Marlboro cigarette maker Altria's $1.8 billion investment in the cannabis producer Cronos is a win-win, according to an analyst. 
 
"Cronos provides Altria a unique entry into cannabis and we do not think Altria is taking on outsized risk while entering a new high-growth category," Vivien Azer, an analyst at Cowen, said in a note out on Monday.
 
Cronos has a relatively smaller cultivation capacity than most of the other major Canadian cannabis producers, but a higher efficient operating line, Azer says. While Cronos's revenue over the last 12 months - $12 million sales  - ranked only the sixth among major Canadian marijuana producers, its gross margin ranked second.
 
"Cronos has been judicious with capital, and has embraced an asset light model that does not prioritise cultivation (consistent with tobacco)," Azer noted. "Their business model is less capital focused and more reliant on sourcing cannabis from local farmers, similar to tobacco companies."
 
Moreover, Cronos' focus on rare cannabinoids is a point of differentiation for Altria, Azer said.
 
"While the potential uses of cannabinoids are vast, Cronos believes the key to successfully bringing cannabinoid-based products to market is in creating reliable, consistent and scalable production of a full spectrum of the ~100 cannabinoids, not just THC and CBD," which are the two primary cannabinoids that occur naturally in the Cannabis, she added.
 
Azer believes Cronos can leverage Altria's expertise to create value-added form factors while focusing on ingredient composition without reliance on a massive cultivation infrastructure.
 
Azer has an "outperform" rating and a $74 price target for Altria - a 40% premium to where shares are trading on Monday.
 
Altria was down 24% this year.
 
 
Source: Business linking
Several South African liquor outlets are apparently running out of Castle Lager beer, as a shortage of bottles affected production.
 
Refilwe Masemola, South African Breweries director of external communications, said a shortage of reusable bottles has slowed the production process. There have been delays in returning these bottles to SAB, Masemola said, without giving more details.
 
“Our production teams are [however] hard at work to ensure that those outlets that may be affected are well stocked over the coming days,” Masemola told Business Insider South Africa. 
 
“We are in fact ahead of our production schedule, which should bring some comfort to our customers.” 
 
Castle Lager is one of South Africa’s most consumed beers and was for the first time named the 25th most valuable beer brand in the world in 2018. 
 
South Africa is, on average, one of the world’s highest liquor consumers, and consumption tends to increase considerably over the festive season.
 
 
Source: Business Insider
Local licence holder for Starbucks in South Africa, Taste Holdings, has halted any plans to open more outlets of the US coffee chain as it struggles to make ends meet.
 
Taste, which also owns the jeweller Arthur Kaplan and Domino's Pizza, suffered operating losses of R87 million in the six months to end-August, with sales down 3%.
 
The group said that while the store network of twelve Starbucks outlets is profitable at a sales level, it's not producing the required return on its investment.
 
Setting up a new Starbucks store in South Africa costs between R5 million to R8 million, the group previously said. This is very expensive, says Simon Brown, founder and director of investment website JustOneLap.com. Brown estimates that the actual cost could now be higher than previously stated - perhaps even reaching R20 million. 
 
Hitesh Patel, director of new business at Starbucks competitor Vida e Caffè, says the average cost of setting up one of its stores is only around R1.5 million.
 
That is is less than a third of the minimum cost of a new Starbucks outlet.
 
Taste has a 25-year licence deal to operate Starbucks stores in SA - and have to pay royalties to the US brand, which are proving to be costly, says Michael Treherne, retail analyst at the fund manager Vestact. 
 
Due to the royalties and expensive store set-up costs, Treherne says Starbucks South Africa has had to resort to premium pricing - which is not at all good during a recession. 
 
The difference between food prices is more pronounced. We could find a muffin at a Vida e Caffe outlet in Johannesburg for under R20, while the cheapest muffin at a Starbucks was R32.
 
 
Source: News24
JOHANNESBURG - The rand rose for a fourth straight session on Friday to end the week nearly 3% firmer, benefiting from political chaos in Britain and a revival of risk appetite linked to a thawing of United States (US)-Sino trade tensions.
 
Stocks ended slightly lower, with British American Tobacco taking the most off the benchmark index after the United States announced sweeping restrictions on flavoured tobacco products.
 
At 1530 GMT, the rand was 1.09% firmer at 14.0300.
 
Most of the gains were posted after the dollar wobbled as two Federal Reserve officials cautioned in separate television interviews about slowing global economic growth, raising doubts about the number of future US rate increases.
 
The rally followed Thursday’s strong gains, particularly against the pound, as Prime Minister Theresa May battled to salvage a draft Brexit deal.
 
