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Orange in final talks to sell Kenyan mobile stake

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

NAIROBI (Reuters) – France’s Orange SA is in the final round of negotiations with an unidentified party to sell its 70 percent stake in Orange Kenya, Kenya’s finance minister said.

Orange is the latest international operator to quit Kenya, where Safaricom, part owned by Vodafone, has 67 percent of Kenya’s 36 million mobile users.

“(Orange) wants to exit so they are selling their 70 percent,” Finance Minister Henry Rotich, who oversees the government’s 30 percent shareholding in Orange Kenya, told Reuters. “They are in final negotiations.”

Without naming the other party, Rotich said he expected the transaction to be completed “very soon”, adding that it could be completed before the end of year.

Orange paid $390 million for its stake in 2007, aiming to capitalise on what were fast growth rates in the sector. Its plan was to make the firm, then known as Telkom Kenya, profitable and then to take it public in five years.

Orange was not immediately available for a comment.

Faith Mwangi, a research analyst at Standard Investment Bank, said Orange Kenya has struggled in recent years despite enjoying a monopoly in fixed-line telephones.

“They essentially failed to innovate,” she said, adding Orange’s strategy of offering cheaper calls had helped it claw back some market share in recent years.

Orange increased its users to 4.0 million in the quarter ended June from 3.7 million in the previous quarter, industry regulator Communications Authority of Kenya said.

“They have been consistently gaining market share,” Mwangi said.

One of Safaricom’s main advantages has been the development of its pioneering M-Pesa mobile money system, which allows users of even the most basic mobile phones to make payments. Rival offerings have yet to break Safaricom’s dominance.

Kenya has two other telecom operators, India’s Bharti Airtel and Finserve, which is owned by one of the country’s biggest banks’ Equity. India’s Essar Telecoms sold its Kenyan business, Yu, last year after it failed to make it profitable.

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Mauritius MCB Group full-year pretax profit up 26 pct

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

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) – Mauritius Commercial Bank Group’s (MCB) pretax profit for the full year to June rose 26 percent to 6.90 billion rupees ($195.19 million) on the back of higher net interest income, fees and commissions, it said on Tuesday.

MCB, the biggest bank by market value in East Africa and the Indian Ocean region, said that net interest income increased by 12 percent to 8.15 billion rupees in spite of pressures on margins posed by excess liquidity and restrained demand for credit locally amidst subdued private investment.

In a statement, MCB said loan book growth was supported by its international financing activities.

Net fee and commission income rose 17 percent to 3.36 billion rupees, driven by growth in revenues from regional trade finance, wealth management and card business activities.

“We are confident to grow the business further, which should result in higher profits for FY 2015/16,” the statement said.

Earnings per share rose to 24.04 rupees from 18.34 rupees.

Shares at MCB Group closed lower at 206.50 rupees from 207 rupees before the results were released.

 

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ICCO to move to Abidjan, seeks new Executive Director

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

LONDON (Reuters) – The International Cocoa Organization said it will begin moving its headquarters from London to Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, later this week following an improvement in the security situation in the world’s top producer.

The ICCO originally agreed to relocate from London in 2002 but civil unrest disrupted the process which was subsequently suspended. The relocation will begin on Oct. 1 and should be completed at the latest by March 31, 2017.

The inter-governmental body, which has been based in London since its founding in 1973, originally sought to stabilise global prices through operating buffer stocks but has more recently provided statistical data and supported projects to develop cocoa production and trade.

The ICCO also said Executive Director Jean-Marc Anga had launched the process of recruiting his successor. He has been in the role since 2010.

The organisation aims to elect a new Executive Director at a council meeting in September 2016, a spokesman said.

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The Fraught Four: China’s Economic Crash Has Serious Consequences for Four Southern African Nations

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

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By Enu Afolayan, Contributor

China is a superpower. If there was any lingering doubt as to this, it should have been erased as the widespread fall-out from China’s recent economic crash became evident. For Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, the impact of the crash was particularly harsh.

The stock market crash on August 24th had several immediate consequences: the yuan was devalued, there was a huge injection of capital into the Chinese economy to support financial markets and the risk of a decrease in Chinese tourism worried many nations.

