MTN terrorist support allegations; Petrol price drop; RBM ops resume; Kenya stocks outshine SA

By Linda van Tilburg

  • MTN said it was reviewing allegations from the United States which accuses several firms of paying protection money to militant Islamist groups in Afghanistan. Reuters reports that the complaint had been filed in the US District court in the Columbia. It alleges that protection money had been paid to Al Qaeda and the Taliban which means that support for known terrorist organisation had been provided. MTN said in a statement it was reviewing the details of the report and was consulting its advisers, but remains of the view that it conducted its business in a responsible and compliant manner in all territories. The British security services company G4S was also named in the lawsuit. MTN shares fell by 0.74% on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange yesterday on the back of the allegations. The telecoms company was the only outlier on the JSE yesterday where the All Share Index rose by 0.48%.
  • Improved sentiment towards emerging markets has boosted the rand and the currency managed to break below the R14 a dollar level yesterday ending slightly weaker at the close trading at R14.06. The Rand has gained more than 4 % in December against the dollar, its best performance since the beginning of the year. Gold prices also gained yesterday in expectation of a US-China trade deal.
  • The steady performance of the rand in December has led to a fuel price decrease. The department of Energy has announced that 95 octane petrol will see a 14 cent a litre drop and 93-octane will decrease by four cents a litre. Diesel and illuminating paraffin will however increase by nine and five cents respectively. The Automobile Association says the drop in the petrol price is due to the rand holding steady for the first half of December and even appreciating slightly against the dollar.
  • The Rio Tinto Group is resuming operations at the Richards Bay Minerals mine that was shuttered earlier this month because of escalating violence in surrounding communities. The company said in a statement that the unit should be back at full operations in early January, leading to regular production in early 2020. The decision was taken after discussions led by the Premier of the KwaZulu-Natal province, aimed at securing stability. Operations at the mine was halted at the mine in early December and a $463m expansion project was temporarily suspended following weeks of protests around the area where the mine is located and after an employee was shot and injured. The demonstrations weren’t related to the company, it said at the time.
  • Kenya’s stock-market was the best performer among sub-Saharan African stock over the past decade, joined only by South Africa in producing dollar-based gains since 2010 as currency depreciation ravaged returns for investors. Nairobi’s benchmark gauge climbed 74% since the decade opened, with Johannesburg’s benchmark up just short of 9%. The Zambian and Nigerian stock markets have retreated almost 50%. Aside from the weak showing from equity benchmarks, the period was characterised by a dwindling number of listed companies on the region’s major exchanges, from Lagos to Johannesburg. Nigeria has the fewest number of listed companies since 2004, while in South Africa the tally hasn’t been this low in 16 years.
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