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Nigeria and Kenya inching closer to interest rate cuts

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Nigeria and Kenya will follow Ghana’s lead and cut rates in the third quarter, a Reuters poll found, as long as there is a monetary committee quorum in Abuja and an easier commercial lending policy in Nairobi.

A Reuters poll of 11 analysts for some of Africa’s major central banks, taken in the past four days, found the majority saying Nigeria and Kenya’s benchmark rates will remain at 14.0 and 10.0 percent respectively next week.

Eight of the 12 members still need to be appointed to Nigeria’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) – so there is unlikely to be a meeting next week – while Kenya remains hamstrung by a bill limiting commercial lending rates to 4 percentage points above its official rate.

Nigeria’s central bank was forced to cancel its January meeting as it was unable to reach a quorum. But the Senate plans to start screening new members for the interest rate committee after it held up some of President Muhammadu Buhari’s nominees in a political spat.

Inflation in both Nigeria and Kenya slowed recently, making both ripe for easier policy, and according to the poll there will be 200 and 100 basis points worth of cuts coming this year, respectively.

“There is a case for policy loosening in Nigeria and Kenya, but inflation in Nigeria has been stickier at least until February and the delay in appointing new members of the MPC has also held up policymaking,” said John Ashbourne, Africa economist at Capital Economics.

Nigeria has navigated several challenges in the past three years, dealing with dollar shortages and an economy that came out of its first recession in a generation in 2017.

But growth in the last quarter of 2017 rose to 1.92 percent compared to a 1.73 percent contraction in the same period of the previous year.

On Wednesday the International Monetary Fund approved a request by Kenya to extend by six months a stand-by loan that was due to expire at the end of March, giving it time to finish mandatory reviews.

Amending a bill on interest limits for commercial bank loans is one of the conditions the IMF needed to approve the “rainy day” loan facility and so an amendment could happen soon, said Aly-Khan Satchu, CEO of Rich Management in Nairobi.

The bill meant banks decided a large number of borrowers – mainly small traders and informal sector workers – were too risky to receive loans.

Unless the bill is scrapped or modified to take advantage of slower inflation and rates fall further, banks are likely to exclude yet more would-be borrowers from credit – effectively tightening rather than easing monetary conditions.

After 600 basis points worth of cuts in the past two years, Ghana is expected to press on and cut 100 basis points to 19.0 percent later this month and then continue chopping until it reaches 17.0 percent by end-year.

South Africa, Africa’s most industrialised economy, is also closer to cutting rates this year but it depends heavily on a decision by Moody’s ratings agency later this month. [ECILT/ZA]

(By Vuyani Ndaba)

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South Africa’s Q1 business confidence rises 11 points to 45

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Leaders, Politics

(Reuters) – South Africa’s business confidence rose in the first quarter by 11 points in a sign that the country’s economy is picking up pace, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) business confidence index compiled by the Bureau for Economic Research rose to 45 points in the first quarter from 34 points in the fourth quarter but remained below the 50-mark separating the net positive and negative territories.

“First quarter confidence jump is driven more by the expectation that the recent (mainly) market-friendly political development will boost activity levels in future than an immediate improvement in the real economy,” chief economist at RMB Ettienne Le Roux said.

Business confidence was dented by policy uncertainty under the leadership of Jacob Zuma but economists say President Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as leader of the ruling African National Congress in December, and as president last month, has raised expectations that the country will make economic reforms.

South Africa’s economy grew more than expected at the end of last year as agriculture and trade recovered, data showed last Tuesday, boosting its chances of avoiding a potentially debilitating credit ratings downgrade.

Earlier in the month, The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (SACCI) monthly business confidence index (BCI) fell to 98.9 in February from 99.7 in January as exports, imports and retail sales fell.

“It goes without saying that the current uncertainty around land reform needs to be resolved as quickly as possible. If allowed to linger, the latest rise in the RMB/BER BCI (Business Confidence Index) could easily fizzle out with little or even no enduring positive impact on business capital expenditure and the economy at large,” Le Roux added.


