Old Mutual Wealth’s client inflows rise as parent works on break-up

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(Reuters) – Financial services group Old Mutual Plc’s UK asset management business reported its higher ever quarter for client inflows and funds under management for the first three months of the year, citing increased demand for its services and platform.

Old Mutual Wealth forecast that markets would remain volatile and challenging in the medium term, especially until the outcome of Britain’s June general election and more detail of the terms of the country’s exit from the EU were known.

The business’s net client cash flows, excluding Old Mutual Italy and the South African branches, rose 59 percent to 2.7 billion pounds ($3.5 billion) in the quarter ended March 31.

Its comparable funds under management jumped 6 percent to 122.3 billion pounds, Anglo-South African parent Old Mutual said in a statement on Friday.

“We have the right solutions for these uncertain times, particularly our multi-asset, absolute return and high alpha product ranges… We are hopeful that this momentum will continue throughout 2017,” the unit’s CEO Paul Feeney said.

In March, Old Mutual said it was on track to complete its break-up into four parts by the end of 2018, although improvements to IT systems at Old Mutual Wealth could take longer and cost more than expected.

($1 = 0.7752 pounds)


(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Bengaluru; Editing by Adrian Croft)


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Zimbabwe says has met all conditions to clear arrears to World Bank, AfDB

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HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe has met all conditions to clear arrears to the World Bank and African Development Bank, paving the way for possible future funding from the International Monetary Fund, its finance minister said on Thursday.

The southern African nation in October last year cleared its 15-year-old financial arrears with the IMF, in a major step towards its first loan programme with the Fund since 1999.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said in a statement that facilities negotiated by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to repay the $1.75 billion arrears had been “scrutinised and scrutinised” by the World Bank and AfDB, who were satisfied.

“Clearance of debt arrears is expected to open the door to foreign finance inflows and possible debt treatment by the Paris Club and non-Paris Club Bilateral Creditors through an IMF financing programme,” Chinamasa said.

He did not give details on where cash-strapped Zimbabwe had obtained the money to clear the arrears.

President Robert Mugabe’s government is struggling with dwindling foreign exchange inflows and acute shortages of cash that meant that banks have been limiting withdrawals.

Without foreign funding, the government has relied on tax inflows to support its budget, 90 percent of which goes towards paying its civil service.


(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Tom Heneghan)


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Libya’s Sharara, El Feel oilfields restart after pipeline protest

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By Ahmad Ghaddar and Ahmed Elumami

LONDON/TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s Sharara oilfield has restarted after the end of protests by an armed group that had blocked pipelines there, National Oil Corp (NOC) chairman Mustafa Sanalla said on Thursday.

No details were immediately available about output at the field, which has a production capacity of nearly 300,000 barrels per day (bpd).

A Libyan oil source and a local official had earlier told Reuters production had resumed at the field, which is operated by state oil firm NOC with Repsol, Total, Norway’s Statoil and OMV.

Traders said the field restarted early on Thursday.

The oil source said El Feel oilfield, with a capacity of about 90,000 bpd, had also restarted. El Feel and Wafa field condensate make up the Mellitah blend which is exported from Mellitah terminal operated by NOC and Italy’s ENI.

Sanalla, speaking on the sidelines of an industry event in Paris, said Libyan oil production was about 491,000 bpd on Thursday and NOC hoped to reach 800,000 bpd soon.

He said NOC still planned to reach a production target of up to 1.1 million bpd by August, a goal that will receive a boost from the resumption of output from Sharara.

NOC said in a statement later it had agreed to lift a force majeure on Sharara oilfield, and production at the field would reach 200,000 bpd. It was not immediately clear when the lifting of the force majeure would come into effect.

El Feel oilfield production would reach 80,000 bpd, it said.

News about restarting Sharara and El Feel weighed on crude prices, pushing Brent crude futures around 1.5 percent lower to $51.04 a barrel at 1645 GMT. Investors are worried by oversupply in the market.

Oil security in Libya remains fragile and attempts to negotiate with groups that periodically block and close down pipelines to make political demands have fallen through in the past as rival factions compete for power.

Mohamed Almahdi Alnajeh, a member of the local Zintan region elders council, told Reuters it had reached a negotiated deal with the group blocking the Sharara pipeline to end the protest. The protesters were told to take demands to NOC, he said.

