Africa

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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South Africa’s struggling power firm Eskom expects to make a wider 20 billion rand ($1.5 billion) loss in the current financial year and wants steeper tariff hikes than it previously sought, its chief financial officer said on Monday. The chief executive also said the government should consider injecting extra capital into state-owned Eskom to help it cope with what he said were low electricity tariffs, Reuters reported.

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South African miners support a restructuring of struggling state power firm Eskom to boost competition in the electricity supply industry, an industry body said on Wednesday, warning that tariff hikes alone would not solve Eskom’s problems, Reuters reported. Top government officials will discuss whether to split Eskom into generation, transmission and distribution units at a cabinet meeting starting on Wednesday as part of efforts to rescue the company from financial crisis.

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Kenya has room to refinance its debt by extending the tenure of some of its loans, the central bank governor said on Tuesday, but it faces growing risks from an unsteady global economy, Reuters reported. Slowdowns in Europe and China, uncertainty over Brexit, a U.S.-China trade war and the recent U.S. government shutdown have all contributed to fears of a crisis in the global economy, Patrick Njoroge told a news conference. “Clearly, the global economy is without a rudder,” Njoroge said. “It’s just coasting and without direction.

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South Africa’s national power utility’s woes have threatened to shut down industries, while the flagship airline has received repeated bailouts to keep it afloat, Bloomberg News reported. Now, a scramble to help a retailer that sells school shoes and fast fashion suggests it, too, may be seen as too big to fail. Edcon Holdings Ltd. has about 30,000 employees, a supply chain that includes 750 companies and floor space that accounts for a 10th of the occupancy in the country’s biggest shopping malls, the most of any company.

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