Items filtered by date: Thursday, 18 October 2018
Thursday, 18 October 2018 22:02

6 reasons why the rand is back from the dead

The rand has seen strong gains in recent days – rallying from R15.04/$ to R14.22 in a week.
 
Here are some of the main reasons for its current run:
 
1. Delay in the Moody’s announcement
There was apprehension ahead of the credit rating agency’s latest decision on South Africa’s sovereign debt rating, which was expected last Friday.
 
Moody’s is the only credit rating agency that has kept South Africa at investment rating. But the agency decided not to announce its decision, which is now only expected after the medium-term budget next week.
 
If SA lost its investment rate grade from Moody’s, it would have cost the country its place in the most important group of government bonds. The Citigroup’s World Government Bond Index contains only bonds that are investment grade. 
 
All the massive investment funds that track the index would have been forced to sell their South African government bonds. It has previously been estimated that foreigners would have to sell South African bonds worth R200 billion. This would have lowered the value of our bonds, and make it much more expensive for government to borrow money to keep the country afloat.
 
2. Donald Trump’s attacks on the Fed
The dollar has been taking strain amid the US president’s repeated attacks on his country’s central bank. Trump does not like the fact that the US Federal Reserve is hiking interest rates.
 
 "I think the Fed is making a mistake. It's so tight. I think the Fed has gone crazy," Trump told reporters last week. 
 
Higher interest rates make a currency more attractive: investors in that currency earn a higher rate of return.
 
3. Weaker US inflation
A central bank will hike interest rates to protect an economy from inflation. But the latest US inflation numbers, released last week, show that September inflation is now only 2.3% - from 2.7% in August and 2.9% in July
 
 “I think the Fed will continue on its gradual interest rate hiking path. But for now there seems to be less risk of a sharper-than-expected Fed interest rate hiking cycle,” Arthur Kamp, economist at Sanlam Investments, told Business Insider SA.
 
4. The Mboweni effect
Kamp believes the biggest reason for the rand strength is the appointment of Tito Mboweni as minister of finance.
 
“In policymaking, good track records are important. Of course, Mboweni does not have a track record yet in fiscal policy, but he has a good track record in monetary policy.
 
“Inflation targeting was first implemented (successfully) during his tenure as Reserve Bank governor. From this perspective the Treasury’s support of the current inflation targeting regime and the Reserve Bank’s mandate is likely to continue.
 
“That’s important because in a time of currency volatility the central bank is the anchor for inflation expectations and the currency.
 
“If the bank does what is needed (unfortunately that sometimes implies interest rate hikes) to keep inflation expectations anchored at a low level then there is a good chance the currency will settle – over time,” Kamp said.
 
5. The rand was oversold
Sanisha Packirisamy, an economist at Momentum Investments, believes the rand was unfairly sold off over recent weeks, as the market lumped South Africa with Turkey and Argentina. South Africa is in healthier shape than these countries, she believes.
 
“SA’s current account deficit is smaller than that of Turkey (...) and it has a credible and independent central bank.
 
“Assets in Brazil and SA (and more recently in countries which have done significant amounts of structural reform, including Indonesia, India and the Philippines) have been sold given the depth and liquidity of their markets.
 
“As such, these countries acted as proxies for the countries which experienced economic mismanagement in the last while and were unfairly sold off,” says Packirisamy.
 
When markets are worried about emerging markets, the rand gets hit first because it is a very liquid currency.
 
This means that traders know they can get in and out of the rand very quickly as there are massive amounts being traded in the rand every day. In fact, the rand is the 20th most traded currency in the world – it attracts much more action than the currency of Poland, with an economy 60% bigger than the South African GDP.
 
6. More hope for emerging markets
For a long time, emerging market currencies have been shunned amid concerns about Turkey and Argentina.
 
