04 Apr

S.Africa mulling privatisation in Ramaphosa reform drive

South Africa will consider partially privatising struggling state-owned companies as part of wide-ranging reforms set in motion by President Cyril Ramaphosa since he came to power last month, the head of the National Treasury said on Saturday.

Dondo Mogajane said South Africa was at the end of a credit downgrade cycle after Moody’s held its investment-grade rating and raised its outlook on Friday, partly because of Ramaphosa’s plan to reform state companies.

“For me, I see it as the end,” Mogajane told Reuters in an interview.

“Moody’s are saying there are things we can do and these are the things we will be focused on,” he added, highlighting plans to stabilise debt, revamp state firms and boost growth in sectors such as agriculture and tourism.

A downgrade to a “junk” rating by Moody’s would have seen South Africa removed from Citi’s World Government Bond Index, and could have triggered up to 100 billion rand ($9 billion) in asset sales by foreign investors.

Investors have cheered Ramaphosa’s arrival and his choice of respected ministers in key roles, including former finance minister Pravin Gordhan as minister of public enterprises.

Gordhan is tasked with turning around state companies that have plunged public finances into crisis in recent years, including heavily indebted power utility Eskom and South African Airways (SAA), which is on the brink of bankruptcy.

“Why not?” Mogajane said when asked if it was possible parts of government-owned companies could be sold.

“There have to be new ways of looking at these things. Are we talking privatisation? Are we talking equity partnership? Let’s give an opportunity for new ministers to unpack what it means.”

Mogajane gave as theoretical examples the sale of 49 percent of SAA and of attracting private investors by splitting up the generation, transmission and distribution sections of Eskom, one the world’s biggest power utilities.

His comments are likely to go down badly with powerful trade unions, sections of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the Economic Freedom Fighters, a disruptive red-beret-wearing opposition party.

Read more at Reuters.com

01 Feb

Nigeria’s Corn Output Expected to Fall 7% on Pests, Rising Imports

Nigeria’s corn output for the 2017-18 season will probably decline by as much as 750,000 metric tons due to the impact of pests and increased imports, the producers’ association said.

Africa’s most-populous country is estimated to produce 10 million tons of corn in the current season, 7 percent less than 10.75 million tons in the 2016-17 season, Tunji Adenola, president of the Maize Association of Nigeria, said in a Jan. 30 phone interview from the southwest city of Ibadan.

“Apart from imports, which is the major challenge to corn production in Nigeria, the two-year-old armyworm attacks ravaging farms has discouraged farmers from producing,” Adenola said. Those unable to compete with imported corn, which is cheaper, are being compelled to switch to other crops, he added.

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest corn producer after South Africa, whose 2017-18 output is estimated at 12 million tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Most of Nigeria’s corn is consumed locally as a staple, in feed for livestock and raw material in the food industry. The West African nation saw corn imports jump 33 percent in the 2016-17 season to reach 400,000 tons, according to the USDA.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government aims to boost farming output and reduce the economy’s dependence on oil, which contributes two-thirds of government revenue in the country of more than 180 million people.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-31/nigeria-s-corn-output-seen-falling-7-on-pests-rising-imports

25 Jan

Rand Cracks 12 per Dollar First Time Since ’15 as Optimism Grows

South Africa’s rand traded below 12 per dollar on Wednesday for the first time since May 2015, extending a rally sparked by an improving domestic political environment and supported by global risk-on sentiment and the greenback’s retreat.

The currency advanced as much as 0.9 percent to 11.9265 per dollar, and traded 0.7 percent stronger at 11.9462 by 11:52 a.m. in Johannesburg. That brings gains in the past three months to 15 percent, the most out of 31 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg.

The yield on rand-denominated government bonds due December 2026 fell four basis points to 8.32 percent, the lowest since March.

The election of Cyril Ramaphosa as head of the ruling African National Congress in December, setting him on a path to take over from President Jacob Zuma, has fueled optimism South Africa may avert further credit-rating downgrades as the new leadership takes steps to root out corruption and stimulate the ailing economy. Inflows into the nation’s stocks market are running at record levels.