Growing bets that the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) may raise rates at its policy meeting on Thursday supported the already attractive carry yield offered by the rand.
 
It outpaced most other emerging currencies against the dollar on the day.
 
In a Reuters poll taken this week, 16 of 26 economists said the SARB would keep its repo rate at 6.50% while the rest forecast a 25 basis-point hike.
 
Bonds also rose, with the yield on the benchmark 2026 paper down 4.5 basis points at 9.115%.
 
On the bourse, the benchmark Top-40 index was down 0.17% at 45,851 and the broader All-share index lost 0.1% to 52,095.
 
BAT slumped 6% to R495.67, tracking falls in its London-listed shares. On Thursday the US Food and Drug Administration announced restrictions on flavoured tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, in an effort to prevent a new generation of nicotine addicts.
 
Investment house Reinet Investment was also under pressure, falling 6.7% to R215.58 after the company reported a drop in net asset value, a key profitability measure for investment companies.
 
 
Source: The Routers

Thousands of Cadbury chocolates have been sold to the public despite being past their best.

The chocolate, some of it months beyond its best-before date, was sold at a major KwaZulu-Natal South Coast wholesaler, which supplies spaza shops and trading stores, including in rural Eastern Cape areas.

And tens of thousands of rands worth of short-dated chocolate was dispatched to wholesaler clients hidden among newer stock.

These claims were made in the labour court in Durban last week.

 

It was alleged that ambitious sales targets led to massive overstocking in wholesalers.

Most resulted in multimillion-rand returns across KwaZulu-Natal of popular Cadbury brands, including Dairy Milk slabs and Lunch Bars.

A food health expert emphasised there was no risk in eating chocolate past its best-by date.

But a legal expert questioned the ethics of selling such products without clearly informing consumers.

The matter came to light when a sacked sales representative, Hans van Tonder, took his former employer, Diplomat Distributors, to court, claiming he had been victimised and that his dismissal was “automatically unfair”.

Mondelez SA, owners of Cadbury, contracts Diplomat, a logistics company, to distribute its products to wholesalers.

Diplomat fired Van Tonder in April 2016 for gross dereliction of duty after a company hearing found an instance where he failed to timeously report that chocolate at a Port Shepstone client was nearing its best-by date.

But Van Tonder produced emails that show Diplomat had been told by the client that it had been receiving stock with “mixed expiry dates”, which he argued was outside his control.

“It is a major concern as the inner stock on the pallet is short-dated,” wrote a buyer for the wholesaler, who asked what would be done to eradicate the problem.

Van Tonder, who had represented Cadbury products for 16 years, produced a dossier in court, including national stock return figures, emails and other documents which allegedly pointed to widespread problems with overstocking and short-dated stock.

Van Tonder was fired over a R21 835 loss to Diplomat at the Port Shepstone wholesaler.

This was the value of chocolate that had to be removed from the wholesaler in early 2016 after it had past its best-by dates, as well as money spent discounting and promoting the chocolate in a late bid to sell it.

A witness for Van Tonder told the court the R21 835 was “like chalk and cheese” compared with returns of hundreds of thousands of rands of Cadbury chocolate from many other wholesalers across the country.

Shadrach Chinniah, who resigned as a Diplomat rep in October 2016, said: “I thought it was absolutely ludicrous he was dismissed for R21 000 and my store had [old stock worth] R310 000 … why didn’t they dismiss me?”

He told the court a Diplomat manager “cleared” the R310 000 in minibars from a major Durban wholesaler “after it expired”.

The court heard the minibars failed in the marketplace nationally and the line was discontinued.

Chinniah alleged there were:

. Cover-ups by management;

. A lack of support for markdowns to move short-dated stock; and that

. Short-dated stock was hidden among newer stock before delivery, making it hard for merchandisers and reps to keep tabs on best-by dates.

Placed before the court were photographs that were said to show pallet loads of chocolates, all of which were beyond their best-by dates, “being sold on special” at the same Port Shepstone wholesaler, months after Van Tonder’s dismissal.

The pictures, apparently taken in June, show marked-down PS chocolates that had expired on May 25 2016 and Lunch Bars that had expired on April 25 2016.

However, these claims were not examined.

Early on the second day of the hearing, Bongani Khanyile, attorney for Diplomat, applied for the matter to be sent to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

He argued Van Tonder was seeking relief for an “automatically unfair” dismissal but had not made a case for this.

Judge Benita Whitcher agreed it was an “ordinary unfair dismissal case” rather than one that involved arbitrary discrimination and ruled her court would not sit on the matter.

An emotional Van Tonder stormed out of the courtroom.

