President Zuma's nephew bemoans statements blaming him for the plight of Pamodzi Gold's former mineworkers.]]> |||
Johannesburg - Khulubuse Zuma on Thursday bemoaned statements by Cosatu and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) blaming him for the plight of Pamodzi Gold's former mineworkers.
“The attack on Zuma by the Cosatu and NUM leadership is rendered even more bizarre by the fact that Zuma is not aware of any claim that has been lodged against Aurora on behalf of NUM members, whether in relation to unpaid salaries or any other entitlement,” his spokesman Vuyo Mkhize said in a statement.
“He 1/8Zuma 3/8 has instructed his lawyers to explore all available legal avenues to ensure that his constitutional rights are protected.”
Earlier this week, an urgent application by Zuma to have claims of over R1.5 billion against Aurora Empowerment Systems, of which he is a director, set aside was dismissed by the High Court in Pretoria.
Judge Eberhardt Bertelsmann earlier on Tuesday dismissed the application with costs. He found that Zuma's interests were not directly affected.
Aurora's liquidators want to go to court to hold the company's directors responsible after they allegedly stripped the assets of the liquidated Pamodzi Gold's mines in Springs, Gauteng, and Orkney, North West. The case is due to be heard on March 23.
In 2009, Aurora was appointed by liquidators to manage Pamodzi's mines in Springs and Orkney after the company went bankrupt. Aurora allegedly stripped the mines of infrastructure and left its employees without pay and surviving on handouts.
Mkhize on Thursday said Zuma believed he would not get a fair trial.
“The net effect of this is that Zuma is expected to appear before court on 23 March 2015 to face a demand that he pays upwards of R1.5 billion to settle a 'debt' whose basis has never been outlined and in circumstances where he will not be allowed to question its very existence or validity.
“Naturally, Zuma believes that this state of affairs offends the principles of natural justice and the right to a fair trial,” he said.
Mkhize denied that Zuma had ever been involved in any fraud, theft or asset-stripping and was not aware of any such acts by his Aurora co-principals.
He said Zuma never received any benefit from the conduct of Aurora's business. Zuma is President Jacob Zuma's nephew.
According to Mkhize, Zuma used over R30 million of his own money to pay Pamodzi's workers and service providers to try and save the Aurora transaction.
“In closing, Zuma would like the media to respect his decision not to issue any further statements on this matter until after the conclusion of all proceedings that are currently pending before court.”
Standard Bank Group's headline earnings from continuing operations increased by 20 percent to R21.1 billion for 2014, it said.]]> |||
Johannesburg - Standard Bank Group's headline earnings from continuing operations increased by 20 percent to R21.1 billion for 2014, it said on Thursday.
“However, headline earnings which were affected by the performance of the discontinued global markets outside Africa business, increased by only one percent to R17.3bn,” the group said in a statement.
“Total income grew by 15 percent and expenses were 11 percent higher than 2013, while credit impairments were two percent lower. Net income before taxation grew by 31 percent and profit from continuing operations was 32 percent higher.”
The bank concluded the sale of 60 percent of its interest in the global markets business outside Africa. The completion was announced on February 2.
Group co-chief executive Ben Kruger said the transaction delivered the final major piece in the repositioning of capital allocation to focus on customers and clients in Africa.
The headline loss from the discontinued operation was R3.7bn.
Personal and business banking achieved headline earnings of R9.8bn, which was 17 percent higher than in 2013.
Liberty's headline earnings for the year decreased by three percent to R3.9bn, and R2.1bn was attributable to the group.
Standard Bank Group said South Africa continued to face structural and cyclical headwinds in 2015, exacerbated by an under-supplied electricity market.
Some relief was however likely from the fall in the price of oil, the bank said.
Less electricity was generated in South Africa in January 2015 compared with January 2014, according to Statistics South Africa.]]> |||
Johannesburg – Less electricity was generated in South Africa in January 2015 compared with January 2014, according to preliminary results from Statistics South Africa.
The volume of electricity produced fell by 1,5%. The volume of electricity available for distribution also decreased, falling by 1,3% year-on-year.
Electricity production dropped by 1,5% from 21090 GWh (gigawatt-hours) in January 2014 to 20769 GWh January 2015. The volume of electricity imported from neighbouring countries was up by 3,6%, increasing from 1020 GWh to 1 057 GWh.