“Investors are loving us at the moment,” said Phillip Pearce, a trader at TreasuryOne Ltd. in Johannesburg. “The dollar is taking a pounding and global markets are still on the hunt for yield. There’s not a lot of risk going now. South Africa seems like a good bet.”

The rand could appreciate to as low as 11.50 per dollar if Zuma is removed from office, Pearce said. The probability of the rand reaching that level this quarter rose to 49 percent on Wednesday, from 19 percent a month ago, according to Bloomberg’s forecast model based on prices of options to buy or sell the currency.

‘Better Space’

South Africa is in a “much better space” now than when previous credit-rating actions took place, and can avert further downgrades this year as lawmakers assert their authority to hold the executive to account, South Africa’s central-bank governor, Lesetja Kganyago, said on Wednesday.

To read the full article, click here.

19 Jan

South Africa Holds Rate as Rand, Inflation Risks Persist

The South African Reserve Bank kept its benchmark lending rate unchanged for a third consecutive meeting as the risks of a credit-rating downgrade persist, muddying the outlook for the rand and inflation.

The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee maintained the repurchase rate at 6.75 percent Thursday, in line with the estimates by all but seven of the 20 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

The bank cut the rate for the first time in five years in July to support an economy that entered its second recession in almost a decade in the first quarter of 2017 and has struggled to mount a strong recovery.

Inflation has been inside the target band for eight months and the rand — among the world’s most-volatile currencies — has strengthened since the ruling party elected Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as its new leader in December, spurring hope that policy uncertainty and political turbulence will dissipate.

“We do see an improved inflation and growth outlook thanks to a stronger performance in the currency but a lot of risk factors still exist, both on the political front as well as on the credit-ratings front,” said Jeffrey Schultz, BNP Paribas’s senior economist.

S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings Ltd. cut the country’s debt to junk in 2017, and a reduction of rand bonds by Moody’s Investors Service could trigger an exclusion of the country’s rand debt from Citigroup Inc.’s World Government Bond Index.

The effect of this on rand bond yields “could be significant, but the extent to which a universal downgrade is already priced in remains unclear,” Governor Lesetja Kganyago told reporters in the capital, Pretoria. The government’s challenge is to “find ways to finance the deficit in a growth-positive manner, and at the same time convey a credible commitment to structural reforms.”

The bank expects inflation to remain within the target band of 3 percent to 6 percent until at least the end of 2019, reaching a low of 4.4 percent in the first quarter of this year.

To read the full article, click here.

19 Jan

Nigeria Moves Closer to Energy Overhaul With New Oil Bill

Nigeria’s House of Representatives passed a bill governing the country’s energy sector after the Senate did so in May, taking Africa’s top oil producer one step closer to a much-awaited overhaul of the key industry.

The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill now awaits President Muhammadu Buhari’s signing to become law.

The bill will “promote openness and transparency in the industry by clarifying the rules, processes, and procedures that govern the oil and gas sector,” Senate President Bukola Saraki said in a statement Thursday.

“After nearly two decades of back-and-forth, near-misses and ‘near-passages’, the 8th National Assembly finally reached a milestone.”

Delays in passing the new laws created a climate of uncertainty that has cost the country as much as $15 billion a year in lost investment, the Petroleum Ministry has said.

Lawmakers still need to pass two more pieces of legislation to complete an overhaul that will replace current laws. One focuses on new oil taxes and the other seeks to address longstanding grievances by oil-producing communities in the Niger River delta.

Saraki promised to pass those “very soon.” He said in June that the two related bills would be enacted by last month.

Nigeria holds an average 55 percent stake in joint ventures run by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp., Total SA and Eni SpA. These account for more than 80 percent of total oil production, which generates at least two-thirds of government revenue.

The West African country pumped 1.68 million barrels of crude per day in December, according to its oil ministry, and is yet to reach full capacity of 2.2 million daily following disruptions caused by militant attacks from 2016.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-18/south-africa-holds-rate-as-downgrade-inflation-risks-persist

18 Jan

Lourenco Proves He’s No One’s Puppet in Angola

Shortly after becoming president of Angola in September, Joao Lourenco did something completely unexpected: he stopped at a red light.

