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DP World wins 30-year Congo port concession

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Infrastructure, Middle East

DUBAI (Reuters) – DP World said on Sunday it had won a 30-year management and development concession for a greenfield, multi-purpose port in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Dubai-owned port operator will set up joint venture with the Central African country’s government to manage and invest in the Atlantic Coast’s Port of Banana, it said in a bourse statement.

An initial $350 million will be invested to construct a 600-metre quay and a 25-hectare yard extension with a container capacity of 350,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) and 1.5 million tons for general cargo.

Congo has long looked to develop a port along its less than 50 km (30 miles) of coastline to handle larger vessels than those that can reach its existing shallow ports up the Congo River.

Construction is expected to start this year and take two years to complete. A total project cost of over $1 billion, spread over four phases, will be dependent on market demand.

DP World will control 70 percent of the joint venture with the government of the DRC retaining the remaining 30 percent, the statement said.

The award includes an option to extend the concession for an additional 20 years.

 

 

 

(Reporting by Alexander Cornwell. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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Zimbabwe hopes to transform mining sector with $4.2 bln platinum deal

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy, Mining

HARARE (Reuters) – A Cypriot investor signed a $4.2 billion deal on Thursday to develop a platinum mine and refinery in Zimbabwe, an investment that President Emmerson Mnangagwa said showed the country was “open for business”.

Signing the agreement with Cyprus-based Karo Resources, Mines Minister Winston Chitando said work would start in July, with the first output of platinum group metals expected in 2020, aiming to reach 1.4 million ounces annually within three years.

It was unclear, however, where all the funding would come from and analysts said the project start date of July looked very ambitious.

Located in the Mhondoro-Ngezi platinum belt, west of Harare, where Impala Platinum Holdings has operations, the project will include a coal mine and power station to produce electricity for the smelter, and should employ 15,000 people when fully implemented, Karo head Loucas Pouroulis said.

Keen to revive the mining sector after years of reticence by foreign investors during Robert Mugabe’s rule, President Mnangagwa said the deal showed things had changed since his ascendancy after Mugabe’s ousting in November.

“Zimbabwe is open for business and whoever stands in the way, hurting business in this country, will fall. It is not business as usual anymore, things have to change,” Mnangagwa said at the signing ceremony.

The project was first mooted six years ago but had been held back by government red tape and “other unnamed vested interests, which are corrupt interests,” he said.

Mines Minister Chitando added: “This is the largest investment structure in the country’s mining industry in Zimbabwe. The landscape of Zimbabwe’s mining industry will never be the same.”

Zimbabwe’s government did not give details of the source of funding for such a big investment.

Industry sources, who asked not to be named, said there was no obligation to provide any cash until firmer plans for the development were in place.

Cyprus-born Pouroulis spent his early career with industry giant Anglo American in South Africa, branching out on his own to establish more niche operators such as Petra Diamonds, Eland Platinum and Tharisa Minerals, according to his profile on Tharisa’s website.

As well as heading Karo, Pouroulis is chairman and founder of Tharisa, in which his family has a 45 percent stake.

Tharisa, which has chrome and platinum operations in South Africa’s Bushveld, has made clear its interest in the potential of Zimbabwe, which holds the world’s second-largest platinum deposits after neighbouring South Africa.

The company, however, has a market capitalisation of only 5.5 billion rand ($464 million), although it is well regarded by many city analysts and its share price has rallied 15 percent this year.

HSBC initiated covered of the stock on Thursday, rating it a buy. It predicted it would have a net cash position of $185 million by the end of 2022 and said platinum prices should benefit from continued supply curtailment in South Africa because of regulatory and funding uncertainty.

Foreign investment stalled in Zimbabwe during the later years of Mugabe’s reign.

Analysts say the outlook is still uncertain, but interest is strong in a country that has rich, underexplored resources.

An investment conference on Zimbabwe in London last week was heavily oversubscribed.

