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FirstRand bank warns South Africa faces downgrade this year

Comments (0) Latest Updates from Reuters, Non classé

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The chief executive of South African’s biggest lender by market value FirstRand Ltd said the chances of a sovereign downgrade for Africa’s most industrialised country this year had risen due to a stagnant economy and political uncertainty.

Johan Burger said on Thursday after reporting the bank’s annual results that a downgrade would negatively impact lending and lead to banks tightening credit extension. The central bank has forecast growth at zero percent this year.

FirstRand reported a 5 percent rise in full-year headline earnings per share (EPS), slower than the previous year which it blamed largely on a sluggish economy, sending its shares down nearly 3 percent in early trade.

“The probability has actually increased for a downgrade,” he told Reuters. “That would have a negative impact on lending.”

Burger said a downgrade could hurt clients’ ability to afford credit as the currency weakens and interest rates rise.

“Low growth combined with weaker balance sheets of some state-owned enterprises (SOEs) has added fiscal risk which is likely to result in a sovereign downgrade by the end of 2016,” FirstRand said in a statement.

Moody’s rates South Africa two notches above junk, while both S&P and Fitch left ratings at BBB- in June, one notch above junk, however both agencies warned about the weakness of growth and heightened political risks.

A police investigation into Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan over a surveillance unit set up years ago at the tax agency when he headed the department has rocked local markets and led to concerns that ratings agencies could downgrade the country in their reviews expected by December.

State-owned enterprises, such as national carrier South African Airlines and power utility Eskom have struggled financially and relied heavily on government guarantees.

FirstRand, which owns First National Bank and vehicle finance unit Wesbank, said headline EPS rose to 399.3 cents in the year to June 30 from 381.4 cents a year earlier.

Earnings were lifted by a 13 percent increase in net interest income and a 7 percent rise in non-interest revenue. Headline EPS is the main profit measure in South Africa; it strips out certain one-off items.

Shares in FirstRand fell 2.4 percent to 46 rand by 0837 GMT, compared to a 0.4 percent decline in the benchmark Top-40 index.


(Reporting by TJ Strydom; Editing by James Macharia)


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Egypt eyes $2-3 bln deposit from Saudi Arabia to help seal IMF deal: fin min

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt is in advanced talks with Saudi Arabia to secure a new deposit worth $2-3 billion as part of about $6 billion in bilateral financing required to seal an IMF loan, the finance minister said in comments published by Al Borsa newspaper.

Borsa quoted Amr El-Garhy as saying that negotiations with Saudi Arabia were due to be completed in the next few weeks.

It was not clear if Garhy was expecting Egypt to agree on the disbursement of a $2 billion deposit agreed with Saudi Arabia in April or if the country was seeking new funding.

Egypt reached a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund in August for a $12 billion three-year lending programme to help it plug its funding gap and stabilise markets. But the deal requires Egypt to secure a further $6 billion in bilateral financing.


(Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Toby Chopra)


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IMF revises Guinea growth forecast up to 5.2 pct

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DAKAR (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday revised higher its forecast for Guinea, whose economy is recovering from an Ebola epidemic, to 5.2 percent from an earlier 3.8 percent.

“The recovery is driven by positive supply shocks in the mining, agriculture, and energy sectors, which were less affected by the Ebola epidemic,” the statement said.


(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Nellie Peyton)


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Ambitious Mall of Africa opens to crowds in South Africa

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Africa’s largest and most high-tech shopping mall has opened with much fanfare in South Africa’s Waterfall city.

Shopping malls are not something new to Africa and they most certainly are not a novelty in South Africa, a nation that boasts the 6th highest number of shopping malls in the world. With just shy of 2,000 malls, in a country where a large number of residents have very limited finances, a new super mall seems ambitious.

Ambitious is not an adjective that the developers would feel reticent to accept however, as everything about the new Mall of Africa aims to set it apart from the competition.

Three and a half years of development

The Mall of Africa may have just opened its doors, but the construction of the bold plans laid out by Atterbury Property Developments began back in October 2012. Atterbury have been responsible for the construction of a project that is 80% owned by another firm, Attacq Limited which has the commercial development rights to Waterfall City. The goal is to build a technologically advanced and prosperous city of which Mall of Africa will be the focal point.

