Managing Director’s Letter

DEAR SHAREHOLDERS,

This has been one of the most challenging years for our investee companies, specifically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated macroeconomic situation they found themselves in. We say this not in mitigation, but to record this fact into the historical record. Trustco turns thirty on 21 August 2022, and while this diversified, triple listed majority family owned investment group has and will always have a culture of creating longterm sustainable growth for all stakeholders, the group has already welcomed the second generation of our Trustconians’ family into its ranks.

Children of Trustconians born during the group’s ascent are now entering the workforce and Trustco stands ready to welcome them, as it too is in the midst of transforming itself for a new generation. Trustco has always embraced change. Change in Trustco is not only an unshakeable constant, but is the DNA of innovation, wealth creation and entrepreneurship, and a key representative element of the group’s board, management and employees.

Since our first listing on the NSX in 2006, through our listing as first Namibian company on the JSE Africa Board in 2009, and continuing all the way to the present day, Trustco could not remain static. The entrepreneurial roots of the group not only encouraged, but also demanded changes – to the markets in which we operate, our funding mechanisms, even to the way our investee companies operate. Change is the lifeline and daily routine within Trustco.

In the last two years, the world changed as well. COVID-19 transformed our world – our markets, our stakeholders and the way business is done. Trustco’s

culture of change stood us well and accelerated our change from within. We rid ourselves of the old patterns of thinking and charted a new course for the group.

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The COVID-19 pandemic initiated a series of lockdowns. This proved to be the catalyst of the initial changes that would reverberate throughout the group. Trustco had its first fully online-only board meetings, and management moved to online meetings immediately, proving that we had the capability to operate in a digital environment.

Our investee companies, similarly, had to adapt. While internal processes continued to function smoothly, the lockdowns demanded that we change the way we engage with our clients. All the financial services investee companies spearheaded digital initiatives to eliminate any in-person-only client interactions.

Online client onboarding procedures as well as online client services became of paramount importance, with several innovative solutions rolled out in the various investee companies, which resulted in knock-on effects that increased operational efficiency as well as reduced operational footprints without affecting continuing operations.

Yet, that was not the only effect the COVID-19 pandemic had – our employees were affected as well. Eighty-nine of our employees contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with two deaths recorded, while the rest recovered. Trustco could not simply let the pandemic run roughshod amongst our employees, and the group implemented not only a comprehensive coronavirus policy, but also enforced a compulsory office lockdown on our employees during every COVID-19 wave as part of our protective measures.

We were thus quite heartened when the national vaccination drives were initiated in the several countries where our investee companies operate and resolved to encourage and enable our Trustconians to get vaccinated and protect not only themselves, but their colleagues and families as well. Trustco hosted a public vaccination site and was singled out by the First Lady of Namibia as a corporate example that should be emulated as the wealth and health of the nation matters most.

To date, the group as a whole has had 75% of employees receive at least a first dose of the vaccine, with 59% fully vaccinated. At Trustco’s head office and Cape Town offices the numbers are even higher – 80% and 83% fully vaccinated. However, Namibia as a whole still suffers from low vaccination rates, with only 28.3% of the eligible population having had their first vaccination, and 24.2% fully vaccinated to date.

THE NAMIBIAN ECONOMIC SITUATION

Unfortunately, it was not only Trustco that was affected by the pandemic. The overall Namibian economy, already struggling with a recession for the past few years and an eight year continuous drought, closed out 2020 with a contraction of 8.5%. With the effect reverberating across the entire economy, Trustco could not escape the impact it had on our clients and other stakeholders. The effect of the pandemic carried over into the 2021 year, with a contraction of 2.5% posted in the first quarter, minimal growth of 1.6% reported in the second quarter of 2021, and growth of 2.4% in the third quarter.

The effect was felt differently across our investee companies. The education unit could capitalize on the drive towards online education and continue to provide the high standard of service its students expected as well as enrol new students. Consequently, student loans were provided by the banking business, in concert with funding provided from international funders.

The insurance unit managed to curb any significant reduction in policyholders, but saw notable increases in death claims during Namibia’s third wave, while the real estate unit found an uptick in business at the tail end of the pandemic, as lockdowns were lifted, and more clients came to value affordable and quality housing in the aftermath of said lockdowns.