China is the number one trading partner for most African countries. It has more than $20billion USD in investments in addition to billions in development aid. China is one of the biggest customers for Africa’s robust resource-selling market, particularly for mined minerals and crude oil. The devaluation of the yuan against the dollar will likely result in less demand for African goods as the purchasing power of the yuan plummets, thus increasing the relative price for Chinese consumers. For South Africa, Angola, Zambia and Sierra Leone in particular, China’s economic troubles may be manifested in crippling ways.

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Tentative Optimism as Cote D’Ivoire Heads Into First Election Since 2010 Violence

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

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By Sheldon Mayer, Managing Editor

In the first step towards their landmark election, nine candidates have formally announced that they will run in the October election against incumbent Alassane Ouattara.

While the official campaign season does not begin until October 11th, just two weeks before the election on October 25th, the announcement by the Constitutional Council is an unofficial green light for candidates to begin their campaigning.

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Novartis launches chronic disease programme for poor countries

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

ZURICH (Reuters) – Drugmaker Novartis AG has begun a programme in Kenya, Ethiopia and Vietnam to supply 15 low-cost medicines to fight chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure.

The Swiss-based pharmaceuticals group said on Thursday its Novartis Access scheme would supply drugs for just $1 per treatment per month to governments, aid groups and others for a range of conditions that also includes cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

The drug list include Novartis’s valsartan for hypertension, vildagliptin for diabetes, and generics from its Sandoz division including tamoxifen for breast cancer. The company aims eventually to expand the scheme to 30 developing countries.

Responding to past criticism of the industry over the cost of medicines in low-income countries, many firms including Novartis, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline already provide drugs at lower prices than in the developed world.

Novartis chose Kenya, Ethiopia and Vietnam for their “great but diverse access challenges” and because it already has a strong presence or ties to non-governmental organisations there.

“This will allow us to support the delivery of medicine by building awareness of key non-communicable diseases and strengthening healthcare system capabilities in these diseases, including diagnosis and treatment,” Novartis said.

It did not immediately return phone calls seeking details.

The United Nations has highlighted concerns over the developing world’s ability to cope with escalating chronic disease, citing data showing about 85 percent of premature deaths from non-communicable diseases occur in developing countries.

Four-fifths of the world’s 350 million diabetes sufferers are in developing nations, and the U.N. estimates more than 40 percent of adults in many African countries have high blood pressure.

Other companies have also publicised similar efforts.

Amid pressure on the pharmaceuticals industry to do more, GlaxoSmithKline in 2009 agreed to slash drug costs for poor countries. Novartis’s cross-town rival, Roche, is working with the government in Ivory Coast to provide medicines for breast cancer and hepatitis.

(By John Miller, Reuters)

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Starbucks’ partner sees potential for 200 S. African cafes in five years

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

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Starbucks’ local partner sees potential for more than 200 of the U.S. chain’s coffee shops in South Africa within five years, it said on Wednesday, as it prepares to open the country’s first Starbucks’ outlet next year.

Starbucks signed an agreement with Taste Holdings in July that licensed the South African restaurant operator to develop and run Starbucks-branded coffee shops in Africa’s most advanced economy.

The first store is expected in Gauteng province, the region that includes Johannesburg, within the first half of 2016, Taste said in a statement.

“Market analysis has identified a conservative market opportunity of more than 150 outlets in South Africa today. We foresee this growing to more than 200 in five years,” Taste said.

Taste, which also operates Domino’s Pizza outlets in South Africa, said it would start with at least 12 outlets in the next year before expanding further.

Global restaurant brands are increasingly investing in Africa to join established international players such as McDonald’s Corp in tapping a growing middle class.

Starbucks’ entry into South Africa will pit it against established brands such as unlisted Cape Town-based Vida e Caffè, a local firm with more than 60 outlets.

 

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Congo drops objections to Ivanhoe Mines’ copper deal

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

kamoa copper mine

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo’s government supports Ivanhoe Mines’ $400 million sale of a stake in its Kamoa copper mine to China’s Zijin Mining, it said on Tuesday, dropping earlier objections to the deal.

