It is said the best view comes after the hardest climb. Having been in an acting capacity for close to 18 months, Letlole’s freshly minted CEO Kamogelo Mowaneng certainly shouted a loud “Halleluya!” upon hearing this statement.
An accountant by training and profession, this mother of two ascended to the top of the arduous corporate pole soon after a newly installed board comprising Gregory Pearson, Mooketsi Maphane, Khuto Balosang and Donald Borthwick took office in December 14 2021.
It took three different boards to reach a conclusion and let no one dare say it was handed to Mowaneng on a silver platter. Smart as a whip, with a first-rate work ethic and great ambition to boot that the new board must have noticed, Mowaneng trained as a CA with Deloitte’s. It is must be pointed out that she is a Chartered Accountant, a qualification regarded much more highly than the relatively common (the more honest and knowledgeable might say ‘lightweight’) ACCA.
After spending some time with the audit firm in South Africa during her articles, she returned to Botswana to take up the Financial Manager’s role at listed RDC Properties prior to joining Letlole for a newly-created position of CFO in April 2019.
That she is going to need all these qualities plus resilience and then some as she leads Letlole goes without saying, especially working on a bullpen that has recently been used as the battleground for executives’ bruised egos and dented prides. Whether such battles and landmines lie ahead as she steers the bull on a fresh new course remains to be seen. All this with the government, which has an interest in Letlole through Botswana Development Corporation (BDC), maintaining a hawk-eyed scrutiny on proceedings!
It would appear that two previous Letlole boards failed to recognise her suitability for the CEO role, wherefore she was in an acting capacity for close to a year and-a-half, with two previous boards having variously announced and begun a tedious search process for a new CEO. All the while a safe pair of hands was in front of them. In the end, an external recruitment process yielded no results. A second recruitment process was met with controversy after rumours emerged over who was being lined up for the plum post.
It didn’t take long before the current board appointed Mowaneng, who had all along been right in front of them, following unbearable scrutiny over how a listed company could have an acting CEO for an unprecedented period of 18 months and counting.
Interim board chair Oteng Keabetswe says since her appointment in an acting capacity, Mowaneng has played an integral role in supporting the board and managing the executive team, which greatly benefited the improved performance of Letlole for the benefit of unitholders. “Gender diversity remains a priority for LLR (Letlole) and we are delighted to have appointed a female executive in this important role,” he told shareholders in a statement. “The Board looks forward to her continued contribution based on her leadership skills, wealth of experience and knowledge of the sector.”
Her insightful intellect, tenacity and instinctive decisiveness were a rare mix when combined with her dexterity with balance sheets, cashflow statements and financial forecasts. And after a long, drawn out Game of Thrones war of attrition at Letlole, with so much going on around her, she has officially ascended, with effect from 01 February 2022, to the Iron Throne and grabbed the corporate brass ring that she never bothered to hide was her ultimate goal.
Mowaneng seems to have the Midas touch. A week after her appointment, the company announced that profit before tax (from continuing operations) for the half-year ended 31 December 2021 were ranging between 55 percent and 65 percent above the prior year’s profit. In pula terms, this is between P18.0 million and P21.3 million higher than the previous P32.8 million.
The company disclosed that the main reasons for the significant increase in the company’s profitability was maintenance of the weighted average annual lease escalations of 7 percent, high occupancy rates achieved during the period and tight cost control measures that had been implemented. These, coupled with the impact of economic recovery, have had a positive effect on the valuations of the investment properties, leading to a net fair value gain of P12.1 million in the current period compared to the P8.4 million fair value gain for the prior year, the board explained.
Effective December 2021, the company acquired a 32.79 percent shareholding in JTTM Properties (Pty) Limited, a company that owns one of Gaborone’s prime retail malls, Rail Park, for P152 million. As at 31 December 2021, LLR’s value in Rail Park Mall had increased by P4.5 million, contributing to the substantial improvement in the financial results of the company.
Letlole got wind of a majority interest in Rail Park Mall being available for sale in early 2020. However, the onset of the pandemic slowed progress on advancing the potential transaction until late 2020, while the raging battles drained most of the company’s focus. After management had done the run around for acquisition of the mall, the transformative transaction was bagged by Mowaneng. Several other transactions were sealed under her thumb, helping the financial performance of Letlole.
Despite the furore over executive battles that tainted the company, it was in safer hands as evidenced by improved share price performance. During a presentation recently, Mowaneng took the opportunity to calmly restore confidence, painting a fresh direction for the company. Assuring the market that disputes between the board and the ex-CEO were resolved, she emphasised that the dust had settled and the company was actively shopping for several of yield accretive investments under her leadership.
As she pointed out to analysts, the retail sector had witnessed quite a lot of development. “We are seeing newer retail sectors come up, the likes of smart partnerships in the CBD,” Mowaneng said at the time, adding that others are in Francistown and Letlhakane. “We are looking domestically for assets available as well as regionally,” she noted.