Covid-19: SA innovation leads Africa; huge job losses loom; SA property companies in trouble; MTN

By Jackie Cameron

  • As South Africa enters its second week of government-imposed lockdown, the country has been praised globally for leading efforts to stop Covid-19 in its tracks on the African continent. In a report on Covid-19 in Africa, international news agency Bloomberg says the crisis has also spurred innovation and goodwill – with all examples emanating from South Africa. These examples include AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s third-largest gold producer, making two hospitals available with hundreds of beds in South Africa’s North West and Gauteng provinces. SA fuel and chemicals company Sasol producing alcohol for hand sanitizers and disinfectants. And supermarket giant Shoprite is paying “appreciation bonuses” to its shop-floor and distribution-center employees for their efforts to keep supplies flowing.
  • With economic activity almost at a standstill, around half of the jobs in all of Africa are at risk. That’s the warning from Bloomberg, which says that Africa may be two to three weeks away from the height of a coronavirus outbreak, but its impact is already wreaking havoc on the production and movement of goods and raw materials in, out and around the continent. At least 31 of the region’s 54 countries imposing full border closures, according to the Addis Ababa-based African Centres for Disease Control, it says. “The precaution has made it difficult for key exports that countries rely on to generate income to reach their destinations. In landlocked Zambia — the continent’s second-biggest copper producer — companies that usually truck output to Durban for shipment are having to find alternate routes after South Africa scaled down operations at bulk terminals.” In Kenya, the largest exporter of flowers to Europe, growers are destroying about 50 tons of fresh blooms daily due to supply-chain disruptions, says Bloomberg. Most of South Africa’s iconic mines, which employ more than 450,000 people and are the world’s biggest source of platinum and palladium, have been idled in a 21-day lockdown, forcing Impala Platinum, the No. 2 global producer, to notify customers and suppliers it is unable to meet contractual obligations, says Bloomberg, adding that more than 51% of Africa’s exports are bound for countries that are highly affected by the virus.
  • Global Property Research, which tracks property indices, says Africa is leading prices of the world’s listed real estate companies downwards and warns international investors that SA companies want a two-year reprieve from paying dividends. “Amid rising uncertainty and the widening economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, the South African Real Estate Investment Trust (SA REIT) Association has made an urgent request to the National Treasury to provisionally relax REIT tax rules in the country. In terms of REIT tax laws that came into effect in 2013, Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed property funds must pay out 75% of their taxable income to investors in order to be a REIT and benefit from not having to pay dividend taxes,” it tells its global audience. “However, with South Africa’s economic woes bringing on a recession in the 2019 calendar year, several REITs have been reducing dividend payouts to strengthen their balance sheets. And with the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating the country’s economic rut and the property industry facing its worst-ever conditions, SA REIT is asking for a two-year reprieve from paying out dividends,” it says in a report.
Global -27.1%
Africa -49.1%
Americas -28.2%
Asia -22.8%
Europe -26.1%
Oceania -33.2%
  • Shares in MTN leapt as much as 18% on Thursday, helped by signs that the oil market could stabilise after a slump in prices. MTN operates in 21 markets across Africa and the Middle East and has exposure to a number of oil-producing countries such as Nigeria, which is its biggest market accounting for a third of its revenue, and Iran, says Reuters. “Investors said MTN was also being helped by the fact it had underperformed its rivals in recent weeks and had paid a good dividend on Wednesday,” it adds.
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