Flash Briefing: Glencore spills Gupta beans; Trump called “a conman”; Six Africans among world’s richest

By Alec Hogg

In today’s global business headlines:

  • US president Donald Trump was described as a conman, a racist and a liar by his personal lawyer of 10 years, Michael Cohen in testimony before Congress yesterday. In the riveting televised event, Cohen provided proof of how his former boss had broken the electoral law a fortnight before the 2016 presidential election vote, and again some months after he was in office. Cohen claims Trump personally decided to pay $135,000 in hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels. Cohen also provided evidence of how Trump had falsified his financial statements to both evade tax and then to bolster his apparent asset base when seeking a loan from Deutsche Bank. Inquisitors from Trump’s Republican party branded Cohen an unreliable witness who is motivated by revenge because he was not given a big job in the White House.
  • Six Africans feature on Bloomberg’s list of the worlds’ 500 richest people released yesterday. They are led by 61-year-old Nigerian Aliko Dangote whose net worth is estimated at $17bn. Three South Africans make the list – Nicky Oppenheimer and Johann Rupert, with $7bn each, and Natie Kirsch at $6bn, the bulk of the three’s assets held outside the continent. The other two Africans on the list are Egyptian brothers Nassef and Naguib Sawiris at $7bn and $5bn respectively. This year’s rich list is headed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who is worth $136bn, followed by Microsoft’s Bill Gates at $98bn and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett at $83bn. Americans dominate the list, but this year there are 44 Chinese billionaires named among the 500.
  • The share price of the UK’s Metrobank took another 26% hit yesterday after it merged that the one-time London market darling requires a £350m capital injection from shareholders and might also have to repay a £120m prize received from the EU intended to enhance banking competition. Metrobank’s shares, which started trading at £22 when listed three years ago and peaked over £40 last March, are now trading below £10. Yesterday’s drop was influenced by news the bank is at risk of being fined by both the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and the country’s Prudential Regulation Authority after it misclassified a large number of commercial loans. Accounting for them correctly would have required Metrobank to hold a higher level of capital and thus grow a lot more slowly. When the storm broke, Metrobank CEO Craig Donaldson’s offered to resign and repay his £800,000 bonus, but this was declined by the board of directors.
  • In South African related news, the ugly truth emerged yesterday about how the Guptas and their allies at Eskom and in Jacob Zuma’s cabinet strong-armed international mining house Glencore to sell a major South African coal mine. In his marathon testimony to the Zondo Commission yesterday, Glencore’s former SA CEO Clinton Ephron provided details of how former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and Zuma’s mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane acted for the Gupta brothers to force Glencore to sell the Optimum mine. It emerged that Zwane personally arranged a meeting in Zurich with Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg to negotiate the sale of the mine to the Guptas. This is the first time that anyone from Glencore has spoken publicly about the event. Ephron also implicated Molefe’s successor Matshela Koko, bureaucrat Joel Raphela and Gupta bagman Salim Essa in the dirty dealings.