South Africa

South Africa’s rand weakened to a record low, dollar bonds plunged and banking stocks dropped after the country lost its last investment-grade credit rating. Investors anticipate it may slide even deeper into junk as the spread of the coronavirus hammers the economy, Bloomberg News reported. The currency dropped as much as 2.5% to 18.09 per dollar, breaching 18 for the first time. It traded 1.1% down at 17.82 by 12:46 p.m. in Johannesburg, still the worst performance among major emerging-market currencies after the Mexican peso.

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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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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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Specialists appointed to try to save struggling South African Airways (SAA) said on Monday they plan to begin employee consultations on job cuts, a stage of the rescue plan likely to meet fierce resistance from trade unions, Reuters reported. “Our intention has always been to preserve as many jobs as possible through this process while still focusing on having a sustainable airline,” the practitioners Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana said in a joint statement, adding that they had notified at least seven different unions.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said his administration’s drive to turn the economy around will be protracted and is being frustrated by the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the globe and other factors beyond its control, Bloomberg News reported. “These are trying and testing times,” Ramaphosa said at a two-hour briefing to journalists in Cape Town on Tuesday. “I like to believe that we have entered an era where there is no longer any objection to reforms and transformation. We are going to reform.

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The Congress of South African Trade Unions expects a plan that it’s proposing to save Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. from its debt burden to be ready within weeks, said the labor federation’s parliamentary coordinator, Bloomberg News reported. The labor group, an ally of the ruling African National Congress, has proposed using the state pension fund manager, the Public Investment Corp., and government-owned development finance institutions to cut the power utility’s debt by 254 billion rand ($16.3 billion) to 200 billion rand.

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Administrators for South Africa’s loss-making state airline have been given an extra month to complete a turnaround plan, Bloomberg News reported. The so-called Business Rescue Practitioners can now file their report on South African Airways by the end of March, they said in a statement on Friday. A majority of creditors agreed to the extension. Bloomberg News earlier reported the development. South Africa’s government placed SAA into a local form of bankruptcy protection late last year, a move designed to end a cycle of state bailouts and mounting losses.

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