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Sibanye-Stillwater falls into annual loss, closes dividend tap

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Health, Mining

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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How telemedicine promises to change Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

telemedicine africa

Telemedicine is making a big difference is African disaster zones; however the technology has huge potential to benefit the whole continent.

Technological disruption is rife across Africa. The developing continent is perfect for new technologies to be used in ways that were either impossible or just unnecessary in the Western world. From solar energy to mobile banking, new technologies are helping plug gaps and solve problems at an astonishing rate. In Africa, one lesser known but incredibly important technology is telemedicine, and it’s only just getting started.

In practice, telemedicine is simply the transmission of medical information via modern telecommunications, allowing for remote diagnosis, consultation and treatment. This straightforward concept is finding a broad array of applications across Africa, as the continent wrestles with its unique set of healthcare challenges.

Telemedicine is changing humanitarian healthcare

Telemedicine has become a critical tool for medical treatment in disaster and conflict situations. One recently reported example came from doctors working under healthcare charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF.) In a recent interview with SciDev.net, MSF Doctor Raghu Venugopal recalled a story about a young girl who had been shot in the hand in war-ravaged eastern Congo. Medical staff on the ground were unsure how to treat the wound, and whether or not they would have to amputate the girl’s hand. Through MSF’s telemedicine “store and forward” consulting services they uploaded photographs and other information about the wound, which were then assessed by specialists overseas. Recommendations were then relayed to the medics on the ground not to amputate, but to remove specific unrecoverable tissues, ultimately saving the girl’s hand.

This is just one such example. Unfortunately, warzones aren’t exactly abundant with top-tier western trained specialists. However through telemedicine services, humanitarian medics and field doctors are able to access expert advice within a matter of hours. Dr. Raghu spoke positively about how quickly MSF’s telemedicine service is being adopted: “What we’re seeing is the time needed for 1,000 cases (on MSF’s system) to accrue, to 2,000 cases to accrue, and then for 3,000 cases to accrue is dropping from years to months, to even shorter periods of time, so we’re seeing very promising uptake.” Additionally, Dr. Raghu commented on how the doctors in the field were highly positive about the service, highlighting the relevance and timeliness of the advice, cost savings and invaluable learning they obtained.

Tech tackles Ebola

Telemedicine technology has also been a valuable tool in tackling the most infamous African health issue in recent years, Ebola. The highly contagious virus poses an extreme threat to frontline healthcare workers. However, by using robot mounted iPads to examine quarantined individuals, doctors have been able to assess symptoms, communicate with patients and provide treatments while minimizing risk. In a similar fashion to MSF’s service, information on Ebola cases is often relayed to overseas specialists for consultative advice. For those undergoing treatment, telemedicine services also offer the opportunity to communicate with their family and loved ones without risk of spreading the virus. Undoubtedly, telemedicine services are transforming the quality of treatment available in areas of humanitarian crisis.

Huge benefits to internal programs

Merck Telemedicine partnership in Kenta

Merck Telemedicine partnership in Kenta

Some African countries are taking note of Telemedicine’s effectiveness, and making moves to implement their own programs on a national level. In May 2015, Kenya announced a collaborative partnership with the German firm Merck Group. Together they are rolling out a new telemedicine scheme designed to connect rural communities in the nation’s east with specialists at Machakos Level Five Hospital, the top referral destination in the country. So far the program has been highly successful, prompting the government to expand the scheme to additional regions. Kenya’s Health Secretary, James Macharia, encouraged other countries in the area to follow suit: “I urge all stakeholders and county governments to invest in telemedicine as a way of bringing specialised services closer to the rural poor.”

Connectivity is key: Google, Microsoft and Facebook can help

While other countries such as Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana have also seen successful schemes take off within their borders, major telemedicine services remain off limits for most African nations. Locked away behind poor broadband infrastructure and financial limitations, the technology will remain scarce, restricted to programs provided by humanitarian organizations in crisis zones, until conditions change.

Telemedicine is already revolutionizing emergency care in disaster areas. The technology also has the potential for remote training and up-skilling of Africa’s healthcare sector. However the biggest change to Africa’s healthcare fortunes will occur when telemedicine services become widely available to rural populations across the continent. Fortunately, this change may be on the horizon. Telemedicine should be able to arrive quickly, riding on the back of major internet rollouts pledged by the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft. If this is indeed the case Africa stands to benefit immeasurably.

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eTobb brings a medical Q&A service to the Middle East

Comments (0) Business, Featured, Middle East

etobb

The eTobb startup looks to democratize medical advice for people across the Middle East, with its Q&A online service.

Startup companies in the Middle East are not anything like as common as they are in other parts of the world, and so finding a niche would appear to be more straightforward. However, finding a niche that truly offers something original and has the potential to positively change people’s lives is a far greater task.

Lebanese startup eTobb appears to be just this sort of company. Launched in January 2013, eTobb is an online Q&A platform for medical problems. Dubbed a “medical Quora” in some quarters, eTobb works in a similar format to the popular aforementioned general Q&A website, but with a key difference. That difference is that any medical query or concern that a member posts can only be answered by a registered doctor. Therefore, customers can be assured that the answers they receive are reliable. Within 2 weeks of launching, eTobb had 50 qualified physicians onboard; after 1 year that number had risen to over 700.