(Reporting by Rahul B and Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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Spotify enters into the South African market

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Global music streaming provider Spotify launched its services in South Africa on Tuesday, marking its entry into Africa, where there is a rapid uptake of smartphones and improving telecommunications infrastructure.

The Swedish company, launched in 2008 and available in more than 60 countries, is the biggest music streaming company in the world and counts services from Apple Inc, Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google Play as its main rivals.

The South Africa launch comes as Spotify prepares for a direct listing of its shares on the New York Stock Exchange, which will allow investors and employees to sell shares without the company raising new capital or hiring Wall Street banks to underwrite the issue.

“We believe South Africa is a wonderful country to start in,” Spotify Managing Director in Middle East and Africa Claudius Boller told Reuters on the sidelines of the launch.

“We looked at the technology landscape, we looked at the maturity and actually South Africa is seen globally as a very important music market.”

Spotify also has aspirations to branch out into the rest of Africa, Boller said, without committing to timelines or geographies.

An increase in connectivity across South Africa, helped by higher investment in infrastructure, as well as a growing uptake in credit cards and bank accounts has drawn global video and music streaming providers.

Its music streaming market is dominated by players such as Apple Music, Google Play, France’s Deezer and Simfy Africa, with only a few local operators such as mobile phone operator’s MTN and Cell C with MTN Music+ and Black.

Internet and entertainment firm Naspers also recently launched music streaming platform Joox, from China’s Tencent, in which it holds a 33 percent stake.

In its filing to list its shares, Spotify said its operating loss widened to 378 million euros ($465.32 million) in 2017 from 349 million euros.

($1 = 0.8123 euros)


(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by Jason Neely and Pritha Sarkar)


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South Africa’s RCL Foods expands in pet food to beat drought

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Environment

RANDFONTEIN, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africa’s RCL Foods has completed a 123 million rand ($10 million) expansion at its pet food plant to help reduce its exposure to a poultry business hit by drought and cheap imports.

Food companies in South Africa have been struggling with an El Niño-induced drought that drove up the price of ingredients such as maize, while poultry farmers have also faced competition from Brazil, the European Union and the United States.

RCL is aiming to tap into the country’s 5 billion rand ($418 million) a year pet food industry, which is less exposed to individual commodities, as part of a strategy to diversify, CEO Miles Dally said at a plant visit late on Thursday.

“Ideally we would like less impact from things like drought and dumping,” he said.

“Our vision has always been clear, to create a major food business,” he added, referring to the pet food division.

RCL’s expansion in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, will boost its pet food production to 12,000 tonnes per month from 7,000 tonnes.

The company, which saw first-half profit plunge 54 percent last year, this week reported an increase for the first six months of its current financial year, boosted by a decline in input costs and higher chicken prices.

The firm cited lower poultry imports, which were reduced in part by an outbreak of bird flu in Europe.

RCL’s pet food business, which has annual revenue of around 1 billion rand, aims to grow by as much as 20 percent per year, Dally said, adding the firm would look for acquisitions to bolster the business.

The company currently produces over 20 brands including Rainbow chicken products, Nola mayonnaise, Yum Yum peanut butter, Bobtail dog food and Selati sugar products.

RCL cut 1,350 jobs and reduced production by 50 percent at its Hammersdale factory in the KwaZulu-Natal province in November 2016 as the chicken imports and drought took a toll.

($1 = 11.9204 rand)


(By Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia and Mark Potter)

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South Africa’s rand at 2-week low as global headwinds, Fed jitters kick-in

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Politics, US

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand slipped to its lowest in two weeks on Thursday, succumbing to month end demand for dollars by local firms as the increasing chances of higher interest rates in the United States lured bulls back into long-dollar positions.

At 0640 GMT the rand was 0.4 percent weaker at 11.8350 per dollar, its softest level since February 14, compared to an overnight close of 11.7875.

It was the first time in more than two weeks the rand closed above technical support around 11.80, after weakening for three consecutive sessions, prompting some technical selling as well as portfolio rebalancing by corporates offloading excess rands.

