BoB confident inflation will return to objective range in Q2 2024
Bank of Botswana anticipate that inflation will normalise in the second quarter of the year 2024 after staying above the central bank’s objective range for over a year now. Governor Moses Pelaelo said when launching the monetary policy statement for 2023 on Wednesday.
Inflation was above the Bank of Botswana’s inflation objective range of 3 – 6 percent in 2022, against the background of improved domestic demand, upward adjustment in administered prices, as well as higher foreign inflation.
Inflation increased significantly from an average of 6.7 percent in 2021 to an average of 12.2 percent in 2022, thus remaining above the Bank’s 3 – 6 percent objective range since May 2021.
The high inflation in 2022 was mainly due to significant upward adjustment of administered prices, which added 5.2 percentage points to inflation during the year and associated second-round effects.
However, inflation generally trended downwards from September 2022 and was 12.4 percent in December 2022, higher than the 8.7 percent in December 2021. Food price inflation also increased from 7.2 percent in December 2021 to 16.9 percent in December 2022, in the context of significant domestic price increases for bread and cereals, oils and vegetables.
Regarding core inflation measures, the 16 percent trimmed mean inflation increased from 8 percent in December 2021 to 11.2 percent in December 2022, while inflation excluding administered prices increased from 7.1 percent to 8.7 percent in the same period.
Inflation has generally been on a downward trend since September 2022. It is projected that the downward trend will be sustained and that inflation will revert to within the Bank’s 3 – 6 percent medium-term objective range in the second quarter of 2024.
According to Governor Pelaelo this will be mainly on account of the dissipating impact of the earlier increases in administered prices, the recent reduction in domestic fuel prices, the expected decrease in international commodity prices and implementation of a smaller downward annual rate of crawl for the Pula exchange rate.
The projection also considers the anticipated increase in economic activity supported by both fiscal policy and relatively accommodative monetary conditions; the impact of the recent increase in private school fees in January 2023; the impact of the price increase in Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) products effective February 1, 2022; the expected upward adjustment of Botswana Housing Corporation (BHC) rentals and electricity tariffs in April 2023 and April 202411; as well as the possibility of higher prices due to resumption of the 14 percent VAT following implementation of the Government’s temporary inflation relief measures introduced on August 1, 2022.
Pelaelo said in the overall, risks to the inflation outlook are assessed to be skewed to the upside.These risks include the potential increase in international commodity prices beyond current forecasts; persistence of supply and logistical constraints due to lags in production; the adverse economic and price effects of the protracted Russia-Ukraine war; the uncertain COVID-19 profile; and ongoing tension between China and the United Sates over South China Sea and Taiwan.
On the domestic front, the risks for higher inflation than currently projected relate to possible annual adjustments in administered prices not included in the forecast; short term consequences of import restrictions; prospective fiscal developments, namely implementation of potentially expansionary two-year TNDP.
The possibility of a higher than projected impact of the resumption of the 14 percent VAT (from 12 percent) in the second quarter of 2023; upward pressure on wages across the country emanating from the 5 percent increase in public service salaries effective April 1, 2023; were also highlighted as some of the factors that could lead to higher general price adjustments.
Pelaelo also added that there is also a likelihood of an upward adjustment in domestic fuel prices, in response to any increase in international oil prices.
He said these risks are, however, moderated by the possibility of weaker-than-anticipated domestic and global economic activity due to geo political tensions and possible restrictions in response to any emergence of new COVID-19 variants.
Lower international commodity prices than currently projected could also result in lower inflation, as would capacity constraints in project implementation. Meanwhile, according to the December 2022 Bank’s Business Expectations Survey, the business community expects inflation to remain above the Bank’s objective range in 2023.
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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.