Morocco announces auto industry deals worth $1.45 bln

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business

RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco said on Monday it had signed deals for 26 auto industry projects worth a total of 1.23 billion euros ($1.45 billion) as it seeks to build its position as an international hub for the sector.

The deals include six agreements with French company Renault to expand an “industry ecosystem” allowing the firm to increase local sourcing of car components to 55 percent, according to a government statement.

Renault has a large factory in the northern Moroccan city of Tangiers that opened in 2012, and an older assembly plant in Casablanca.

Another 13 of the new projects are planned as part of a manufacturing hub linked to a PSA Peugeot Citroen factory under construction in Kenitra, north of the capital, Rabat.

That plant is due to open in 2019 and initially produce 90,000 vehicles a year.

The projects announced on Monday are with companies from France, Spain, Italy, China, South Korea, Japan and the United States, and are expected to create more than 11,500 jobs, the government statement said.

Eleven of the companies will be operating in Morocco for the first time, Abdel Wahid Rahal, a senior official at the ministry for industry, investment, trade and digital economy, told Reuters.

On Saturday, officials announced a memorandum of understanding with Chinese automaker BYD to build an electric car plant near Tangier that is expected to create 2,500 jobs. They gave no details on the value of the deal.

Unlike many countries in the region, Morocco has avoided a big drop in foreign investment following the global financial crisis and the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, partly by marketing itself as an export base for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The kingdom has attracted a number of big auto and aerospace investors in recent years.


($1 = 0.8495 euros)


(Reporting by Zakia Abdennebi; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Steinhoff accounting irregularities trigger share crash, CEO exit

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Steinhoff International shares crashed on Wednesday after it revealed accounting irregularities and its CEO quit, shocking investors who had backed the rapid reinvention of a South African furniture chain into an international retail empire.

The company said late on Tuesday that “new information has come to light today which relates to accounting irregularities requiring further investigation” and that billionaire Christo Wiese, its largest shareholder and chairman, would take charge.

Steinhoff said chief executive Markus Jooste, who had been at the helm for nearly 20 years and oversaw its expansion to one of the world’s largest household goods retailers, had resigned with immediate effect and consultants PwC would undertake an “independent investigation”.

Steinhoff has been aggressively expanding in developed markets since moving its primary share listing from Johannesburg to Frankfurt in 2015, snapping up Britain’s Poundland, U.S-based Mattress Firm and Australia’s Fantastic.

Steinhoff said Wiese would “embark on a detailed review of all aspects of the company’s business with a view to maximising shareholder value”, but its South African shares slumped 65 percent to an eight-year low of 15.87 by 1120 GMT. Its stock was down in Frankfurt by 66 percent following the news.

Steinhoff has been under investigation for suspected accounting irregularities by the state prosecutor in Oldenburg, Germany since 2015. Steinhoff has said that was a tax case relating to whether revenues were booked correctly, and taxable profit correctly declared.

Reuters reported last month that Steinhoff did not tell investors about almost $1 billion in transactions with a related company, despite laws that some experts believe require it to do so.

It is unclear what accounting irregularities the company was referring to in its statement on Wednesday. A spokesman declined further comment and attempts by Reuters to contact Jooste were not successful.

The development had wider repurcussions too, with the chief executive of Steinhoff African Retail (STAR), part of Steinhoff which includes the control of Shoprite, also resigning on Wednesday and its shares falling 21.5 percent to 19.30 rand by 0855 GMT.

“In light of these developments at Steinhoff, STAR’s existing CEO, Ben la Grange has decided to step down as CEO of STAR,” the company said.



Analysts have long questioned how Steinhoff managed to achieve such a low tax rate. Its tax rate has averaged 12 percent over the past five years — half the headline corporate tax rate in its main markets and less than half the rates paid by listed competitors including France’s Casino, Germany’s Metro AG and South Africa’s Woolworths.

Experts say such low tax rates can be the result of complex corporate structures which stretch accounting rules and such arrangements are occasionally challenged by courts as unlawful.

“The company recorded a very unusual tax rate of c. 15 percent and also guided that this would be the rate going forward,” Juergen Kolb, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, said in a note, adding that if this tax rate was at risk it could also hit Steinhoff’s cashflow.

Kolb also raised the possibility that as chairman, Wiese’s role could now come under scrutiny too.

Steinhoff did not respond to requests for information about what, if anything, Wiese knew about the accounting problems now being investigated before Tuesday.

Investors also told Reuters they are concerned Wiese may be forced to sell shares he bought last year with borrowed money.

Wiese borrowed 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion) to buy additional Steinhoff shares through a family trust in September 2016, pledging 3.2 billion euros of his existing holding as security to the investment banks that lent the money.