Across all our investee companies the intersection of the economy and Trustco’s current structure presented itself in the same way – with well-performing, world-class assets recorded at below its intrinsic value.

TRUSTCO’S LISTED ENVIRONMENT

With Trustco listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the group could not escape the vagaries of the South African economy either. The JSE All Share Index saw a significant decline during the first month of the pandemic, and Trustco’s share price dropped in concert with the market, without recovering afterwards.

The South African economy overall saw a contraction of 6.4% for the year 2020, with a contraction of 2.6% in the first quarter of 2021, and only saw an increase of 19.3% in the second quarter, which contrasts with the contraction of 16.8% the year before, then moderating to 3% in the third quarter. South Africa continued to see headwinds, both politically and economically. During July, the political situation came to a head as major metropolitan areas saw rioting and the destruction of property, while the national electricity supplier indicated a continuation of load shedding, halting the economy in its tracks.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the JSE saw an increase in companies delisting, with 19 occurring in 2020, and more than 21 by September 2021 already, with most citing the cost of compliance and quality of regulation. With market participants growing increasingly risk-averse, the majority of trading has moved into the top 50 companies of the exchange, leaving little room for mid-tier entities to grow – with the top 10 companies on the exchange making up almost 60% of the All Share Index by weight. Taking into account the above, the group has examined other international exchanges to list on, specifically looking towards regions where the group’s current funding already originates from.

Trustco remains committed to operate in a listed environment, as the regulations of a listed environment provide protection for all shareholders. The open market enabled by such a listing provides additional benefits that include staff retention via share incentives, the ability to raise capital for smaller, select ventures, as well as providing an exit strategy for shareholders.

RECORDS REACHED

This integrated report and financial statements of Trustco and its investee companies represent the efforts of scores of individuals working tirelessly to provide the users of this report and its statements with the most accurate data possible. Stakeholders are urged to peruse its contents. It is in the details provided here that the true strength of Trustco’s investments, operations and assets are on display.

Trustco did manage to break a few records this year. For the first time, Trustco posted losses in two consecutive financial years, totalling NAD 1.3 billion. Since April 2019, Trustco’s staff complement has reduced by two hundred and sixty nine (269) employees due to restructuring within the investee companies, another record. By the end of the reporting period, it had been five years since Trustco last made a major corporate acquisition, an indication of the economic environment surrounding us.

Due to the revaluation of our real estate portfolio, and the fluctuations in the exchange rate pertaining to our substantial mining assets, this also marks the first year that the value of the group’s investments outside Namibia are greater than the value of its investments within Namibia’s borders. It also marks the fifth year that Trustco had not raised any borrowings locally, with all funding coming from foreign sources. As a result, the group’s Namibian borrowings dropped below 6% of total borrowings, the lowest it has been since the group’s inception 29 years ago. Still, the group raised USD 20 million in foreign funds to deploy in Namibia via its student lending unit during the reporting period, despite the recession and the impact of the pandemic.

In the upcoming year, the group will reach even more records. For the first time, the group plans to monetise one of its major foreign investments, maintaining only a minority interest in its mining activities in Sierra Leone. The value of that transaction, amounting to USD 150 million, will be more than the group’s current market capitalisation – another record!

CHANGE REQUIRES ACTION

Talk without action, however, is merely a dream. Acting on plans, however, can change the world. Trustco, as we’ve said before, has always embraced change, as we’d like to thank the board and our management team for the change they’ve spearheaded throughout this year and the actions they’ve taken to ensure the group never becomes complacent. For 25 years of Trustco’s 29 years of investing in high-growth assets in Africa, the group had recorded above-average returns.

With Trustco’s complete combination of motivated staff, exceptional assets, substantial reserves and the experience of its management team to withstand the harshest of economic cycles, a return to growth is not only inevitable – it is expected! With only a little bit of optimism, in both our region and our country, and soon our many investors interest in Trustco and its investee companies will once again reflect its intrinsic value. To our stakeholders and employees – thank you as well! Your pain is our pain! Only with you supporting and vigorously enabling these changes can Trustco remain the beacon for sustainable wealth creation in Africa. The only thing that has ever changed the world, is a small group of thoughtful people taking action.

Let us, together, be those thoughtful people.

Sincerely,

DR QUINTON VAN ROOYEN
GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR AND CEO