The South African economy is in the midst of its longest business cycle downturn in more than 73 years, according to the Reserve Bank, and things aren't looking particularly favourable right now either.
 
The adverse business climate has impacted the stock market too this year, seeing listed companies declining year-to-date on the whole. 
 
According to analysis done by Corion Capital, a boutique hedge fund manager, 60% of listed counters had depreciated by the end of September, with more than a third slumping in excess of 15%. Only 16% of the stocks in the All Share Index gained more than 15% this year to end-September.
 
Topping the list of poor performers are Tiger Brands, off more than 40%, two healthcare companies, Aspen and Mediclinic, MTN, and Woolworths.
 
Performance of the top 40 JSE shares. Tiger Brands and Aspen were the biggest losers, while Sasol and BHP Billiton were the top performers. (Corion Capital)
Performance of the top 40 JSE shares. Tiger Brands and Aspen were the biggest losers, while Sasol and BHP Billiton were the top performers. (Corion Capital)
And the sharp sell-off has continued into October, with only the Resource Index managing to gain ground last week and the Banks Index hardest hit, losing 7%.
 
Garreth Montano, a director of Corion Capital, puts the bout of negativity swamping investor sentiment this year down to:
 
- Low GDP growth. South Africa has unfortunately missed out on a resurgence in the world economy and has been left well behind in terms of GDP growth. The reasons behind the sluggish performance of the domestic economy can be debated at length, but many view the Zuma era as a large contributor to the underperformance of SOEs, heightened corruption, lack of job creation and lack of investor confidence in attracting foreign direct investment.
 
- The land debate and mining charter have further dented prospects of new investment, which would aid growth as well as assist in creating new jobs. All of which are dearly needed.
 
- Many commentators believe that president Ramaphosa’s hands are tied until general elections, and the righting of the ship and benefits to the economy will start gaining momentum once there is more clarity around the land issue and elections are behind us.
 
To add to these internal challenges, emerging markets, as a whole, have had a difficult 2018, being largely led down by the crises in Turkey and Argentina. Trade wars have also had a negative effect, creating concerns about a drag on emerging markets exports due to potential for tariff impositions by the US, Montano says.
 
Locally the negative sentiment towards broader emerging markets has played out in large outflows fromn our bond market, as well as foreigners selling off equities, says Montano. Last week almost R6bn alone was taken out of South Africa by foreign investors.
 
These disinvestments have also played out in currency markets, driving the rand dramatically lower to more than R15 to the dollar at stages compared with its peak of almost R11.50 in February this year.
 
 
Source: Business Insider

Competition law is set to become an increasingly important consideration in relation to deal activity and commercial conduct in Uganda, particularly given the impending promulgation of a Competition Bill, which is currently undergoing review and scrutiny at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in the country.

Uganda is also a member state of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and therefore subject to the COMESA competition law regime. The purpose of COMESA is more regional in focus, seeking to promote trade and investment in the Common Market rather than seeking to ensure domestic compliance with its regulations.  Uganda is also a member of the East African Community and is therefore also subject to the East African Community Competition Act, 2006.

Beyond these regional competition instruments to which Uganda is bound, there is currently no applicable legislative regime in force that is designed to exclusively govern domestic conduct from an antitrust perspective and the Uganda Competition Bill will be the first piece of legislation to exclusively do so. Having said that, sector-specific laws (which are enforced by distinct regulators) contain provisions that are competition-focused. These sectors include banking, energy, pharmaceuticals and insurance.

Ugandan businesses are also becoming increasingly mindful of competition requirements and domestic antitrust laws when engaging in commercial transactions in other African jurisdictions. With the pending promulgation of the Competition Bill in Uganda, the South African antitrust regime, which has been in place for some two decades, provides a convenient canvas from which to draw learnings for application in Uganda. 

In South Africa, the regime is split between merger control regulation and regulation of certain behavioural conduct. 

Comparison of South African and pending Ugandan Competition law

Merger Control

Notification requirements

In South Africa, transactions involving an acquisition of control of a business (or part of a business) that meet certain monetary thresholds need to be compulsorily notified to the competition authority.