With the share price plunge taking the security below the value of the loan, Wiese may be required by the financing banks — Citi, Goldman, HSBC and Nomura — to post more shares as collateral, or sell part of his holding.

($1 = 0.8459 euros)


(By TJ Strydom. Reporting by TJ Strydom; additional reporting by Tanisha Heiberg, Tom Bergin and Alasdair Pal; writing by Alexander Smith; editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Keith Weir)

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African Development Bank gives $148 million to support Namibia’s education, agriculture

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Agriculture, Education

CAPE TOWN/WINDHOEK (Reuters) – The African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a total of 2 billion rand 148 million) in loans to boost Namibia’s education and agriculture sectors, it said on Tuesday.

The funds are aimed at helping reduce youth unemployment by boosting technical and vocational training, and reducing food imports by the South-western African country.

Both the education and agriculture projects will receive additional Namibian government contribution, the AfDB said.

The south-western nation’s unemployment rate jumped to 34 percent of the working population in 2016 from 28.1 percent in 2014, the last time a labour force survey was conducted by the Namibia Statistics Agency.

($1 = 13.4738 rand)


(Reporting by Wendell Roelf in Cape Town and Nyasha Nyaungwa in Windhoek; Editing by James Macharia)

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South Africa’s private-sector activity slows in November: PMI

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 5 (Reuters) – South African private sector activity slowed in November as new orders and output fell, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The Standard Bank Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), compiled by IHS Markit, fell to 48.8 in November from 49.6 in October, staying below the 50 mark that separates expansion from


“Lower underlying demand formed the basis for the decline as new orders fell at the quickest pace observed since early 2016.

This led output to fall, and at a faster rate than that noted in the previous month,” IHS Markit said in a statement.

South Africa’s economic gloom has been compounded by allegations of corruption in state-owned companies and of influence-peddling in government that have hurt investor confidence.

The ruling African National Congress will this month elect a successor to President Jacob Zuma as party chief, adding to the climate of uncertainty.

“Apart from South Africa’s economy being characterised by generally weak growth, we note that the rating agency review on November 24th and the upcoming ANC elective conference will have

delayed production and consumption decisions,” Standard Bank economist Kim Silberman said.

S&P Global Ratings downgraded South African debt to junk status on Nov. 24, citing its deteriorating economic outlook and public finances. Moody’s put the country on review for a


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Heineken to open $100 mln brewery in Mozambique in 2019

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Heineken will open a $100 million brewery in Mozambique, its first production facility in the southern African nation, the brewer said on Monday.

The world’s second-largest brewer plans to start production at the 0.8 million hectoliters capacity plant in the capital Maputo in the first half of 2019, it said in a statement.

Heineken, which also brews Amstel and Sagres, opened a marketing office in Mozambique last year, importing products to compete in a market where AB Inbev’s 2M is entrenched.

AB Inbev last year took over SABMiller, gaining a brewery in Mozambique among a host of assets worldwide.

“We are delighted to enter Mozambique, where we see promising long-term economic perspectives,” said Heineken’s managing director for East and West Africa Boudewijn Haarsma.

Heineken built a brewery in neighbouring South Africa less than a decade ago after ending a deal with SABMiller for brewing Amstel beer.


(Reporting by TJ Strydom; Editing by James Macharia and David Evans)

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Tanzania restores power in parts of country after nationwide outage

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzania’s power utility said on Friday it had started to restore electricity to parts of the country after the East African nation was hit by a country-wide blackout on Thursday morning.

“Efforts are ongoing to make sure that power supply is restored to all parts of the country,” the state-run Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) said in a statement.

TANESCO apologised for the power outage, but did not explain what caused a “technical glitch” in the national power grid that left the region’s No. 3 economy in a blackout that lasted more than 12 hours on Thursday.

Power was restored in many parts of commercial capital Dar es Salaam late on Thursday.

TANESCO said it had also restored electricity in the administrative capital Dodoma, as well as Iringa region in the centre and Tanga in the north east.

Partial blackouts occur regularly in Tanzania, which relies on hydro, natural gas and heavy fuel oil to generate electricity. Many businesses use power generators as backups, pushing up their operating costs.

Tanzania’s energy infrastructure has suffered from decades of underinvestment, neglect and corruption allegations, and investors have long complained the lack of reliable power hurts business there.

President John Magufuli is pushing a major hydropower project at Stiegler’s Gorge in the UNESCO-designated Selous Game Reserve to help tackle chronic electricity shortages.

The project would more than double the country’s current power generation capacity of around 1,500 megawatts (MW). The government has not said how much the project would cost or how it would raise financing, but wants it completed within three years.

Tanzania aims to boost power generation capacity to 10,000 MW over the next decade by also using some of its vast natural gas and coal reserves.