The sale is a pre-requisite for the development of Kamoa, which is thought to be the world’s largest untouched high-grade copper discovery. A feasibility study on the Kamoa project is expected at the end of next year.

In a statement, mines minister Martin Kabwelulu and portfolio minister Louise Munga Mesozi added that Ivanhoe had agreed to sell an additional 15 percent stake in the mine to the government, which currently controls five percent.

The government said in June that Vancouver-based Ivanhoe’s sale in May of a nearly 50 percent stake in the copper project in southeastern Congo to Zijin for $412 million should be suspended until concerns over the purchase of its own stake were addressed.

It was not exactly clear what the government’s objections were, although industry sources said they wanted guarantees on their own stake first.

The conditions of the sale to the government still needed to be finalized in a contract with Ivanhoe subsidiary Kamoa Holding Limited and the mine, the statement said.

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South Africa considers building refinery to process Iranian crude

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

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa is considering building an oil refinery that will process Iranian crude to bolster its petrol supply and reduce its dependence on foreign companies, a government official said on Tuesday.

Plans for the new refinery were being “conceptualised” Tseliso Maqubela, the deputy director general for petroleum and petroleum products regulation at the energy ministry, said. He could not estimate the cost or time frame for construction.

Pretoria has said it will resume oil imports from Tehran “tomorrow” if sanctions are lifted but without its own refinery, it would have to rely on foreign oil companies who own refineries in Africa’s most developed economy.

A landmark pact clinched on July 14 between Iran and the United States, Germany, France, Russia, China and Britain will limit Iran’s nuclear programme to ensure it is not put to making bombs in exchange for a removal of economic sanctions.

Before sanctions, Iran was the biggest oil supplier to South Africa, the continent’s second-biggest crude consumer, importing around 380,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Iran and the ruling African National Congress (ANC) share strong diplomatic relations, with Tehran backing the party that helped liberate South Africa from white minority rule. Iran was one of the first countries to resume trade with Pretoria after democratic elections in 1994.

“There are benefits to owning a refinery, basically the profits are re-invested in the country and outflows can be controlled,” said Maqubela.

“But most importantly you are able to protect your own sovereignty…we could not bring Iranian crude oil during the sanctions, even though the U.S. gave us an exception, because we did not have a facility where the crude could be refined.”

South African refineries were designed to refine Iranian crude but were refitted to process other types of oil after the sanctions.

“We believe it’s better to have a technology partner, a partner who will bring the financing and then a partner that can bring crude oil,” he said without naming specific partners.

Deputy Energy Minister Thembisile Majola said last Thursday South Africa was considering using Iranian oil for its new refinery which will add to the existing gas-to-liquid plant run by state-owned PetroSA.

Maqubela said the energy ministry was considering using a refinery planned, but not yet built, by PetroSA in the industrial port of Coega but that the eventual refinery may take another form and name or be located in a different region.

South Africa’s blueprint for growth and development, launched in 2012, gives the government until 2017 to develop new refinery plans to cope with growing fuel demands.

(by By Peroshni Govender, Reuters)

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Nigeria central bank cuts reserve ratio to boost liquidity

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

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria’s central bank kept its benchmark interest rate on hold at 13 percent on Tuesday but loosened monetary policy by cutting banks’ cash reserve ratio to 25 percent to ease liquidity shortages, governor Godwin Emefiele said.

The vote to cut the cash reserve requirement from 31 percent was by 7 to 3 votes of the monetary policy committee, he said, adding that the committee had voted unanimously to keep the main rate unchanged.

Liquidity on the interbank market has dried up since authorities last week forced commercial banks to move government revenue to a Treasury Single Account (TSA) at the central bank, part of a drive by President Muhammadu Buhari to fight graft.

“No organisation has been exempted from the TSA,” Emefiele said, denying Nigerian press reports about alleged exemptions.

He warned Nigeria might slip into recession next year unless measures were taken to boost growth in Africa’s biggest economy. A sharp fall in oil revenues has whacked public finances, delaying public salary payments and putting pressure on the naira.

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