The incident prompted thousands of social-media users to praise the 63-year-old former army general for abiding by the law.

In October, Lourenco waited in line at a KFC restaurant to buy a burger, and then this month, photos surfaced of him and his wife Ana Dias strolling on a beach in the capital, Luanda.

Few predicted the sharp contrast in leadership style with his predecessor, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who rarely left the pink presidential palace from where he ruled Africa’s second-biggest oil producer for almost four decades.

When he did emerge, hundreds of soldiers swarmed the city center to allow his convoy to move swiftly through the pot-holed streets, leaving traffic paralyzed for hours.

“He’s been a very positive surprise,” said Soren Kirk Jensen, an independent Angola expert. “There’s been a profound change of style, from a completely closed style to a completely open one.

More importantly, he’s initiated much-needed economic reforms by addressing dysfunctionalities in the way the market works due to unnatural monopolies that happened to be controlled by certain families.”

When Lourenco won nomination as the candidate of the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola last year, analysts discounted a policy shift, saying his power would be limited by the party and the Dos Santos family and its allies.

Lourenco’s decision to reappoint 13 out of 18 provincial governors he had inherited from Dos Santos just two days into his new job seemed to confirm that suspicion.

Corruption Fight

But in a state of the union speech on Oct. 16, Lourenco stressed that he was serious about campaign promises to fight corruption and end state-run monopolies in a country that ranks among the world’s 20 most corrupt, according to Berlin-based Transparency International.

The first high-profile official to be removed was central bank Governor Valter Filipe, a lawyer Dos Santos appointed the previous year.

To read the full article, click here.

17 Jan

Cape Town’s day zero moves forward again, less than 100 days until taps shut off

Patricia de Lille confirmed that day zero will now happen earlier than predicted, on April 21 2018. This means that just 95 days remain until the taps are shut off.

The news comes after a spike in water usage hit the municipality. After a positive week previously, consumption has jumped from an average of 578 million litres per day to 618 million litres per day.

A heatwave doesn’t exactly help the situation (nor does fighting with your own government), but de Lille also pointed out that less residents are meeting the usage targets of 87 litres per day, per person. Just 39% of citizens kept within their limits, a slump of 15% from seven days ago.

The Mayor issued a rallying call for the City, and assured inhabitants that everything possible is being to help avert the taps being turned off. However, Capetonians must keep saving water:

“Today I want to call on all Capetonians to do more to save water. There are only 95 days left before we reach Day Zero.”

“Day Zero has moved a day closer this week to 21 April 2018. Day Zero is when the City will be forced to turn off most of the taps and every resident will have to queue for 25 litres of water per day.”

The only way Cape Town can avoid Day Zero is if every single resident saves water. But this is not the case. For each day that Cape Town uses more than 500 million litres, the city moves closer to Day Zero.

The only way Cape Town can avoid Day Zero is if every single resident saves water. But this is not the case. For each day that Cape Town uses more than 500 million litres, the city moves closer to Day Zero.

“Dam levels have dipped to 28,7% percent this past week – down by one percentage point. Only about 18,7% of this water is usable as the last 10% is difficult to abstract from the dams.”

“The City has ramped up pressure management to drive down consumption – aiming to stretch our water supply past the winter rainy season.”

To read the full article, click here.

17 Jan

Mauritius Battens Down as Cyclone Heads for Island Nation

Mauritius closed its main airport and stock exchange as the Indian Ocean island nation braced for the arrival of a cyclone packing winds of up to 120 kilometers per hour.

Tropical cyclone Berguitta is situated about 300 kilometer (186 miles) northeast of Mauritius and heading toward it at a speed of about 7 kilometers per hour, the country’s meteorological services said in a statement on its website.

The storm is forecast to make landfall overnight, it said. “Berguitta represents a direct threat to Mauritius,” the service said.

The tropical cyclone is the third this month to form in the south-west Indian Ocean. Tropical Cyclone Ava battered the island of Madagascar on Jan. 5, leaving at least 42 people dead and 150,000 others displaced, according to country’s disaster-management office.

The Red Cross activated its disaster response team for Mauritius and La Reunion, a French-administered island 227 kilometers southwest of Mauritius that is also threatened by the storm.