At a minimum, if the combined annual turnover or gross assets of both the acquiring group and the target entity amounts to ZAR 600 million (USD 41,5 million) and the target entity alone has gross assets or turnover that meet or exceed ZAR 100 million (USD 7 million), the transaction would be compulsorily notifiable to the South African authority.  Whether the transaction would be classified as an intermediate or large merger (both which are mandatorily notifiable) would depend on the asset and turnover values of the merging entities.

The Ugandan Competition Bill 2004 also imposes a mandatory notification requirement to the Competition Commission. This is applicable for transactions where the parties jointly have assets exceeding five hundred currency points or a turnover worldwide in excess of one thousand five hundred currency points.  Under the Constitution of Uganda, 1995 as amended, a currency point is the equivalent of Uganda Shillings Twenty Thousand (UGX 20,000). 

From the perspective of group transactions, the proposed Ugandan competition legislation imposes a mandatory notification requirement in instances where the Group belonging to the entity in which shares, assets or voting rights may be have been acquired has assets in Uganda in excess of two thousand (2000) currency points; or a turnover exceeding six thousand (6000) currency points  or worldwide assets in excess of one billion United States dollars; or a turnover in excess of half a billion United States dollars.

Apart from the monetary thresholds envisaged above, the resultant market share to be held by the undertaking upon completion of a proposed transaction may also trigger compulsory notification. This requirement applies in the context of mergers and acquisitions, leading to a combined market share of 35% in any relevant market held by the resultant undertaking.

Under the South African merger control regime, certain minority acquisitions may necessitate compulsory notification. This would occur where the acquisition enables the acquiring firm to direct the strategy or materially influence the business of the firm being acquired.  

The Ugandan Competition Bill, however, does not expressly prescribe for compulsory notification of minority interests, but such acquisitions, are notifiable in situations where the company subject to the acquisition has assets in excess of the monetary thresholds stipulated by the Ugandan Competition Bill.

Merger filings

In South Africa, there are relatively set time periods that apply to merger filings, depending on the categorisation of the transaction (as intermediate or large) and filing fees are prescribed as well. In Uganda, the proposed legislation does not prescribe filling fees. However, the Competition Commission retains the power to make regulations, specifically on the form and manner in which notice may be given or how applications may be made to the Commission and the fees payable. Similarly, the time periods applicable to merger filings has not been prescribed.

Gun jumping

South African antitrust law sanctions firms that fail to notify transactions and/or implement transactions before approval is obtained.  A firm can face up to 10% of its annual turnover in the preceding financial year for failing to notify and/or "jumping the gun".  There has been an increase in the imposition and value of "prior implementation" administrative penalties over the years.

Under the Ugandan proposed competition legislation, gun jumping, whether procedural or substantive in nature, attracts sanctions. By way of illustration, in instances where no notification is undertaken in a merger or acquisition leading to a combined market share of 35%, the Commission has discretion to nullify the transaction. In imposing sanctions, the Competition Commission may also move on its own initiative or upon request by any competitor or consumer. In addition to the above, the Commission may impose fines and administrative penalties against a firm which fails to notify and/or implement transactions before approval is obtained.

Public interest

Compared with other antitrust jurisdictions around the world, South African competition law uniquely considers the public interest in its analysis and is empowered to prohibit an otherwise pro-competitive transaction on public interest grounds.  These grounds include employment and the promotion of local industry, small business as well as businesses owned by previously disadvantaged persons.  Public interest factors have become a hotly contested issue in South African antitrust jurisprudence.

The Ugandan Competition Bill does not take public interest factors into account.  However, there is a wider general discussion on local content which has culminated in a Private Members Bill titled “The Local Content Bill, 2017”, which parliament has committed to fast tracking. It is anticipated that such discussions will have a bearing on competition legislation in the future.

Regulating behaviour

Certain prohibited practices

Under South African competition law, price-fixing, market division and collusive tendering is automatically prohibited between competitors and does not allow the raising of efficiency and procompetitive arguments in defence.

Under the Ugandan Competition Bill, price fixing, cartel conduct, predatory pricing, price squeezing, tying arrangements and cross-subsidisation are automatically prohibited. The Bill also prohibits anti-competitive agreements involving any decisions or concerted action in respect of production, supply, distribution, acquisition or control of goods, which is likely to result in an appreciable adverse effect on competition. Unlike in South Africa, the intended competition legislation in Uganda does not provide for the regulation of collusive tendering.