But a new Bloomberg survey among more than twenty fund managers shows there are more professional investors who are bullish about the prospect of emerging markets, than those who are negative:
 
Forecast for the rand:
Analysts polled by Bloomberg at the end of last month, expected the rand to end the year somewhat weaker than at current levels. The median forecast for the rand versus the dollar by year-end is R14.75.
 
Paul Makube, senior agricultural economist at FNB Agri-Business, thinks that the medium-term budget statement, which will be released on 24 October, will provide some direction for the rand.
 
 
Source: Bloomberg news
Published in Bank & Finance
So far this year, tax collections seem to be much stronger than expected, which may mean that South Africans will be spared big tax hikes in February’s Budget, says PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
In recent years, government earned much less tax than it expected: the tax shortfall in its budget reached R49 billion last year.
 
This resulted in massive tax hikes over the past two years. In the Budget this year, South Africans were hit with an estimated R36 billion in new taxes.
 
“For the first time in a number of years it is looking likely that further significant tax increases may not be required in the February Budget, something that the government would want to avoid in an election year,” says Kyle Mandy, tax policy leader at PwC.
 
“The good news is that revenue collections for 2018/19 are looking surprisingly good (compared to forecasts) based on the data available to the end of August, despite the economy being in a technical recession,” says Mandy.
 
As at the end of August, total gross tax income was up 11.2% compared to a forecast increase of 10.6%, suggesting collections are on track to exceed the budget revenue forecast in the year ending March 2019.
 
This is largely due to strong VAT income, which grew by 19.5% by August, compared to the budgeted growth of 16.8% for the year, said PwC.
 
VAT was hiked from 14% to 15% in February. Import VAT, which is growing at almost 15% - almost double the forecast growth – is also contributing. And income from the fuel levy, which currently represents some R3.37/litre of the inland petrol price of R17.08, is supporting tax income. 
 
Personal income tax, the single largest source of tax revenue, is looking on track to meet the forecast. Mandy says that this is due in part to the higher-than-budgeted public service wage agreement, which will add R7 billion to the government budget.
 
“This is not a reason to celebrate as it will be net negative for the budget balance unless steps are taken to keep expenditure within the expenditure ceiling set out in the Budget.”
 
It is clear that companies are struggling: by August, corporate income tax was up only 2.8% compared to a forecast of 6.5%.
 
“The big question is what the outlook looks like for the rest of the financial year. Unfortunately, it is difficult to see much in the way of upside, but plenty in the way of downside risks to the forecasts,” Mandy warns.
 
Risks to tax income:
Personal income tax should remain stable for the rest of the year, but corporate income tax could come under more pressure as company profits suffer.
 
Tax income could be hurt even more if government announces in the mini-budget next week that white bread, sanitary products, school uniforms and nappies will be VAT-free from now on. An expert panel has recommended that these products should be free from VAT.  This could shave off up to R6 billion in tax income.
 
 
Source: Business Insider
Published in Bank & Finance

The Nigerian Senate In Wednesday, passed a resolution calling on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to suspend the excessive ATM card maintenance charges being deducted from customers.

The resolution came as part of a motion on the illicit and excessive bank charges on customers accounts, sponsored by Senator Olugbenga Ashafa (Lagos East, APC).

The Senate also called on commercial banks operating in the country to configure their machines to dispense up to N40,000 per withdrawal pending the outcome of the investigation by the Senate committees tasked with investigating the excessive and illicit bank charges.

Speaking on the Motion, the President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki said: “This is a motion that affects the lives of every Nigerian — irrespective of what part of the country you come from or whatever political affiliation you might have. This is why we are here: to always defend and protect the interests of the Nigerian people.”

The Senate President stated that the Senate must work to ensure that the resolutions on the excessive bank charges goes beyond the debate stage, so that whatever action the Upper Legislative Chamber takes, would come into effect.

“This Senate has done this many times before; when there was a hike in the mobile telecommunication data charges, we intervened and put an end to that. When there were discrepancies and increases in electricity prices, we also took action. We have done this on a number of similar cases. Therefore, on this, I want us to take effective resolutions,” Saraki said.

