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South African Netcare gives up on British health prospects

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Europe, Health

(Reuters) – South African private healthcare operator Netcare drew a line under its ambitions in Britain on Wednesday, saying it would exit the market due to difficult trading conditions.

Netcare shares were up 7.7 percent at 1349 GMT following the announcement by South Africa’s third-largest private hospital chain, which has been in Britain for a decade through a controlling stake in BMI Healthcare.

The company, which in September made an all-share offer to buy out minority BMI Healthcare shareholders said it was making the move because trading conditions “remained difficult” across the private healthcare market.

It said a poor performance by BMI Healthcare was the result of National Health Service (NHS) demand management initiatives and weaker private medical insurance demand.

Netcare said in November it would restructure its British operations, after reporting a drop in annual profit due in part to belt-tightening by Britain’s publicly funded healthcare system.

The NHS, which has been operating with an over 1 billion pound deficit and a shortage of beds and staff, has been seeking help from private companies such as BMI Healthcare, Spire Healthcare and Nuffield Health.

However, the total NHS caseload at BMI Healthcare dropped by 4.4 percent year-on-year for the 5 months to the end of February due to “stringent demand management strategies” Netcare said.

Netcare expects the core earnings (EBITDA) margin in the British business to be between 0.8-1.2 percent in the first half of 2018, down from 5.2 percent in the prior period.

Netcare reiterated that underlying trading EBITDA margins across the group are expected to remain broadly flat in the first half of 2018 from a year earlier.

 

(Reporting by Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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Shell, Eni preempt any U.S. probe over Nigeria with filings

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Europe, Leaders, Oil, US

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil giants Royal Dutch Shell and Eni have voluntarily filed to U.S. authorities internal probes into how they acquired a giant field in Nigeria as the companies seek to fight corruption allegations in Europe and Africa.

The filings, to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), do not mean U.S. authorities are investigating Shell or Eni.  The move shows the companies are trying to preempt questions from the United States as they face one of the oil industry’s biggest-ever graft trials in Italy, to begin in May in Milan, a pending trial in Nigeria and an investigation in the Netherlands.

The case revolves around the purchase of a huge block off oil-rich Nigeria, known as OPL 245, which holds an estimated 9 billion barrels in reserves.

Italian prosecutors allege that bribes were paid in an effort to secure rights to the block in 2011. A number of top executives from both companies – including Eni Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi and former Shell Foundation Chairman Malcolm Brinded – will face trial.

Under Italian law a company can be held responsible if it is deemed to have failed to prevent, or attempt to prevent, a crime by an employee that benefited the company.

Both companies’ shares are traded on U.S. stock exchanges, putting their foreign dealings in the scope of U.S. authorities.

Shell and Eni, on behalf of subsidiaries, in 2010 entered deferred prosecution agreements with the DOJ over separate Nigerian corruption allegations.

Those pacts dismissed charges after a certain period in exchange for fines and an agreement to fulfil a number of requirements. They concluded in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

“A company’s disclosure of alleged foreign corruption to both the SEC and the DOJ in the U.S. typically means the company believed U.S. authorities needed to be made aware of this, and both agencies have the authority to prosecute under the (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA),” said Pablo Quiñones, executive director of the New York University School of Law program on corporate compliance and enforcement.

Quiñones previously worked as chief of strategy, policy and training at the DOJ’s criminal fraud section, a role that included helping to develop FCPA enforcement policy.

The SEC and the DOJ declined to comment on the company disclosures or whether they were looking into any allegations surrounding the block.

Eni noted its disclosure in an SEC filing, in which it said “no evidence of wrongdoing on Eni side were detected”. Shell has said publicly that it submitted the investigation to U.S. authorities and to Britain’s Serious Fraud Office.

Shell and Eni deny any wrongdoing. They say their payments for the block, a total of $1.3 billion, were transparent, legal and went directly into an escrow account controlled by the Nigerian government.

The companies and legal experts say the trial will last more than a year, with potential appeals stretching several years beyond that.

“The risk for companies is of a prolonged period of exposure to open court allegations from a state prosecutor of impropriety,” Anthony Goldman of Nigeria-focused PM Consulting said. “That will be painful and damaging.”

The Milan prosecutor charges that roughly $1 billion of the payments were funnelled to a Nigerian company called Malabu Oil and Gas, which had a disputed claim on the block, and former oil minister Dan Etete, who British and U.S. courts have said controlled Malabu. Reuters has been unable to reach Etete or Malabu for comment.

Shell has since said it knew some of the money would go to Malabu to settle its claim, though its own due diligence could not confirm who controlled the company. Eni said it never dealt with Etete or knew he controlled the company, but that the government promised to settle all other claims on the block as part of their deal.