In South Africa, it is prohibited for a manufacturer of goods to prescribe the minimum price at which a reseller of those goods on-sells to the market.  This is referred to as minimum resale price maintenance.  There are proposals to regulate resale price maintenance in the Ugandan Competition Bill as well. 

Dominance

South African competition law does not proscribe dominance.  However, once a firm is determined to be of a certain size, the behaviour of that "dominant firm" must conform to certain behavioural parameters.  A firm is likely to be regarded as dominant if it has a market share of 35% or more or has the ability to control prices, exclude competition or act independently of its competitors, customers or suppliers. 

The Ugandan Competition Bill also contains dominance provisions. From the perspective of the Bill, a firm is likely to be regarded dominant if it has a market share of over 33%, has commercial and technical advantage over competitors and/or has monopoly status acquired by virtue of an undertaking of the Government, Government Company or public sector undertaking.

Penalties for non-compliance

In South Africa, the consequences for non-compliance with the provisions of the  Competition Act, could include an administrative penalty, potential civil damages exposure, reputational harm, invalidation of a commercial arrangement / revocation of a transaction and possible criminal prosecution.

Similar to South Africa, the consequences of non-compliance with the provisions of the proposed Ugandan competition legislation include administrative penalties, reputational harm, revocation of the transaction, fines against officers of the defaulting firm, potential civil damages, and possible criminal prosecution.

By Lerisha Naidu, Partner, Angelo Tzarevski, Senior Associate, Competition and Antitrust Practice, Baker McKenzie Johannesburg

and

Arnold Lule Sekiwano,  Partner, and Sarah Zawedde, Associate, Engoru, Mutebi Advocates, Kampala Uganda

The rand has been on a seesaw over the past 24 hours hitting above R15 to the US dollar.
 
Currently the rand is at High R14.60 Low R14. 57 to the greenback.
 
The rand has been under pressure for the past few weeks with ratings agencies Moody’s and Fitch citing continued political uncertainty.
 
Rising US interest rates have also had a profound effect on the rand which has plunged to levels last seen in 2016.
 
The local currency has also been volatile this week with economists concerned about the medium-term budget speech later this month.
 
All eyes will be on former Reserve Bank governor and now Finance Minister Tito Mboweni with rating agencies calling for more stability and transparency at the highest level.
 
 
Source: News24
The South African economy is in the midst of its longest business cycle downturn in more than 73 years, according to the Reserve Bank, and things aren't looking particularly favourable right now either.
 
The adverse business climate has impacted the stock market too this year, seeing listed companies declining year-to-date on the whole. 
 
According to analysis done by Corion Capital, a boutique hedge fund manager, 60% of listed counters had depreciated by the end of September, with more than a third slumping in excess of 15%. Only 16% of the stocks in the All Share Index gained more than 15% this year to end-September.
 
Topping the list of poor performers are Tiger Brands, off more than 40%, two healthcare companies, Aspen and Mediclinic, MTN, and Woolworths.
 
Performance of the top 40 JSE shares. Tiger Brands and Aspen were the biggest losers, while Sasol and BHP Billiton were the top performers. (Corion Capital)
 
Performance of the top 40 JSE shares. Tiger Brands and Aspen were the biggest losers, while Sasol and BHP Billiton were the top performers. (Corion Capital)
 
And the sharp sell-off has continued into October, with only the Resource Index managing to gain ground last week and the Banks Index hardest hit, losing 7%.
 
Garreth Montano, a director of Corion Capital, puts the bout of negativity swamping investor sentiment this year down to:
 
- Low GDP growth. South Africa has unfortunately missed out on a resurgence in the world economy and has been left well behind in terms of GDP growth. The reasons behind the sluggish performance of the domestic economy can be debated at length, but many view the Zuma era as a large contributor to the underperformance of SOEs, heightened corruption, lack of job creation and lack of investor confidence in attracting foreign direct investment.
 
- The land debate and mining charter have further dented prospects of new investment, which would aid growth as well as assist in creating new jobs. All of which are dearly needed.
 