Other Senators who contributed to the debate, called on banks to review their charges.

“The common man is also a victim,” said Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, “Banks declare profits and you wonder where these profits are coming from — it’s from the sweat of the common man. Let us come up with a law that puts banks on their toes.”

“It won’t be out of place to institute a committee that will call on the CBN to tell us what these charges are about. The Senate by fiat should abolish charges if they can’t be verified,” said Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah.

“The Senate must take a serious stand on this issue. Nigerians are really suffering. The banking system is not encouraging. I had an issue, took it to the bank and was refunded but how many Nigerians can do this? The issue needs to be addressed,” stated Senator Kabiru Gaya.

“For me, this is a major step that we are taking. This is because I introduced the first ATM machine that came into Nigeria over 25-years ago,” the Senate President, Dr. Saraki told his colleagues, “Now, after 25-years, we should have grown out of these excessive charges and moved on. So, I believe that this is something that we must address to create an environment that protects all Nigerians, because these kind of charges in this economy affects everyone.”

The Senate further directed its Committees on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions and Finance to conduct an investigation into the propriety of ATM card maintenance charges in comparison with international best practices and report back to the Senate.

The Senate also directed the aforementioned committees to invite the Governor of the CBN to appear before it to explain why the official charges as approved by the CBN are skewed in favour of the banking institutions as against the ordinary customers of the banks.

Finally, the Senate called on the Consumer Protection Council to look into the various complaints of excess and unnecessary charges by Nigerian Banks.

Source: The Ripples

Published in Business
South African investors' belief that the country is permanently in some kind of pre-Armageddon has probably cost them trillions of rand over the past twenty years. The number of failed global expansions is ratcheting up and investors whose bias remains largely negative toward local assets are bearing the cost.
 
Retired FirstRand founder Laurie Dippenaar had a rule that whenever an executive came up with an idea for global expansion, the first question he would ask was: “Who on your team wants to go and live there?”
 
South African shareholders have paid the price for those kinds of international strategies for years as large corporations sought to diversify their earnings streams away from the country. And no doubt, some executives also saw it as a cushy way to move countries at someone else’s expense.
 
There have been some great success stories: SABMiller, Bidvest, Nando's, Naspers and Investec Asset Management among them.
 
But a growing number of South African companies' international expansions are coming unstuck. 
 
The list of disasters and missteps is growing.
The latest to join the list is Mediclinic. Its share price this week was pulverised by a warning that its profits are going to be lower, primarily as a result of - yes, you guessed it - challenges in its international operations. 
 
It blamed an anticipated 10% earnings decline on “customary seasonality” in Switzerland and the Middle East but also highlighted that its Swiss operations were coming to terms with regulatory changes and that was causing unforeseen complexity.
 
On top of that, fewer pneumonia and bronchitis cases in South Africa this year hit its domestic business. Sometimes good news can also be bad news.
 
Competitor Netcare this year finally chucked in the towel in the UK. Its strategy of picking up overflows from that country’s heavily burdened National Health Service didn’t make provision for austerity and cutbacks brought about by the global financial crisis and, more recently, Brexit. That, coupled with eye-watering property rental agreements, made it untenable to remain.
 
Famous Brands seems eager to extricate itself from its R2bn Gourmet Burger Kitchen deal and has written off a large part of its value in its accounts.
 
Old Mutual has just concluded its conscious uncoupling - they prefer the term “managed separation” - and brought its primary listing back to Johannesburg after squandering billions in value by overpaying for businesses across the globe
 
While the US market devoured one of the founders of the SA unit trust industry, Sage, Discovery saw the light in time. After ratcheting up a billion rand in losses, it rethought its global strategy.
 
CEO Adrian Gore is uncomfortable with any assertion that the firm's 25% stake in China’s Ping An Health, a division of the world's biggest insurance company, could be its Tencent.
 