The Sharara blockade was the latest in a series of disputes. Protesters blocked a pipeline leading from Sharara in March. The protests ended in early April but resumed a week later, halting NOC’s plans to raise production there to 270,000 bpd.

Libya’s oil production has been hit by protests, Islamist militant attacks and fighting among rival military factions since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 sent the country spiraling into turmoil.

Before the civil war, Libya produced 1.6 million bpd.

(Additional reporting by Julia Payne in London and Alex Lawler in Paris; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter)


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Iraq says will go with consensus at next OPEC meeting

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PARIS (Reuters) – Iraq will go with the consensus reached by OPEC when the exporting group meets in Vienna next month to discuss an extension of the group’s deal on production cuts, the country’s oil minister said on Thursday.

“Now we’re going on the 25th of May to OPEC and we’re definitely going to be in line with OPEC’s final decision and collective decisions,” Jabar al-Luaibi told a conference in Paris.

Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, was in full compliance with the OPEC-led supply pact reached last year and has achieved about 97 percent of its output reduction target, Luaibi said.

OPEC, Russia and other producers originally agreed to cut production by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) for six months from Jan. 1 to support the market. It is expected that the producers will extend the pact for a further six months when they meet in May.


(Reporting by Alex Lawler; Editing by David Goodman)


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Strike over pay at South African Airways grounds over 30 flights

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s state-owned airline South African Airways cancelled at least 32 flights on Wednesday and has said that number could grow because of a cabin crew strike.

Cabin crew at SAA went on strike in early hours of Wednesday over pay, the main union at the state-owned carrier said, disrupting domestic flights and international flights.

Twenty eight of the flights cancelled were destined for domestic destinations within South Africa, while the rest were external flights, a South African Airways (SAA) official said.

The carrier also said some flights had been delayed.

“We’re talking about a substantial amount of revenue that has been lost in only half a day,” SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said in a video posted on the eNCA television channel’s Twitter feed.

“We’re hoping to get labour to sit down with us … so we can get everyone back to work, so that in the evening we are able to operate our international and regional flights,” Tlali said.

The South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) said its nearly 1,400 in-flight staff would stop work indefinitely.

SAA said the strike had delayed flights out of O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, which handles around 19 million passengers a year, and would also affect flights from its coastal airports.

Zazi Nsibanyoni-Anyiam, president of the SACCA union, told Reuters that the workers, who represent around 80 percent of SAA’s cabin crew, had not received pay increases for six years.

“We will be here until the company puts an offer on the table. We think what we are asking for is reasonable,” Nsibanyoni-Anyiam said from a picket outside O.R. Tambo Airport.

SAA, which is technically insolvent and reliant on government debt guarantees of almost 20 billion rand ($1.52 billion), has been singled out by rating agencies as a threat to the country’s credit status, which was recently downgraded to “junk” by two of the big-three ratings agencies.

($1 = 13.1375 rand)


(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia and Jane Merriman)


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South Africa launches public debate on possible wealth tax

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A committee set up to review South Africa’s tax system on Tuesday launched a public debate on one of the most controversial possible moves on its agenda – a wealth tax.

The Davis Tax Committee (DTC) announced it was inviting submissions from South Africans on whether the government should implement such a tax to lessen the glaring inequality in Africa’s most industrialised economy.

“The DTC was specifically requested by the minister of finance to inquire as to whether it would be appropriate to introduce additional forms of wealth taxation and the feasibility of doing so,” the team said in a statement.

“The distribution of wealth in South Africa is highly unequal.”

Appointed by former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in 2013 and headed by judge Dennis Davis, the Davis Tax Committee is tasked with assessing the role of the tax system in promoting growth, jobs, development and fiscal sustainability.

It said it was inviting submissions by the end of May on the desirability and feasibility of wealth taxes on land and property over and above those charged currently by municipal authorities, or a national wealth tax.

The committee plans to meet next month to discuss submissions.

President Jacob Zuma has called for a radical transformation of the economy following losses in local elections last year partly caused by anger over deep inequality that persists more than two decades after apartheid.

South Africa is grappling with weak economic growth and unemployment of more than 25 percent. The white minority still controls a disproportionately big share of the economy.