- Many commentators believe that president Ramaphosa’s hands are tied until general elections, and the righting of the ship and benefits to the economy will start gaining momentum once there is more clarity around the land issue and elections are behind us.
 
To add to these internal challenges, emerging markets, as a whole, have had a difficult 2018, being largely led down by the crises in Turkey and Argentina. Trade wars have also had a negative effect, creating concerns about a drag on emerging markets exports due to potential for tariff impositions by the US, Montano says.
 
Locally the negative sentiment towards broader emerging markets has played out in large outflows fromn our bond market, as well as foreigners selling off equities, says Montano. Last week almost R6bn alone was taken out of South Africa by foreign investors.
 
These disinvestments have also played out in currency markets, driving the rand dramatically lower to more than R15 to the dollar at stages compared with its peak of almost R11.50 in February this year.
 
 
Source: Business Insider
Argentina's citrus-growing regions were affected by frost at the end of winter, high temperatures in summer, plus excessive rain that delayed harvest for about a month. The combination affected both quality and total output.
 
South Africa, on the other hand, had improved weather conditions the two main citrus-growing provinces, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. An increase in planted area also helped.
 
The Eastern Cape and Limpopo account for 80% of South Africa's lemon and lime production, and increases there helped offset lower production in the drought-hit Western Cape.
 
But the European party for South African exporters may already be over, says Eddy Kreukniet of Exsa Europe
 
"We've now entered the final weeks of the season and the market it decreasing with the entry of Turkish and Spanish citrus."
 
Growers who, during this period, did not plant a mix of products, might be headed into a difficult year, warns Kreukniet.
 
 
Source: Business Insider
Durban Poison Cannabis Lager - South Africa’s first dagga-infused beer - launched in the country in September.
 
It costs only R18 for a 350 ml bottle and is available at selected Tops at Spar liquor stores in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, Graeme Bird, co-founder of Poison City brewing, said. Cape Town will get the beers early next week
 
“It’s a light-bodied, easy-drinking beer perfect for hot weather or chilling next to the beach,” Bird told Business Insider South Africa.
 
The 4% alcohol beer doesn't contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of dagga, but uses hemp oils to give the beer its distinctive taste.  
 
Hemp is a less psychoactive dagga strain.
 
“It will, however, make you happy with its unique crisp flavour and easy-drinking vibes,” Bird said.
 
Durban Poison Cannabis Lager was released on September 17 - a day before the South African constitutional court legalised dagga consumption in South Africa.
 
“People said we had an in with the chief justice,” Bird said jokingly.
 
He, however, clarified the use of hemp in production was legal in South Africa before the constitutional ruling.
 
The beer is named after Durban Poison, a popular dagga strain. 
 
There has been a global trend for dagga-infused beer with both Heineken and Molson Coors recently announcing that they’ll be releasing dagga-infused beer in the near future. 
 
Poison City brewing, backed by RCL Foods CEO Miles Dally and Spar CEO Graham O’Connor, was founded in 2015.
 
Other than Durban Poison, the company also produces The Bird, a lager, and The Punk Rocker, an ale.
 
Bird said they specifically positioned the beer to be accessible to the larger South African public.
 
“South Africans have an appetite (for) craft beers and this lager is developed specifically for that easy-drinking market,” he said.  
 
 
Source: News24

Sluggish expansion in Nigeria, Angola and South Africa – Africa’s three largest economies – is expected to dampen the growth prospects for Sub-Saharan Africa to 2.7 percent in 2018, according to the World Bank which has also warned of increasing public debt in the region.

The World Bank says it now expects Sub-Saharan Africa economies to grow by 2.7 percent in 2018, lower than the 3.1 percent it had projected for the subregion earlier in April.

The World Bank notes that Sub-Saharan African economies are still recovering from the s2015-2916 slowdown, but growth is still slower than expected.

“The slower pace of the recovery in Sub-Saharan Africa (0.4 percentage points lower than the April forecast) is explained by the sluggish expansion in the region’s three largest economies, Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa,” the World Bank said in the Africa Pulse published on Wednesday ahead of the Annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank scheduled to begin in Bali, Indonesia on Monday, October 8.