Analysts said the “Ramaphosa effect”, named for the rise in investor confidence and rally in local assets after new president Cyril Ramaphosa took over as chief of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in December, was now giving way to global headwinds.

“With the cabinet reshuffle out of the way, our local assets will continue to reprice in line with the global macro environment,” said fixed income trader at Rand Merchant Bank Gordon Kerr in a note.

The dollar index remained near 5-week highs early on Thursday, still drawing support after the Federal Reserve’s new chief Jerome Powell struck an optimistic tone on the U.S. economy, raising bets of at least four rate hikes by the bank in 2018.

Stocks opened softer with the benchmark Top-40 index down 0.13 percent.

Bonds were also softer, with the yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 up 4 basis points to 8.165 percent.


(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Ed Stoddard)


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South Africa economic confidence to get a lift after cabinet reshuffle.

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy, Leaders, Politics

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Confidence in South Africa’s economy will get a boost after Monday’s cabinet reshuffle by President Cyril Ramaphosa returned trusted hands to crucial budget-related ministries, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.

Seventeen of the 20 economists surveyed in the past three days said Monday’s reshuffle would have a significant positive impact on South Africa’s economic confidence this year.

One economist said it would be very significant, while the remaining two said it would have an insignificant impact.

In that same sample, 18 indicated they were optimistic the country’s business sector would play a bigger part in job creation in the next two years. One economist was very optimistic while the remaining one was pessimistic.

“Both business and consumer confidence is likely to be boosted by the election of Cyril Ramaphosa to President of the Republic and the cabinet reshuffle that (followed),” said Jeffrey Schultz, economist at BNP Paribas in Johannesburg.

South Africa’s business confidence rose for a third month in a row in January to its highest since late 2015, on expectations the new leadership of the ruling party would stabilise economic policy, a survey showed last month.

“President Ramaphosa clearly has his sights set on improving the domestic business climate and promoting more public-private sector participation,” said Schultz.

Gross domestic fixed investment – normally capital spending, such as buying new machinery for future production – fell into a recession in 2016, recovering only slightly early last year before hitting another slump in the second quarter.

The private sector makes up nearly two-thirds of the gross domestic fixed investment contribution to GDP, although it has played a smaller role in recent years, with government pushing infrastructure projects to raise jobs.

Schultz added that it would take some time for the trust between business and the government to be rebuilt, but it was clear the new government has realised it needs business sector buy-in to get growth and reduce unemployment.

Unemployment was at just over 20 percent a decade ago and now more than a quarter of South Africa’s labour force is jobless.



Ramaphosa appointed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on Monday and Pravin Gordhan as public enterprise minister. All but one of the 20 economists polled singled out these two National Executive appointments as most likely to inspire economic confidence.

Both Nene and Gordhan served as finance ministers in the last administration but were unceremoniously sacked by former President Jacob Zuma.

A poll last month suggested South Africa’s new leadership would need to be prudent and creative in managing the economy to avoid a credit rating downgrade, by raising taxes without suffocating a chance for growth. [ECILT/ZA]

Moody’s is due to publish a review later this month, which economists said in February would offer the country a reprieve.



(By Vuyani Ndaba; Editing by William Maclean)

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South Africa’s AECI sees growth in water treatment after drought hits continent

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Environment, Technology

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African chemicals group AECI could increase revenue from its desalination and water treatment business by up to 80 percent over the next five years after a severe drought hit Africa, its CEO said.

South Africa was declared a national disaster this month after drought afflicted Cape Town and other areas, and Kenya, Malawi, Mozbuambique and most of southern Africa have also experienced low rainfall.

AECI, which also makes explosives and announced a sharp rise in earnings on Tuesday, sees revenue growth coming from its subsidiary ImproChem, a water, air and energy management company.

“We have to manage our water a lot better as a continent and I think ImproChem can play a big role in that and that will boost sales on those opportunities,” Chief Executive Mark Dytor told Reuters in a phone interview.

Revenue from AECI’s water treatment unit rose 3 percent in 2017 to 1.409 billion rand ($121 million), Dytor said, and he expects them to rise by between 50 and 80 percent over the next five years.

