Total to resume South African offshore drilling next year

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – French oil major Total is expected to resume drilling offshore South Africa in the second half of 2016, part of a broader campaign to explore in Africa, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Total last year stopped drilling off the southern coast of South Africa after experiencing mechanical problems with its rig during high winds and rough seas in the Outeniqua Basin, about 175 km (109 miles) off the southern coast of South Africa.

“Our plan is to drill next year but only if those conditions are met. I think it is better to think second half than first half,” Kevin Mclachlan, Total’s senior vice president for exploration told Reuters on the sidelines of an African oil and gas conference in Cape Town.

Total is the operator of Block 11B/12B, where it holds a 50 percent stake in the field with equal partner CNR International, a subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

Mclachlan said the company planned to drill between 10-15 wells over the next three years across the continent, including in Africa’s top two oil producers Nigeria and Angola.


(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia, Reuters)

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EgyptAir to launch 10-year restructuring plan

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DUBAI (Reuters) – EgyptAir, the state-owned flag carrier, is in final stages of launching an overhaul and expansion plan that will reverse its downturn and propel it towards growth, its chairman said on Tuesday.

“We’re developing a 10-year restructuring plan, which should be finalised by mid-December,” Sherif Fathi Attia, chairman and chief executive of EgyptAir Holding told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry conference in Abu Dhabi. Attia is optimistic the plan will get government approval.

The plan includes a network and fleet expansion and Attia said the airline could place aircraft orders in the first quarter of 2016. He said wide-body aircraft would account for 20 to 30 percent of its total order.

The airline has struggled to make a profit, facing setbacks during the 2008 financial crisis, which was followed by the turmoil after the overthrow of then-president Hosni Mubarak.

EgyptAir reported an annual loss of 2.20 million Egyptian pounds at the end of June 2011, the last results the group published since the revolution.

The turnaround project, that could see changes in middle-management, aims for profitability at the end of the current fiscal year.

Attia ruled out initial public offering for the company, which had previously been under consideration.

EgyptAir is part of a group of seven companies which includes EgyptAir Cargo. It currently has a fleet of about 66 aircraft and flies to about 162 countries.

(By By Nadia Saleem, Reuters)

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Kenya’s Housing Finance Jan-Sept pretax profit up 7%

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NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan mortgage lender Housing Finance Group posted a 7 percent rise in nine-month pretax profit on Tuesday, helped by growth in net interest income.

Pretax profit rose to 1.1 billion shillings ($10.8 million)for the nine months to Sept. 30. Net interest income rose 24 percent to 2.72 billion shillings, it said in a statement.

Housing Finance said net loans and advances to customers rose to 51.71 billion shillings from 43.27 billion shillings, with net non-performing loans falling by a fifth to 2.7 billion shillings.

Housing Finance’s earnings per share fell to 2.98 shillings from 4.15 shillings in the same period last year. It declared a dividend per share of 0.65 shillings, down from 0.75 shillings.

It did not give a reason for the fall in earnings per share, but it conducted a rights issue in March in which it offered 116.67 million new shares, raising 2.95 billion shillings.

(Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Anand Basu, Reuters)

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South Africa’s rand firmer after weak U.S. data, stocks fall

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand recovered from three week lows on Monday, aided by a weak greenback after softer than expected U.S. new home sales dropped to near one-year low while stocks fell, led by telecommunications provider MTN.

At 1500 GMT the rand firmed 0.23 percent to 13.6080 per dollar, after touching its weakest since October 6 on Friday as upbeat manufacturing data from the United States put bets of a rate hike there back on the table.

Yields on government bonds were down across the curve, with the benchmark paper due in 2026 shedding 0.5 basis point to 8.345 percent.

The greenback dipped as a steeper-than-forecast drop in new home sales stirred doubts about the U.S. economic recovery ahead of a two-day policy meeting of the Federal Reserve, where policy makers are expected to keep rates unchanged.

While there has been an improvement in risk appetite in the near term, traders warned that the rand could be under pressure no matter what the Fed decides with plenty of local negativity available for investors to latch on to.

“Unfortunately, rand strength will be limited. There might be some after the Fed comes out with a no hike in interest rate but it’s probably going to be short lived,” said Ion de Vleeschauwer a chief forex dealer at Bidvest Bank.

“The rand has got its own problems,” he said citing South Africa’s strained economy. “You need economic growth for people to invest in your economy and if you don’t have it, they will disinvest.”

On the stock market, the blue-chip Top 40 index fell 0.47 percent to 48,569 points while the All-share index slipped 0.27 percent to 54,150 dragged by telecommunications provider MTN.

Shares in Africa’s largest mobile operator fell more than 15 percent but closed 12.49 percent lower at 167 rand, after its Nigerian operation was fined $5.2 billion for failing to disconnect subscribers with unregistered and incomplete SIM cards.

“Whenever the Nigerian regulator steps up enforcement, MTN takes a hammering,” Africa Analysis telecoms analyst, Dobel Pater said.

MTN said it was in discussions with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to resolve the matter.

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Cameroon inflation rises but can still hit 3% target

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YAOUNDE (Reuters) – Cameroon’s inflation rate rose to 3.4 percent in the first half of the year but the country can still hit its full-year target of 3 percent, the national statistics bureau said on Monday.

Inflation rose due to increased transport costs and the impact of the country’s fight against Boko Haram, which has driven up prices in the Far North region where the Islamist militant group has staged dozens of attacks.