(Reporting by TJ Strydom; Editing by James Macharia and Andrew Roche)


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Botswana’s Debswana Diamond Company starts processing Cut 8 ore

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GABORONE (Reuters) – Botswana’s Debswana Diamond Company has started processing ore from the $3 billion expansion of its Jwaneng diamond mine, popularly known as Cut 8, the company said on Tuesday.

The Cut 8 project, which Debswana started in 2010, is meant to uncover 100 million carats of diamonds and extend the life of the world’s richest diamond mine to 2024.

Addressing stakeholders, Debswana Managing Director Balisi Bonyongo said 88 percent of an estimated 500 million tonnes of waste above diamond bearing ore had been stripped away by the end of March.

“Cut 8 is on track to meet its objectives and ore from the mine expansion project is now being delivered to the main treatment plant,” Bonyongo said.

Debswana, which is jointly owned by Botswana’s government and De Beers, owns three other diamond mines in the country, one of which was placed under care and maintenance at the beginning of 2016.

Bonyongo said Debswana would produce about 20.5 million carats this year, or slightly more as the company continues with its strategy of producing to demand.

Debswana will also close its 42-year-old Letlhakane diamond mine this year and it will be replaced by a tailings plant, which is expected to be commissioned before June.

“The Letlhakane mine has come to the end of its life span. We have invested 2.1 billion pula into a tailings plant which is expected to mine about 800,000 carats over 20 years from the dumps,” Bonyongo said.

Figures released on Monday by Anglo American, which owns 85 percent of De Beers, show that Debswana’s production dropped by a marginal 3 percent to 5.2 million carats in the first quarter of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.


(Writing by Nqobile Dludla; editing by David Clarke)


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Rio Tinto’s Namibian uranium mine hikes output to turn a profit

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WINDHOEK (Reuters) – Namibia’s Rössing Uranium, a Rio Tinto business, said it has managed to navigate “the worst year of the past decade” for the uranium industry, turning a 2015 loss into a net profit of 107 million Namibian dollars ($8.2 million) in 2016.

Rössing said on Monday that a combination of favourable exchange rates and a 48 percent increase in production from 1,245 tonnes of uranium oxide had helped counter the effects of depressed uranium spot prices, which have rebounded only modestly since hitting a 13-year low late last year.

Built in 1976, Namibia’s first commercial uranium mine reported a net profit of N$107 million for the financial year ended December 2016, from a net loss of N$385 million in 2015 and said in its annual report there are no plans to extend the life of the mine beyond 2025.


(Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa; editing by Alexander Smith)


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FDI in Tunisia rises 18 pct in first quarter: govt

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TUNIS (Reuters) – Foreign direct investment (FDI) in Tunisia rose 18 percent in the first quarter of 2017 compared with a year earlier, government figures showed on Monday.

The figure for that period, from January to March, was 450 million Tunisian dinars ($177.68 million), the Foreign Investment Promotion Agency said.

The manufacturing industry drew most of the investment flow with 144 million dinar, followed by the services sector with 56 million dinar, it said.

Tunisia, which this month set up a new investment law, seeks to attract foreign investors after years of stagnation due to strikes and fragile security situation since a 2011 revolution.

The new law gives foreign investors more flexibility to transfer funds, including profits, out of the country, and removes tax on profits of major projects for 10 years.

It also establishes a fund for investment which will help finance infrastructure projects and funding to spur investors to launch big projects in marginalized areas of the country.

($1 = 2.5327 Tunisian dinars)


(Reporting By Tarek Amara)

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Tunisia will restrict some imports to tackle trade deficit: prime minister

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TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisia will restrict some imported goods to tackle its widening trade deficit and protect foreign reserves as the local dinar currency slides to historic lows against the euro, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said on Friday.

“The fall of the dinar reflects this enormous trade deficit but there is no need to panic. We will take some decisions.. We will limit some random imports. We have a lot of unnecessary imports,” he told reporters at an event in Sfax city.

He said a cabinet meeting next week would decide on the details of the restrictions. Tunisia’s trade deficit expanded by 57 percent to reach $1.68 billion in the first quarter of this year because of a jump in imports.


(Reporting by Tarek Amara; writing by Patrick Markey)


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