On Monday, Mnangagwa’s government amended the Mugabe-era Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, which aimed to increase black Zimbabweans’ ownership of mines by preventing foreign entities holding majority stakes.

The revised law removed that stipulation for most types of mining, but not diamond and platinum mines.

Chitando said Karo Resources was expected to comply with the empowerment law by giving up majority ownership in the project. He did not elaborate.

($1 = 11.8491 rand)

 

(By MacDonald Dzirutwe; Additional reporting by Barbara Lewis in London; Editing by Ed Cropley/Robin Pomeroy/Susan Fenton)

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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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Ethiopia signs $600 million loan, grant deal with World Bank

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy, Infrastructure

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The World Bank agreed a $600 million loan and grant to Ethiopia on Tuesday to fund roads and other infrastructure projects in urban areas.

The Washington-based bank said the funds would “help strengthen the capacity and performance of local urban governments, expand sustainable urban infrastructure and services, as well as promote local economic development”.

Ethiopia’s urban population is growing by 3.8 percent annually on average, one of the fastest rates in sub-Saharan Africa and presenting challenges to infrastructure, services and jobs, the bank said.

“To successfully manage urbanisation … cities are likely to require fiscal transfers for the foreseeable future. This programme will help cities to realise their revenue potential,” Abebaw Alemayehu, the World Bank’s team leader for the project, said in a statement.

The programme will also support projects in 73 towns across the country and benefit more than 6.6 million people, he said.

Under a 2015-2020 development plan, Ethiopia plans to set up less than 10,000 “rural development centres” in a bid to ease the influx of people to its capital Addis Ababa.

Earlier this month, the World Bank also approved a $375 million loan to Ethiopia to fund a national electrification project.

 

(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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Kenya’s central banker urges firms to invest after surprise rate cut

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s central bank hopes its surprise interest rate cut this week will encourage firms to invest more to spur lagging economic growth, Governor Patrick Njoroge said on Tuesday.

Growth slid to an estimated 4.8 percent last year from 5.8 percent the year before, mainly due to a drought, a prolonged presidential election and a sluggish private sector credit growth.

The finance ministry expects growth to rebound to 5.8 percent this year but pressure to rein in the fiscal deficit could see the government scale back on ambitious infrastructure projects, weighing down economic output.

“It really has to be the private sector that picks that up,” Njoroge said. “We will have to re-balance away from public sector driven to private sector driven economic growth.”

Kenya’s total debt has risen to about 50 percent of GDP, from 42 percent in 2013, as it borrowed locally and abroad to build infrastructure including a new railway line from Nairobi to the port of Mombasa.

The government has pledged to cut the fiscal deficit to 7 percent of GDP at the end of this fiscal year in June, from 8.9 percent in 2016/17, and to less than 5 percent in three years.

Monday’s 50-basis-point cut in the benchmark lending rate to 9.5 percent took much of the market by surprise, with seven of 11 analysts polled by Reuters having forecast no change.

Njoroge said a cap on commercial interest rates could interfere with the aim of the easing stance of boosting credit, as banks lock out borrowers who are deemed too risky.

“We may have a perverse reaction, where indeed, the lowering of the CBR rate leads to a reduction in the level of credit,” he told a news conference. “We will stand ready to take any action to counter if it actually began to manifest itself.”

Private sector credit increased by 2.1 percent in the year to February, well below the central bank’s target of 12-15 percent.

Njoroge said the central bank is pushing commercial banks to be less careless in their lending and correctly asses the risk profiles of borrowers when writing loans.

“The point here is not just having low interest rates … the fundamental issue is to have risk-based pricing of loans,” Njoroge said.

 

(By Omar Mohammed; Additional reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Andrew Heavens)

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Gold falls for fourth day as dollar stays firm ahead of Fed meeting

Comments (0) Actualites, Economy, US

(Reuters) – Gold prices extended losses into a fourth session on Monday and hit a more than two-week low, with the dollar remaining supported as investors expect the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates this week.

