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First Quantum hopes to resolve mammoth $8 bln Zambian tax bill

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Canada, Economy, Mining

TORONTO/LONDON (Reuters) – Canada’s First Quantum Minerals on Wednesday was hopeful of resolving a dispute with Zambia over a whopping 76.5 billion Zambian kwacha ($8.07 billion) bill for unpaid duties on imported mining equipment.

Zambia has reduced “significant” tax assessments against it in the past, Chief Executive Philip Pascall said on a conference call with analysts. He declined to speculate on the possible outcome of Zambia’s review of the latest claim, which involves more than 23,000 documents and could take up to six months.

The bill comprises $150 million in higher import duties, $2.1 billion in penalties and $5.7 billion in interest, First Quantum said. It relates to $540 million in mining equipment imported to its Sentinel copper mine between 2012 and 2017.

“We have, in the past, seen assessments that were significant and then the settlement might be reduced considerably,” Pascall said. “In this context, it’s not prudent for us try and speculate.”

The company’s preliminary review of assessment documents, which require approval by the Zambian Revenue Authority (ZRA) before imports are released, show an erroneous application of both higher and lower duties than appropriate, Pascall said.

It was unclear how Zambia calculated the $2.1 billion penalty, First Quantum said, noting that smuggled goods tend to get a 300-percent penalty for customs avoidance, while simple errors typically get a 15-percent penalty.

“This is clearly an eye-watering amount,” Bernstein analyst Paul Gait said in a note to clients, comparing the $8-billion bill to First Quantum’s market capitalization on Wednesday morning of about $9.5 billion.

“If anything like these claims is actually enforced, it will make Zambia largely uninvestable for any mining company, and probably any other industry as well,” Gait said.

First Quantum, which has paid a cumulative $3 billion in taxes to Zambia, said it was unaware why the matter was made public, an unusual move for Zambia. The company’s two copper mines in Zambia are unaffected by the issue.

Zambia, which collected 39.1 billion kwacha in taxes last year, netted 4.4 billion kwacha in hidden assets from small companies after they were offered amnesty for such declarations. Dozens of mining companies operate in Zambia, primarily extracting copper.

The Zambian Revenue Authority said it had started detailed audits on all companies for compliance, suggesting other miners may come under scrutiny.

First Quantum shares dipped nearly 2 percent on Wednesday to C$17.68. Shares sank 12.4 percent in Toronto on Tuesday before trading in the stock was suspended.

($1 = 9.4810 Zambian kwachas)

 

(Reporting by Susan Taylor in TORONTO and Zandi Shabalala in LONDON; Editing by Tom Brown and Bernadette Baum)

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Zambia’s central bank says delayed IMF programme affecting kwacha currency

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s central bank governor said on Wednesday the delay in reaching a conclusion for an aid programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was putting pressure on the kwacha currency.

Zambia and the IMF agreed in October to chart a new path towards debt sustainability after the IMF delayed the conclusion of talks with Africa’s No.2 copper producer, saying it was at high risk of debt distress.

The government had said it hopes to get board approval from the international lender by the end of 2017

“It is more of sentiment because the fundamentals point to continued appreciation,” central bank governor Denny Kalyalya told a media conference.

“One of the factors has been that players were looking to the conclusion of an IMF programme before the end of the year.”

The kwacha currency slid to 10.0850 per dollar on Wednesday from about 9.0000 three months ago and traders said it was due to increased dollar demand and short foreign currency supply.

 

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by James Macharia)

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Zambia’s H1 copper output rises 8%

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

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia’s copper production rose by 8 percent to 368,371 tonnes in the first six months of this year from 340,510 tonnes in the same period last year, the country’s chamber of mines said on Tuesday.

Full-year copper production in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer was expected to rise by 5.4 percent to 750,000 tonnes this year from the 711,515 tonnes produced last year, the chamber said in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Louise Heavens)

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World Bank program puts Zambia on path to solar energy

Comments (2) Africa, Business, Featured

solar farm zambia

The African nation will develop two solar farms that will produce more than 70 megawatts.

With an assist from the World Bank, Zambia will build two solar power projects that will provide the cheapest electricity on the continent.

First Solar Inc., the largest panel producer in the United States, along with the French company Neoen, together will build a 45-megawatt plant that will produce electricity that will sell for just over six cents per kilowatt-hour. Enel, an Italian company, will build a 28-megawatt plant that will sell power for just under eight cents per kilowatt-hour.

The two solar farms will be built near a substation that sends power to Zambia’s capital, Lusaka.

The companies are the first winners of an auction program the World Bank launched to encourage wider use of renewable energy in developing countries.

Program reduces costs, risk

The Scaling Solar program, World Bank, International Finance Corp. and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency pooled resources to offer financing, insurance and advice to potential solar developers. This reduces their risk and helps cut costs to build and launch projects, in hopes of attracting large developers capable of building large-scale solar farms to the continent.

The World Bank estimates that less than a quarter of the population of sub-Saharan Africa has access to electrical power. Some African countries, including Zambia, rely heavily on hydropower and have seen energy shortages and outages in recent droughts. Zambia expects to auction another 200 megawatts of solar within a year.

