Moody’s downgrade fears; MTN slashes prices; Ramaphosa, business brainstorm Covid-19; Capitec; SAA; Kerzner

By Jackie Cameron

  • South Africa could lose its last investment-grade credit rating this week. Moody’s Investor Service is scheduled to release an assessment of the country on Friday. The loss of an investment-grade credit rating could lead to heavy fund outflows, battering the rand even further, warns Bloomberg. Moody’s changed the outlook on South Africa’s rating to negative in November.
  • South Africans have been reflecting on their experiences with Sol Kerzner, one of the world’s most innovative hoteliers, founder of the Southern Sun hotel group, Sun International and Kerzner International, who died at the weekend. The maverick Kerzner founded the country’s two largest hotel groups — Southern Sun and Sun International — and achieved international prominence with groundbreaking resorts that helped transform the tourism industries not only of his home country but of Mauritius, The Maldives, The Bahamas, Dubai and other important international destinations.
  • Troubled airline SAA has suspended all intercontinental flights until May 31 in response to a government travel ban aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. SAA flies to the United States, Britain, Germany, Australia and Brazil on its intercontinental routes.
  • MTN said it would reduce the cost of monthly data bundles of 1 gigabyte (GB) and below by between 25% and 50% from April 15, after a finding that South Africa’s mobile data prices are the highest on the continent. MTN said it had agreed to cut the cost of its data bundles on Friday after South Africa’s competition watchdog warned in December that the telecoms operator and rival Vodacom faced prosecution if they did not do so, according to Reuters. A two-year inquiry into data services which concluded late last year found prices charged by the top two operators in South Africa, which control about 70% of its wireless broadband market were higher than in other African markets they operate in, adds the newswire.
  • As global central banks and governments continue their running battle to allay market fears over the scale of their response, President Cyril Ramaphosa has met with business leaders to discuss ways to contain the economic damage from Covid-19 in South Africa. The country has escalated measures to curb the spread of the virus, including banning travel to and from various countries and limiting gatherings to no more than 100 people, as the number of infections rises. The restrictions are expected to dampen the country’s already dire economic outlook, with the Reserve Bank saying the country is likely to contract 0.2% this year, after slipping into a recession at the end of 2019. The number of confirmed South African cases rose to 240 on Saturday, with no deaths. For a detailed update on the pandemic, listen to the Inside Covid-19 daily podcast on BizNews, where Alec Hogg shares the latest on the coronavirus scourge sweeping the world.
  • Looking at performances on the JSE, Capitec bounced back by more than 40% on Friday after its share price was battered earlier in the week. Steinhoff shed 10%, with coronavirus-imposed lockdowns in Europe impacting negatively on operations overseas. Sasol was also down about 10% on Friday, on the back of worries about its huge debts and troubled business in the US.
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