Latest Updates from Reuters

World Bank to lend Tanzania $2.4 bln over 3 years for infrastructure projects

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DAR AS SALAAM (Reuters) – The World Bank will lend Tanzania $2.4 billion over the next three years to finance infrastructure projects, the bank’s president Jim Yong Kim said on Monday.

Tanzania is seeking financing for infrastructure projects as part of its plans to transforming the country into a regional transport and trade hub.

“Tanzania will be able to access an estimated $2.4 billion in concessional financing, an increase of half a billion dollars over the past three-year period,” Kim said during a visit to Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

Kim and Tanzania’s President John Magufuli also attended the signing of documents on three World Bank-funded projects worth $780 million aimed at improving public infrastructure.

East Africa’s second-biggest economy wants to profit from its long coastline and upgrade its rickety railways and roads to serve the growing economies in the land-locked heart of Africa.

Big gas finds in Tanzania and oil discoveries in Kenya and Uganda have turned east Africa into an exploration hotspot for oil firms, but transport infrastructure in those countries has suffered from decades of under-investment.


(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala; Editing by Aaron Maasho and Hugh Lawson)


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Nigerian central bank head urges cooperation on monetary, fiscal policy

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ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria’s monetary and fiscal authorities must cooperate on their policies to help Africa’s largest economy to develop, the central bank governor said, according to his spokesman.

Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele made the comments at a two-day retreat for members of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee and the ministers for finance, budget and investment. The closed-door meeting, which takes place about three times a year, ended on Saturday.

OPEC member Nigeria is in its first recession in 25 years, largely brought on by low oil prices. Crude oil sales account for about two-thirds of government revenue.

The central bank has faced criticism from investors for keeping Nigeria’s currency, the naira, at a rate some 30 percent above the black market, where entrepreneurs are forced to go for foreign exchange with the dollar scarce on official channels.

“Godwin Emefiele┬áreiterated the need for the country’s monetary and fiscal authorities to collaborate and harmonize standpoints so as to develop the economy rapidly,” central bank spokesman Olalekan Ajayi said in an emailed statement on Sunday.

The finance ministry has previously said adjustments were needed to narrow the spread between exchanges rates on the official and black market. The central bank devalued the rate for retail customers in February after Nigeria’s top economic advisor body called for an urgent review.

The bank’s Monetary Policy Committee is due to meet on Monday and Tuesday to set interest rates. Twelve out of 13 economists polled by Reuters predicted that the bank would leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 14 percent on Tuesday.




(Reporting by Camillus Eboh and Alexis Akwagyiram, in Lagos, editing by Larry King)


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Egypt received two cargoes of diesel fuel from Saudi Aramco

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla said on Sunday his country had received two cargoes of diesel fuel from Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company Aramco on Friday and Saturday.

Molla was speaking at an energy conference in Cairo.

Saudi Arabia agreed in April last year to provide Egypt with 700,000 tonnes of refined oil products a month for five years, but the cargoes stopped arriving in early October.

Though officials from both sides have denied the existence of tensions or disagreements between the two countries, the two have been at odds on a number of political issues.

Egypt voted in favour of a Russian-backed but Saudi-opposed U.N. resolution on Syria in October, which excluded calls to stop bombing Aleppo.

In January an Egyptian court rejected a government plan to transfer two uninhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.

Egypt announced last week that the petroleum product shipments would resume.

Egypt had turned to the spot market in recent months after Aramco’s halt of shipments but also sought similar deals to make up the shortfall. Crude from Iraq was expected to arrive in late March as part of an agreement for 1 million barrels a month.

Molla said he was revising the import schedule with distributors following Aramco’s decision to resume shipments.

In the longer term, Egypt’s petroleum products imports will decrease from 35 percent of its consumption needs currently to 5-7 percent of consumption by 2020, Molla said, saving the country billions of dollars per year.


(Reporting by Abdelrahman Adel; Additional reporting by Eric Knecht; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Dominic Evans)


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China’s Sinopec nears deal to buy Chevron’s South African assets -sources

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By Jessica Resnick-Ault and Florence Tan

NEW YORK/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – China’s Sinopec is nearing a deal to buy Chevron’s South African oil assets for up to $1 billion to secure its first major refinery on the continent, several people familiar with the matter said.