And Tencent itself is finally proving to be a bit of a drag on Naspers. The latter peaked at over R4,000 a share in the hype cycle that nothing could ever go wrong for the firm in which it bought a 46% stake in 2003 for $200m.
 
Regulatory changes in the Chinese gaming industry are leading to some concerns about future profits. Yet despite the pull back, this is one expansion that has delivered considerable returns for investors.
 
Still, why not all global expansions out of South Africa have been disastrous, few have achieved their strategic objectives and returned real value to investors.
 
Investors need to be more circumspect about the real intentions of management teams when they spend their money on global jollies.
 
Bruce Whitfield is a multi-platform award winning financial journalist and broadcaster.
Published in Opinion & Analysis

Zimbabwe will not import maize as it has become food secure, with farmers having so far delivered 1,1 million tonnes to the Grain Marketing Board for the 2018 marketing season, thanks to the successful Command Agriculture programme.

GMB officials said they expected the delivered maize to reach 1,2 million tonnes as farmers continue to bring the grain to the depots.

GMB general manager Mr Rockie Mutenha said that they were paying farmers for grain delivered within a week. “We have received 1 111 809 tonnes of maize from farmers since the beginning of the marketing season on April 1 and are expecting to reach to 1 180 000 tonnes,” he said.

“During the same period last year, GMB had received 1 091 349 tonnes of maize. Our maize stock were 1 314 383 tonnes of maize including the Strategic Grain Reserve.”


This means that the country is now food self-sufficient and will not import grain. During the past years, farmers preferred selling to intermediaries who offered cash on the spot, as GMB took long to pay.

This time around, GMB has been paying farmers early, a move that encouraged more to deliver the grain directly to its depots.

“GMB is buying maize, red sorghum, white sorghum, rapoko and millet at $390 per tonne. The parastatal is also buying soyabeans at $780 per tonne,” said Mr Mutenha.

The GMB boss said there was no need for farmers to sell their maize to unscrupulous business people who offered low prices, as GMB was paying timeously. He said the producer price of $390 per tonne was only meant to benefit genuine farmers.

At the beginning of the grain marketing season, the Agricultural Marketing Authority indicated that no one else was allowed to buy maize except those who contracted farmers. Maize production in Zimbabwe has been on the increase since the advent of Command Agriculture.

The brainchild of President Mnangagwa, Command Agriculture has also rescued thousands of farmers who would have failed to productively use their land owing to funding challenges. Banks were hesitant to extend loans to the farmers.

Those offering loans demanded collateral security in the form of immovable properties, which most farmers do not have. This has made borrowing by farmers expensive. Through Command Agriculture, Government avails farmers with all the necessary inputs.

The programme has seen the country harvesting enough maize for consumption and there is potential to export the surplus. Prior to the introduction of Command Agriculture, Zimbabwe failed to produce enough grain for consumption, forcing it to import from neighbouring countries and beyond.

President Mnangagwa is on record as stating that through Command Agriculture, Zimbabwe will never import maize.

 

Credit: Herald Live

Published in Agriculture

One of the most vexatious ironies about Nigeria – perhaps even an embarrassment – is the lack of a national airline. Nigerians are often very piqued to be travelling on airlines owned by smaller less resource-endowed African countries.

Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda and South Africa national carriers are some of the big players on the continent.

Foreign airlines do well from the large and growing number of Nigerian passengers. For instance, Emirates flies twice a day from Lagos, with over 12,000 passengers per week.

Many Nigerians were, therefore, elated when the Nigerian government announced during the 2018 International Air Show in London that it intended to establish a new national airline to be named Nigeria Air.

The new national airline was expected to be jointly owned by the government and unnamed private investors at a cost of USD$300 million. To ensure that it didn’t run into the same set of problems that spelled the doom of Nigeria Airways in 2003, private investors were to hold a majority stake in the new venture. This was no doubt to shield the fledgling airline from undue interference by the government.