Cape Town and other parts of South Africa suffering from drought have pledged to use desalination plants and underground water reserves and AECI has applied for government tenders for desalination projects in Cape Town.

Since the current drought in the Western Cape, ImproChem has sold some desalination plants in Cape Town to private sector operators, Dytor said.

“We have already sold five desalination plants, that’s into the private sector, they give from between 500,000 litres to 1 million litres a day of water that is treated from sea water,” he said.

AECI, which has business in Africa, Australia, Indonesia and South America, said its headline earnings per share rose 17 percent for 2017 to 959 cents, thanks to a global recovery in the resources sector.


($1 = 11.6680 rand)


(By Tanisha Heiberg;Editing by James Macharia and Susan Fenton)

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Sibanye clears most illegal miners from gold shafts

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater arrested nearly 1,400 illegal miners at its South African gold shafts last year in a blitz the company says has mostly ended the practice at its mines.

Illegal gold mining has plagued South Africa for decades and it costs the government and the industry more than 20 billion rand ($1.7 billion) a year in lost sales, taxes and royalties, according to a Chamber of Mines report last year.

Sibanye Chief Executive Neal Froneman vowed last year to take the war to illegal miners and clear them from its shafts by January 2018 under the battle cry “Zero Zama”, after the Zulu term for illegal miners.

According to data provided to Reuters by Sibanye, it made 797 arrests in 2017 linked to illegal mining at its Cooke operations and 1,383 overall. The blitz peaked in June with more than 500 arrests, above the 443 arrests in 2016 as a whole.

While Sibanye fell short of its goal of stamping out illegal mining altogether, Sibanye’s head of security Nash Lutchman said based on available intelligence, “there are only about 40 to 50 illegal miners operating now, scattered across our Kloof and Driefontein operations”.

Froneman said last year the number of illegal miners in the company’s gold operations numbered “in the thousands”. Sibanye was the first South African gold miner to set itself a deadline to stop the practice.

Most zamas are undocumented immigrants from neighbouring countries who have long provided migrant labour for South Africa’s mines, but are now being laid off. The syndicates that support them and traffic the illegal metals are well-funded, well-established and highly dangerous, security experts say.



Sibanye’s drive was helped by the mothballing of its loss-making Cooke operation west of Johannesburg, which was the epicentre of illegal mining activity in its shafts.

Illegal miners gain access to working gold mines through bribery and other means, forcing companies to dispatch security teams to the shafts and to tighten entrance measures.

Sibanye spent 300 million rand last year and will spend another 300 million rand this year on access and biometric controls at the entry points to its gold mines.

“It still costs us so I don’t know if we will ever declare a victory but we are at the end of stage one,” Froneman told Reuters.

“My biggest concern about illegal mining is the corruption of our supervisors and our employees. That just sets a path for creating a rotten organisation. Everybody gets bribed and the integrity of the business just gets undermined,” he said.

Froneman admitted there was no guarantee illegal miners would not try to return, so the company needed to maintain its costly vigilance.

Security experts have said Sibanye would struggle to eradicate illegal mining completely but could reduce it by 90 percent.

Sibanye is the second South African gold producer to announce a milestone linked to illegal mining this month.

AngloGold Ashanti said it would spend up to $500 million to mechanise its Obuasi mine in Ghana.

The gold mine was rendered worthless when it was invaded by thousands of illegal miners. They were removed by the military last year and the South African company decided to revive the mine as an automated operation after a feasibility study.

($1 = 11.5400 rand)


(By Ed Stoddard;Editing by James Macharia and David Clarke)


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Woolworths Holdings’ H1 profit falls on Australia arm write-down

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Australia, Business, Economy, Politics

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African retailer Woolworths Holdings Ltd posted a 15 percent fall in half-year profit on Thursday hurt by a hefty write-down charge on the value of its David Jones business in Australia and tough trading conditions in its home market and Australia.

Woolworths paid a big premium to bulk up in Australia via David Jones as part of Chief Executive Ion Moir’s ambitions to turn the firm into a leading southern hemisphere retailer, but the delayed execution of certain initiatives aimed at transforming David Jones is threatening that ambition.