“Three years of this,” he shouted. “They have been lying. I am going to go outside and break down.”

Whitcher later gave a written order directing the CCMA to expedite the matter.

No order was made for costs.

Yinon Ben Anat, chief executive of Diplomat SA said: “Diplomat’s policy is clear in that we do not purchase or sell expired stock [beyond its best-by date].”

He did not comment on claims of overstocking and declined to give details on Diplomat’s contractual relationship with Mondalez.

City Press sent Mondalez a list of questions on overstocking and its policy on the sale of best-by goods. The company declined to comment, saying the matter was before the courts.

“Mondelez SA abides by local legislation and we are focused on bringing the highest-quality products to our consumers,” it said.

 

Source: CityExpress

South African Airways could sell shares to the public as the state-owned carrier seeks ways to end years of losses and reduce the need for bailouts, according to people familiar with the matter.
 
The move would enable the government to cut its stake in much the same way as it did with former phone monopoly Telkom SA, almost two decades ago, said the people, who asked not to be named as the information is not public. However, the carrier would first need to make progress with a turnaround plan designed to reach break-even in three years, they said.
 
While the sale of a stake to an equity partner has been aired repeatedly over the years, this is the first time it’s been suggested that SAA should list on a stock-exchange. Pretoria-based Telkom’s initial public offering in 2003 raised almost $500m and the government’s shareholding is now just under 40%.
 
SAA declined to comment
 
The airline’s Chief Executive Officer Vuyani Jarana is facing renewed pressure from his bosses in government, which last month put aside R5bn to help SAA repay debt.
 
Last week, Finance Minster Tito Mboweni said it was his preference to shut down the carrier rather than continue to stretch state finances, while his counterpart at the department of public enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, warned on Monday that “radical things need to be done” for the airline to survive.
 
Nigeria flights
 
More immediate plans than the share sale include holding discussions with potential commercial joint-venture partners including Air Mauritius, one of the people said. That could lead to cost savings on routes to the Asian-Pacific market as the airlines would share operating costs.
 
SAA will also consider a resumption of flights to Abuja, the Nigerian capital, which it abandoned in 2017, the person said. The carrier would apply for a local license - or find a partner - to help Nigerians travel to the U.S.
 
Jarana, 48, a former executive at South African mobile-phone market leader Vodacom, was hired a year ago, in part for his experience in the private sector. He also has no connection with previous management, which has been embroiled in the corruption scandals that plagued state-owned companies during ex-President Jacob Zuma’s almost nine years in charge.
 
SAA has had an equity partner before. The government sold 20% of the carrier in 1999 to Swissair, which pioneered the concept of an alliance anchored via minority stakes, only to buy the shares back in 2002 when the European carrier went bankrupt.
 
 
Source: Blomberg News
There are still opportunities for South Africans to start businesses despite the recession, says  Siphethe Dumeko, chief financial officer at start-up lender Business Partners.
 
South Africa's economy shrank by 2,2% in the first quarter, and 0,7% in the second quarter of 2018, landing the country in a recession.
 
Dumeko said that entrepreneurs starting companies will, however, face an uphill battle.
 
“Procuring capital to start a new venture is predicted to become increasingly difficult, as the majority of funding institutions are expected to adopt an increasingly risk-averse stance,” Dumeko said.
 
Still, Dumeko believes three sectors could prove recession-proof for entrepreneurs. 
 
Security:
“In spite of the continued underperformance of the country’s economy in recent years, private security has become an R45 billion industry with a growth rate of 15 percent per annum,” Dumeko said. He said this is because, during a time of economic recession and uncertainty, individuals tend to be more risk-averse.
 
Death-care services:
Dumeko said, as morbid as it might sound, that businesses offering services related to death, including funerals, cremation, burial, and memorials, are usually some of the most recession-proof operations. “Deathcare services usually have a steady stream of business, regardless of the economic climate,” he said. South Africa’s funeral industry is estimated to be valued between R7.5 billion and R10 billion.
 
Education:
Despite economic pressures, the underperforming public education sector has fuelled demand for alternatives, Dumeko said. It is also reported, he said, that South Africa is experiencing skills shortages in almost all of its sectors, emphasising the need service providers that offer more effective, affordable and accessible adult education. “Businesses that offer accredited online training platforms have especially seen increasing interest in South Africa, as well as on the rest of the African continent.”
While MTN saw strong subscriber growth outside SA, it lost 834,000 prepaid customers in South Africa from June to September of this year.
The company is losing customers to cheaper pre-paid options, including Telkom's R100 per gigabyte offer, says one analyst.
But MTN's revenue from pre-paid continued to climb, despite its declining subscriber base.
MTN released its quarterly update for the three months to end-September on Monday. The update showed strong overall growth in subscriber numbers.
 
