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Barclays brace for periods of low interest rates

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Barclays Bank Botswana has posted an improved profit for the full year to December 2017 despite operating under weak economy, which is also characterised by low interest rates. Presenting the lender’s results recently, Managing Director, Reinette van der Merwe, announced that profit before tax leapfrogged by 13 percent to close the year at P558 million. “As the bank’s leadership, we are proud to have achieved this feat despite the challenging and competitive environment that we operate in,” said Merwe last Thursday. Revenue for the listed company remained flat at P1.46 billion.

The bank, which also depends on interest income for profit, said income was flat as a result of low interest rates. In October 2017, Bank of Botswana reduced key lending rate by 50 basis points to five percent. The bank, which is a unit of Barclays Africa, said they remained profitable despite intense competition in the banking sector and fragile economic recovery. Loans and advances also increased to P10.7 billion, representing a 14 percent year on year rise. Merwe stated that operating costs were contained due to rationalisation. The bank will continue to implement responsible lending so as to minimise impairments.

The bank’s Board Chairman Oduetse Motshidisi noted at the event that, ‘the results speak quite a lot about the strategy,’ which he said is solid. “We have a winning strategy,” he stressed. Oduetse, who was appointed Chairman last year, told the gathering that, the bank shall brace for prolonged periods of low interest rates. Meanwhile, Barclays also announced that a dividend of 21.23 thebe per share has been declared. “The dividend payout of 65 percent of our earnings in 2017 is slightly above average payout ratio of 60 percent over the last few years,” said Merwe. She said going forward, the bank will continue with strategic partnerships, digital banking and improving customer services, among others.

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‘Manufacturing holds key to economic growth’

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Barclays bank’s economist Naledi Madala has urged the country to consider manufacturing, as a key tailwind to drive the economy and reduce inequality.

She was speaking at a gathering organised by the bank which focused on economic outlook for 2019. “We should not make a mistake of leapfrogging without manufacturing,” said Madala, lamenting that the country’s diversification remains a pipeline dream, as the diamond is still the economy’s mainstay. She bemoaned that mining activities in the country could not spring forward diversification, though non-mining GDP has been steady over the years.

“Extractive industries are not good stepping stones for diversification, the sector does not prepare us for the next step,” said Madala at the Barclays’ Economic Outlook Forum Review 2019. The economist further noted that government should confront head-on challenges of productivity and competitiveness to attract the much needed Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Though diversification efforts continue to hit a brick wall, Madala said the country should expect increased activities in the mining sector hinged to ramp up in coal production in the year ahead.

She also implored government to consider a welcoming attitude towards foreign investors and generous tax incentives to businesses that set up in the country. Madala is also upbeat that the use of public private partnership model could also help diversify the economy coupled with privitisation. “Privitisation will offer opportunities for growth, through the renewed optimism from government, as business confidence has improved,” said Madala.

She implored the government and the business community to access what is going to drive and hinder growth highlighting that key headwinds to growth are income inequality, diversification challenge and productivity, among others. “The pace of poverty reduction has slowed down, while income inequality goes up,” said Madala

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MINISTER BEWAILS BAD REPAYMENT BY YOUTH

Keikantse Lesemela

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Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Tshekedi Khama has told parliament his ministry continues to face challenges on the repayment of Youth Development Fund (YDF) loans.

Recently presenting the budget to Parliament, Khama said this financial year the ministry has received a total of 2582 YDF applications and approved 983of them to the value of P98 million. He said the programme attracts a high level of interest from youth but the ministry is only limited to funding a maximum of 1200 youth projects annually due to budget limitations.

“However the greatest challenge for the Fund is the repayment of the loan component by the majority of the youth businesses. The youth have advanced number of challenges for this including high rentals for operating spaces, low market access owing to tight competition and limited production capacities,” said Tshekedi, adding that they continue to pursue beneficiaries to repay the loans.

Out of the 919 businesses funded 1058 jobs have been created. The minister highlighted that disbursements of funds will continue to be undertaken until the end of the financial year. “The YDF is currently under review in line with the pronouncement made by the President, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi in the State of the Nation Address, to improve beneficiaries through training, and encourage consortia and cooperatives,” said Tshekedi.

The ministry assists YDF beneficiaries in marketing their products and services through fairs and exhibitions. The ministry also runs entrepreneurship-training seminars for youth and in the past year 3692 young people were trained. Over 600 youth businesses attended fairs and exhibitions to market their products and services. Currently the ministry is collaborating with Local Enterprise Authority (LEA), First National Bank Botswana and Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) on training in entrepreneurship development and mentorship of YDF beneficiaries.

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