Flash Briefing: Economists warn Tito will disappoint; EOH CEO takes big bonus, but cut staff salaries; Amplats; Sasol

  • As  South Africans prepare to hear the details of the National Budget on Wednesday, 65% of economists surveyed by Bloomberg say the government won’t reach its goal of achieving a primary budget surplus in the next four years. The consolidated budget deficit is forecast reach 13.9% of GDP this fiscal year – less than the Treasury’s October estimate, mainly due to better-than-expected tax collections rather than an improvement in the economic outlook. “In the absence of meaningful economic growth, South Africa’s fiscal strain will remain a reality for years to come,” warns Elize Kruger, an independent economist. Officials including Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni have repeatedly warned that the country faces a sovereign debt crisis unless it takes urgent action. However, plans to reduce expenditure by about R300 billion over the next three fiscal years, mainly by paring back, a salary bill that’s surged by 51% since 2008, have drawn criticism from politically influential labour groups, civil society organizations and some opposition lawmakers.
  • Anglo American Platinum plans to increase its mine output by about a fifth over the coming decade, while seeking to stimulate demand for the platinum-group metals it produces. Amplats, as the company is known, is targeting a 20% jump in production. This development comes as investors debate the long-term outlook for PGM supply and demand, weighing the potential boost to platinum consumption from new hydrogen technologies against a shift to electric vehicles. In the short term, tougher pollution regulations requiring vehicle makers to use more platinum in catalytic converters have helped boost the metal by 19% this year. Chief Executive Officer Natascha Viljoen expects prices to remain robust in 2021, even as Amplats sees the platinum market returning to a surplus. Platinum is also being supported by potential demand from hydrogen applications, the CEO said.
  • Sasol, the South African chemicals and fuel maker, called off a potential $2bn share sale and announced first-half profit more than tripled. The shares hit the highest in a year. The company has raised enough cash through asset disposals and cost savings to reduce debt and avoid a rights offer. “A decision was made not to pursue a rights issue given the current macroeconomic outlook, and the significant progress made on our response plan initiatives,” the company said.
  • Many EOH employees are angry, reports Mybroadband.co.za, because they have been told they will not receive their expected salary increases this month and that the issue will only be revisited in August. This salary freeze followed salary cuts last year after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national lockdown. EOH also implemented a payday move where the pay date was shifted from 25 April to 30 April. At the time, EOH CEO Stephen van Coller said these stringent measures were needed to dramatically cut costs and manage liquidity at the company. EOH’s 2020 annual reported reveals that CEO Stephen van Coller received a total salary package of R17.6m over the last financial year. Van Coller’s remuneration included a fixed salary of R8m and bonuses (short-term and long-term incentives) of R10m. The EOH share price has risen steadily since March 2020.

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