France mulls Eskom aid; Loadshedding dents rand surge; Branson considers SAA stake

By Linda van Tilburg

  • France is considering providing financial support to Eskom according to the Business Times. France is said to be working on different plans to assist Eskom and with its own development agency is ready to provide financial support to assist with the utility’s restructuring, according to French ambassador to South Africa, Aurelien Lechevallier. The support would likely be structured as a multi-partner loan that could potentially include other nations such as Germany and South African development banks, the ambassador said. South Africa plans to restructure loss-making Eskom, which is struggling under R450bn of debt, by separating the power utility’s generation, transmission and distribution businesses.
  • British billionaire Richard Branson said at the Business is an Adventure conference in Johannesburg that he would look at buying a stake in struggling national carrier South African Airways. Branson who owns airline Virgin Atlantic, as well as space tourism venture Virgin Galactic said he was usually inclined to explore all options and has great difficulty in life saying, “no”. He said if he was approached by the South African government; he would have a look at it. Branson said he had more faith investing money in South Africa with Cyril Ramaphosa as the President of South Africa.
  • Eskom has warned that the power system remains constrained and vulnerable and that any shift could lead to load shedding at short notice. Some progress had been made in replenishing diesel for open cycle gas turbines and water levels for pumped storage schemes have been improved. The power utility said the Emergency Command Centre continued to monitor the system and would be in a position to give a prognosis for the week ahead today. Consumers have been asked to set air conditioners at 23 degree Celcius, switch off geysers over peak periods, use cold water taps; set swimming pool pump cycles to run twice a day for three hours a time and to turn off computers, copiers and printers at the switch to avoid stand-by or sleep mode. The Rand which rallied last week to its firmest level in three weeks on the back of renewed hopes of a US-China trade deal slipped back after the nationwide electricity blackouts reignited worries about the economy. The Rand ended last week on R14.86 to the greenback. This week retail sales and mining production figures for September will be released by Statistics SA.
  • City traders have urged the United Kingdom and European exchanges to cut trading hours to improve work-life balance. They are asking the London Stock Exchange and other bourses to open later and shorten their working day by 90 minutes to boost liquidity and improve workers’ mental health. The London Stock Exchange said it would launch a consultation on the request. The UK and European stock exchanges trade for 8.5 hours a day, while the Johannesburg Stock Exchange with 8 hours of trading is also above the average of those in the US where the trading day is 6.5 hours and Asian exchanges which opens for 6 hours.
  • With calls on the government to get on with plans to get the economy going; the ANC met members of its alliance, the South African Communist Party, Cosatu and civic organisation SANCO yesterday to discuss the Treasury’s economic rescue plan. This is after alliance members were not happy that the plan was released before it was approved by members of the alliance. Cosatu is in favour of the placing of the state at the centre of efforts to kickstart the economy and that a state bank should be considered to build a developmental state. The members of the ANC alliance that were crucial in securing Cyril Ramaphosa’s position of President of the ANC are seen to be stumbling block in efforts to turn Eskom and the economy around.
  • An earthbound jet known as the Bloodhound is on target to set a new land speed record in South Africa. It became one of the world’s fastest 10 cars last week after it reached 806 kilometres per hour on the Haksteen saltpan in the Kalahari. More than 300 people of the local Mier community cleared 15,000 metric tons of stone from the 19 kilometre long track and have created what the team regard as the best straight line high-speed testing track in the world.  The next target for the Bloodhound that is powered by a Rolls Royce EJ200 engine used in the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet is 885 kilometres per hour. A twin parachute is needed to bring it to a halt.
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