I was among some of those who were sceptical about the revival plan. Two previous attempts to resuscitate Nigeria Airways had been unsuccessful. So it came as no surprise when the government announced it was abandoning its latest effort. Many of the structural and institutional deficiencies that caused the collapse of Nigeria Airways remain.

Additionally, the global airline industry has become fiercely competitive, and new entrants would have a very hard time surviving. According to FlightGlobal, 37 airlines ceased operations in 2017 alone.

Growth, middle class and air travel

Impressive economic growth within the past two decades in Africa has spurred demand for air travel. Foreign airlines that used to shun the continent are now scrambling for a share of the market. Average annual growth in passenger air travel in Africa is estimated at 7.5%, compared with a global average of 7.9% in 2017. To meet the increasing demand for air travel in Africa, the region would need about 970 new passenger aircraft (worth USD$126 billion) by 2032.

Despite this unprecedented growth in air travel, the market in Africa is still untapped. Although the continent constitutes about 12% of the world’s population, air travel in Africa is only 1% of the global air travel market.

Foreign airlines are now picking up the slack left by defunct national carriers in Africa. This has included US airlines like Delta Airlines and Continental, among others.

Demand in Africa is expected to continue to grow, due mainly to a phenomenal increase in the size of Africa’s middle class. It’s estimated that the middle class in Africa and the Middle East will more than double, from 137 million in 2013 to 341 million in 2030.

Nigeria deserves a share of this growing market, especially given its desire to diversify its economy away from oil and gas. This is one of the reasons why Nigerians were excited about the prospects of reentering the global airline market.

But disappointment was waiting in the wings.

Dashed hopes

On September 19 the government announced it was jettisoning the whole idea of a national airline. No formal reason has been given for the abrupt change in course. But there’s speculation that the government was hard-pressed to attract willing joint-venture partners.

In fact, it’s not difficult to fathom that the idea of a national airline in Nigeria is purely a mirage. Nearly all the problems that beset Nigeria Airways, and which eventually resulted in its demise in 2003, are still present.

One is monumental corruption. Airline officials were accused of regularly inflating contracts for a cut of the contract sum, kickbacks for contract awards, and outright theft of revenues generated from airline operations.

Another problem that undermined the performance of Nigeria Airways, and which the new airline would also have to face, is crass nepotism. During the Nigeria Airways era, company officials were dolling out free or heavily subsidised airline tickets to friends, family members and the political elites.

The toxic combination of inflated contracts and lost revenues made the airline insolvent. This meant that it frequently needed an infusion of government cash. With declining revenues and meagre government subsidies, the airline was unable to service or replenish its ageing fleet. At a particular point, it had more grounded planes than the ones that were operational.

The current Nigerian government faces very serious fiscal constraints. It’s therefore not in a position to subsidise a complex project like a new national airline.

Tough competition

Another reason why it would have been an uphill task for Nigeria to sustain a national carrier is the fact that the competitive landscape in the global airline industry has changed dramatically since the days of Nigeria Airways. There are now far more competitors.

A new national carrier in Nigeria would have to compete with a host of new airlines. Learning how to compete in a crowded market would certainly be a herculean task for a new national airline. This would become particularly onerous given that many foreign airlines are heavily subsidised by their own governments.

Given all these facts, it hardly seems likely that a new national carrier in Nigeria will fly in the foreseeable future.The Conversation

 

Stephen Onyeiwu, Professor and Chair of the Economics Department, Allegheny College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Travel & Tourism

China is likely to boost imports from African countries as it seeks new sources of commodities in the wake of a trade war with the United States, a senior executive of Standard Chartered Bank in China said.

Trade links between the Asian economic powerhouse and African nations like Kenya have been growing robustly in recent years, offering opportunities to lenders who serve Chinese clients doing business on the continent like Standard Chartered.

Carmen Ling, Standard Chartered's global head of the internationalisation of the Chinese currency renminbi (RMB), cautioned there would be no winners from the trade war in the short term, but added some African nations could gain in the long term.

