Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Limited Chief Operating Officer Anthony Oabona Masunga, who is currently the interim Managing Director of the corporation is a man on a mission.
BTCL this year listed on the local stock exchange amidst high hopes but things are not looking good at the moment as share prices are going down.
Voice Reporter Portia Mlilo had a chat with Masunga to find out what plans he has up his sleeves to restore investor confidence and how he hopes to turnaround the company’s fortunes.
Man on a mission
Q. For how long have you been in the telecommunications industry?
A . I have over 20 years experience in the field of Telecommunications and Information Technology.
I have worked in various projects for different companies and my roles have ranged from strategy formulation, programme management, product development, technology innovation to business planning.
Q. Where did you study and what are some of the companies that you have worked for?
A. I did my computer science degree in Canada. In 1995 I came back home and worked for the Central Bank in their IT Department and thereafter joined BNPC where I established their IT department.
In 2000 I joined Mascom doing IT and telecommunications and within three years I was promoted Chief Technical Officer which is an executive position.
In 2008 I joined beMobile which was a new entrant in the market and 100% owned by the government.
Q. What do you intend to achieve during your tenure as far as BTCL growth is concerned?
A. BTCL is now listed on the stock exchange and obviously shareholders will want to see a return on their investment.
We have more than 51 000 shareholders with the government being the major shareholder. So the primary focus will be moving from socially oriented organization owned by the government to a more profitable enterprise.
Q. Talking of BTCL and the stock exchange, share price recently plummeted to record lows of 91 Thebe, what really caused that?
A. If you look at the daily trade within the stock exchange you will realise that not much is happening and depending on how desperate a seller is, they can sell for anything.
This does not mean the business is affected in anyway.
It has a lot to do with what is happening in the investor community and if you look at our investor profile right now we have what we call retail customers which are quite new in this area of investment.
What is happening is when they sell their shares at a low price, people who really understand the business will likely buy and store for the future.
They know the business itself is very strong going forward. If you look at what we had highlighted in the prospectus we indicated that in this coming year we are going to have a profit of around P112 million.
The company has just declared a dividend of five Thebe for shares bought at P1,that means 5% growth within 3 months.
Q. Currently Batswana are losing money, why are they not being informed of what is happening with the same vigour as when they were being asked to invest?
A. It is normal in the stock market. Prices go up and down.
We have started re-educating people about the issue of impairment and we also have an investor relations office which we established in May.
We will release half year results in September and people will have a idea on whether we are on the right track not.
Q. But what do you have to say the investors?
A. I can assure them that the future is bright and would advise them to hold on and be patient.
It’s too early for people to form a strong view about the BTCL share price.
It has been trading for only four months.
Shareholders should seek professional advice and try to understand if the business is viable going forward.
Sophisticated investors will buy now to increase their stake because they understand the business.
Q. There have been rumours that BTCL’s share price will be based on its cash flow rather than the value of its assets. Is this true?
A. When a business has cash it is able to meet its obligations and able to declare dividends.
Cash is key than assets, you may have assets in your book that don’t necessarily generate revenue.
Q. What do you intend to do in order to make BTCL more profitable? What new services should customers expect?
A. We will pursue aggressive strategies and roll out more products.
This year we will be rolling out LTE which has faster mobile internet.
We don’t just launch technology for the sake of it; we want to introduce products that are geared towards customer needs.
LTE is what they call 4G, which is forth generation type of network because currently we are on what we call 3G.
It enables faster mobile internet services.
We had challenges on the fixed broadband because our ADSL network and our equipment is old.
We are however upgrading it this year.
Already in other forums people are talking of 5G which we will move to as time goes on.
Unfortunately we have been working on mobile money for quite some time with a partner and it was not successful.
We have since withdrawn from the product for but we will be looking at it in future.
It is a question of innovation, new products and the right network to support the roll out of these new products.
Q. And what changes do you intend to make?
A. I will be embarking on a programme called High Performance Culture where basically we are trying to align our resources towards delivering value.
We have to continue to reinventing ourselves as a business to ensure that human resources are aligned towards creation of value.
There are areas in the business which maybe over resourced and certain areas which are under resourced so the whole idea is to resource right at all levels.
We also need to embrace an enhanced performance culture, if for example it takes an average of five days to install a new line we have to find ways of ensuring that we cut to at least two days.
Q. As the Privatization Project Manager, would you say privatization was the best strategy to drive BTCL?
A. I believe it was.
If you look at the broad privatisation policy the whole idea is to get the government focus on policy and get the private sector to be the engine of economic growth.
If you look at the privatisation master plan you will see that the government was working towards offloading some of its assets into the market and we happened to be the first organisation.
I think the strategy is right and executed well.
It is not easy to have access to telecoms investment and Batswana were given that opportunity.
It also introduced Batswana to the concept of stock exchange, mistakes will be made in the process but it is a great investment.
It exceeded my expectations because the shares were oversubscribed than what was available on offer.
Q. Now let’s talk football matters, beMobile as the league sponsor pulled out of 2015/2016 season awards.
Is it going to continue sponsoring the league?
A. There are certain contractual issues that I cannot reveal at this stage but I can tell you that there are certain things we are not happy about in terms league administration.
Clubs have not received their prize money because the deciding game was played last week. This is totally unacceptable if we really want to take football to another level.
We don’t want to be seen celebrating underachievement that is why we cancelled the awards.
We are not in the business of running soccer so I would want them to sort themselves out then we can talk about this coming season.
We hope BFA (Botswana Football Administration) will rise above petty issues and run the sport for Batswana and restore its credibility.
We really want to get commercial mileage out of this partnership.
Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
A. Weekend is family time and I would like to spend time with my kids.
This is a very stressful job.