New Vehicle Sales – March 2018

A total of 1,142 new vehicles were sold in March, a 9.9% m/m increase from the 1,039 vehicles sold in February. This is, however, 18.7% lower than the 1,404 new vehicles sold in March 2017. Year-to-date 3,061 vehicles have been sold of which 1,456 were passenger vehicles, 1,491 light commercial vehicles, and 114 medium and heavy commercial vehicles. This is a 11.4% decline in the total number of new vehicles sold during the first quarter of 2018 when compared to 2017. On a twelve-month cumulative basis, vehicle sales continue to wane with a total of 12,809 new vehicles sold as at March 2018, representing a contraction of 18.6% from the 15,742 sold over the comparable period a year ago.

A total of 517 new passenger vehicles were sold during March, increasing by a slight 0.8% m/m. From a year on year perspective however, March new passenger vehicle sales were 25.5% lower than the 694 units sold in March 2017.  On a rolling 12-month basis, passenger vehicle sales are at their lowest level since January 2012.

625 Commercial vehicles were sold in March, representing an increase of 18.8% m/m, but a contraction of 12.0% y/y. 576 light commercial vehicles, 14 medium commercial vehicles, and 35 heavy commercial vehicles were sold in March. On a year-on-year basis, light commercial sales have declined by 11.4%, medium commercial sales contracted by a substantial 36.4%, and heavy and extra heavy sales have declined by 7.9%. On a twelve-month cumulative basis light commercial vehicle sales continue to be depressed, contracting 20.1% y/y, while medium commercial vehicle sales contracted by 2.1% y/y and heavy commercial vehicle sales was flat on a year-on-year basis.

Toyota continues to lead the market for new passenger vehicle sales in 2018 with 37.2% of the passenger vehicle market followed by Volkswagen with a 28.2% share. They were followed by Hyundai and Mercedes, each with a 5.1% share, while the rest of the passenger vehicle market was shared by several competitors.

Toyota also remained the leader in the light commercial vehicle space with a 57.6% market share with Nissan in second place with a 16.0% share. Ford and Isuzu claimed 7.7% and 6.6%, respectively, of the number of light commercial vehicles sold in the first quarter of 2018. In the heavy category, Scania have thus far sold 14 heavy or extra heavy vehicles, while Mercedes and Volvo Trucks have sold 13 vehicles each this year.

The Bottom Line

Cumulative new vehicle sales continued its declining trend in February and it seems this trend will continue well into 2018. Lower government spending, specifically on capital assets, continues to have a direct effect on the number of vehicles sold. The Bank of Namibia’s announcement last week that the MPC has decided to keep the repo rate unchanged at 6.75% means that consumers and businesses are not provided with slight cost of debt relief, and coupled with tighter credit controls introduced in March last year means that the demand for vehicle finance will in all likelihood remain limited. The continued slowdown in commercial vehicle sales remains worrisome as it is an indication of lower capital expenditure by corporates and lower business confidence in general.

Building Plans – March 2018

A total of 129 building plans were approved by the City of Windhoek in March. This is a slight decline in the number of plans approved on a monthly basis when compared to the 134 building plans approved in February. In value terms however, approvals increased slightly by N$4.4 million to N$82.4 million in March. 91 Buildings with a value of N$100.5 million were completed during March. The year-to-date value of approved building plans currently stands at N$429.7 million, 9.4% higher than the corresponding period in 2017. On a twelve-month cumulative basis, 1,916 building plans building plans were approved, an increase of 10.1% y/y, worth approximately N$2.23 billion, an increase of 21.4% in value terms over the prior 12-month period.

Additions to properties made up 106 approvals out of the total 129 approved building plans recorded in March. Year-to-date 343 additions to properties have been approved with a value of N$324 million, rising 46.5% y/y in value terms.

New residential units were the second largest contributor to the number of building plans approved with 60 units approved year-to-date, 14 less than the corresponding period in 2017. In monetary terms, N$80.8 million worth of residential plans were approved year-to-date, 37.3% lower than the first quarter of 2017.

The number of new commercial units approved in 2018 amounted to 13, valued at N$24.9 million. This compares to 9 units valued at N$42.7 million approved over the same period in 2017. On average over the last 20 years, 14.8 commercial units valued at N$83.0 million were approved in the first quarter of the year (this value is not inflation adjusted).

From a 12-month cumulative perspective, 1,916 building plans have been approved by March, an increase of 10.8% when compared to the corresponding period in 2017. This increase is positive news as it signals an increase in private sector construction activity. The Bank of Namibia announced last week that the MPC has decided to keep the repo rate unchanged at 6.75%, thus not following the South African Reserve Bank’s decision to cut rates by 25 basis points. The domestic economy continues to languish and monetary easing was expected as a measure to stimulate the economy. A decrease in the level of international reserves determined the MPC decision at the end of the day. This decision means that consumers and businesses are not provided with slight cost of debt relief and that it is not more attractive for businesses to acquire the debt finance needed to expand and invest in capital projects.

NCPI – March 2018

The Namibian annual inflation rate remained at 3.5% y/y in March, unchanged from February, and significantly down from the 7.0% recorded during the same period last year. Prices increased 0.1% m/m. Of the twelve basket items, four saw a higher annual inflation rate than the previous month, two remained unchanged, while six categories saw lower rates of price increases. Prices for goods increased by 2.8% y/y while prices for services grew by 4.4%, similar annual price increases to those seen in February.

Housing and utilities remained the largest contributor to annual inflation due to its large weighting in the basket. This category remained flat m/m and increased 3.3% y/y, contributing 0.9% towards the annual inflation figure. Year-on-year price increases within the subcategories showed little change from those recorded in February, with the exception being price increases for regular maintenance and repair of dwellings which slowed down to 1.7% y/y in March, from the 3.0% y/y in February. From a month on month perspective, prices in this subcategory increased by 0.3%, while electricity, gas and other fuels increased by 0.1% m/m. The rest of the subcategories remained unchanged month on month.

The transport basket category contributes about 14% towards annual inflation, and serves as the third largest basket item by weighting. It accounted for 0.7% of annual inflation in March which makes it the second largest contributor this month. Prices for transport rose by 0.3% m/m and 5.4% y/y. Prices related to the purchases of vehicles rose by 6.9% y/y in March compared to an 8.2% y/y increase in February. The price of crude oil has surged to levels last seen in 2014 as the risk of violent conflict grips the market and raises concerns over potential Middle East supply disruptions.

The alcoholic beverages and tobacco category showed slightly slower increases of 4.3% y/y and 0.3% m/m. Tobacco prices increased by 1.9% y/y, while alcohol prices increased by 4.8% y/y.

Namibian annual inflation at 3.5% y/y continues trending lower than that of South Africa. South Africa’s February inflation was 4.0% y/y, making it the lowest rate since March 2015 and remaining well within SARB’s target range. The SARB, being an inflation targeting central bank, cut interest rates by 25 basis points at its March MPC meeting whilst pointing out that indications are that a low point in the inflation cycle has been reached. SARB Governor Lesetja Kganyago said that the main changes in the inflation forecast relate to the exchange rate and has cautioned that an international trade war could push inflation expectations higher.

The Bank of Namibia announced this week that the MPC has decided to keep the repo rate unchanged at 6.75% due to foreign reserves having dropped by N$4.1 billion in the past three months. According to BoN, foreign reserves stood at N$26.1 billion at 31 March.