"We believe that countries like Kenya and Nigeria will benefit because China will look to import more from Africa; some agricultural products from Kenya, some oil products from Nigeria," she told Reuters late on Monday.

"Trade flow patterns will change because China will need to look for new trade partners."

Kenya's trade with China grew 59 percent in the four years to 2017, to a total of $5.2 billion, Standard Chartered said, boosting the bank's business from Chinese clients operating in Kenya by "double digits".

The East African nation turned to China over the past few years for funds, technology and equipment to develop its infrastructure, including its biggest project since independence, a $3.2 billion railway linking Mombasa to Nairobi, which was opened last year.

"We see more and more Chinese clients coming to Kenya, we have seen Kenya grow in importance to become a belt and road hub. This is the gateway ," said Ling.

She was referring to China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, a multi-billion dollar series of infrastructure projects upgrading land and maritime trade routes between China and Europe, Asia and Africa.

The initiative has caused anger in some quarters with critics saying it increases China's loans to African nations, placing a debt burden on future generations.

Ling decried the slow adoption of the RMB in trade settlements for deals between China and Africa, partly blaming the problem on lack of adequate clearing houses for the currency.

 

Published in World

Sweden's Volvo warned on Tuesday that some of its truck and bus engines could be exceeding limits for nitrogen oxide emissions as an emissions control component it uses was degrading more quickly than expected, sending its shares lower.

The company, which makes trucks, construction equipment and buses, said the largest volume of potentially affected engines had been sold in North America and Europe, its two largest markets, and that costs to fix the problem "could be material".

The issue could become an added headache for Volvo, which has been working hard to protect profitability after a surge in demand in Europe and North America caused supply chain bottlenecks, inflating costs for raw materials and labour. Several countries have in recent years set ambitious goals to cut carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, bringing carmakers and truckmakers under greater scrutiny.

The car industry was rocked by the 2015 "dieselgate" emissions scandal after Germany's Volkswagen was forced to pay hefty fines after admitting to systematic emissions cheating. Volkswagen, which has pegged the financial toll at over $18 billion, is still dealing with the fallout of the scandal.

There was no indication on Tuesday that Volvo had cheated or hidden any emissions related information from authorities.

Volvo said all products equipped with the component met emissions limits at delivery and that its probe so far indicated that the degradation was not affecting all vehicles and engines in the same way and to the same extent.

The company had begun speaking to relevant authorities in Europe and North America, where emission regulations are strictest, a spokesman said.

An European Commission spokeswoman said the body would contact the Swedish authorities to gather more information, while Reuters was not immediately able to reach North American authorities outside of regular business hours.

EXTERNAL FAULT

The problem was with a catalyst converter sourced from an external provider, Volvo investor relations director Anders Christensson said, declining to name the provider or say whether Volvo would terminate the relationship.

"In certain applications when the engine is not running hot enough you get condensation water in there and that causes this problem. You get a warning signal in the dashboard saying you're running above nitrogen oxide levels," he explained.

Kepler Cheuvreux analyst Mats Liss said the question was whether the whole catalyst needed to be replaced or just one component, estimating the total cost for Volvo would be at least "a couple of thousands (of crowns) per truck instantly".

The Volvo spokesman said there were no plans yet to recall any vehicles and had not been asked by authorities to do so. Volvo sold 143,373 trucks in Europe and North America last year and reported operating income of 30.3 billion Swedish crowns.

The company's shares were down 5.3 percent at 134 pence on 0917 GMT, making it easily the biggest lower on Stockholm's bluechip index <.PL.OMXS30> on Tuesday.

It is due to report third-quarter results on Friday.

Analysts also speculated that an external supplier could mean that the problem was widespread and hit German truck rivals Volkswagen and Daimler. Volkswagen and Daimler did not immediately return calls seeking comments.

 

Published in Engineering

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