Solar energy development is an important piece of the continent’s plans to help fight global climate change, as approved at COP21 in Paris last year.

Senegal, Madagascar participate

Madagascar and Senegal are also participating in the Scaling Solar project and the World Bank expects to add a fourth African country later this year.

The goal is to encourage development of 850 megawatts of capacity in Zambia, Madagascar and Senegal, which would require an investment of about $1 billion.

The program could be adopted in Asia as well.

“It’s not designed for Africa” alone, said Jamie Fergusson, global lead for renewable energy at the IFC, told Bloomberg. “It’s designed for countries with limited independent power producing experience where the power buyer is a publicly-owned utility.”

Competitive auctions

Scaling Solar uses competitive auctions to award development rights and offers the endorsement of the World Bank. This can allay concerns of international banks about political risk. Using standard contracts, it also speeds development significantly.

More than 90% of Zambia’s generating capacity comes from hydropower.

Drought has brought record-low water levels at the Kariba Dam on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, forcing significant power cutbacks and rationing.

The reservoir has been at 12%capacity this year and dam authorities cut hydropower production to 25% of capacity in January. A year earlier, the dam, which is fed by the Zambezi River, was at more than 50% capacity.

Africa turns to renewables

With renewable energy a priority on Africa’s climate change agenda, solar developments are becoming more common on the continent.

Morocco this year turned on the first phase of what will be a 580-megawatt farm that will be the world’s largest and serve more than one million people when it is completed in 2018.

Noor 1, the first section located near Ouarzazate, currently produces 160 megawatts of power.

Morocco, which imports more than 90% of its energy, wants to generate 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, with a third of that total coming from solar, wind and hydropower each.

In South Africa, George Airport will use electricity from a 750-kilowatt solar project. Projects that will provide hundreds of megawatts are underway in the nation, where clean energy investment rose to $4.5 billion last year.

Entrepreneurs boost small efforts

Smaller efforts are also taking shape as “solarpreneurs” enter the market.

In Ghana, a local company named Volta builds small solar projects for hospitals, health clinics and schools and lets them pay over time. According to the company’s founder, Mahama Nyankmawu, a 45% reduction in energy costs puts repayment well within reach for his customers.

Another company, Off-Grid Electric, said it is installing more than 10,000 solar units a month in Rwanda and Tanzania. The company recently raised $70 million in investment to expand its operations.

As interest in solar grows on the continent, the World Bank’s Scaling Solar project should help quicken the pace of development.

Antonio Cammisecra, head of business development at Enel in Rome, said the World Bank program for Zambia “accelerated our entry by as much as a couple of years.”

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Zambia shortlists bidders to build two large-scale solar plants

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

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia has shortlisted bidders to build two large-scale 50 megawatt (MW) solar power generation plants as the nation battles a power deficit which threatens industrial output.

Zambia’s power shortfall has risen to 1,000 MW from 700 MW in November due to lower hydro generation as water levels have dropped because of drought.

NEON S.A.S./First Solar Inc and Enel Green Power SpA are front-runners for the two projects, Zambia’s Industrial Development Corporation said in statement.

The two bidders put their tariffs at 6.02 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) and 7.84 cents per kWh, respectively, and the proposed tariffs would remain fixed for 25 years, the statement said.

“The two provisional winning tariffs are both well below those typically offered under unsolicited proposals from solar developers in Zambia or elsewhere in Africa,” it said.

The two projects would be the first large-scale solar Independent Power Producers (IPPs) in Zambia developed with support from the World Bank, which acted as the lead transaction advisor.

 

(Reporting by Chris Mfula)

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Zambia’s Lungu sees single-digit inflation, 2016 GDP growth of 3.7%

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

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambian President Edgar Lungu said on Friday he expected inflation in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer, currently running at almost 22 percent, to slow to single digits “within months”.

Lungu, who faces a tough election challenge in August, also said in a televised press conference that economic growth was seen accelerating slightly in 2016 to 3.7 percent from 3.5 percent last year.

 

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia)

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Glencore to invest $1.1 bil in Zambia, kwacha gains

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

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Glencore will invest over $1.1 billion in Zambia to sink three copper mine shafts with new technology that will extend mine life by over 25 years, pushing the kwacha to its highest in two months.

By 1040 GMT the currency of Africa’s number 2 copper producer had gained 1.3 percent to 11.1100 per dollar, its firmest level since Jan. 19.

“The news from Glencore obviously sent a positive signal but overall we are seeing a lot of dollar supply with very little demand,” analyst Maambo Hamaundu said.

Glencore plans to make the investments between now and 2018 and it was expected that Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) would be turned into a world-class mining operation by 2023, it said.

“We firmly believe that we shall be able to overcome the challenges that we face today as a company and become profitable and operationally efficient,” Mopani said in a statement.

Glencore was fully committed to Mopani and had invested over $3 billion in upgrading infrastructure and in major capital expansion programmes since 2000, Mopani said.

An electricity shortage in the southern African country and weaker copper prices have put pressure on Zambia’s mining industry, threatening output, jobs and economic growth.

