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Egypt to halt flour subsidy and cut wheat imports by up to 10 pct

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt, the world’s largest wheat buyer, will stop subsidising flour for its sweeping bread subsidy programme next month in a move expected to cut wheat imports by up to 10 percent by curtailing smuggling, the supply ministry said on Wednesday.

Egypt is looking to tighten its finances as it pushes ahead with a $12 billion three-year International Monetary Fund loan programme tied to ambitious reforms such as subsidy cuts and tax increases.

Austerity-hit Egyptians faced with inflation above 30 percent have increasingly turned to the state’s cheap subsidised bread to make ends meet, increasing the country’s food subsidy bill as well as its wheat imports. In the financial year to June 30 wheat imports reached 5.58 million tonnes, up from 4.4 million the preceding year.

In an attempt to reduce waste the state will next month stop subsidising flour used by bakeries offering the cheap bread. Instead, it will restrict subsidies to the actual bread offered to consumers, Supply Ministry spokesman Mohamed Sweed said.

Subsidy card holders currently obtain each loaf of bread for 0.05 pounds, less than a tenth of the cost of production, via an electronic smart card that allocates a maximum daily ration to citizens and compensates bakeries for the production cost shortfall with every swipe.

Unscrupulous bakers have long bought up cheap subsidised flour and sold it on the black market, costing the state millions of dollars a year in squandered subsidies.

Sweed said the new measure will remove the incentive for smugglng flour, cutting down on waste and helping to save the state up to 8 billion Egyptian pounds ($447 million) from its 2017-18 food subsidy bill, which had been set at 85 billion pounds.

He said that lower flour consumption would translate directly into reduced imports.

($1 = 17.9100 Egyptian pounds)

 

(Reporting by Eric Knecht; Editing by David Goodman)

 

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Zimbabwe looks to issue more ‘bond notes’ as cash shortages bite

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HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s Reserve Bank is looking to increase the amount of domestic “bond notes” in circulation beyond an initial $200 million cap, its governor said on Wednesday, as the economy continues to grapple with shortages of U.S. dollars.

“We are in the process of negotiating those facilities and then we’ll come back to yourselves after we have made significant progress,” John Mangudya told reporters on the sidelines of a lecture at the University of Zimbabwe.

He declined to give any more details of the new currency issuance plans.

 

(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley)

 

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Etisalat Nigeria’s new CEO targets profit after regulator rescue

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By Chijioke Ohuocha

LAGOS (Reuters) – Etisalat Nigeria is focused on getting the telecoms group back on track to make a profit after it was saved from collapse, while working on the paperwork to eventually raise new capital.

“Our mandate is to make sure the business runs as profitably as it can. What is most important now is to … ensure that the business runs and meets its obligations,” the company’s new chief executive Boye Olusanya told Reuters on Tuesday.

Nigerian regulators intervened last week to save Etisalat Nigeria after talks with its lenders to renegotiate a $1.2 billion loan from 2013 with 13 local lenders failed.

Etisalat Nigeria has 20 million subscribers, making it the country’s number four mobile operator with a 14 percent market share. South Africa’s MTN has 47 percent, Globacom 20 percent and Airtel – a subsidiary of India’s Bharti Airtel – 19 percent.

“Once we’ve gotten ourselves to where certain decisions are made and the structure and form of the business is formed then maybe we would look at a capital raising structure that would be suitable for the nature of how the business will be run,” the new CEO said in an interview in his offices.

Olusanya, who took over as CEO of Etisalat Nigeria following the appointment of a new board led by Nigeria’s central bank, said that while the business could run without an immediate recapitalisation, he would not rule one out completely.

“Obviously if its possible to do it tomorrow we will do it, because that enhances the ability of this business to roll-out quickly, to get more subscribers, which is what everybody wants,” he added.

UAE’s Etisalat, which had a 45 percent stake in the Nigerian business, has said its exposure to Etisalat Nigeria related to services worth 191 million UAE dirhams ($52 million).

In June, Etisalat said it had been ordered to transfer its shares to a loan trustee after debt talks failed.

“We’re still in negotiations with Etisalat over the use of the brand name,” Olusanya said, adding that the technical service agreement with Etisalat covered the brand name but the telecoms company was run by Nigerians.

The former Celtel executive said he has plans in place to rename the company if needed after UAE’s Etisalat said it had terminated a management agreement and given its one-time Nigerian business time to phase out the brand.

