BizBriefing: Opec+ not positive; Vodacom; Zondo; US rally on Moderna vaccine

By Melani Nathan

  • Oil markets may be cheering the prospects of a coronavirus vaccine, but OPEC+ can’t celebrate. Crude prices have rallied to a 10-week high on hopes that Pfizer and BioNTech SE’s breakthrough could soon revive the flights, travel and economic activity that drives fuel consumption. The alliance of producers led by Saudi Arabia and Russia is discussing a delay of the supply boost they’d hoped to make in January. Oil demand is currently suffering a fresh blow from a resurgence of the pandemic. Ministers are focused on a postponement of three to six months, according to delegates familiar with the talks who asked not to be identified. They’ll hold an interim meeting on Tuesday to review the market, then make a final decision in a further two weeks. Brent crude is trading at around 43 dollars per barrel.
  • Vodacom reinstated growth targets based on an expected economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis in 2022. CEO Shameel Joosub said it has the financial strength to take part in a long-awaited auction of broadband spectrum in South Africa. The country’s largest mobile-phone company now sees mid-single digit growth in both service revenue and operating profit over the next three years. The move follows a decision by the Johannesburg-based company to scrap forecasts in the early phase of the pandemic, in response to the uncertain environment. South Africa’s telecommunications industry has held up better than some during the coronavirus outbreak, boosted by soaring household-data bills helping to offset the impact of slower economic activity. In Vodacom’s home market, data usage surged 86% in the six months to September, and the company boosted investment in network infrastructure over the period to R6.6bn. Next up for the company, which is majority owned by the UK’s Vodafone Group, is to prepare for South Africa’s sale of more than R8bn of spectrum, pledged in early October as part of a range of government measures to revive the economy.
  • The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation says Jacob Zuma is grasping at straws in an effort to play the victim as he applies for Zondo to recuse himself. Former President Jacob Zuma is applying for Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to recuse himself from the state capture commission of inquiry. Zuma has employed further delay tactics as 34 witnesses have implicated him in state capture. Several of the witnesses have referenced Zuma as ‘number one’ and having given instructions to the Gupta family and senior officials at Eskom, Transnet, Denel and SAA. Zuma has listed Zondo’s close family ties, a narrative that he is responsible for widespread corruption at state-owned enterprises and comments made allegedly painting him as guilty at the commission. Zuma has since filed a lengthy affidavit in which he details his personal relationship with Zondo.
  • First-time buyers continue to snap up properties, with a high percentage buying property for the first time in the Free State. According to ooba Q3 2020 report, first-time buyers account for 54% of ooba’s application volumes. The Free State had the highest number with 70% of applications processed in the province. It has overtaken the Johannesburg area. In 2018, Gauteng, the country’s powerhouse was leading with the highest number of mortgages granted to those buying for the first-time. Industry-wide data points to improved affordability and low interest rates as driving forces behind this buying activity. In some instances, buyers are getting 100% home loans making finance more accessible to buyers, particularly first-time buyers. Nationally, nearly 80% of first-time buyers applying for a zero-deposit bond were successful in securing home loan finance. This is according to Kay Geldenhuys, head of sales fulfilment at ooba. The average first-time buyer is putting down a 7.1% deposit, a drop of 22% for the same period last year. As of Q3 2020, the average deposit amounted to R77,089.
  • US stock futures rose on positive study results from another potential Covid-19 vaccine, with the S&P 500 set to open higher after ending last week at a record level. Futures tied to the S&P 500 jumped 1%. Contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1.7%. Moderna says early data show its vaccine is 94.5% effective in preventing Covid-19, joining Pfizer as a leader in the race to end the pandemic. Moderna is the second company to report preliminary data on an apparently successful vaccine that offers hope of reining in a pandemic that has infected more than 53 million people worldwide and killed more than 1.2 million. Pfizer was the first, reporting 90 percent effectiveness one week ago. Moderna shares jumped more than 16% in premarket trading.
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