Botswana, Malawi are the stars.

Position:Southern Africa Excluding S Africa - Chilanga Cement, Furniture Mart Ltd. and Sechaba Brewery Holdings Ltd.'s rankings - Company rankings
 
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South Africa may dominate Southern Africa more completely than any other African economy dominates its region. Yet once the continent's biggest economy is taken out of the equation, Southern Africa is the most competitive of our regional tables.

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Botswana takes 19 places in the Southern African Top 50, ahead of Zambia with 14, Malawi with 11 and Namibia with six.

This year the region secures its first $1bn company in the form of First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB), which just breaks the one billion dollar barrier to retain top ranking. As last year, two other Botswanan banks, Barclays and Standard Chartered, take second and third spots, although their relative positions have reversed.

FNBB's pre-tax profits fell 3% to P265m for the second half of 2009 and the bank has warned that earnings will remain depressed during the first six months of 2010. In a statement, the company revealed: "We shall continue with our sound credit vetting process and closely monitor all sectors of the economy. In the last six months of 2009, our strong credit vetting systems paid dividends resulting in impairment losses growing by only 12% from a low base."

The bank's deposits increased 17% and there was strong growth in Bank of Botswana Certificates. Presenting the company's results on 12 March, FNBB chief financial officer Steven Bogatsu commented: "Going forward, we look forward to do even better in the area as the bank should take advantage of government decision to float more bonds on the local market as it tries to obtain funds to cover its budget deficit."

Malawian firms maintained their strong showing, led by Illovo Sugar Malawi, which took fifth position with market capitalisation of $534m. The company, which is an offshoot of Associated British Foods, raised R2.98bn ($284m) last year through a rights issue designed to pay off some of its debts and fund its expansion plans in Mali, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia, as well as in Malawi itself. Telekom Networks Malawi, National Bank of Malawi, First Merchant Bank and Stanbic Malawi also made it into the top 20, as Malawi and Botswana continue to outperform other countries in the region with larger populations.

Celtel Zambia is the top-ranked telecoms company in our Top 50, moving up from eighth to fourth over the past year with market capitalisation of $571m. Celtel Zambia continues to hold a 78.9% stake in Zain Zambia. The company hopes to roll out 3G technology across...

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