A small portion of the electricity produced is used in power stations or exported to neighbouring countries, but the bulk is distributed to customers.
Exports were down by 2,3%, falling from 1183 GWh to 1156 GWh. The volume of electricity available for distribution decreased by 1,3%, from 19409 GWh to 19152 GWh.
While Eskom generated less electricity in January 2015 compared with January 2014, smaller electricity suppliers increased their production. The volume of electricity generated by smaller establishments rose by 18,7% (160 GWh), while Eskom recorded a production decrease of 2,4% (-481 GWh).
Despite this decrease, Eskom still produces the lion’s share (95%) of electricity in the country, with 19755 GWhs generated in January 2015 compared with 1014 GWhs produced by smaller suppliers.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's price index averaged 179.4 points in February.]]> |||
Rome - Global food prices fell 1 percent in February to their lowest in more than four-and-a-half years, with cereals, meat and sugar declining, oils steady and only dairy prices rebounding sharply, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 179.4 points last month, 1.8 points below its reading in January.
High global production, low crude oil prices and limited demand from major importers including China have helped cap food prices for the past year and the index has now been declining since April 2014 to reach its lowest since July 2010.
Cereal stocks at the end of the 2014-15 season are now forecast to reach 630.5 million tons, up almost 8 million tons from a previous reading to reach their highest levels in 15 years.
FAO's forecast for world cereal production in 2015 reached 2.542 billion tons, 8 million tons above the forecast made in January.
Cereals prices were down 3.2 percent from January, with wheat prices sharply lower on better production prospects and large inventories.
Meat prices fell 1.4 percent, pulled down by cheaper beef, mutton and lamb that outweighed stable poultry prices and higher pork prices.
Following eight months of decline, pork prices were bolstered by the announcement of European subsidies for private storage.
Sugar prices fell 4.9 percent from January on higher output from Brazil, the world's largest sugar producer and exporter, together with a weakening in the Brazilian real currency and the announcement of sugar export subsidies from India.
A slight rise in palm oil prices, following floods in Malaysia and an increase in biodiesel subsidies in Indonesia, lifted the vegetable oil price index by 0.4 percent.
Dairy prices showed the strongest gains, rising 4.6 percent from January to post their first increase in a year. The rise was caused by drought in New Zealand and limited export supplies from Australia, together with a curb in European production to avoid breaching output quotas.
Britain’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.1 percent on Thursday.]]> |||
London - Britain's top share index steadied near a record high on Thursday, with a rally in insurers after positive results offsetting weakness in companies trading without the attraction of their latest dividend payout.
Rio Tinto, CRH, HSBC and RSA fell 1.1 to 3.4 percent as they traded ex-dividend.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.1 percent at 6,927.04 points by 08h56 GMT, not far from a record peak of 6,974.26 points set earlier this month.
Insurer Aviva rose 4.8 percent, the top gainer in the FTSE 100 index, after reporting a 6 percent rise in 2014 operating profit.
“The results are both broadly pleasing and in stark contrast to the travails of recent years, most notably the financial crisis and subsequent dividend cut in 2013,” Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, said.
“The key metrics show significant improvement, including the operating profit, earnings per share, reduction in costs and a growth spurt in the likes of Poland and Asia where the value of new business increased by some 25 percent.
Friends Life rose 4.4 percent after saying its operating profit before tax rose 38 percent to 556 million pounds ($847.51 million) in 2014 from a year earlier.
Among other sharp movers, British broadcaster ITV extended gains on the back of several broker upgrades, a day after announcing on Wednesday the return of cash to shareholders following strong international growth.
ITV shares gained 3.6 percent after HSBC, Goldman Sachs, Berenberg, JPMorgan, Nomura and Exane all raised their target prices for the stock. Goldman also added the company to its “conviction list”.
However, miners faced some selling pressure after China, the world's biggest metals consumer, lowered its economic growth target for 2015 to around 7.0 percent from 7.5 percent in 2014. BHP Billiton, Anglo American and Antofagasta fell 0.8 to 1.3 percent.
Investors awaited a meeting of the European Central Bank, which will start a bond-buying programme worth more than 1 trillion euros this month. The bank is expected to provide more details later in the day.