Cameroon is participating in a regional task force led by neighboring Nigeria against the group.

“The overall rate during the last twelve months is largely due to the surge of 14.5 percent in prices of transport, 5.2 percent for restaurants and hotels and 4.1 percent for alcohol and tobacco,” a statement said.

In September, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) revised Cameroon’s 2015 growth forecast up to 6 percent, saying it could be higher but for a drop in oil prices and the Boko Haram operation.

The IMF said inflation would remain below 3 percent in 2015.

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Kenya’s Equity Bank Group says Jan-Sept pretax profit up 14%

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NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s Equity Bank Group posted on Monday a 14 percent rise in pretax profit for the first nine months of the year to 18.14 billion shillings ($177.58 million), helped by higher interest income.

Equity, which focuses on the lower-income part of the Kenyan market and also operates in Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, said interest income rose 21 percent to 31.60 billion shillings, while customer deposits rose 30 percent to 317 billion shillings.

Equity group’s ratio of bad debts to total loans rose to 4.5 percent from 4.3 percent in the first nine months of 2014, James Mwangi, its chief executive officer told an investor briefing.

Its total loan portfolio rose by 27 percent to 263.4 billion shillings from 206.7 billion shillings, while total assets rose to 445.8 billion shillings from 339.44 billion shillings.

In May, Equity Bank – which wants to increase operations to 10 more African nations by 2024 – bought a 79 percent stake in ProCredit Bank Congo, the seventh biggest lender in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Equity Bank launched its own mobile phone service – known as Equitel – in July and has 1.3 million users.

Mobile banking is seen as the future of the sector, with more people accessing financial services on their phones and other portable devices, spurring lenders to partner with telecom firms to offer services.


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South African rand hit by student protest outside presidential offices

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand touched a 3-1/2 week low against the dollar on Friday as investor sentiment soured over the two week long student protests over tuition fees that have hit universities countrywide.

By 1412 GMT the rand was trading 1.26 percent down at 13.5740, reversing earlier gains as a stronger dollar also weighed down the local currency.

“The student protests doesn’t reflect well to offshore investors and the fact that the government is already under pressure from a fiscal perspective and the situation adds to pressure going forward,” said Ricardo Da Camara, market analyst at ETM Analytics.

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Moroccan inflation eases to 1.6% y/y in September

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RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco’s consumer price inflation eased to an annual 1.6 percent in September from 1.7 percent in August as non-food prices dropped, the High Planning Authority said on Thursday.

Food inflation rose slightly to 3.9 percent from 3.5 percent in the 12 months to August. Non-food price inflation eased to 0.2 percent from 0.4 percent in the previous month.

Transport costs fell 4.7 percent, while hotels and restaurants were 2.3 percent more expensive, the agency said, without elaborating.

On a month-on-month basis, the consumer price index rose 0.2 percent in September, compared to 0.1 percent in August. Food price inflation was steady at 0.2 percent on the month while non-food inflation eased to 0.1 percent.

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Anglo American defers platinum investment decisions, cuts diamond output

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Mining group Anglo American said on Thursday it was postponing major project investment decisions at its platinum unit until at least 2017 and had cut diamond production in the face of soft demand.

In its production report for the three months to the end of September, the company said Anglo American Platinum’s output rose 14 percent to 614,300 ounces compared with 541,000 ounces in the same period last year, when many of its mines were rebooting after a five-month strike.

The decision to defer any major project plans for platinum until at least 2017 comes after the company reached an agreement to sell its labour-intensive South African assets to Sibanye Gold and as the white metal’s price trades near seven-year lows.

Anglo American, like its peers, is grappling with sliding commodity prices across the board, and exploration and evaluation spend for the quarter was down 34 percent to $70 million.

“Diamond production decreased by 27 percent to 6.0 million carats, following the decision to reduce production to better reflect current trading conditions,” the company said.

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South Africa could delay carbon tax implementation beyond 2016

Comments (0) Africa, Latest Updates from Reuters, Politics

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa will publish a draft carbon tax bill for further comment next week, keeping the door open to delay its controversial implementation for the second time beyond 2016, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said on Wednesday.

The carbon tax, part of government efforts to reduce harmful emissions in Africa’s worst polluter, was postponed two years ago to 2016 after alarming industry it would further erode profits amid a global commodities slump and higher electricity tariffs.

“On any tax proposals we take the trouble of engaging with industry before we can implement,” Nene told reporters ahead of tabling his three-year budget outlook.

“So whether it will be implemented in 2016 as we announced or later, will depend on discussions we are having,” he said.

Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in 2014 delayed the introduction of a carbon tax by one year to 2016, tweaking its policies to better protect industry from a proposed tax price of 120 rand per ton of carbon equivalent.

The postponement was welcomed by mining and other carbon-intensive companies, such as steel giant ArcelorMittal and petrochemical group Sasol, who have said the new tax will erode profits against a backdrop of rising electricity tariffs and sluggish economic growth.

The tax, expected to be phased in over time, was due to start on Jan 1, 2015 and is one of several green initiatives, including greater vehicles emission taxes South Africa wants to implement to reduce its carbon footprint.

Should the new carbon tax bill, which was approved by cabinet, be sent for public comment, it is unlikely that it would be made law before Nene’s budget policy speech in February, given that the legislative process at parliament was winding down already.

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