FNBB half year after tax profit up 19 % to P536 Million
First National Bank Botswana (FNBB) the country’s largest commercial bank by all measures continued to deliver robust financial results. On Thursday the Botswana Stock Exchange listed banking giant released its unaudited condensed consolidated financial statements and dividend announcement for the six months ended 31 December 2022.
FNBB has achieved growth in profit before tax of 19% over the six-month period. This was underpinned by a strong growth in net interest income, as well as an increase of non-interest revenue (NIR) base. Return on equity of 31.2% (2021: 24.7%) was driven by the 19% increase in profit after tax.
Interest income growth of 33% was driven by the 151 basis points in the prime rate, the 11% growth in gross advances, and the optimisation of the investment securities portfolio. The bank invested in longer dated bonds and treasury bills which offer attractive yields, and increased placements with other banks (30%) which resulted in an increase in income.
Interest expense increased by 81%. This was driven by the increase in market cost of funds as a result of high inflationary pressures, increase in MoPR during the period under review as well as post Covid-19 economic activities which led to the reduction in market liquidity. In addition, the bank’s funding mix shifted to term deposits.
A decline in total impairments of 20% was as a result of a reduction in specific impairments (stage 3) write-offs, offset by increased portfolio impairments due to new advances extended. The prior year stage 3 charge included significant commercial write-offs.
The lower impairment charge of P76.9m (2021: P96.7m) resulted in the reduced credit loss ratio of 1.0% (2021: 1.3%). Non-interest revenue growth of 5% delivered a resilient performance over the period, due to strong performance of the foreign exchange business with growth of 9%.
Service and other fees reflected a moderate growth of 5% driven by an increase in eWallet volumes and in the account base. Card commission grew by 2%, benefiting from an increase in transactional volumes and a 3% customer growth.
The cost-to-income ratio of 47.6% (2021: 47.7%) has remained flat after an increase in costs from inflationary pressures as well as an increase in interest income. Employee benefits costs increased by 12% yearon-year including a 7% increase in direct staff costs accounting for the inflationary adjustment, and an increase in headcount mainly to support Know Your Customer (KYC), branch sales and service support areas.
The non-employee related costs increased by 14% year-on-year, largely following strategic investments costs, the bank’s rebranding launch, and general inflation. The December 2021 non-employee related cost base was notably low as a result of lower economic activity during the pandemic. The bank’s spending pattern has since normalised as evidenced by the increase in travel, marketing and functions.
A dividend of 12 thebe per share was been declared for the six months ended 31 December 2022. The dividend will be paid on or about 16 March 2023 to shareholders registered at the close of business on 06 March 2023.
Looking ahead, FNBB Chief Executive Office Steven Bogatsu said the bank’s investment into its digital banking platforms remains a priority in order to increase efficiency and improve customer and employee experience, while still remaining nimble and responsive to new key technology as it arises within an increasingly dynamic ecosystem.
He highlighted FNBB’s enduring commitment to create long-term value and a sustainable future adding that the bank will continue focusing on economic inclusion, improvements in the business environment, value chain development, and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles.
FNBB Executives also highlighted that risk management and prudential deployment of resources remains the foundation in all investment and development decisions. The bank’s rebranding launch over the period highlighted some of the platform solutions, including most notably the refreshed banking app.
“Growth is evident in registrations across all digital platforms, with customers appreciating the ease of electronic transactions and the growth in the options to serve themselves in the form of convenient, value-added services. A forward-thinking approach to technology and innovation remains a priority for FNBB” the CEO said
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Grit divests from Letlole La Rona
Grit Services Limited, a member of the pan African real estate group, London Stock Exchange listed Grit Real Estate Income Group is divesting from Letlole La Rona Limited (LLR), a local real estate company established by government investment arm Botswana Development Corporation over a decade ago.
The Board of Directors of Letlole La Rona Limited this week announced in a statement to Unitholders that Grit Services Limited (‘Grit’) has informed them of its intention to exit its investment in the company.
Grit has been a material shareholder in LLR since 2019. On 07 March 2023, Grit sold 6 421 000 linked units, representing 2.29% of the Company’s total securities in issue, at a market value of BWP 22 537 710.
This trade follows previous sales of 6.79% in December 2022, as communicated to Unitholders on 10 January 2023, as well as a further sale of 4.78% (representing 13 347 068 linked units) on 24 February 2023 to various shareholders.
In aggregate, Grit has sold 13.9% shareholding in the Letlole La Rona between December 2022 and March 2023, resulting in current shareholding of 11.25% in the Company.
Letlole La Rona said in the statement that the exit process will take place in an orderly manner so as to maintain stability of the Company’s share price.
The statement explained that Grit’s sale of its entire shareholding in LLR is in line with its decision to exit investments where it does not have majority control, or where it has significant exposure to currencies other than US dollar, Euro or hard-currency-pegged revenue streams.
“Grit has announced similar decisions pertaining to certain of its hospitality assets in Mauritius recently. The Company would like to advise Unitholders that it remains focused on long-term value delivery to all stakeholders” LLR said
In July last year as part of their Go-to-Africa strategy Letlole La Rona acquired an initial 30% equity stake in Orbit Africa Logistics, with an option to increase this investment to 50%. OAL is a special purpose vehicle incorporated in Mauritius, owning an industrial asset in a prime industrial node in Nairobi, Kenya.
