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South Africa cuts main interest rate as inflation falls within range

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy

PRETORIA (Reuters) – South Africa’s central bank cut its main interest rate to 6.5 percent on Wednesday, in another boost for the economy after ratings agency Moody’s left intact its last investment-grade credit rating.

Traders and economists had expected the 25 basis-point cut in the repo rate after a slowdown in consumer price inflation to 4.0 percent in February, which put price growth well within the central bank’s 3-6 percent target range.

It was the first easing step since July and comes as South Africa rides a wave of investor optimism in the wake of President Cyril Ramaphosa replacing scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma as head of state in February.

The rand fell, however, as the rate cut dents somewhat the appeal of local assets versus developed-market peers. Banking stocks also fell.

South African Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago told a news conference that inflation risks had subsided somewhat since January and that the bank had raised its economic growth forecast for this year to 1.7 percent from 1.4 percent.

But he said that the bank had not started “a journey of cutting” and that the future path of the repo rate would depend on data.

Four members of the Monetary Policy Committee voted to cut the rate while three wanted to keep it on hold, Kganyago said. There was no discussion of a more aggressive 50 basis-point rate cut.

Despite the central bank’s broadly upbeat tone, Kganyago said that the growth outlook remained relatively constrained and that the policy-setting committee would prefer to see inflation expectations anchored closer to the midpoint of its target range.

Analysts said they were not expecting to see a flurry of further rate cuts.

Razia Khan, an Africa-focused economist at Standard Chartered, said: “We think that today’s 25 basis-point cut was probably it in terms of South Africa’s easing cycle”.

Moody’s said on Friday that it expected to see a strengthening of South Africa’s institutions under Ramaphosa which could translate into greater economic and fiscal strength.

S&P Global, another of the “big three” ratings agencies, said it wanted to see stronger per capita growth before it would consider raising its credit rating.

 

(Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Nomvelo Chalumbira; Writing by Alexander Winning; Editing by James Macharia and Hugh Lawson)

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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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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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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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Spotify enters into the South African market

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Entertainment and Lifestyle, Technology

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Global music streaming provider Spotify launched its services in South Africa on Tuesday, marking its entry into Africa, where there is a rapid uptake of smartphones and improving telecommunications infrastructure.

The Swedish company, launched in 2008 and available in more than 60 countries, is the biggest music streaming company in the world and counts services from Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google Play as its main rivals.

The South Africa launch comes as Spotify prepares for a direct listing of its shares on the New York Stock Exchange, which will allow investors and employees to sell shares without the company raising new capital or hiring Wall Street banks to underwrite the issue.

“We believe South Africa is a wonderful country to start in,” Spotify Managing Director in Middle East and Africa Claudius Boller told Reuters on the sidelines of the launch.

“We looked at the technology landscape, we looked at the maturity and actually South Africa is seen globally as a very important music market.”

Spotify also has aspirations to branch out into the rest of Africa, Boller said, without committing to timelines or geographies.

An increase in connectivity across South Africa, helped by higher investment in infrastructure, as well as a growing uptake in credit cards and bank accounts has drawn global video and music streaming providers.

Its music streaming market is dominated by players such as Apple Music, Google Play, France’s Deezer and Simfy Africa, with only a few local operators such as mobile phone operator’s MTN and Cell C with MTN Music+ and Black.

Internet and entertainment firm Naspers also recently launched music streaming platform Joox, from China’s Tencent, in which it holds a 33 percent stake.

In its filing to list its shares, Spotify said its operating loss widened to 378 million euros ($465.32 million) in 2017 from 349 million euros.

($1 = 0.8123 euros)

 

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by Jason Neely and Pritha Sarkar)

 

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South Africa’s RCL Foods expands in pet food to beat drought

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Environment

RANDFONTEIN, South Africa (Reuters) – South Africa’s RCL Foods has completed a 123 million rand ($10 million) expansion at its pet food plant to help reduce its exposure to a poultry business hit by drought and cheap imports.

Food companies in South Africa have been struggling with an El Niño-induced drought that drove up the price of ingredients such as maize, while poultry farmers have also faced competition from Brazil, the European Union and the United States.

RCL is aiming to tap into the country’s 5 billion rand ($418 million) a year pet food industry, which is less exposed to individual commodities, as part of a strategy to diversify, CEO Miles Dally said at a plant visit late on Thursday.

“Ideally we would like less impact from things like drought and dumping,” he said.

“Our vision has always been clear, to create a major food business,” he added, referring to the pet food division.

RCL’s expansion in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg, will boost its pet food production to 12,000 tonnes per month from 7,000 tonnes.

The company, which saw first-half profit plunge 54 percent last year, this week reported an increase for the first six months of its current financial year, boosted by a decline in input costs and higher chicken prices.

The firm cited lower poultry imports, which were reduced in part by an outbreak of bird flu in Europe.

RCL’s pet food business, which has annual revenue of around 1 billion rand, aims to grow by as much as 20 percent per year, Dally said, adding the firm would look for acquisitions to bolster the business.

The company currently produces over 20 brands including Rainbow chicken products, Nola mayonnaise, Yum Yum peanut butter, Bobtail dog food and Selati sugar products.

RCL cut 1,350 jobs and reduced production by 50 percent at its Hammersdale factory in the KwaZulu-Natal province in November 2016 as the chicken imports and drought took a toll.