(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala; Editing by George Obulutsa and Mark Potter)


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Eskom says rolling cuts unlikely despite coal supply fall

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Environment, Infrastructure

By Nqobile Dludla and Mfuneko Toyana

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African utility Eskom said on Thursday rolling power cuts are unlikely despite coal supply possibly falling below a 20-day requirement at its Hendrina power station.

On Thursday investigative news outfit AmaBhungane reported Eskom may be forced into nationwide electricity cuts after a coal mine linked to the Gupta family threatened to halt supply.

Eskom has been at the heart of allegations of illegal contracts and undue influence in awarding tenders to the Gupta family, friends of South African President Jacob Zuma.

Spokesman Khulu Phasiwe confirmed Eskom had held an emergency meeting last Friday to determine whether strategic coal stockpiles at Hendrina and other stations were sufficient after Tegeta Exploration and Resources threatened to halt supply to Hendrina.

Coal supply at Eskom’s power stations stood at 74 days’ worth in March but had fallen to 25 days’ worth at Hendrina by October and may have fallen below a 20-day requirement since, Phasiwe said.

He told Reuters the company was investigating whether supply at all its 12 power stations complied with regulations requiring at least 20 days’ worth.

South Africa had regular power cuts between 2008 and 2015, hitting key industries and knocking economic growth as demand exceeded capacity.

Quoting sources, AmaBhungane alleged that Tegeta has been exporting coal from its Optimum Coal Mine while limiting supply to Eskom.

“If it happens that for some reason they are unable to supply us with coal then clearly it means that they would have breached the contract and therefore it becomes a legal matter,” Eskom’s Phasiwe said.

A spokeswoman for Tegeta parent company Oakbay, founded by the Gupta family as its main investment vehicle in South Africa, said the company would likely comment on Friday.

The family agreed in August to sell Tegeta but the sale has not been finalised.

The Guptas are accused of using their links with the 75-year old Zuma to wield influence and win state contracts. Zuma and the family both deny any wrongdoing.

($1 = 13.6469 rand)

(Editing by Ed Stoddard and Jason Neely)


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Kenya cuts electricity tariffs for manufacturers to create jobs

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya is cutting night-time electricity tariffs for manufacturers by half to entice investors and boost economic growth and job creation, a top ministry of energy official said on Wednesday.

The East African nation charges firms 15.70 shillings ($0.1522) per kilowatt hour, which is seen as uncompetitive compared with other African nations such as Ethiopia, South Africa and Egypt.

Joseph Njoroge, the principal secretary in charge of electricity at the ministry, said the reduction will apply from 10 pm to 6 am every day to boost usage of electricity when most households and businesses shut down.

“It is about, how do we create jobs for our people? How do we grow as a country? How do we move from an agro-based to an industrial-based country so that we can be able to enhance our GDP,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of an energy conference.

During his inauguration for a second term, President Uhuru Kenyatta said he planned to increase the share of manufacturing to annual economic output to 15 percent from 9 percent.

The government has been trying to boost investments in the sector in recent years with modest success, including the opening of light vehicle assembly plants by Peugeot and Volkswagen.

Taxes account for about a third of electricity tariffs and Njoroge said they will consider whether some of the charges can be reduced.

Kenya has an installed electricity capacity of 2,336 megawatts (MW) with maximum demand of 1,727 MW, Njoroge said. It has increased the share of the population with access to electricity to 70 percent in the last four years from 30 percent.


($1 = 103.1500 Kenyan shillings)


(Reporting by Duncan Miriri, editing by Louise Heavens)


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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe is gone, but political kow-towing still abounds

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Politics

HARARE (Reuters) – Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule may be over, but a culture of political fawning by the Zimbabwean state media and fear of those in authority still flourishes.

The Herald newspaper and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation – state and ruling ZANU-PF party mouthpieces – routinely heaped lavish praise on the 93-year-old Mugabe and his wife Grace in sycophantic articles and commentaries.

With the sudden change of guard, Zimbabwe’s official media is having a hard time shaking off old habits and is now tailoring its eulogies to fit Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s successor.

State radio intersperses programmes with martial music from the war of independence in honour of Mnangagwa’s war veteran allies and the army.

One morning talk show host spoke glowingly on Tuesday of seeing the presidential motorcade at 0645 GMT. This, he said, signalled the new leader was keeping his word to hit the ground running.

“The president is showing the way so get to work on time,” he said.

Mnangagwa, 75, a close Mugabe ally for several decades, took power after the military takeover on Nov. 15 following a succession battle that split the ruling ZANU-PF party.

