to the researchers other participants were community leaders, business mentors, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Youth, Gender, Sport and Culture, financial institutions, higher education institutions, non-governmental institutions, policymakers, private organizations, and support structures such as legal and technical experts and accountants who were interviewed to understand how they facilitate successful youth entrepreneurship.
The researchers said they found that although Botswana government is perceived as the most supportive to businesses when compared to other governments in sub-Saharan Africa, youth entrepreneurs still face challenges when accessing government funding. “Several finance-related challenges were identified by youth entrepreneurs. Some respondents lamented the lack of access to start-up finance, whereas others mentioned lack of access to infrastructure.”
The researchers stated that in Botswana entrepreneurship is not yet perceived as a field or career of choice by many youth “Participants in the study emphasized that the many youth are more of necessity entrepreneurs, seeing business venturing as a “fall back. Other facilitators mentioned that some youth do not display creativity, mind-blowing innovative solutions, and business management skills. Some youth entrepreneurs like to take shortcuts like selling sweets or muffins.”
According to the researchers, some of the youth do not display perseverance when they are faced with adversity in business. “Young people lack of an entrepreneurial mindset is a common challenge among youth in business. Some have a mindset focused on free services, handouts, and rapid gains. They want overnight success. As such, they give up easily when faced with challenges. On the other hand, some participants argue that they may opt for quick wins because they do not have access to any land, machinery, offices, and vehicles.”
The researchers stated that most youth involved in business ventures do not have the necessary training or skills to maintain a business. “Poor financial management has also been cited as one of the challenges for youth entrepreneurs, such as using profit for personal reasons rather than investing in the business. Also some are not being able to separate their livelihood from their businesses.
Lastly, youth entrepreneurs reported a lack of experience as one of the challenges. For example, the experience of running a business with projections, sticking to the projections, having an accounting system, maintaining a clean and clear billing system, and sound administration system.”
According to the researchers, the participants in the study emphasized that there is fragmentation within the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whereby there is replication of business activities without any differentiation. “There is no integration of the ecosystem players. As such, they end up with duplicate programs targeting the same objectives. The financial sector recommended that there is a need for an intermediary body that will bring all the ecosystem actors together and serve as a “one-stop shop” for entrepreneurs and build mentorship programs that accommodate the business lifecycle from inception to growth.”
Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) is said to have recorded an operating surplus of P61 Million, an improvement compared to the previous year. The housing, office and other building needs giant met with stakeholders recently to share how the business has been.
The P61 million is a significant increase against the P6 million operating loss realized in the prior year. Profit before income tax also increased significantly from P2 million in the prior year to P72 million which resulted in an overall increase in surplus after tax from P1 million prior year to P64 million for the year under review.
Chief of Finance Officer, Diratsagae Kgamanyane disclosed; “This growth in surplus was driven mainly by rental revenue that increased by 15% from P209 million to P240 million and reduction in expenditure from P272 million to P214 million on the back of cost containment.” He further stated that sales of high margin investment properties also contributed significantly to the growth in surplus as well as impairment reversals on receivables amounting to P25 million.
It is said that the Corporation recorded a total revenue of P702 million, an 8% decrease when compared to the P760 million recorded in the prior year. “Sales revenue which is one of the major revenue streams returned impressive margins, contributing to the overall growth in the gross margin,” added Kgamanyane.
He further stated professional fees revenue line declined significantly by 64% to P5 million from P14 million in the prior year which attributed to suspension of planned projects by their clients due to Covid-19 pandemic. “Facilities Management revenue decreased by P 24 million from P69 million recorded in prior year to P45 million due to reduction in projects,” Kgamanyane said.
The Corporation’s strength is on its investment properties portfolio that stood at P1.4 billion at the end of the reporting period. “The Corporation continues its strategy to diversify revenue streams despite both facilities management income and professional fees being challenged by the prevailing economic conditions that have seen its major clients curtailing spending,” added the CEO.
On the one hand, the Corporation’s Strategic Performance which intended to build 12 300 houses by 2023 has so far managed to build 4 830 houses under their SHHA funding scheme, 1 240 houses for commercial or external use which includes use by government and 1 970 houses to rent to individuals.
BHC Acting CEO Pascaline Sefawe noted that; BHC’s planned projects are said to include building 336 flat units in Gaborone Block 7 at approximately P224 million, 100 units in Maun at approximately P78 million, 13 units in Phakalane at approximately P26 million, 212 units in Kazungula at approximately P160 million, 96 units at approximately P42 million in Francistown and 84 units at approximately P61 million in Letlhakane. Emphasing; “People tend to accuse us of only building houses in Gaborone, so here we are, including other areas in our planned projects.”
Researchers from some government owned regulatory institutions in the financial sector have projected that the banking sector’s profitability could increase, following Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee recent decision to increase monetary policy rate.
In its bid to manage inflation, Bank of Botswana Monetary Policy Committee last month increased monetary policy rate by 0.50 percent from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent, a development which resulted with commercial banking sector increasing interest rate in lending to household and companies. As a result of BoB adjustment of Monetary Policy Rate, from 1.65 percent to 2.15 percent commercial banks increased prime lending rate from 5.76 percent to 6.26 percent.
Researchers from Bank of Botswana, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, the Financial Intelligence Agency and the Botswana Stock Exchange indicated that due to prospects of high inflation during the second half of 2022, there is a possibility that the Monetary Policy Committee could further increase monetary policy rate in the next meeting in August 25 2022.
Inflation rose from 9.6 percent in April 2022 to 11.9 percent in May 2022, remaining above the Bank of Botswana medium-term objective range of 3 – 6 percent. According to the researchers inflation could increase further and remain high due to factors that include: the potential increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts, logistical constraints due to lags in production, the economic and price effects of the ongoing Russia- Ukraine conflict, uncertain COVID-19 profile, domestic risk factors relating to possible regular annual administered price adjustments, short-term unintended consequences of import restrictions resulting with shortages in supplies leading to price increases, as well as second-round effects of the recent increases in administered prices “Furthermore, the likelihood of further increases in domestic fuel prices in response to persistent high international oil prices could add upward pressure to inflation,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that Bank of Botswana could be forced to further increase monetary policy rate from the current 2.15 percent if inflation rises persistently. “Should inflation rise persistently this could necessitate an upward adjustment in the policy rate. It is against this background that the interest rate scenario assumes a 1.5 percentage points (moderate scenario) and 2.25 percentage points (severe scenario) upward adjustment in the policy rate,” said the researchers.
The researchers indicated that while any upward adjustment on BoB monetary policy rate and commercial banks prime lending rate result with increase in the cost of borrowing for household and compnies, it increase profitability for the banking sector. “Increases in the policy rate are associated with an overall increase in bank profitability, with resultant increases in the capital adequacy ratio of 0.1 percentage points and 0.2 percentage points for the moderate and severe scenarios, respectively,” said the researchers who added that upward adjustment in monetary policy rate would raise extra capital for the banking sector.
“The increase in profit generally reflects the banking industry’s positive interest rate gap, where interest earning assets exceed interest earning liabilities maturing in the next twelve months. Therefore, an increase of 1.5 percentage points in the policy rate would result in industry gains of P71.7 million (4.1 percent increase), while a 2.25 percentage points increase would lead to a gain of P173.9 million (6.1 percent increase), dominated by large banks,” said the researchers.