Sunday, July 5, 2020

BTCL financials delayed by Covid-19

Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited (BTCL), the only listed telecoms company on the Botswana Stock Exchange, has announced a delay in the release of full year financials after efforts to stick to the deadline where hampered by government interventions to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The financial statements for the year ended March 2020 were supposed to be released at least before the end of June but now the company says the deadline has been move to any date before the end of July.

“This is as a result of the delay in the finalisation of the external auditor for the year ended 31 March 2020 which was impacted by the extreme social distancing protocols that were imposed in Botswana as a result of Covid19 which restricted movement of people,” wrote BTCL board chairperson Lorato Boakgomo-Ntakhwana and managing director Anthony Masunga in a cautionary note released on Thursday.

“The restrictions impacted external auditors and employees who were critical to the audit process as they had to work from home in order to comply with the statutory restrictions placed on the movement of people,” they added.

Boakgomo-Ntakhwana and Masunga disclosed that the impact of Covid19 will likely be pervasive on the upcoming results announcement, warranting a review or assessment of its potential financial impact by the external auditors. The telecoms industry is tipped to be one of the industries that will reap some benefits from the disruptions caused by the coronavirus containment measures, with preliminary data showing that business improved for voice and data segments during lockdown as most people worked from home.

BTCL is not the only BSE listed company that had to delay the release of audited financials. Sometime in April, shortly after the lockdown were enforced, some companies also relayed that there will be a delay. G4S, Letshego and Turnstar were some of the companies that held back on audited results in April as they assessed the impact of Covid19 on their operations. The three companies have since released the audited financials.

However, embattled retail chain Choppies has warned its already weary shareholders to hold still, announcing further delay to the much-anticipated financial statements for the year ended June 2019, expecting the results to be ready at least before end of July.

For Choppies shareholders and market observers, the delay of results for financial year ended June 2019 is nothing new, but only adds to the anxiety. Choppies remains suspended on the BSE and Johannesburg Stock Exchange over its failure to publish audited results on time. This means that the June 2019 financials are overdue by almost a year. Ordinarily the results should have been published by September 2019 latest.

However, the company has had troubles with auditors and regulators after it failed to publish the audited June 2018 financials on time, setting in motion a corporate scandal that played itself over a year. The company finally released the financials in December 2019, late by a year and five months. Adding to the drama, the company’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), dropped the retailer as a client and refused to sign off the June 2018 financials. The retail chain giant says it will be suing PwC for over P800 over how the whole saga unfolded.

Choppies later appointed Mazars as external auditors in Late February, ending a frustrating search for auditors that saw the retail giant being shunned by the country’s big four audit firms. Mazars is currently reviewing the 2019 financials, while another pile of work awaits the financials for the year ended June 2020.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.