“A challenging market, along with some mistakes in the implementation of new systems and ranges, has had an impact on our clothing businesses both in South Africa and Australia,” Moir said in a statement.

Australia has recorded soft retail sales growth for months as cut-throat competition, relentless price discounts and online competition sap demand for brick-and-mortar shopping.

While in South Africa retailers have struggled to grow earnings as weak economic growth and clothing markdowns by competitors hit sales.

Woolworths, which sells groceries, food and homeware, said headline earnings per share (HEPS) fell to 206.3 South African cents in the six months to Dec. 24, from 242.6 cents a year earlier, while earnings per share turned into a loss of 505.9 cents on the David Jones impairment.

Woolworths booked a non-cash impairment charge of A$712.5 million ($556.04 million) against the carrying value of David Jones as a result of the cyclical downturn and structural changes that have hurt performance across the Australian retail sector.

The retailer, which paid 21.4 billion rand ($1.84 billion) for David Jones in 2014, said the impact of these changes have been exacerbated by poor or delayed execution in certain key initiatives in David Jones.

David Jones sales were 3.3 percent lower on a comparable basis, while comparable store sales were 3.4 percent lower in Woolworths South Africa, hurt by underperformance in Woolworths Fashion, Beauty and Home.

The group declared an interim cash dividend of 108.5 cents, an 18.4 percent decrease on the prior period.

“Encouragingly, we are seeing signs of recovery now, with political change in South Africa expected to lead to increased consumer confidence,” Moir said.

South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, was sworn in as head of state last Thursday after his scandal-plagued predecessor Jacob Zuma resigned on orders of the ruling African National Congress.


($1 = 1.2814 Australian dollars)

($1 = 11.6563 rand)


(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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Sibanye-Stillwater falls into annual loss, closes dividend tap

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African-based gold and platinum producer Sibanye-Stillwater reported an attributable loss for 2017 and in a bid to preserve cash turned off the dividend flow that has made it a darling of investors

Sibanye’s share price fell 5 percent, underscoring disappointment among investors who have grown accustomed to hefty dividend payouts from the Gold Fields spin-off.

The company’s operations, including the troubled Rustenburg assets it acquired from Anglo American Platinum, delivered solid results, with the loss stemming from impairments, provisions for occupational healthcare claims, and restructuring and transaction costs among other factors.

Sibanye-Stillwater reported an attributable loss of 4.437 billion rand ($333 million) for the year ended 31 December 2017, compared with attributable earnings of 3.473 billion rand ($237 million) for the year ended 31 December 2016.

“In the near term, cash preservation is prudent and as a result no final dividend is being declared,” the company, which has given over 4 billion rand back to shareholders since 2013, said.

Sibanye initially positioned itself as a dividend play with cash flowing from mature South African gold assets that did not require huge investment, but it has been expanding into platinum and beyond South Africa, diverting its dividend flow.

Its dividend yield is now 2.882 percent, almost the same as the 2.84 percent for Johannesburg’s All-share index.

The healthcare provision has been put aside for an expected settlement in a class-action suit against six current and previous South African gold producers related to a fatal lung disease. This also hit AngloGold Ashanti’s earnings.

It was launched almost six years ago on behalf of miners suffering from silicosis, a fatal lung disease contacted by inhaling silica dust in gold mines, and is expected to be settled in a few months.

Overall, Sibanye’s operational performance was good, suggesting it will return to profits and dividends.

The company said its labour-intensive Rustenburg platinum operations west of Johannesburg – which under Amplats were loss-making and flashpoints of violent labour unrest – contributed 1.6 billion rand or 18 percent to group adjusted EBITDA.

“The Rustenburg operations have consistently delivered solid production and improved financial results, with approximately 1 billion rand in cost savings and synergies realised in the first year of incorporation, well ahead of initial expectations of 800 million rand over three to four years,” the company said.

“This is a remarkable result from assets which, before being part of the Sibanye-Stillwater Group, had been delivering significant and sustained losses for many years,” said chief executive Neal Froneman.


(Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Adrian Croft)

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