China Petroleum and Chemical Corp, or Sinopec, Asia’s largest oil refiner, was the last bidder remaining, and close to a deal with Chevron after an auction that spanned more than a year for its refinery, retails business and storage terminals.

French oil firm Total and commodity traders Glencore and Gunvor looked at the assets, Reuters reported last year.

The South Africa government’s desire to keep the refinery operating has nevertheless proven to be a major stumbling point for buyers who would prefer to convert the site into a more profitable storage terminal, sources said.

Sinopec is in discussions with the government on ways to keep the 110,000 barrels per day refinery in Cape Town running, but talks could still fail, sources said.

The sources declined to be identified because they were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.

Chinese oil companies and merchant traders have become more visible in chasing refinery assets that come on the market as oil majors reshape asset portfolios.

Sinopec declined to comment.

Chevron spokesman Braden Reddall said “the process of soliciting expressions of interest in the 75 percent shareholding is ongoing”. Plans to sell the stake in the South African business, including the Cape Town refinery, were first announced in January 2016.

Besides the refinery, Chevron has interests in a lubricants plant in Durban on the east coast, storage tanks and a network of Caltex service stations, making it one of South Africa’s top five petroleum brands.

Financial advisor Rothschild & Co is helping Chevron on the sale of the assets.

The remaining 25 percent interest is held by a consortium of Black Economic Empowerment shareholders and an employee trust.

(Additional reporting by Ron Bouss and Dmitry Zhdannikov in London, Joe Brock in Johannesburg and Chen Aizhu in Beijing; writing by Anshuman Daga; editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Susan Fenton)


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Allan Gray signals Net1 shareholder revolt over South Africa grants debacle

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Investment company Allan Gray said on Friday its 16 percent stake in Net1 allowed it to call a shareholders’ meeting over the payment technology provider’s handling of the scandal over a South African welfare contract.

South Africa’s Constitutional Court was set to rule on Friday in a case concerning the unlawful tender of a contract to Net1 unit Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) to manage welfare benefits to 17 million people.

The stakes are high as the welfare system is a lifeline for South Africa’s most vulnerable and includes more than 11 million child support grants, many of whom would go hungry without the monthly payment.

Allan Gray could push for the removal of the Net1 board, Chief Investment Officer Andrew Lapping was quoted in the Business Day newspaper.

“Sixteen percent allows us to call a shareholders’ meeting,” Allan Gray Chief Operating Officer Rob Dower told Talk Radio 702.

Friday’s looming judgment by the country’s top court stems from a case brought by applicants who want it to take oversight of a new contract.

South African President Jacob Zuma said in parliament on Thursday there was no “crisis”. Earlier this week the country’s chief justice placed the blame for the debacle squarely on the shoulders of Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, calling her inaction incomprehensible.

The creation of a welfare safety net which supports one in three South Africans has been one of the signature achievements of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), in power since the end of white apartheid rule in 1994.

The chaos in South Africa’s social security agency comes three years after the Constitutional Court ruled that the tender won by CPS was illegal.

The government was given time until April 1 to take responsibility for social service payments or find a new provider, but it has so far failed to do so, raising concerns that grants may not be paid on time next month.


(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia)


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Libya’s oil output recovers slightly to 620,000 bpd

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LONDON (Reuters) – Libya’s oil production has increased to 620,000 barrels per day, a senior Libyan oil official said, after a pipeline briefly blocked by militants was reopened.

On Tuesday, output at the Wafa gas and condensate field was shut after militants blocked an export pipeline. Production at the Sharara oilfield had also dipped after a separate connecting pipe was also briefly blocked.


(Reporting by Julia Payne; editing by Susan Thomas)


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Africa’s Ecobank targets strong customer growth from mobile banking

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By Chijioke Ohuocha

LAGOS (Reuters) – Africa’s Ecobank expects its new digital banking platform to help to boost its customer base across the continent to 100 million from 13 million by 2020, it said after announcing that it had signed up 1.5 million personal accounts through the mobile app.

Ecobank has operations in nearly 40 African nations, some of which have been pressured by the commodity price slide and unfavourable currency swings that have prompted the bank to strengthen its focus on the relatively stable consumer market.