Across all its markets, subscribers increased by 2.5 million to 225.4 million. 
 
But while MTN saw strong subscriber and revenue growth from its markets outside of South Africa (revenue from Ghana and Nigeria grew by 23% and 17% respectively), the update confirms that the company is losing local prepaid customers at a rapid rate. 
 
While the number of MTN contract subscribers increased by 120,000 to 5.7 million in this period, the mobile network lost 824,000 prepaid subscribers. It now has 23.7 million pre-paid subscribers. 
 
The company lost a total of 1.5 million subscribers in South Africa in the year to September 2018. 
 
Ruhan du Plessis, a telecommunication analyst at Avior Capital Markets, says increasingly competitive pricing is putting pressure on MTN. 
 
Telkom, which is now offering a gigabyte for R100, has been particularly aggressive, and now offers significantly cheaper data packages compared to MTN, says Du Plessis. Also, newcomer Rain is offering R50 per GB of data.
 
"The challenging economic environment in SA has made customers more and more price sensitive. Given how easy it is to switch between operators these days, clients will move to cheaper alternatives to navigate turbulent times," says Du Plessis.
 
MTN extracted more revenue out of its remaining prepaid customers, though. Revenue from its prepaid service rose R2.8 million to R77.5 million despite the fall in subscribers.
 
 
Source: Business Insider
JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa says the money pledged at the Investment Conference will translate directly to more jobs in the sectors that contributed.
 
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the conference an overwhelming success that will yield thousands of jobs for the people of South Africa.
 
At the end of the conference on Friday, Ramaphosa announced a combined amount of R290 billion in investments In South Africa.
 
Over 1,000 local and international investors attended the conference at the Sandton Convention Centre.
 
Anglo American, the Brics Development Bank and automotive traders were the big contributors, investing R71 billion, R29 billion and R40 billion, respectively. Vodacom announced R50 billion in investment.
 
President Ramaphosa says prominent among these announcements are the themes of beneficiation, innovation and entrepreneurship.
 
“The number of new jobs and people who will be employed is going to be phenomenal and unprecedented in the history of our country.”
 
He says the country has battled with bringing in investment to generate growth.
 
 
Source: News24
South Africa packed 16.4 million cartons of grapefruit for export, end-of-season numbers show, an all-time record that will help keep it the top global supplier.
But SA's dominance has a lot to do with other countries cutting back on grapefruit growing because it has not been profitable in recent years.
A reduction in American marketing spend has seen grapefruit's popularity fall in Japan, but Chinese consumption is more than making up for that.
 
In the 2018 year South African growers packed an all-time record of 16.4 million cartons of 17kgs each of grapefruit for export, end-of-season numbers from the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) show.
 
That will easily be enough to keep SA ranked as the top exporter of grapefruit in the world, and essentially the only southern hemisphere supplier for high-demand markets in Europe and the East.
 
But that record could still come back to haunt the farmers responsible for the bumper crop.
 
"It could be that some fruit that should have stayed at home were exported."
 
The price reconciliation for the exported fruit will only be available late in the year, but early indications are the grapefruit prices were down around 27% in Europe compared to an average of the last three years, and there are reports of even more depressed prices.
 
And grapefruit wasn't exactly been a huge profit spinner to begin with.
 
"Grapefruit as a commodity went through many years of negative returns," says Chadwick. "For quite a few years it has been a marginal if not risky crop to grow."
 
While farmers in the likes of Argentina and Swaziland pulled out grapefruit in favour of crops with better returns, a surprisingly large number of South Africans stuck with it, in part because grapefruit are harvested early enough to not interfere with the harvesting and packing of oranges and other citrus.
 
In 2018 that translated into 70,000 tonnes of grapefruit exports to the Netherlands, the usual top buyer of SA's exports, an increase of 11% over 2017. Japan, last year's second-biggest importer, was easily overtaken for the number two slot as exports to China more than doubled to 51,000 tonnes.
 
In some eastern markets, particularly South Korea, South Africa has benefited from big marketing drives by growers in Florida keen to popularise grapefruit, Chadwick said. Such investments have been dwindling of late, and that shows in markets such as Japan, but for the time being at least the Chinese appetite is masking such declines.
 
Now the question is whether South African growers exported smaller fruit than they arguably should have to feed that demand, so pushing down prices and final profits across the board.
 
That's the problem with having a hemisphere – and a growing season – pretty much all to yourself, said Chadwick.
 
"If the market is bad, we have only ourselves to blame; nobody else is playing."
 
 
Source: Business Insider
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