Spot gold was down 0.2 percent at $1,310.03 per ounce at 0735 GMT. Prices fell to $1,307.51 earlier in the session, their lowest since March 1.

U.S. gold futures for April delivery dropped 0.2 percent to $1,309.40 per ounce.

“I think the overall economic recovery is good enough for the (U.S.) central bank to consider a faster pace of normalization of monetary policies,” said Mark To, head of research at Hong Kong’s Wing Fung Financial Group.

A two-day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting begins on Tuesday, with the U.S. central bank expected to hike interest rates for the first time this year.

“It is somehow expected and is already priced in the market so I stick to my prediction that precious metals, with gold included, are going to have range-bound trading, unless something really surprising happens,” said To.

With a 25 basis point rate hike seen as a done deal, one key focus is on whether Fed policy makers forecast four rate hikes this year instead of the three they had projected at December meeting.

Gold is highly sensitive to rising U.S. interest rates, becoming less attractive to investors as it does not bear interest.

The dollar inched higher against a basket of major peers on Monday as traders braced for the Fed meeting and as the increased threat of trade protectionism kept markets on edge. [USD/]

The dollar index was up 0.1 percent at 90.302. On Friday, it hit a two-week high near 90.38, following strong U.S. economic data.

“Potential market headwinds from the underlying (susceptibility) to risk-appetite, heightened (geo) political tensions, inflation concerns, Russia tensions, to name a few, could help keep the floor on gold prices in check,” Stephen Innes, APAC trading head at OANDA, said in a note.

Gold speculators cut their net long position by 16,153 contracts to 145,659 contracts, according to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data. This was the smallest net long position since early January.

Among other precious metals, silver was down 0.3 percent at $16.26 per ounce and palladium inched 0.1 percent lower to $993.90 per ounce.

Platinum was 0.5 percent lower at $938.49 per ounce after falling to its lowest since Jan. 3 at $936.50.

 

(Reporting by Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru; editing by Joseph Radford and Subhranshu Sahu)

 

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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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Mali militia says it obtains U.S. military vehicle from Niger raid

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Military, Politics

DAKAR/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Malian militia said on Wednesday it had obtained a sport utility vehicle abandoned by U.S. special forces in neighboring Niger during a deadly ambush last October, and offered to return it to the United States.

Four U.S. special forces members and at least four Nigerien soldiers were killed in the raid in the western Niger village of Tongo Tongo by dozens of militants armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Islamic State’s West Africa affiliate claimed responsibility.

The ambush marked the first U.S. combat casualties in Niger. It sparked an international debate about America’s covert role tracking Islamist insurgents in the arid and thinly-populated Sahel region, south of the Sahara desert.

It also prompted discussion within the United States about the military tactics being used in remote battlefields. After the incident, President Donald Trump clashed publicly with a congresswoman who accused him of speaking insensitively to the pregnant widow of one of the American soldiers who was killed.

Colonel Mark Cheadle, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Africa Command, said it was investigating the statement made by MSA-GATIA, a Tuareg militia group in northern Mali, but that it could not confirm its claim to have found the vehicle.

In the statement, which was accompanied by a photo of a beat-up blue Toyota Landcruiser and two military-style rifles, MSA-GATIA said it captured the material from unidentified “armed bandits” on the Mali side of the border with Niger in fighting on March 11 and 12.

“The MSA-GATIA coalition proposes returning this material to American authorities by legal channels,” the statement said.

The militia, composed mainly of ethnic Tuaregs, has frequently clashed with jihadist groups whose influence is on the rise in northern and central Mali.

The jihadists have used Mali as a springboard for attacks into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso, including coordinated raids on the military headquarters and French embassy in the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou earlier this month that killed eight people.

Those attacks have alarmed U.S. officials, who fear that the Sahel could become a new haven for Islamist militants and have deployed hundreds of American troops to train local forces and gather intelligence.

 

(Reporting By Aaron Ross and Phillip Stewart; Editing by Edward McAllister and Peter Graff)

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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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