The estimated 2.7 percent average growth rate in the region is however, a slight increase from 2.3 percent recorded in 2017.

“The region’s economic recovery is in progress but at a slower pace than expected,” said Albert Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for Africa.

“To accelerate and sustain an inclusive growth momentum, policy makers must continue to focus on investments that foster human capital, reduce resource misallocation and boost productivity. Policymakers in the region must equip themselves to manage new risks arising from changes in the composition of capital flows and debt.”

According to the World Bank, Slow growth is partially a reflection of a less favorable external environment for the region.

Global trade and industrial activity lost momentum, as metals and agricultural prices fell due to concerns about trade tariffs and weakening demand prospects. While oil prices are likely to be on an upward trend into 2019, metals prices may remain subdued amid muted demand, particularly in China.

Also, Financial market pressures have intensified in some emerging markets and concern about their dollar-denominated debt has risen amid a stronger US dollar.

Besides, Lower oil production in Angola and Nigeria offset higher oil prices, and in South Africa, weak household consumption growth was compounded by a contraction in agriculture. Growth in the region – excluding Angola, Nigeria and South Africa – was steady.

The Bank further notes that Several oil exporters in Central Africa were helped by higher oil prices and an increase in oil production.

Economic activity remained solid in the fast-growing non-resource-rich countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Rwanda, supported by agricultural production and services on the production side, and household consumption and public investment on the demand side.

“Public debt remained high and continues to rise in some countries,” the World Bank further notes – amid heightened concerns that about 40 percent of low income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa region are already in debt distress or in high risk of debt crisis.

The IMF for instance worried that for low income countries, including Nigeria, governments have embarked on excessive borrowing to fund development, especially as incomes dwindled for commodity prices- and is now strongly advising on an aggressive tax mobilisation.

“Vulnerability to weaker currencies and rising interest rates associated with the changing composition of debt may put the region’s public debt sustainability further at risk,” the World Bank says in the latest report.

Other domestic risks include fiscal slippage, conflicts, and weather shocks. Consequently, policies and reforms are needed that can strengthen resilience to risks and raise medium-term potential growth.

This issue of Africa’s Pulse highlights sub-Saharan Africa’s lower labor productivity and potentials for improvement

“Reforms should include policies which encourage investments in non-resource sectors, generate jobs and improve the efficiency of firms and workers,” said Cesar Calderon, Lead Economist and Lead author of the report.

 

- Businessday

South African petrol prices will increase to a record-breaking R17.08 inland this week – up from R9.41 in October 2008.
 
And at the coast, a litre petrol will cost you R16.49 compared to R9.17 ten years ago.
 
Over the same period, the tax (or fuel levy) on a litre of petrol increased from a low of R1.27 in October 2008 to R3.37 in October 2018.
This means the tax on fuel increased by 165.35% in ten years.
 
Energy minister Jeff Radebe attributed the sharp increase in the petrol price to the weakening rand against the US dollar and rising Brent crude oil prices.
 
“Geopolitical tensions are having a very negative impact on crude oil prices and consequently refined product prices globally,” Radebe said in a statement.
 
US president Donald Trump recently announced fresh sanctions against Iran, the world’s third largest oil producer, which will likely see the price of crude oil rise even further.
 
 
Source: Business Insider
If ever there was a perfect example of South Africa requiring a burning platform before taking decisive action on the economy, it’s encapsulated in Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s eventual climbdown on some of the more damaging elements of the destructive visa regime he implemented on his first sojourn at that department.
 
It has taken Gigaba three years to implement just some changes to the visa regime which, as tourism and business lobby groups have pointed out from the start, are damaging to the economy.
 
The amendments, if anything, serve to muddy the waters even further when it comes to visa requirements.
 
The new measures – which are touted as enabling regular business travellers to get extended visas, reducing requirements on citizens from selected countries to get access to SA, and finally the dropping of the ludicrous demand that the parents of foreign children carry additional documentation in addition to their passports to get access to the country - will require the retraining of legions of civil servants who are barely attuned to the last set of maddening rules.
 
It’s impossible to quantify exactly how much damage has been done to tourism over the past three years as government messaging around visa requirements varied between the murky to the destructive.
 