The Bank of England also holds a meeting later in the day.
“Nothing of significance is anticipated from today's MPC (BoE's Monetary Policy Committee) meeting, so investors are reluctant to push that index any higher,” John Smith, senior fund manager at Brown Shipley, said.
The new head of Aggreko is reviewing the shape of the temporary power provider.]]> |||
London - The new head of Aggreko said he is reviewing the shape of the world's biggest temporary power provider but does not expect to deliver any dramatic changes when he reports back later this year.
Chris Weston, who took over the top job at the start of the year, said he had spent his first few months travelling the world and was upbeat about the business with the group not experiencing any impact from low oil prices.
Weston was speaking as the FTSE 100 group posted full-year revenue up 9 percent on an underlying basis to 1.6 billion pounds, helped by a strong performance in the Americas.
Trading profit at the firm, whose kit powers major events and covers electricity shortfalls, was down 2 percent however, held back by weak trading in Asia Pacific, and the group expects it to remain broadly in line with that in 2015.
Analysts at Barclays said the numbers were in line with consensus and noted that the start to 2015 looked encouraging
The one problem on the horizon for Aggreko is the low oil price but Weston said the group had not seen any impact yet, and in some parts of the business it could stimulate demand because its customers generally pay for the fuel required by its engines.
However he said the impact on its clients in the oil and gas production area could turn into a headwind later in the year.
“It's a good business,” he said of the overall group. “We are currently looking at the priorities, so I'm working with my team and looking at technology, markets, customer requirements.
“We'll come back to the market in the middle of the year to say what the priorities are but I suspect it will be broadly similar to what we're doing now, nothing dramatic.”
Shares in the group were down 1.3 percent, giving it a market capitalisation of 4.2 billion pounds.
European shares rose in early trading on Thursday, with a batch of robust company results boosting sentiment.]]> |||
Paris - European shares rose in early trading on Thursday, with a batch of robust company results from firms including Carrefour and Schroders boosting sentiment.
Investors also awaited the European Central bank meeting at which it is set to give further details on its massive bond-buying programme.
Shares in Carrefour rose 1.8 percent after the world's second-largest retailer said it would boost capital expenditure this year as it seeks to cement a revival of its European hypermarkets.
The British fund manager Schroders was up 2.5 percent after reporting a better-than-expected jump in its 2014 pretax profit as net inflows more than tripled to 24.8 billion pounds.
About 80 percent of STOXX Europe 600 companies have reported results so far, posting a 22 percent surge in quarterly profits, according to Thomson Reuters Starmine data, making for Europe's best earnings season since mid-2011.
“Corporate results are encouraging,” said Joffrey Ouafqa, fund manager at Paris-based Auris Gestion Privee.
“Companies have done a great job in terms of restructuring, and now they have a strong operating leverage. A small rise in revenue is enough to send profits soaring.”
At 08h33 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.4 percent at 1,563.55 points, hovering not far below a seven-year high posted earlier this week.
The ECB, which starts its quantitative easing, or bond-buying, programme worth more than 1 trillion euros this month, is expected to detail the plan later in the day following its policy meeting.
The bank is also set to keep rates on hold and lift growth forecasts to reflect a string of positive data surprises, but cut inflation projections as it incorporates the full effect of a dramatic oil price fall.
European stocks have rallied strongly since the start of the year, boosted by the prospect of quantitative easing. The FTSEurofirst 300 index is up 14 percent in 2015, outpacing Wall Street, where the S&P 500 is up 1.9 percent over the same period.
Miners bucked the trend on Thursday, with Anglo American down 0.9 percent, after China announced an economic growth target for 2015 of around 7 percent and said it would boost government spending, signalling that the lowest rate of expansion for a quarter of a century was the “new normal” for the world's No.2 economy.
A fire at the Great Westerford building in Cape Town ruined the offices of a major asset management group.]]> |||
Cape Town - The offices of Futuregrowth Asset Management, Africa’s biggest fixed-income money manager, were severely damaged when a fire broke out in a Cape Town office block.
Staff and clients evacuated the Great Westerford building on Thursday after the fire started at about 8am, Michelle Usher, a spokeswoman for Futuregrowth, said by phone. Futuregrowth has offices on the third floor, which was “gutted”, according to firefighting authorities.