All UAE shareholders in Etisalat Nigeria, including state-owned investment fund Mubadala, had exited the company and left the board and management, Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Etisalat International, told Reuters.

 

(Editing by Alexander Smith)

 

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Gold falls slightly as dollar, equities gain ahead of Yellen testimony

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By Nithin ThomasPrasad

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Gold edged lower on Tuesday on a firmer dollar and equities as the market awaited cues on the path of interest rate hikes in the United States ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony on Wednesday.

The market was looking ahead to Wednesday and Thursday as Yellen will deliver two days of testimony on the U.S. central bank’s semi-annual report on monetary policy and the economy.

Based on the minutes of the last Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released on July 5, Yellen may testify that the Fed will seek to reduce the central bank’s Treasury bond holdings and mortgage-backed securities by August, effectively tightening the supply of U.S. dollars. The FOMC also indicated in the minutes that another interest rate hike would happen later this year.

Bullion is highly sensitive to rising rates because they push up bond yields, increasing the opportunity cost of holding non-interest bearing gold. A higher dollar, in which gold is priced, would also lower the value of the yellow metal.

“If the (Yellen) commentary is a little more hawkish, it’s going to put a little more pressure on gold again and going by previous FOMC minutes, it’s probably going to be,” said MKS PAMP analyst Tim Brown, adding “a lot of it has already been priced in.”

Spot gold was down 0.2 percent at $1,211.34 per ounce as of 0656 GMT. U.S. gold futures for August delivery fell 0.2 percent to $1,210.50 per ounce.

“The rising dollar and rise in (Treasury) yields will continue to mount pressure on the gold and silver in the near term,” MKS PAMP trader Alex Thorndike said in a note.

U.S. Treasury yields slipped on Monday, in line with weak European markets, as sharp gains following Friday’s strong U.S. non-farm payrolls report prompted investors to consolidate positions. After Friday’s jobs report, U.S. 10-year yields had hit an eight-week high of 2.398 percent.[US/]

Asian shares and the dollar were slightly higher on Tuesday. [USD/] [MKTS/GLOB]

Holdings at SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund fell 0.35 percent to 832.39 tonnes on Monday from 835.35 tonnes on Friday.

Spot gold is expected to rise into a range of between $1,225 and 1,231 per ounce, as suggested by its wave pattern and a Fibonacci projection analysis, according to Reuters technical analyst, Wang Tao.

Among other precious metals, silver fell 0.5 percent to $15.55 per ounce, while palladium rose 0.3 percent to $842.25 per ounce.

Platinum fell for a third day, down 0.8 percent at $892.35 per ounce. On Monday, prices fell to as low as $889.25, the lowest since May 4.

 

(Reporting by Nithin Prasad and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Subhranshu Sahu)

 

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Angola’s inflation slows to 32.58 percent year/year in May

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LUANDA (Reuters) – Angola’s inflation slowed to 32.58 percent year-on-year in May from 34.8 percent in April, according to data on the national statistics agency’s website seen by Reuters on Monday.

Price increases on a month-on-month basis slowed 1.6 percent in May compared to a 1.8 percent previously.

 

(Writing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by James Macharia)

 

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Botswana’s BCL to be sold off piecemeal after sale talks fail

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GABORONE (Reuters) – Collapsed state-owned Botswanan copper and nickel producer BCL Limited will be sold off piecemeal after the company failed to find a buyer, its liquidator said on Friday.

BCL was placed under provisional liquidation in October after the government said it could not afford the 7 billion pula ($685 million) needed to keep the company running.

“Our first priority is to still try and sell BCL as a going concern, but if that fails we can now sell the assets, which include the smelter and the mine shafts, separately,” liquidator Nigel Dixon-Warren of KMPG told Reuters.

Botswana’s oldest and biggest copper mine ran into trouble because of low commodity prices, diminishing ore grades and the ever deeper shafts needed to extract its resources.

BCL owed creditors about one billion pula when it was placed under provisional liquidiation.

Dixon-Warren said potential buyers had been put off by a $271 million lawsuit filed by Norilsk Nickel against BCL over its botched deal to buy a 50 percent stake in a South African nickel mine from the Russian company.

“We have had some strong interest from many buyers, but the issue of the Norilsk lawsuit has been complicating matters,” Dixon-Warren said.

He also said BCL’s Tati Nickel mine, which it bought from Norilsk, had attracted strong interest from potential suitors.

