PIC pushes for removal of Ecobank chief

Ecobank chief executive Thierry Tanoh’s contract must be terminated immediately, the bank’s top shareholder, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), said in a letter to the bank’s interim chairman at the weekend. The letter lists a series of grievances against Tanoh, including that he took a unilateral decision to dismiss finance director Laurence do Rego, contrary to a decision by the board. Tanoh was not available for comment. Interim chairman Andre Siaka said he had received the letter, which was signed by Daniel Matjila, the chief investment officer of South Africa’s state-owned PIC, and would respond. Matjila is one of 12 directors on the Ecobank board. “We… request the chairman to persuade the group chief executive [Tanoh] to resign with immediate effect failing which his contract will be terminated as soon as the board is in the position to meet and discuss the business of the bank,” said the letter. “If we don’t take this drastic step, we may not have a bank in the near future. That will be the death of a pan-African dream.” The PIC has an 18.35 percent stake in Ecobank. The letter comes ahead of today’s extraordinary general meeting of the bank, which is one of the biggest financial institutions in sub-Saharan Africa. – Reuters

SA swings into R17bn trade deficit

South Africa swung into a wide trade deficit of R17.06 billion in January, about double what economists had expected, after a R2.78bn surplus in December, data from the SA Revenue Service showed on Friday. The data incorporate previously excluded trade with regional neighbours Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland. Exports in January ticked up 0.1 percent to R77.67bn, but were far outstripped by imports which rose 26.3 percent to R94.73bn. Economists had forecast a trade shortfall of R8.5bn for January. – Reuters

Apple’s decoder sales exceed $1bn

Apple sold more than $1 billion (R10.7bn) of Apple television set-top boxes last year and was investing heavily in the next generation of products, chief executive Tim Cook said on Friday. Apple’s ability to transform the fast-moving technology arena is the central question on the minds of investors and Silicon Valley executives as the company’s growth slows, and rivals like Samsung Electronics and Google take chunks out of its market share. page 23