Africa

South Africa’s banking regulator plans to give banks a break from accounting and capital rules that could release around 300 billion rand ($17 billion) for lending to help the economy cope with the fallout of the coronavirus, Bloomberg News reported. “It’s quite big, it’s quite meaningful,” said Kuben Naidoo, deputy governor of the South African Reserve Bank and chief executive officer of the Prudential Authority, in an interview.

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Cracks are appearing across the emerging-market landscape like never before. As most nations brace themselves for a likely surge in coronavirus cases through April, the signals from the developing world could hardly be more worrying for investors, Bloomberg News reported. Indexes of stocks, bonds and currencies may have risen last week as countries from India and Brazil to South Africa enacted unprecedented measures to buttress their economies, but the retreat on Friday was a reminder the turmoil is far from over.

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Few emerging-market currencies have been spared as the spread of the coronavirus causes investors to dump riskier assets and the dollar to surge. But Africa has been hit harder than most -- and the signs are there’s worse to come, Bloomberg News reported. Kenya’s shilling, Angola’s kwanza and Zambia’s kwacha have all fallen to record lows this month. Ghana’s cedi and South Africa’s rand are close to that point. And while Nigeria’s already devalued the naira, most investors say it’ll have to do so again.

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The bonds of emerging-market nations are entering distressed territory at an alarming rate as the soaring dollar raises the prospect of government defaults, Bloomberg News reported. Fifteen nations with more than $100 billion of Eurobonds outstanding now have average spreads of at least 1,000 basis points over U.S. Treasuries, which many investors consider to be the threshold for debt to be classed as distressed. And that doesn’t even include Lebanon, which defaulted this month, and Argentina, which has begun restructuring talks with bondholders.

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Ghana is setting a $2-billion estimate for the restructuring of contracts with independent power producers to reduce the country’s bill for excess capacity and to settle arrears, according to two people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg News reported. While Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta already pledged to allocate $1 billion from February’s Eurobond sale, the country is also talking with multilateral lenders such as the World Bank to help raise a further $1 billion, said the people who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

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Nigerian banks still trying to recover from an economic contraction in 2016 now face a triple whammy of coronavirus, plunging oil prices and volatile markets that could further delay progress, Bloomberg News reported. The 2014 collapse in crude dried up foreign exchange in Africa’s biggest producer of the commodity, resulting in the first recession in 25 years and a currency devaluation. Businesses struggled to make repayments, heaping piles of toxic loans onto the books of lenders.

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South Africa’s Taste Holdings is in the process of placing its food businesses into voluntary liquidation after a failed attempt to offload its Domino’s Pizza franchise, Reuters reported. Taste’s move to liquidate the business comes after South Africa entered its second recession in two years in the final quarter of last year. It will see 770 employees lose their jobs, while 55 stores owned by the company have closed, said Taste, whose food businesses own and license Domino’s Pizza franchises in South Africa.

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South Africa’s crowded corporate intensive-care ward has got a new patient. With the state airline bankrupt and the power monopoly burning through its latest bailout, Sasol Ltd., the fuel and chemicals company that’s South Africa’s biggest by revenue, has stumbled into its own debt crisis, Bloomberg News reported. The company was already struggling to keep up with repayments on 162 billion rand ($10 billion) in debt because of a botched U.S. chemical project, when it was blindsided last week a plunge in oil prices.

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While international airlines have been blindsided by the impact of the coronavirus on global travel, the outbreak may bring unexpected benefits for South African Airways as it battles to lower costs, Bloomberg News reported. A sharp reduction in international flights has deflated the price of leasing jets and made it easier for state-owned SAA to re-negotiate terms, according to Siviwe Dongwana, one of two administrators hired by the government to draw up a turnaround plan. Equally, this week’s oil-price crash triggered by Saudi Arabia and Russia will lower the cost of fuel, he said.

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South African carrier FlySafair is interested in buying the low-cost arm of state-owned South African Airways -- if it’s put up for sale by the embattled national carrier, Bloomberg News reported. FlySafair management has approached SAA’s administrators about a possible acquisition of Mango Airlines, Chief Executive Officer Elmar Conradie, 44, said in an interview on Tuesday. However, the business-rescue experts made clear their priority is to complete a turnaround plan of the main carrier due at the end of the month, he said.

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