 

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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Zambia economic growth seen at 3.7% in 2016

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CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – Zambia’s economy is expected to grow by 3.7 percent this year, largely stable from last year and is seen expanding by more than four percent in 2017, the deputy finance minister said on Wednesday.

Christopher Mvunga also said the central bank had not intervened in the market to stabilise the struggling kwacha by selling dollars.

“We are not using reserves by any means to stabilise the kwacha, absolutely not,” Mvunga told Reuters in an interview at a mining conference in Cape Town.

The World Bank has said Zambia’s GDP growth will fall below 4 percent this year due to a combination of domestic and international pressures but expansion in Africa’s second-largest copper producer will pick up in subsequent years.

 

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

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Zambia scraps 73rise in electricity tariffs

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

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia has scrapped a nearly 73 percent hike in electricity tariffs for industrial and commercial users following an outcry from consumers, a spokesman for state power firm Zesco said on Tuesday.

The country’s power regulator last December approved an increase in electricity charges to 10.35 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour (KWh) from six cents.

“We have withdrawn the application we made to the Energy Regulation Board for higher electricity tariff. We had a lot of complaints and want to consult further,” Zesco spokesman Henry Kapata said.

 

 

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Writing by Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by James Macharia)

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Drought plunges Kariba Dam hydropower to record lows

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

kariba dam

Power shortages in Zambia and Zimbabwe undermine their struggling economies.

Drought has brought record-low water levels at the Kariba Dam on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, forcing significant power cutbacks and rationing.

The crisis at the world’s largest man-made reservoir threatens to further weaken the growth outlook for the two countries at a time when they face falling commodity prices. The struggling mining industry has been particularly hard hit.

The reservoir fell to 11 percent of capacity in late January before rising slightly to 12 percent this month after dam authorities cut hydropower production to 25 percent of capacity. A year ago, the dam, which is fed by the Zambezi River, was at more than 50 percent capacity but drought and heavier than expected water usage resulted in the decline.

Power shortage could last years

While authorities may avoid a shutdown of the hydropower production, power shortages are expected to last for years. According to the World Bank, the power deficit could last at least until 2018 and possibly until 2020.

Henry Kapata, spokesman for Zambia’s state power utililty said power blackouts were averaging eight hours a day or more when imports were limited.

Kapata said the power deficit totaled 630 megawatts in January. The utility’s goal is to reduce the deficit to less than 160 megawatts by August, he said.

Mining industry suffers

Kariba Dam

The power cuts have dealt a significant blow to a mining industry that was already in trouble.

Zambian mining interests in August agreed to cut hydropower consumption by 30 percent as the problems became evident last summer. In Zimbabwe, mines and other major users were ordered to cut their consumption by 25 percent in October.

As a result of cutbacks and global price declines, mining growth has stalled.

In Zambia, where mining accounts for 80 percent of exports, production of copper, also was expected to decline this year. Two major mining companies suspended operations and cut thousands of jobs following the decline in copper prices and thousands of jobs were lost.

Effective January 1st, the government increased power tariffs by 25 percent in an attempt to encourage mining companies to invest in power generation.

In Zimbabwe, where minerals account for 55 percent of all exports, production fell slightly in 2015, according to the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe. The total value of mineral shipments declined steadily between 2012 and 2015 from $2.2 billion to $1.8 billion because of low output and declining prices globally.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said the power crisis has become an obstacle to economic growth in Zimbabwe and the government is putting a priority on power projects.

“We regard power generation as our number one priority to move the country toward an economic recovery,” Chinamasa told the Parliament in December.

Engineers see risk of dam collapse

Even as the drought eases, a larger crisis looms for the Kariba Dam. Engineering experts have been warning for years that the dam wall is in danger of collapse.

The low water level reduces the pressure temporarily, but “the bigger picture of the state of Kariba dam is critical,” said Kay Darbourn, author of an extensive 2015 report on the dam.

Darbourn said factors including high rainfall that will feed water inflows locally and from other regions as well as potential earthquake activity, “could all contribute to the likelihood of failure of the Kariba Dam.”

The report, “Impact of failure of the Kariba Dam,” (pdf) said 2014-2017 was a crucial period of danger for the dam, while a project to repair it will not be completed until 2025.

Bedrock at the foot of the dam erodes

The dam was built in 1959 on a seemingly solid bed of basalt. However, torrents from the spillway have eroded the bedrock at the foot of the dam and a large crater now undermines the base of the dam wall.

Engineers have warned for years that the dam, which is 128 meters tall and 579 meters wide, will collapse and the floodwaters will breach Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa Dam, knocking out about 40 percent of southern Africa’s hydroelectric supply.

An estimated 3.5 million lives would be at risk in Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as further downstream in Malawi and Mozambique.

Fears were heightened in January when an earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale struck less than 60 kilometers away from the dam. The dam has withstood quakes as high as 5.5. Authorities are assessing whether the quake caused additional damage to the dam.

Munyaradzi Munodawafa, spokesperson for the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), manager of the dam, said Zambia and Zimbabwe had raised about nearly all of the $300 million needed to fix the structure. Work was expected to start early in 2016.

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