Russia has first Covid-19 vaccine; Eskom race row; Sasol; SA-style protest fuels 1,100% stock gain

By Jackie Cameron

  • SA’s Covid-19 death toll heads towards 11,000 and the number of reported cases is around 564,000 – as Russia announces it has the first Covid-19 vaccine. BizNews partner Wall Street Journal says Russian officials have compared Tuesday’s registration of the vaccine with the health ministry to the Cold War-era space race, and Moscow hopes the landmark event will return some prestige to the scientific legacy inherited from the Soviet Union. “The conditions of the vaccine’s development, however, have raised concerns in Moscow and in the West over the safety of the vaccine and fears that the Kremlin is sacrificing the safety of its citizens,” it notes. “Scientists at the Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute have employed military testing, accelerated clinical evaluations and shortened test-trial times in an attempt to be first with a vaccine. Russia hopes to use it in a massive immunization rollout at home and export it abroad.” The full story is available on BizNews Premium.
  • Embattled power utility Eskom has been criticised for appointing a white man to its treasury. Richard Vaughan is Eskom’s new General Manager in its treasury, sparking outrage from the Economic Freedom Fighters. The dispute represents another political headache for Chief Executive Officer, Andre de Ruyter, who has taken a hard line to collect some of the R480bn ($27bn) Eskom is owed. He had the bank accounts of an indebted municipality frozen and reduced power supplies to areas where electricity is regularly stolen. The debt has been described by Goldman Sachs as the biggest threat to the South African economy.
  • Sasol, one of the most closely watched shares on the JSE, has issued a profit warning. The announcement on the Stock Exchange News Service failed to dampen enthusiasm for the share, which is among the most closely watched in South Africa. Sasol has had a rollercoaster ride over the past year. It is down about 54% on its price this time in 2019, but 630% up on its 52-week low in March. It has been trading around R158/share at the end of Tuesday.
  • Pro-democracy protestors have followed the example of South African trader James Gubb in using stock market trades to send a political message – in this instance pushing a media company’s share price up by a staggering 1,100%. In November 2017, Gubb undertook a unique form of protest art using a series of Oakbay trades on the JSE. The trades produced the shape of a middle-fingered insult to the Gupta family – behind Oakbay and at the centre of industrial-scale looting of state funds. The Gubb story went viral, getting picked up everywhere from Bloomberg to Business Day. The authorities failed to see the creative side of Gubb’s protest art and slapped him with a R100,000 fine in connection with playing games with a share price. Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors have followed Gubb’s cue, using stock market trades as a form of protest. Supporters of Jimmy Lai, an outspoken critic of the government, drove his company’s share price up by about 1,100%. Bloomberg picks up the story. “There are a huge number of retail investors buying,” said Castor Pang, head of research at Core Pacific-Yamaichi. “If you just look at the bid-ask price and the size of single trades, most are super small.” The record gain, organized via online forums, underscores the challenge Chinese and Hong Kong officials face as they try to stamp out the city’s pro-democracy movement. Residents are turning to alternative forms of protest after policy makers curtailed public demonstrations with social distancing restrictions and the national security legislation.
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