Flash Briefing: CR slams UK, EU for hoarding vaccines; WC economic disaster looms – Winde; Steinhoff; US stocks

  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged wealthy countries to stop hoarding Covid-19 vaccines, adding his voice to calls for global production to be shared more equally. “The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses,” he told a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum. “Some even acquired up to four times what their population needs … to the exclusion of other countries.” The African Union this month secured 270 million shots for the continent to supplement 600 million doses from the Covax vaccine distribution scheme, says Reuters. Those doses are expected to become available this year but none have arrived yet, while parts of Europe, Asia and the Americas are well into their vaccination programmes. Britain has ordered 367 million doses of seven different vaccines – some already approved and some candidate drugs – for its population of roughly 67 million, while the European Union has secured nearly 2.3 billion doses for its 450 million people, says Reuters.
  • Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has called on government to urgently ease Covid-19 restrictions in the province to avoid an economic disaster. He says he has already appealed to Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize but that letter has not been responded to. The Western Cape has requested the following changes be made urgently:
  1. The ban on beaches and other public spaces must be lifted in our province. Open spaces with good ventilation are safer and they do not provide a high risk. Furthermore, the festive season is over, and people are back at work;
  2. The curfew be changed to 11pm to 4am. The current curfew makes it impossible for restaurants to provide a dinner service and this sector is buckling as a result;
  3. A closing time for 10pm for establishments, that will allow for staff to get home before curfew begins;
  4. Alcohol sales be permitted offsite from Monday to Thursday, and not permitted on the weekend;
  5.  Alcohol sales be permitted at wine farms on the weekend, as this is the time when most visitors come to wine farms. Such sales are critical for the survival of wine tourism in the Western Cape; and
  6. Onsite alcohol consumption be allowed. If restaurants cannot sell alcohol with dinner service, they will not remain profitable and will be forced to close. This will result in many job losses.
  • Tavern and shebeen owners have also called for a lifting of restrictions, with hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.
  • South African retailer Pepkor Holdings said on Tuesday that sales in its first quarter rose by 7.7% as it continued to acquire market share. Struggling retail holding investment company Steinhoff is looking to dispose Pepco, one of its best-performing assets. Steinhoff is still grappling with many of the issues that brought the retail giant to its knees as a result of accounting irregularities that came to light at the latter end of 2017. The company is dealing with a massive debt-burden as well as costly legal proceedings.
  • US stocks crept higher after major indexes hit records a day earlier and investors readied for a slew of blue-chip earnings, reports The Wall Street Journal. This week marks the height of earnings season, with shares of General Electric rallying 9.5% after the industrial conglomerate reported forecast-beating fourth-quarter revenue and free cash flow. Major tech firms, including Apple, Tesla and Facebook, will update investors Wednesday. Investors will watch to see if earnings can continue to top analysts’ expectations, providing a further catalyst to push markets higher. Johnson & Johnson rose 4% after it recorded stronger sales in its latest quarter, as revenue gains from its pharmaceutical division boosted its top-line results. For more, log on to BizNews Premium.

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