“If the evidence ultimately proves that improper payments were made by Malabu or others to then current government officials in exchange for improper conduct relating to the 2011 settlement of the long standing legal disputes, it is Shell’s position that none of those payments were made with its knowledge, authorisation or on its behalf,” Shell said in a statement.

 

CONTROL AT RISK

The proceedings have also brought together investigators in several countries, with authorities in Nigeria and the Netherlands sending information to Milan.

A Dutch anti-fraud team in 2016 raided Shell offices as part of the investigation, and a Dutch law firm has asked prosecutors to consider launching a criminal case in the Netherlands.

“I’m not aware of many cases where this many jurisdictions have been at work for so long helping each other out. The amount of cooperation is very unusual,” said Aaron Sayne of the Natural Resource Governance Institute, a non-profit group that advises countries on how to manage oil, gas and mineral resources.

A case by Nigeria’s financial watchdog, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, against defendants including the former attorney general, ex-ministers of justice and oil and various senior managers, current and former, from Shell and Eni, will continue in June.

There has also been at least one effort to take away the asset. Experts say it is worth billions, and Shell has spent millions developing it. Eni intends to make a final investment decision this year on developing the block and said in corporate filings that the asset has a book value of 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion).

The Italian court does not have the ability to rescind rights to the block, and Nigerian oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu has said the companies should continue to develop it.

But in a lawsuit filed by the Nigerian government against JPMorgan in London for the U.S. bank’s role in transferring money from the deal, it called the agreement that facilitated Shell and Eni’s purchase “unlawful and void”.

A JPMorgan spokeswoman previously said the firm “considers the allegations made in the claim to be unsubstantiated and without merit”.

Additionally, a Nigerian court last year briefly ordered the seizure of the block.

That decision was later overturned, and Shell and Eni say they are not worried about losing the asset. But the ruling and the language in the government’s suit against JPMorgan underscore the risk.

“It’s a nice, stable asset that could produce a lot of oil for a long time,” Sayne said.

($1 = 0.8127 euros)

 

(Reporting by Libby George; Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Emilio Parodi in Milan and Ron Bousso in London; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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Gabon accuses France’s Veolia of polluting amid concession dispute

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Europe, Health, Infrastructure, Politics

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) – Gabon accused French environmental services group Veolia on Tuesday of widespread pollution at SEEG, the power and water utility it operates there, amid a growing dispute over the company’s concession.

Veolia, which has already threatened legal action after the government seized SEEG earlier this month and said it would cancel its concession, rejected the accusations.

Speaking to reporters in the capital Libreville, government spokesman Alain-Claude Bilie By Nze said an environmental inspection of power and water pumping stations discovered “nearly all” SEEG sites were contaminated by petroleum waste.

“This is a very serious situation since, at this stage, aside from the obvious environmental damage, no one knows the consequences this pollution could have had or could have on public health,” he said.

He said that on top of legal penalties of up to 500 million CFA francs ($946,110) for each polluted site, Gabon would force SEEG to shoulder the clean-up costs.

Responding to the accusations, Veolia stated that the water it distributed continued to conform to World Health Organization standards and Gabonese regulations.

“It is surprising that none of the inspections of the public authorities … ever highlighted environmental damage,” it said. “The SEEG is subject to regular audits by the Gabonese authorities, more than 10 in the last 10 years.”

Negotiations between the government and Veolia over the concession broke down in October, and authorities seized SEEG earlier this month, citing years of poor service quality.

Veolia in turn blamed the government for failing to live up to its investment obligations, and on Tuesday said the state owed SEEG over 29 billion CFA francs in consumption charges and unpaid value-added tax reimbursements.

Gabon spokesman Bilie by Nze said the government had called for an audit of its 13 billion CFA consumption bill.

He rejected accusations it had neglected SEEG and said the state had invested around 1 trillion CFA francs in the company, around three times more than Veolia.

 

($1 = 528.4800 CFA francs)

 

(Reporting by Gerauds Wilfried Obangome; Additional reporting by Laurence Frost in Paris; Writing by Joe Bavier; editing by David Evans)

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European stocks, oil slide as growth fears add to Brexit pressure

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

LONDON (Reuters) – European shares hit a four-month low on Thursday as banks dropped sharply, while oil prices headed for a sixth session of losses after the Bank of Japan refrained from further stimulus and the U.S. central bank struck a cautious note.

U.S. stock index futures were down around 0.4 percent, indicating a lower Wall Street open.

Sterling hit a two-month low against the euro, underscoring worries that Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, will vote to quit the European Union on June 23.