The numbers reflect the determination to create something grand for the Waterfall precinct in the Midrand area. The $340 million development consists of 550,000 square meters that house over 300 shops, a host of restaurants and a cinema complex, all under one roof.

It is not simply a matter of grand scales that defines Mall of Africa as a leap forward in terms of its design. The mall hosts unique attractions, such as a large outdoor play area for children that features an interactive musical fountain. Moreover, in keeping with the move towards greater sustainability in business, the mall features several environmentally sound designs. The roof holds solar panels that will provide 4.8MVA of green energy and its toilet facilities will use gray water harvesting to provide irrigation for the surrounding complex.

mall of africa

Keeping up with consumer demands

In a time where many people are shopping online and in which a day out is deemed incomplete without the ubiquitous “selfie” or status update, Mall of Africa’s developers were very aware of the need to create a destination for today’s world.

Perhaps the most challenging installation was ensuring that all 130,000 square meters of the retail space in the huge 550,000 square meter complex provided strong, fast Wi-Fi. For this, the developers turned to VAST Networks and Ruckus Wi-Fi, which were able to roll out the largest Wi-Fi installation ever seen in Africa. CEO of VAST Networks, Grant Marais said, “A deployment of this scale is a massive undertaking by world standards and an African first which we are very proud of.”

Evidently it was hugely important for both retailers and the expected crowds that Mall of Africa could ensure reliable, quick Wi-Fi across the entirety of the complex, which was why this sole aspect of the development began 12 months ago.

In keeping with this focus on modern demands, Mall of Africa has a dedicated Uber drop-off point to work alongside its 6,500 parking bays and valet service, another first in South Africa.

The response to another mall

The more cynical might argue that malls are not what South Africa needs, but a project that has already created huge amounts of work and if successful will provide thousands of jobs is surely beneficial for local people.

The mall opened on Thursday April 28th and saw 124,000 visitors arrive in flocks as they sought to shop at famous international outlets such as Armani Exchange, H&M and Zara.

For the first 5 days of opening, Mall of Africa has remained a huge attraction, with brand manager Vanessa Fourie stating that by 8pm on Saturday, 79,500 people had been to the mall that day.

Fourie seemed confident that the Monday Bank Holiday would also be a boon saying, “I think the public holiday is most certainly going to work in our favor…many stores would still be running specials, adding to the mall’s attraction.”

Official figures released by the mall suggest that 34% of visitors over the first 5 days were repeat customers. This suggests that the range of attractions accompanying the shops has worked well and while it’s early days, it looks like Mall of Africa’s big ambitions might well pay off.

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Tunisia’s central bank holds key rate unchanged at 4.25%

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TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisia’s central bank kept its key interest rate unchanged at 4.25 percent, the spokesman of bank said on Friday.

The bank last cut its main interest rate in October, from 4.75 percent, in a bid to boost economic growth as inflation fell. Inflation was 4.9 percent in 2015, down from 5.5 percent in 2014.


(Reporting By Tarek Amara; editing by Patrick Markey)


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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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Rand gains, but South African and Chinese economies pose risks

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand recovered against the dollar on Friday after hitting record lows in the previous session, but remained vulnerable to concerns about the local economy and that of China.

The rand rose a few cents after central bank data showed South Africa’s net gold and foreign exchange reserves were up slightly at $40.654 billion in December.

At 0704 GMT, the rand traded at 15.9400 to the greenback, a 0.9 percent gain over Thursday’s close at 16.0850.

The local currency had slid to a record low of 16.2015 as renewed concerns about China’s economy spurred an emerging markets sell-off.

The rand shed a quarter of its value against the greenback last year, undermined by worries about weak domestic growth and a global aversion to emerging markets as investors braced for the advent of policy tightening in the United States.

“With U.S. jobs data looming and the situation in China still perilous, respite (for the rand) will likely only be temporary,” NKC African Economics said in a note.

On the South African bourse, the Top-40 index added 0.7 percent while the broader all-share was up 0.56 percent after each dropped more than 2 percent on Thursday.

Government bonds also recovered, and the yield for the benchmark maturing in 2026 retreated 4 basis points to 9.575 percent.


(Reporting by Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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