Providing a much-needed service

Perhaps the most obvious reason for eTobb’s rapid growth is that it has provided a service that the region was in need of, as opposed to simply trying to create a demand for something new. While social media platforms have had to create a yearning for their product, access to medical expertise and advice is something that people across every continent, in every era, have desired.

eTobb was founded by 4 people, Paul Saber, Sara Helou, Nader Dagher and Jad Joubran. None of the team had a medical background, but all of them saw the importance of democratizing the access to healthcare information in Lebanon and the wider Middle East.

Co-founder Paul Saber

One of these founders, Paul Saber, explains, “The idea emerged from a need…the lack of information out there, let alone the inaccuracy of this information is a huge dilemma.” In a region like the Middle East, this problem is exacerbated by common cultural and socio-economic issues. In cultural terms, it can be considered taboo for many in the Arab world to discuss personal issues surrounding sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and women’s health. This was an area that another of the co-founders, Sarah Helou, identified while discussing the importance of an informative blog that eTobb has added to their site, saying, “The blog compliments our services. It’s to raise awareness about different topics and issues.”

The other widespread issue within the region is the cost of healthcare. In an area in which a lot of people struggle with poverty, it is simply not viable for people to travel to an emergency room (which is often the only option) in order to receive medical advice.

As Paul Saber said, “The service provided by eTobb allows users to access reliable medical information, from…experts for free.”

While the benefits to users are obvious, it is also an opportunity for doctors to build up a reputation with potential customers and indirectly advertise themselves to a wider market.

Developing and broadening services

Alongside the launch of the eTobb blog (that covers issues from staying healthy during Ramadan to warning signs for breast cancer), the company has also launched a web app for smartphone users.

As more doctors register to provide their services, the platform continues to grow and provide expert, free advice to not just Lebanese citizens but people all over the Middle East. Corporate support has also arrived, in the form of sponsorship, from Banker’s Assurance, one of Lebanon’s largest insurance companies.

By 2014, there were over 15,000 Arabic speakers signed up to a waiting list for an Arabic version of eTobb to be launched. The company successfully launched this option within the same year, opening up their services to an even greater number of people, across an even wider region.

Customers can also have face-to-face video consultations with an available doctor if they require more detailed discussion or simply desire the more personal experience that this can offer. The feedback from users has been hugely positive and Saber says, that people, “from all over the Arab world and beyond” have signed up and messaged eTobb to say how much it has made their lives easier.

With sponsorship, glowing feedback from consumers and an ever growing list of medical professionals signing up, the future for eTobb looks very healthy.

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South Africa’s Netcare FY profit up 10%, lags consensus

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

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s second-largest private hospital firm Netcare missed estimates with a 10 percent increase in full-year profit on Monday as weaker demand in the United Kingdom offset a strong showing at home.

Netcare, which runs Britain’s largest private hospital network, BMI Healthcare, said diluted headline EPS totalled 170 cents in the year to the end of September, below a 190 cent-estimate in a Reuters poll of 10 analysts.

While demand for private healthcare is increasing in South Africa thanks to a fast-growing middle class, tentative economic growth in the United Kingdom has led to a drop in the number of Britons with private medical insurance.

Netcare said sales rose 6.1 percent to 33.7 billion rand ($2.41 billion).

 

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Sunil Nair, Reuters)

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South Africa’s Mediclinic agrees deal for Al Noor Hospitals

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

LONDON (Reuters) – South Africa’s Mediclinic Intl agreed to buy United Arab Emirates’ Al Noor Hospitals Group, gaining the upper hand on rival NMC Health in a tussle for expansion in the fast growing Gulf region.

But NMC Health, already a major player in the UAE, vowed to fight on, saying on Wednesday it remained committed to a tie-up with Al Noor.

Shares in Al Noor jumped 19 percent to 1,185 pence, above the 1,160 pence value of Mediclinic’s agreed offer and valuing the company’s equity at 1.38 billion pounds ($2.12 billion), as investors anticipated a battle for the group.

Mediclinic’s Chief Executive Danie Meintjes, who will remain CEO after the deal, said the combined group would be the largest private healthcare provider by revenue in the “highly attractive growth market of the UAE”.

Mediclinic, which has more than 50 hospitals in South Africa and Namibia, also has a presence in the UAE. Combining the two companies will create an operator with around 20 percent of the private beds in the region, analysts said.

It will also be the biggest player in Switzerland, the third largest in South Africa, and will have a 29.9 percent stake in Britain’s Spire Healthcare Group.

The deal, structured as a reverse takeover of Al Noor by Mediclinic, will create a London-listed group with a turnover exceeding $4 billion operating 73 hospitals and 35 clinics.

NMC Health, which is also listed in London, said it had made an informal cash-and-shares offer to buy Al Noor on Oct. 9, days after Al Noor and Mediclinic said they were in talks.

Al Noor Chief Executive Ronald Lavater said there was a “compelling strategic fit” with Mediclinic, and together they could expand coverage and service delivery in the region.

He said the board had considered the NMC Health proposal and had concluded it was “inferior both on the value and on the deal certainty”.

The tie-up with Mediclinic is backed by the two major shareholders in Al Noor, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Butti Al Hamed and Kassem Alom, who combined hold 34.3 percent, the companies said.

NMC, however, was undeterred. “This confirms our belief in the competitiveness of our initial possible offer and that the combination of NMC and Al Noor has the strongest strategic and financial rationale for all stakeholders,” it said.

Al Noor was advised by Rothschild, Goldman Sachs and Jefferies, while Morgan Stanley and Rand Merchant Bank worked for Mediclinic.

(By Paul Sandle, Reuters)

 

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