Botswana’s high court has extended the provisional liquidation of Tati by six months to allow a deal with an unspecified suitor to be concluded, Dixon-Warren said.

($1 = 10.2145 pulas)

 

(Writing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; editing by David Clarke)

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Remittances from expatriate Egyptians rise by 11.1 pct since float

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Remittances from expatriate Egyptians rose by 11.1 percent between the currency float in November and the end of April, the central bank said on Sunday, with economists suggesting recent reforms have begun restoring confidence in the banking system.

Expatriate remittances from November until the end of April have reached $9.3 billion, a central bank statement said.

Egypt’s central bank floated the pound in November to unlock foreign currency inflows and crush a black market for dollars that had discouraged people from channelling foreign currency through the banking system.

“The float is encouraging transfers through official channels, now that the parallel market no longer offers a premium above the official rate,” said Hany Farahat, a senior economist at CI Capital.

The currency float is part of a $12 billion International Monetary Fund lending programme aimed at putting Egypt on the road to recovery after years of turmoil that drove foreign investors and tourists away.

The three-year IMF programme also includes subsidy cuts intended to narrow the budget deficit and the removal of strict restrictions on bank transactions to attract foreign investors.

 

(Reporting by Ehab Farouk; writing by Arwa Gaballa; editing by Giles Elgood, Larry King)

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Morocco trade deficit widens 13.1 pct in first five months: agency

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RABAT (Reuters) – Morocco’s trade deficit widened 13.1 percent to 78.45 billion dirham ($8.03 billion) in the first five months of 2017 compared with a year earlier, driven by increased imports, the foreign exchange regulator said on Monday.

The trade gap was up from 69.45 billion dirhams during the same period last year, as energy imports rose 42.7 percent to 28.25 billion dirhams, and spending on equipment imports rose 8.1 percent to 50.61 billion dirhams.

Total exports rose 5.3 percent from a year earlier to 103.31 billion dirhams, pushed by a 7.9 percent rise in phosphate exports totaling 17.41 billion dirhams.

Tourism receipts fell by 5.8 percent. Remittances from the 4.5 million Moroccans who live abroad slightly rose 0.2 percent to 24.33 billion dirhams, while foreign direct investment rose 24 percent to 12.90 billion dirhams.

($1 = 9.7663 Moroccan dirham)

 

(Reporting by Samia Errazzouki; editing by Patrick Markey)

 

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S.Africa watchdog says Barclays Africa must repay $86.44 mln over bailouts

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PRETORIA (Reuters) – Barclays Africa Group unduly benefited from apartheid-era bailouts and must repay 1.125 billion rand ($86.44 million), South Africa’s anti-graft watchdog said on Monday, though the bank denied any wrongdoing.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in January reopened a probe of Absa, a unit of Barclays Africa, following a wider report published last November by her predecessor.

She said on Monday that the probe had found that the apartheid government breached the constitution by supplying Bankorp, which was acquired by Absa in 1992, with a series of bailouts from 1985 to 1995.

Absa said in a statement it had not received a copy of the report and denied any wrongdoing, saying it “met all its obligations in respect of the loan provided by the South African Reserve Bank by October 1995.”

“Once we have read it we will consider our legal options including seeking a High Court review. It is our firm position that there is no obligation to pay anything to the South African government,” Absa said.

Shares in Barclays Africa fell 2.61 percent to 142.68 rand by 1253 GMT.

($1 = 12.7941 rand)

 

(Reporting by Dinky Mkhize in Pretoria and Nqobile Dludla in Johannesburg; Editing by James Macharia)

 

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South Africa watchdog to oppose Zuma bid to set aside influence-peddling report

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PRETORIA (Reuters) – South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog will oppose a bid by President Jacob Zuma to have a report on claims of influence-peddling by him and his government set aside, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said on Monday.

Thuli Madonsela, Mkhwebane’s predecessor as Protector, released the report in November. It called for a judicial inquiry into allegations that Zuma, some cabinet members and some state companies acted improperly, but stopped short of asserting that crimes had been committed.

In December Zuma, who has denied wrongdoing and faced down calls for his resignation over a series of scandals that have plagued his administration, asked the High Court to set the report aside.

In February, Mkhwebane said she was seeking legal advice on how to proceed on the issue.

On Monday she told a news conference her office would oppose Zuma’s application to have the report set aside.

($1 = 12.7941 rand)

 

(Reporting by Dinky Mkhize; Editing by James Macharia and John Stonestreet)

 

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