Wilderness Safaris, the regional tourism giant outfit bidding to have a primary listing on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), said Friday it is aiming to join the ivy league of companies that are trying to bolster Botswana’s image in the regional markets.
Wilderness Safaris, which has 26 operations in Botswana, aims to raise P124 million through listing on the BSE, which will provide investors with an arbitrage on the more liquid Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) where it will have a secondary listing.
“The P 124 million is part of the restructuring of the business and will enable its Botswana operation to buy into South African operation and list on BSE,” Chief Executive Officer of Wilderness Safaris, Andrew Payne, told Sunday Standard in an exclusive interview Friday.
The cashÔÇôrich operation is also working on plans to increase its bed per night; as such it is looking at the low end market to broaden its product offering under its business model.
Payne revealed there is cash commitment of US $4.8 million for the project on lower end market.
“The idea of listing is to improve efficiency and broaden participation (of shareholders),” Payne said.
Wilderness Safaris operates 70 destinations in seven countries with a business model that was grown in Botswana before copied into other countries.
In Botswana, the company has operations in Chobe, Linyanti area and Okavango Delta and, presently, it is giving the Central Kalahari Game Reserve a lot of attention following the opening of Kalahari Plains operations.
“There are huge opportunities that we see in Kalahari, but the thing is you cannot push them all at once,” he said.
The company’s plans fall in line with the government’s plans of increasing the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP, which currently stands at nine percent.
Last week, it indicated that some of the plans include doubling the number of owned Wilderness bed nights by 2015, as well as to double the area under its influence by expanding into regions which complement its existing biodiversity footprint and experience offering.
“We recognise that achieving this aim will require greater access to capital markets, a broader shareholder base and a simplified corporate structure. We also believe that our unique positioning, iconic international brand and management’s long track record of financial and operational delivery present investors with an attractive growth and performance platform,” he said.
Wilderness Safaris’ core philosophy is one of building sustainable conservation economies through responsible tourism, which shares the benefits of tourism with local communities and ensures that pristine wilderness areas are protected profitably.
The conservation projects include the popular Rhino Reintroduction Project in The Okavango Delta.
The 26-year-old business is invested in 53 destinations and manages and markets a further 17 in seven Southern African countries. It also operates specialist travel businesses in six countries as well as a fleet of 49 aircraft.
It employs more than 2 700 people most of them in Botswana operations, most of whom come from remote rural communities.
Its other operations are in Namibia, Malawi, SeychellesÔÇöwhere it owns an island, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The company achieved a revenue of BWP995.05 million (ZAR1 220.45 million) for the year to February 2009.
The public offer for 3 million ordinary shares is at a price of P4.00 in Botswana and R4.56 in South Africa and is fully underwritten.
Prior to the public offer the company placed 56 343 256 ordinary shares by way of a private placement, also at a price of P4.00 per share.
The offer opened on Friday and is scheduled to close on March 26 before trading on both exchanges on April 8.