($1 = 11.9204 rand)

 

(By Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia and Mark Potter)

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South Africa’s rand at 2-week low as global headwinds, Fed jitters kick-in

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Politics, US

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand slipped to its lowest in two weeks on Thursday, succumbing to month end demand for dollars by local firms as the increasing chances of higher interest rates in the United States lured bulls back into long-dollar positions.

At 0640 GMT the rand was 0.4 percent weaker at 11.8350 per dollar, its softest level since February 14, compared to an overnight close of 11.7875.

It was the first time in more than two weeks the rand closed above technical support around 11.80, after weakening for three consecutive sessions, prompting some technical selling as well as portfolio rebalancing by corporates offloading excess rands.

Analysts said the “Ramaphosa effect”, named for the rise in investor confidence and rally in local assets after new president Cyril Ramaphosa took over as chief of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in December, was now giving way to global headwinds.

“With the cabinet reshuffle out of the way, our local assets will continue to reprice in line with the global macro environment,” said fixed income trader at Rand Merchant Bank Gordon Kerr in a note.

The dollar index remained near 5-week highs early on Thursday, still drawing support after the Federal Reserve’s new chief Jerome Powell struck an optimistic tone on the U.S. economy, raising bets of at least four rate hikes by the bank in 2018.

Stocks opened softer with the benchmark Top-40 index down 0.13 percent.

Bonds were also softer, with the yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 up 4 basis points to 8.165 percent.

 

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Ed Stoddard)

 

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South Africa economic confidence to get a lift after cabinet reshuffle.

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy, Leaders, Politics

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Confidence in South Africa’s economy will get a boost after Monday’s cabinet reshuffle by President Cyril Ramaphosa returned trusted hands to crucial budget-related ministries, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.

Seventeen of the 20 economists surveyed in the past three days said Monday’s reshuffle would have a significant positive impact on South Africa’s economic confidence this year.

One economist said it would be very significant, while the remaining two said it would have an insignificant impact.

In that same sample, 18 indicated they were optimistic the country’s business sector would play a bigger part in job creation in the next two years. One economist was very optimistic while the remaining one was pessimistic.

“Both business and consumer confidence is likely to be boosted by the election of Cyril Ramaphosa to President of the Republic and the cabinet reshuffle that (followed),” said Jeffrey Schultz, economist at BNP Paribas in Johannesburg.

South Africa’s business confidence rose for a third month in a row in January to its highest since late 2015, on expectations the new leadership of the ruling party would stabilise economic policy, a survey showed last month.

“President Ramaphosa clearly has his sights set on improving the domestic business climate and promoting more public-private sector participation,” said Schultz.

Gross domestic fixed investment – normally capital spending, such as buying new machinery for future production – fell into a recession in 2016, recovering only slightly early last year before hitting another slump in the second quarter.

The private sector makes up nearly two-thirds of the gross domestic fixed investment contribution to GDP, although it has played a smaller role in recent years, with government pushing infrastructure projects to raise jobs.

Schultz added that it would take some time for the trust between business and the government to be rebuilt, but it was clear the new government has realised it needs business sector buy-in to get growth and reduce unemployment.

Unemployment was at just over 20 percent a decade ago and now more than a quarter of South Africa’s labour force is jobless.

 

OLD TRUSTED HANDS BACK AT HELM

Ramaphosa appointed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on Monday and Pravin Gordhan as public enterprise minister. All but one of the 20 economists polled singled out these two National Executive appointments as most likely to inspire economic confidence.

Both Nene and Gordhan served as finance ministers in the last administration but were unceremoniously sacked by former President Jacob Zuma.

A poll last month suggested South Africa’s new leadership would need to be prudent and creative in managing the economy to avoid a credit rating downgrade, by raising taxes without suffocating a chance for growth. [ECILT/ZA]

Moody’s is due to publish a review later this month, which economists said in February would offer the country a reprieve.

 

 

(By Vuyani Ndaba; Editing by William Maclean)

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South Africa’s AECI sees growth in water treatment after drought hits continent

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Environment, Technology

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African chemicals group AECI could increase revenue from its desalination and water treatment business by up to 80 percent over the next five years after a severe drought hit Africa, its CEO said.

South Africa was declared a national disaster this month after drought afflicted Cape Town and other areas, and Kenya, Malawi, Mozbuambique and most of southern Africa have also experienced low rainfall.

AECI, which also makes explosives and announced a sharp rise in earnings on Tuesday, sees revenue growth coming from its subsidiary ImproChem, a water, air and energy management company.

“We have to manage our water a lot better as a continent and I think ImproChem can play a big role in that and that will boost sales on those opportunities,” Chief Executive Mark Dytor told Reuters in a phone interview.

Revenue from AECI’s water treatment unit rose 3 percent in 2017 to 1.409 billion rand ($121 million), Dytor said, and he expects them to rise by between 50 and 80 percent over the next five years.

Cape Town and other parts of South Africa suffering from drought have pledged to use desalination plants and underground water reserves and AECI has applied for government tenders for desalination projects in Cape Town.

Since the current drought in the Western Cape, ImproChem has sold some desalination plants in Cape Town to private sector operators, Dytor said.

“We have already sold five desalination plants, that’s into the private sector, they give from between 500,000 litres to 1 million litres a day of water that is treated from sea water,” he said.

AECI, which has business in Africa, Australia, Indonesia and South America, said its headline earnings per share rose 17 percent for 2017 to 959 cents, thanks to a global recovery in the resources sector.

 

($1 = 11.6680 rand)

 

(By Tanisha Heiberg;Editing by James Macharia and Susan Fenton)

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