Some 13,000 families are reported to have been turned away from boarding flights to South Africa because they didn’t have the appropriate documentation demanded by South Africa’s Home Affairs department. It’s unclear how many more would simply have made alternative travel choices rather than be lumbered with the inconvenience of restrictive rules.
 
The effort taken to visit South Africa has seen the country significantly underperform in a booming global industry, which is currently growing north of 5% a year. Grant Thornton puts growth in tourism numbers to South Africa at half that.
 
It’s a massive wasted opportunity.
President Cyril Ramaphosa flagged tourism as one of the critical elements of his stimulus plan for the country. There is a direct correlation between an increase in visitor numbers and jobs created in the industry. The tourism industry calculates that one new job is created for every nine additional tourists to the country.
 
South Africa’s tourism numbers are blurred by the inability of Home Affairs to distinguish between migrant workers who repatriate a large portion of their earnings, and those whose spend goes directly on tourism and domestic consumption. Greater clarity is needed in defining the difference between genuine tourism, business travel and those who travel across borders for work.
 
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa, while unimpressed with the visa changes, is appealing for their speedy and efficient implementation to ease the burden on travellers this season. The reality is that foreign tourists going to long-haul destinations like South Africa plan significantly in advance and the changes are unlikely to have any real impact on the current tourist season. There is an immediate effect of bad regulation and a lag in repairing the damage it has caused.
 
Home Affairs' belligerence on domestic travellers requiring permission to travel out of the country by non-travelling parents and to carry unabridged birth certificates in addition to passports, remains a ridiculous bureaucratic burden for South Africans looking to travel abroad. The decision to force parents to grant permission for every trip was based on fake data of child trafficking from South Africa and remains a serious impediment to travelling families.
 
There is progress in other areas.
Visitors from China and India will no longer have to travel in person across the vast expanses of their respective countries to apply for visas in person, but will be allowed to use intermediaries. The long overdue introduction of biometric movement control systems at the country’s busiest airports should go some way to reduce congestion on arrival at South African ports of entry. Speed and implementation are of the essence.
 
Ramaphosa’s planned stimulus package announced on Friday showed that government was coming to terms with the fact that “business as usual” was no longer working. He promised greater clarity not only on tourism, but mining and land reform too.
 
Ratings agency Fitch, which already has a sub-investment grade rating on South African debt, has expressed reservations about the significance of the measures unveiled by the president last week amidst concerns that Moody’s, the only major ratings agency which retains an investment grade rating on SA, is considering the soundness of its position.
 
‘Petrified capital’
In his address to the UN in New York this week, the president used the opportunity to quell concerns about policy and the impact of land reform on property rights. The movement on visas, while positive, is hardly the radical overhaul needed to announce South Africa is open for business.
 
The president has tasked a group of veteran business leaders including former Standard Bank CEO Jacko Maree and the former finance minister and now Old Mutual chairperson, Trevor Manuel, with raising $100bn in foreign direct investment over five years.
 
Ramaphosa will be hoping that by talking up opportunities for reforms, he will encourage South African CEOs to loosen the purse strings on the so-called “lazy capital” locked into domestic balance sheets. Perhaps we should use the term “petrified capital” which like fossilised wood has turned to stone is immovable and stuck in time.
 
Our messaging around SA being open for business needs to change quickly if we are to grasp the nettle on an economic rebound.
 
Bruce Whitfield is a multi-platform award winning financial journalist and broadcaster.
The world’s tenth largest roof solar system debuted at the Mall of Africa in Gauteng on Thursday morning.
 
It is also the world’s largest mixed-use integrated solar power-diesel hybrid solution, Attacq, the mall’s owner, said in a statement. 
 
The 4,755kWp installation covers most of the centre’s roof space, an area of approximately 45,000m² or 4.5ha.
 
The 7,800MWh energy generated annually will be used to power the Mall’s daily operations.
 
Attacq said the solar power will alleviate pressure on the national power grid.
 
Michael Clampett, Head of Retail Asset Management at Attacq, said the solar/diesel system will save 8,034 tonnes of CO2 annually. The average household produced 80 tonnes CO2 annually.
 
The solar system also created 50 temporary jobs, and two permanent jobs.
 
 
Source: Business Insider

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