Africa

A third of African countries have unsustainable debt positions and the continent must reduce its reliance on foreign funding for projects that don’t help them service loans, Zimbabwean Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said, Bloomberg News reported. Global investors in search of higher yields have been “gobbling” up African debt over the past decade, he said.

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South African retailer International Holdings N.V. said on Tuesday a former partner firm of its European operations claims it is owed about 291 million euros (£256.62 million or $331 million) by the company, the International New York Times reported on a Reuters story. Steinhoff is in the middle of a clean-up of its balance sheet after discovering multi-billion euro holes in its balance sheet more than a year ago. LWS GmbH, a company linked to Austrian businessman Andreas Seifert, claims to be a creditor of Steinhoff Europe AG (SEAG), the parent company said.

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More small cocoa exporters in Ivory Coast were unable to fulfill their international contracts at the end of last year, and sources at the country’s cocoa board told Reuters that this group asked to postpone 70 percent of October-to-December commitments due to a lack of financing, Reuters reported. Each year, the cocoa board of top grower Ivory Coast (CCC) sells forward most of its expected harvest, a portion of which is allocated to small exporters. In October through December, small exporters were allocated contracts amounting to 180,000 tonnes of cocoa.

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A prominent South African fund manager stands to become one of the biggest losers on a batch of New Look’s bonds that were in effect rendered worthless when the UK retailer launched a debt restructuring this week, the Financial Times reported. New Look set out terms of a debt-for-equity swap on Monday that will hand one-fifth of the company to so-called senior secured bondholders — owners of debt linked to specific assets. Meanwhile, holders of £176m of unsecured bonds have been offered just 2 per cent of the equity in the struggling fashion retailer.

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Britain’s financial watchdog has dropped a criminal probe into Credit Suisse related to an alleged fraud in Mozambique, but is still checking the bank and individuals for any breaches of conduct rules, the watchdog said on Tuesday. In 2016, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) launched an investigation into the Swiss bank’s activities in Mozambique, where around $2 billion of loans to state-owned companies pushed the country into a debt crisis, Reuters reported.

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Not having a currency of its own hasn’t stopped Zimbabwe from sliding into a currency crisis, Bloomberg News reported. A scarcity of foreign exchange has led to long queues for fuel, bread and medicine and sent prices surging across the southern African country. Police clashed with protesters in the capital, Harare, on Monday as the main trade-union group started a strike after the government more than doubled gasoline prices to $3.31 a liter ($12.58 a gallon) over the weekend, the highest in the world, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com.

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Abraaj Group, the private-equity firm that collapsed after defaulting on debt, will get a 70 percent stake in C&I Leasing Plc by converting a $10 million loan into equity in the Nigerian company, Bloomberg News reported. “Abraaj knows that pulling out $10 million will be detrimental to the growth of the business, so rather than cash out, they decided to convert,” C&I Chief Executive Officer Andrew Otike-Odibi said by phone from Lagos. Once done, C&I plans a rights issue or an initial public offering that may dilute Abraaj’s stake to about 30 percent, he said.

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Mozambique has indicted 18 citizens for their involvement in fraud involving $2 billion in loans to state-owned companies, the attorney general's office (AGO) said on Monday, in a scandal that has ensnared two major international banks, the International New York Times reported on a Reuters story. "Mozambique AGO is indicting 18 defendants, (ranging) from public workers and other citizens, on charges of abuse of power, abuse of trust, swindling and money laundering," it said in a statement.

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Sibanye Gold Ltd. said a protracted strike at its South African gold mines may hurt earnings at a time when the producer remains under pressure to reduce debt, Bloomberg News reported. Thousands of workers started a strike in November over pay, and there’s inconsistent output at three mines amid limited operations, spokesman James Wellsted said, without saying how many workers are showing up. Sibanye is assessing the impact on its finances, he said. While the strike won’t force a restructuring of the affected mines, there could be a review if the impact is severe, he said.

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