Power cuts welcome new Eskom CEO; US-Iran tension; Prosus loses JustEat battle? Wine evolution

By Linda van Tilburg

  • Loadshedding made an unwelcome return as the Christmas break draws to an end just as Andre de Ruyter officially takes over as head of Eskom. The latest loadshedding means the company is removing 2,000 megawatts from the national grid. The resumption of power cuts, which have stunted growth illustrates the challenge facing De Ruyter, who left packaging company Nampak earlier than planned to start at Eskom following an urgent request from cabinet. “Owing to inadequate maintenance over a number of years, the system remains vulnerable to unplanned outages,” Eskom said in its statement. De Ruyter, who is expected to begin formal duties at the company today is tasked with turning around the debt-laden power utility, which has been described by Goldman Sachs as the biggest threat to South Africa’s economy. Eskom said the system will constrained and vulnerable, and load-shedding stage 2 would unfortunately have to continue.
  • The 2020 forecasts for emerging markets have been put on hold as the goal posts have moved with the tension in the Middle East raised to a new level. The US assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani has sent such a shudder through risky assets and it’s managed to eclipse much of the optimism stemming from the impending signing of an initial trade deal between the US and China. Middle Eastern stock markets nosedived, continuing a selloff that began at the end of last week as news emerged that Soleimani had died in a drone attack in Iraq ordered by President Donald Trump. Developing-nation stocks, currencies and bonds dropped by the most since November on Friday, and analysts are expecting Asian markets to remain on the back foot today. Analysts say the threat of severe retaliation by Iran will keep investors alert and imply further downside in case of a step-up in tension. In South Africa, a raft of data will provide guidance on the trajectory of the economy before a central-bank policy meeting later this month. Most attention will be on the manufacturing PMI for December, due on Wednesday, followed by a measure of business confidence on Thursday.
  • Prosus, the Naspers spinoff looks set to lose the battle to acquire JustEat. Bloomberg reports that Takeaway.com is set to declare final victory. Investors holding more than half of JustEat have indicated, they will agree to Takeaway’s all-stock bid, which values the company at about £6bn. The preliminary tally includes those who plan to formally tender in the coming days according to unnamed sources. Takeaway’s proposal requires a majority of shareholders to accept in order to be successful. Crossing the 50% threshold would mean the bid, which has been recommended by the JustEat board, has prevailed over a rival cash offer from Prosus NV. Representatives for JustEat and Takeaway declined to comment, while a representative for Prosus said she couldn’t immediately comment.
  • Bloomberg’s Elin McCoy has done a bit of crystal ball gazing for the wine industry and reports that there could be some interesting new changes for the industry in the next decade. Global concern over the effect of climate change on wine will ramp up wine experiments with areas formerly not fit to grow wine, coming into its own. No and low-alcohol wine will gain a foothold with the health and wellness craze and how does a Moët & Chandon from a vending machine sound. New York got its first machine in October and in 2020 Moët plans 100 more across the US. McCoy also predicts that canned wines are expected to reach sales of $4.6bn by 2024. And then wineries are expected to experiment with ageing their wines. It has been done under the sea and for 2020 and beyond, they will be looking towards space. Luxembourg-based Space Cargo Unlimited has started a project that sent bottles of red to the International Space Station.
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