“Comrade Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, (is) a true son of the soil who sacrificed his entire life to serving Zibmabwe as evidenced by the role he played in the liberation struggle as well as after independence up to this day. We are blessed to have you as our leader,” an advertisement by the ministry for women affairs, gender and community development gushed in the Herald.



Not all within the ruling party are comfortable with the trend though.

Justice Wadyajena, a Mnangagwa admirer and outspoken ZANU-PF parliamentarian, reminded his Twitter followers of the dangers of personality cults.

“Those falling all over each other pledging loyalty to President ED are just brutes playing meek,” Wadyajena wrote, referring to Mnangagwa by the initials of his first and middle names.

“If you really are principled, there’s no reason to bootlick, your conduct should speak for itself. We’ve seen the danger of personalizing governance and gatekeeping a NATIONAL FIGURE!!”

Mnangagwa, who served Mugabe loyally for 52 years, is expected to form a new cabinet this week. Zimbabweans are watching to see if he breaks with the past and names a broad-based government or selects figures from the Mugabe era’s old guard.



(By Emelia Sithole-Matarise. Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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S.Africa’s Zuma calls for action after S&P downgrade, rand up on Moody’s reprieve

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

By Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African President Jacob Zuma called for concrete measures to boost growth after S&P Global Ratings downgraded the local currency debt to sub-investment grade, while foreign currency debt was pushed deeper into “junk” territory.

The rand recovered on Monday from steep falls suffered late on Friday after the downgrade, taking some relief from Moody’s decision to only place South Africa on review for downgrade.

A cut to “junk” on the local currency debt by both S&P and Moody’s could have seen South African debt lose its place in Citi’s World Government Bond Index (WGBI), the biggest of the global benchmarks and tracked by about $2-3 trillion of funds.

Zuma directed Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Monday to finalise proposals for expenditure cuts amounting to 25 billion rand ($2 billion) and revenue boosting measures totalling 15 billion rand – including through taxes.

A proposal by a presidential commission to introduce free higher education should also be implemented in a “fiscally-sustainable manner”, the statement from Zuma’s office said.

Gigaba in October unveiled a gloomy outlook for the economy as he flagged weaker growth expectations, wider budget deficit estimates and rising government debt.

Both S&P and Moody’s cited deterioration in South Africa’s economic growth prospects and public finances.

As of 1527 GMT, the rand was trading at 13.7625 per dollar, 2.86 percent firmer than its New York close on Friday, when it had tumbled 2 percent following S&P’s announcement.

“The market is finding some relief in the fact that Moody’s has chosen to give us basically till February before they change our rating, if they do change our rating,” said Shaun Murison, currency strategist at IG Markets.

In fixed income, the yield for the benchmark government bond was down 9 basis points to 9.245 percent, also recovering after rising as much as 11 basis points earlier in the session.

Moody’s said the review will allow it to assess the South African authorities’ willingness and ability to respond to the rising pressures through growth-supportive fiscal adjustments that raise revenues and contain expenditures.

“The review period may not conclude until the size and the composition of the 2018 budget is known next February,” Moody’s senior analyst for South Africa, Zuzana Brixiova, said in a statement.

Moody’s rates South Africa’s foreign and local currency debt on their lowest investment grade rung of Baa3.


S&P’s decision will see South Africa excluded from the Barclays Global Aggregate index, whose inclusion criteria requires investment grade rating on its local currency debt from any two ratings agencies.

Fitch already rates South African debt as “junk”, and affirmed the rating on Thursday.

If nothing changes, the country will be downgraded to “junk” by all ratings agencies and the WGBI dream will be no more, at least for many a year, said Standard Bank chief trader Warrick Butler in a note.

“What this means, in terms of the currency, will be increased volatility.”

Falling out of the WGBI could have led to a larger sell-off in bonds, even though rising yields could present a buying opportunity for some yield-hungry investors.

“If you look at some of the metrics the real yields are among the highest in EM, the domestic curve is extremely steep, the current account is in better place than it was three to four years ago and the rand is quite competitive against likes of (Russia’s) rouble or Brazilian real,” said London-based Paul Greer, senior trader at Fidelity International.

“On the local side the real yield and steepness of curve look attractive from tactical perspective.”

Analysts said an exclusion from the Barclays index would lead to outflows of about $2 billion, compared with more than $10 billion if South Africa was to fall out of Citi’s WGBI.

South African debt was dropped from one the widely used global bond indexes, the JPMorgan Emerging Market Bond Index Global in April after S&P and Fitch downgraded foreign currency debt to sub-investment grade.

On the stock market, the Top-40 index was 0.35 percent lower at 53,810 while the broader all-share was down 0.28 percent at 60,157.

($1 = 13.7678 rand)

(Additional reporting by Sujata Rao in London; Editing by James Macharia/Mark Heinrich)


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