Flash Briefing: Pick n Pay defends new CEO, investigated for insider trading; Land Bank wants R7bn; TFG; Glencore

By Jackie Cameron 

  • The South Africa variant of Covid-19 spreads 50% faster than other versions. That’s the message from Professor Salim Abdool Karim, co-chair of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee, who says the 501.V2 strain “can attach to human cells more efficiently” than its predecessors but it is not more likely to cause hospitalisation or death. About 38,000 people are reported as having died of Covid-19 in South Africa, while more than 80% are reported as having recovered from the disease.
  • South Africa’s state-owned Land Bank could get another bailout this year, after the National Treasury told Reuters it was considering the bank’s application for R7bn ($463m). The government gave the agriculture-focused lender R3bn of equity in 2020, after it defaulted on its debt in April, says the news agency. Land Bank is one of several struggling state-owned entities that have required taxpayer-funded bailouts, contributing to credit rating downgrades to “junk” status.
  • Glencore has agreed to sell its stake in Mopani Copper Mines to the Zambian government for $1.5bn, but will get just $1 upfront, reports Bloomberg. Glencore has been in talks with the state about Mopani since last year after the two clashed on the future of the mine, which has been unprofitable for years. Despite the challenges, the operations are a vital employer for Zambia, says the news service. “Glencore said Tuesday it will receive $1 for the 90% holding it owns with Vancouver-based First Quantum Minerals Ltd. There has been speculation on how Zambia would pay for the asset after it became the first African country to default on its debt since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Zambia’s state-owned ZCCM Investments Holdings Plc already owned 10% of Mopani. Once the deal is complete, Mopani will owe its previous owners $1.5 billion. That will be repaid from sales and profits going forward. Glencore, the world’s biggest commodity trader, will retain offtake rights for Mopani’s copper production until the debt has been paid.”
  • Pick n Pay has defended its incoming CEO Pieter Boone after it emerged that he was investigated in connection with insider trading and market manipulation when he was CEO of Metro AG, a Germany-based wholesale retailer. An investigation by Germany’s public prosecutor focused on his conduct as well as that of the entire board of the wholesale retailer, according to a Reuters report in 2017. Boone allegedly bought 30,000 euros worth of shares in Metro ahead of a market-moving announcement. Boone and his colleagues paid a penalty for informing the wider public late about the plan to split into two companies but were reportedly let off the more serious charges. Pick n Pay issued a statement saying that Boone is a “man of exceptional integrity and we have every faith in his abilities”. Pick n Pay says the board was aware of the investigation, which were covered in a due diligence process ahead of his appointment. It declined an interview with BizNews Radio.
  • The Foschini Group’s (TFG) acquisition of Jet from the troubled Edcon Group pushed the company’s turnover up by about 15%, with the group releasing a positive Q3 trading update on Tuesday. TFG bought Jet businesses in South Africa, Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho and Namibia.

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