The company’s systems and data are backed up, Usher said.
Futuregrowth, which oversees assets worth R140 billion, is a unit of the Old Mutual Investment Group, South Africa’s biggest private investor.
“There was some smoke and flames coming from the roof of the building,” Usher said at about 930am in Cape Town. “We can’t see how it has progressed.”
The fire was under control by 10am and no loss of life or injuries were reported, although firefighters remained on the scene to assess damage, Theo Layne, fire and rescue services spokesman, said by phone.
The blaze is unrelated to runaway fires that swept the Cape Peninsula since March 1, he said.
Hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games could deliver a R20bn boost to South Africa's economy, says Jeff Radebe.]]> |||
Johannesburg - Hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games could deliver a R20-billion boost to South Africa's economy, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said on Thursday.
Briefing journalists at Parliament following Cabinet's fortnightly meeting on Wednesday, he noted that Durban had earlier this week formally lodged, in London, its bid to be the host city.
"Hosting of these games can potentially create approximately 11 650 jobs and boost the country's economy by an estimated R20bn.
"Another legacy of the games will be an integrated transport system for Durban for which the plans have already been approved," he said.
South Africa’s hopes of becoming a renewable energy hub are fading in the face of Eskom’s power crisis.]]> |||
Cape Town - South Africa's hopes of becoming one of the world's top renewable energy hubs are dimming due to poor infrastructure and delays as cash-strapped state utility Eskom is distracted by a scramble to keep the lights on.
Chronic electricity shortages are one of the biggest brakes on growth in Africa's most developed economy as regular blackouts strangle industries from mining to manufacturing and pile pressure on President Jacob Zuma's government.
Zuma laid out ambitious goals last month to increase power generation capacity, including plans to boost installed renewable energy capacity to 9 600 MW by 2030 from just 1 600 MW now, out of a total capacity of 44 175 MW.
Upgraded technology and lower costs have enhanced the appeal of clean energy in Africa, as firms such as Enel Green Power and E.ON eye the relatively untapped region to help offset lagging growth in mature European markets.
With year-round sunshine and thousands of kilometres of windswept coast in South Africa, investors are warming to the renewable energy potential, with 66 projects completed or under way since the government launched a first bid round four years ago.
Yet, developers are becoming impatient over delays and a lack of infrastructure to connect privately-run power stations (IPPs) to the national grid, with the risk that investors might switch to rival markets such as Mexico and Brazil.
“There is a growing sense of frustration among developers as we negotiate with Eskom and government on grid upgrades and how it is financed,” said Jack Zhao, deputy general manager for Africa at Goldwind, a Chinese wind turbine maker.
“If everybody has to wait for three to five years for a grid connection, South Africa will lose investment. The longer you wait the more expensive it becomes,” he told Reuters.
Firms such as Spain's Abengoa, which is building South Africa's first two concentrate solar power stations, are ready to investment more, but the government needs to upgrade substations and install thousands of kilometres of high voltage transmission lines to deliver the new energy supplies, industry experts say.
Sutherland, an inland mountainous region with huge wind power potential, does have existing transmission lines but the absence of a R200 million substation is holding back the development of 1 000 MW of wind power.
“There are a variety of challenges in the way of South Africa entrenching its place as one of the world's top clean energy markets,” said Johan Muller, energy analyst at Frost and Sullivan consultancy. “If Eskom does not get its house in order soon, then there are real risks that could deter investors.”
Cash-strapped Eskom has other problems it may consider more pressing as it tries to limit power blackouts by repairing and building more coal-fired plants, which supply the bulk of South Africa's electricity.
The country is experiencing its worst blackouts since 2008 as Eskom regularly cuts power to preserve a national grid teetering on collapse. The Treasury said last month South Africans should brace for three years of power disruptions.
The utility says it needs R149 billion through 2022 to upgrade its transmission network, but the government said it had already “exceeded” its limit, and only allocated R2.3 billion to strengthen the network in the last bid round.
“Eskom is being squeezed from all sides,” said Eric le Grange, an energy lawyer at ENSafrica.
“We need to be realistic as to where the resource allocation goes to, and at the moment this is not grid expansion but keeping the lights on.”