“This dangerous cyclone puts at risk hundreds of lives in Mauritius and La Reunion,” it said. “Our teams in both countries are prepositioning relief items to support communities who may need food, shelter and first aid services.”

Mauritius’s Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport was shuttered from 7 a.m., state-owned Airports of Mauritius said Wednesday in an emailed statement.

The Stock Exchange of Mauritius said Tuesday it would remain closed Wednesday if the storm warning was upgraded to Class III.

SBM Holdings Ltd., owner of Mauritius’ second-biggest lender, switched off automated teller machines from 8 p.m. on Tuesday, citing the weather.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-17/mauritius-shuts-down-as-cyclone-warning-upgraded-to-class-3

16 Jan

Miraa exporters to Mogadishu boycott trade over high prices

Miraa exporters serving the Mogadishu market have started a boycott on the trade citing high farm gate prices. Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) Chairman Kimathi Munjuri said the traders resolved to boycott buying the twigs to force farmers to lower the prices.

According to Mr Munjuri, a 100kg sack of miraa is now selling at Sh160,000, up from at least Sh20,000 during the rainy season. This means a 1kg bundle (bunda) of the medium quality miraa is selling at Sh1,600.

The high prices are due to low supply caused by the dry spell that started early December.“Only traders serving other parts of Somalia shipped their commodity on Monday night. Traders who export to Mogadishu feel that it is not sustainable to buy 100kgs at Sh160,000 because buyers cannot afford it.

TRADERS MEET

He said the traders met in Eastleigh on Sunday and resolved that they would not buy miraa from farmers. “This means about 30 tonnes of miraa has not been delivered to Mogadishu,” Mr Munjuri said.

Mr Joseph Muturia, a member of the Miraa report implementation committee, said the premium quality miraa known as ‘Mbaine’ is selling at Sh6,000 a kilo while ‘kisa’ is retailing at Sh4,000.

“I currently sell miraa locally because residents understand the quality of this type of miraa,” Mr Muturia said. Mr Josiah Mugo, a miraa consumer, said he could no longer afford to chew daily after prices spiked from mid-December.

“A small bundle (surba) of the best quality khat is now retailing at more than Sh400 from Sh150 last month. I am considering shifting to muguka but its quality is not good. I am now chewing occasionally so as not to stretch my budget,” Mr Mugo said.

BOYCOTT FUTILE

However, Nyamita termed the move by the traders as futile saying the miraa prices are determined by market forces.

To read the full article, click here. 

15 Jan

Glencore Shrinks Job of Billionaire Copper Head Amid Congo Probe

Glencore Plc reduced the role of its billionaire head of copper, Aristotelis Mistakidis, shaking up the business after a review in the Democratic Republic of Congo raised questions about accounting and management.

Mistakidis, one of Glencore’s largest shareholders and a key lieutenant of Chief Executive Officer Ivan Glasenberg for more than a decade, will lose control of industrial copper operations including mines and focus on the trading side of the business, according to people familiar with the plans.

Responsibility for Glencore’s copper assets will move to Mike Ciricillo, who now oversees copper smelting and refining, the people said, declining to be identified as the appointment isn’t yet public.

The shake-up reduces Mistakidis’s responsibilities after he and two other executives resigned from the board of Glencore’s Katanga Mining Ltd. in Congo in November. A review by Katanga led to a restatement of its financial reporting, and a commitment from Glencore to restructure the management of its own copper business.

Close Relationship

Mistakidis, whose holding in the company is valued at about $2.5 billion, is a key part of Glencore. He’s the third-biggest shareholder among management and helped lead the company’s ascent from a scrappy trader to a diversified commodities giant and the world’s third-biggest copper miner.

For years Mistakidis, better known as “Telis,” had run both the marketing and producing sides of the copper business, a testament to his record as a trader and close relationship with Glasenberg.

Ciricillo, who ran Freeport-McMoRan Inc.’s copper operations in Congo prior to joining Glencore in 2014, takes on the new role at a critical time for the Swiss commodity giant. Glencore plans to grow global copper production by about 25 percent to 1.64 million metric tons by 2020, largely through the resumption of operations at Katanga.

To read the full article, click here.