The co-investment was done alongside a wholly owned subsidiary of London listed Grit. The Orbit facility is situated on a prime industrial site on Mombasa Road, the principal route south of Nairobi center, serving the main industrial node, the port of Mombasa and the industrial town of Athi River and is strategically located 11 kilometers south of the international airport and 9.6 kilometers from the Inland Container Depot.
Grit shareholding in Letlole La Rona was seen as strategic for LLR, for the company to leverage on Grit’s already existing continental presence and expand its wings beyond Botswana borders as already delivered by Kenya transaction.
Media reports have however suggested that LLR and Grit have since late last year had fundamental disagreements on how to go about the Go-to-Africa strategy amongst other things, fuelled by alleged Botswana government interference on the affairs of LLR.
Government through LLR founding shareholder – Botswana Development Corporation has a controlling stake of around 40 percent in the company. Government is the sole shareholder of Botswana Development Corporation.
Letlole La Rona recently released their financial results for the six months ended December 2022, revenue increased by 4% to P50.2 million from P48.4 million in the prior comparative six months, whilst operating profit was up 8% to P36.5 million. Profit before tax of P49.7 million was reported, an increase of 8% on the prior comparative six months.
“We are encouraged by the strong results, notwithstanding a challenging economic environment. Our performance was mainly underpinned by annual lease escalations, our quality tenant base and below average market vacancy levels, especially in our warehouse portfolio,” Kamogelo Mowaneng, Letlole La Rona Chief Executive Officer commented.
LLR reported a weighted average lease expiry period of 3.3 years and escalation rates averaging 6.8% per annum for the period ended 31 December 2022.Its investment portfolio value increased by 14% year-on-year to close the period at P1.4 billion, mainly driven by the acquisition of a 30% stake in OAL in July 2022.
The Company also recorded a significant increase in other income, predominantly due to foreign exchange gains on the OAL shareholder loan. “We continue to explore pipeline opportunities locally, and regionally in line with our Go-to-Africa strategy and our interest remains on value-accretive investments,” Mowaneng said.
An interim distribution of 9.11 thebe per linked unit was declared on the 6th of February 2023 for the half-year period to 31 December 2022, comprising of a dividend of 0.05 thebe and debenture interest of 9.06 thebe per linked unit which will be paid to linked unit holders registered in the books of the Company at the close of business on 24 February 2023.
Stargems Group establishes Training Center in BW
Internationally-acclaimed diamond manufacturing company StarGems Group has established the Stargems Diamond Training Center which will be providing specialized training in diamond manufacturing and evaluation.
The Stargems Diamond Training Institute is located at the Stargems Group Botswana Unit in Gaborone.
“In accordance with the National Human Resource Development Strategy (NHRDS) which holds the principle that through education and skills development as well as the strategic alignment between national ambitions and individual capabilities, Botswana will become a prosperous, productive and innovative nation due to the quality and efficacy of its citizenry. The Training Centre will provide a range of modules in theory and in practice; from rough diamond evaluation to diamond grading and polishing for Batswana, at no cost for eight weeks. The internationally- recognized certificate offered in partnership with Harry Oppenheimer Diamond Training School presents invaluable opportunities for Batswana to access in the diamond industry locally and internationally. The initiative is an extension of our Corporate Social Investment to the community in which we operate,” said Vishal Shah, Stargems Group Managing Director, during the launch of the Stargems Diamond Training Center.
In order to participate in this rare opportunity, interested candidates are invited to submit a police clearance certificate and a BGCSE certificate only to the Stargems offices. Students who excel in these programs will have the chance to be onboarded by the Stargems Group. This serves as motivation for them to go through this training with a high level of seriousness.
“Community empowerment is one of our CSR principles. We believe that businesses can only thrive when their communities are well taken of. We are hoping that our presence will be impactful to various communities and economies. In the six countries that we are operating in, we have contributed through dedicating 10% of our revenues during COVID-19 to facilitate education, donating to hospitals and also to NGOs committed to supporting women and children living with HIV. One key issue that we are targeting in Botswana is the rate of unemployment amongst the youth. We are looking forward to working closely with the government and other relevant authorities to curb unemployment,” said Shah.
Currently, Stargems Group has employed 117 Batswana and they are looking forward to growing the numbers to 500 as the company grows. Majority of the employees will be graduates from the Stargems Diamond Training Center. This initiation has been received with open arms by the general public and stakeholders. During the launch, the Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honorable Lefoko Moagi, stated that the ministry fully endorses Stargems Diamond Training and will work closely with the Group to support and grow the initiative.
“As a ministry, we see this as an game changer that is aligned with one of the United Nations’ Six Priority Sustainable Development Goals, which is to Advance Opportunity and Impact for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What Stargems Group is launching today will have a huge impact on the creation of employment in Botswana. An economy’s productivity rises as the number of educated workers increases as its skilled workmanship increases. It is not a secret that low skills perpetuate poverty and widen the inequality gap, therefore the development of skills has the potential to contribute significantly to structural transformation and economic growth by enhancing employability and helping the country become more competitive. We are grateful to see the emergence of industry players such as Stargems Group who have strived to create such opportunities that mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy,” said the Minister of Minerals and Energy.