Africa

South Africa will bail out state utility Eskom with 69 billion rand ($4.9 billion) over three years, the centrepiece of a budget that exposed the limited room President Cyril Ramaphosa has to fix the economy ahead of an election in May, Reuters reported. Ramaphosa, who is fighting rifts within his own party before the parliamentary election, has made reforming Eskom one of his top priorities as its 420 billion rand debt pile poses a direct threat to Africa’s most developed economy.

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Deutsche Bank AG plans to start rebuilding its South African workforce just months after scaling back staff and cutting costs as part of a global restructuring, Bloomberg News reported. “The hiring we’re currently pursuing is geared toward enhancing the areas where we have global and local strengths, such as fixed income,” South Africa Chief Executive Officer Muneer Ismail said in an interview on Tuesday.

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Zimbabwe’s government dropped its insistence that a quasi-currency known as bond notes are at par with the dollar as it overhauled foreign-exchange trading and effectively devalued the securities, Bloomberg News reported. The measures are a step toward trying to create a new currency and stabilize Zimbabwe’s economy, which has been plunged into crisis as a shortage of foreign currency stoked the fastest increase in consumer prices in more than a decade and caused shortages of food, fuel and medicine.

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South Africa’s AngloGold Ashanti said on Tuesday it was putting its interests in an Argentine mine up for sale as it looks to focus on operations with a longer shelf life and ability to deliver higher returns, Reuters reported. AngloGold Chief Executive Kelvin Dushnisky, Barrick Gold’s former president, was appointed to head the firm last year and has rolled out plans to streamline its portfolio, set a 15 percent hurdle on returns on investment and cut debt leverage targets to a ratio of 1.0 times net debt to adjusted Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization.

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South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is looking for a way to keep the country’s main power producer from sucking the life out of the economy, Bloomberg News reported. Debt at Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. has ballooned to 419 billion ($31 billion) and it’s struggling to supply Africa’s most-industrialized nation with enough power even as it weighs on finances, with most of its borrowings guaranteed by the state. The Department of Public Enterprises says the utility needs a cash injection to survive.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa reached out to labor unions that oppose his plans to break up the state power utility, reassuring them that the move is aimed at rescuing the embattled company rather than preparing it for privatization and mass firings, Bloomberg News reported. Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. has amassed 419 billion rand ($29.6 billion) of debt following years of mismanagement, isn’t producing enough power to meet demand or cover its costs and has had to institute rolling blackouts for the past five days.

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South African power utility Eskom needs a cash injection by April to survive, the country’s public enterprises ministry warned in a presentation on Wednesday, although it later changed its wording to say the firm was “facing liquidity challenges,” Reuters reported. State-owned Eskom, which supplies more than 90 percent of the power in Africa’s most industrialised economy, cut electricity for a fourth straight day on Wednesday.

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Severe blackouts have South Africans firing up candles, flashlights and generators as crisis-plagued Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., which provides most of the country’s electricity, struggles to meet demand. The state-owned power company took almost 10 percent of its generation capacity offline to prevent the collapse of the national grid, a consequence of construction problems at two new plants and years of deferred maintenance, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. But Eskom’s problems run far deeper than temporary shortfalls.

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Trade unions in South Africa have vowed to oppose the government’s recent decision to split Africa’s largest electricity producer into three separate entities, as part of its plans to turnaround the debt-laden power utility, the Irish Times reported. In his state-of-the-nation address last Thursday South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the state-run business would be broken up into three distinct companies that will focus on power generation, transmission and distribution. The new entities will still be controlled by Eskom Holdings.

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There’s been enough bad news about South Africa’s state-owned electricity company in recent months to rattle the hardiest bond investor. Or so you’d think. Even before President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday the nation won’t allow Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. to fail, the company’s bonds were trading as if its troubles were over, Bloomberg News reported. The premium investors demand to hold the company’s 10-year dollar bonds rather than U.S. Treasuries dropped this week to the lowest since the securities were issued in August.

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