According to an Ipsos MORI survey, British support for Brexit hit 53 percent, the highest for the “Leave” campaign recorded by the pollster in more than three years.

A vote to end Britain’s 43-year-old EU membership would spook investors, undermining decades of European integration and placing a question mark over the future of the United Kingdom and its $2.9 trillion economy.

Concerns over Brexit, in combination with dimmed expectations on global growth, have driven investors towards safe-haven assets such as German bunds and gold, and out of oil and stocks.

Euro zone banking stocks dipped to near four-year lows, with Deutsche Bank, down 2.8 percent, and Credit Suisse touching record lows.

“The global economic and political outlook is dark,” said Chirantan Barua, an analyst with Bernstein. “Brexit is fuelling uncertainty and will have ripple effects across Europe. With so much uncertainty, why would you buy a bank stock now?”

Brent crude prices, which last week hit their highest this year, have fallen every day since June 8, dropping more than 8 percent in all.

Germany’s 10-year bond yield fell to a record low as fading expectations of U.S. rate hikes this year provided further fuel to a global bond market rally.

Spot gold climbed 1.4 percent, close to a two-year high.

Earlier in the day Asian markets were firmly in “risk-off” mode, with the yen surging to a 20-month high against the dollar and the Nikkei down more than 3 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 2 percent.

Benchmark equity indices across Europe followed suit with Italy’s FTSE MIB down 1.6 percent. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 fell 0.7 percent.

Shares of UBS and Credit Suisse fell 1.3 percent and 2.8 percent respectively after the Swiss National bank said both banks were likely to need to raise an extra 10 billion Swiss francs to meet new leverage requirements.

 

 

(By Vikram Subhedar Additional reporting by Atul Prakash in London and Aaron Sheldrick in Tokyo; Editing by Keith Weir and John Stonestreet)

 

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Bouygues, Movenpick to invest 55 million euros in luxury hotel in Abidjan

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

abidjan

(Reuters) – French company Bouygues and Swiss group Movenpick will team up with Ivorian firm Saprim to invest 55 million euros ($61.56 million) on a luxury hotel in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, the firms said on Monday.

Work on the new five-star hotel will begin in the next six months and is expected to be ready within 30 months, or by the end of 2018, according to a statement by the three companies.

“The cost of the hotel is around 55 million euros of which most will be financed by Saprim and Bouygues,” said Jean-Gabriel Peres, chief executive officer of Movenpick hotels and resorts.

Four years after the end of a civil war, economic powerhouse Ivory Coast’s coastal city of Abidjan is booming and its hotels are often fully-booked.

The hotel and tourism sector currently accounts for 4.8 percent of Ivorian GDP versus 0.6 percent in 2011.

(By Ange Aboa, Reuters)

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Bollore invests 30 mln euros in Ivory Coast-Burkina rail link

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

bollore rail

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Bollore has invested 30 million euros ($33.6 million) to buy trains for the freight and passenger line it operates between Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, the French company said.

Landlocked Burkina Faso relies partly for its exports and imports on the ports of its southern neighbour Ivory Coast, the biggest economy in French-speaking West Africa. It also uses ports in other neighbours Ghana and Togo.

“We have invested around 30 million euros to acquire trains, including six received today,” Lionel Labarre, director of Bollore Africa Logistics, said on Wednesday.

“We are still waiting for nine locomotives that will add to the 20 that are already in service,” he said, adding that Bollore would also develop the station in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s main city.

Trains take about 36-hours to do the 1,260-km (787-mile) journey between Abidjan and Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, and carriages are often packed with people, trade goods and animals being carried to market.

Bilateral trade between Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast hit 290 billion CFA francs ($495 million) in 2014, up from 165 billion in 2011, Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan said at a ceremony to mark the arrival of the six new engines.

Most of the trade runs via rail and road links. Cargo traffic between the two countries stood at 610,000 tonnes last year, up from 402,000 tonnes in 2011, Duncan said.

Developing the rail line is a strategic priority for Ivory Coast and a tool for regional integration, said Duncan, adding that the country was aiming for 2 million passengers a year in the next few years up from 300,000 now.

Bollore has operated the Ivory Coast-Burkina Faso railway since 1995 and has recently been awarded a concession for a rail link between Niger, Benin and Togo.

 

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Glencore reins in debt as commodity price slump persists

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

By Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo

(Reuters) – Mining and trading company Glencore acknowledged on Monday the severity of the global commodity market slump as it suspended dividends and said it would sell assets and new shares to cut heavy debts built up through years of rapid expansion.

The London-listed company came under pressure to cut its net debt of $30 billion, one of the largest in the industry, as prices for its key products, copper and coal, sank to more than six-year lows. (more…)

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