“We have brought financial services to the mobile phone … to have instant account, payment and receipt across Africa,” Ecobank’s head of consumer banking Patrick Akinwunta said on Wednesday, adding that digital operations will also reduce the company’s cost base.

Shares in the bank were down 2 percent on Wednesday at 9.80 naira, having shed 2.7 percent so far this year. The shares fell by 39 percent in 2016 after a drop in nine-month pretax profit to $281 million in October from $398 million a year earlier.[nFWN1CY13Q]

Though Ecobank generates about 40 percent of its business in recession-hit Nigeria, where several lenders have adapted their business models after low crude prices put pressure on previously lucrative oil and gas loan books, Akinwunta said there potential for significant growth at low cost because only a third of Africans have bank accounts.


(Editing by David Goodman)


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GT Bank to reduce loan growth to focus on bond investment

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By Chijioke Ohuocha

LAGOS (Reuters) – Nigeria’s Guaranty Trust Bank (GT Bank) plans to reduce loan growth this year to focus on the increased profit to be had from maintaining domestic bond investment levels, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

Nigeria’s government aims to fund half of this year’s forecast budget deficit of 2.36 trillion naira ($7.73 billion) through the domestic debt market and has been selling bonds at yields of about 16 percent.

GT Bank’s loan book has been at the mercy of last year’s naira currency devaluation – which drove loan growth to 15.8 percent – and debt restructuring by oil companies hit by low crude prices.

With restructured loans now accounting for 15 percent of its loan book, GT Bank will restrict loan growth to 10 percent this year and maintain its domestic bond portfolio of more than 560 billion naira, CEO Segun Abaje told an analysts’ call.

The bank, which has subsidiaries in East and West Africa, will be looking for bond yields of about 14 percent, he added.

Agbaje said the bank is targeting profit of 168 billion naira this year, mostly from bond investments. It reported 2016 pretax profit of 165 billion naira last week.

GT’s shares were down 0.6 percent at 25.50 naira on Wednesday , having gained 3.2 percent so far this year. The price climbed by 36 percent in 2016, outperforming a 2.2 percent rise for the index of Nigeria’s top 10 banks

Agbaje said that the bank’s 42 billion naira loan exposure to Etisalat Nigeria is being restructured.

A banking source told Reuters last week that the Nigerian affiliate of Abu Dhabi-listed telecoms company Etisalat had given notice to its Nigerian lenders that it would miss a payment on a $1.2 billion loan in February.

($1 = 305.2000 naira)


(Editing by Mark Potter and David Goodman)

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Zimbabwe hopes tobacco sales will ease dollar crunch

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HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe is likely to produce 205 million kgs of tobacco this year, slightly more than 2016, with sales of its main export likely to improve dollar supplies in the cash-strapped economy, an industry official said on Wednesday.

Marking the start of annual tobacco auctions in Harare, Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board spokesman Isheunesu Moyo said output would climb from 202 million kgs in 2016 after more farmers grew the crop.

Tobacco earns more than gold and platinum.

Moyo said tobacco buyers had borrowed $700 million offshore to purchase the crop from farmers. The merchants process the leaf before exporting it, mostly to China, the largest investor in the Southern African country.

Zimbabwe is desperately short of dollars due to its moribund economy, although traditionally liquidity improves during the tobacco-selling season as cash is brought into the country.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said tobacco farmers would be allowed to withdraw $1,000 from banks per day to allow them to purchase farming inputs for next season.

Cash shortages in the last 12 months have forced banks to impose daily maximum withdrawal for most Zimbabweans of sometimes as little as $50 per day.

President Robert Mugabe’s government blames the shortages on the illegal export of U.S. dollars, weak commodity prices and falling remittances from Zimbabweans in the diaspora.


(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Ed Cropley)


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Egypt replaces heads of state oil and gas companies

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian Oil Minister Tarek al-Molla has replaced the heads of state oil company EGPC and state gas company EGAS, the Ministry of Petroleum said in a statement on Tuesday.

Abed Ezz el-Regal will replace Tarek al-Hadidi, appointed in April 2016, as head of EGPC while Osama Al Bakly will take over from Mohamed al-Masry as head of EGAS.

Once an energy exporter, Egypt has turned into a net importer because of declining oil and gas production and increasing consumption. It is trying to speed up production at recent discoveries.


(Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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