Flash Briefing: Fresh corruption scandal erupts over SA energy supply; big financial blow for Naspers-owned Tencent; Eskom vs unions

  • A company called DNG has alleged in court papers that it lost a bid after failing to respond to overtures by a businessman who claimed to have close ties to Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and other government officials. Bloomberg, quoting GroundUp, says DNG has lifted the lid on how some of eight bid winners, especially Turkey’s Karpowership, which operates mobile, vessel-based power plants, were granted unlawful exemptions from the tender requirements. Bloomberg says the lawsuit could hamper attempts to bring new generation capacity on line and could exacerbate the electricity crisis.
  • Meanwhile, South African state-utility Eskom will start a fresh round of wage negotiations with trade unions next week, it said on Friday, warning any disputes could impact its ability to supply electricity. Eskom struggles to power Africa’s most-industrialised nation because of repeated faults at its ailing coal-fired power stations and is choking under more than R460 billion ($32 billion) of debt, says Bloomberg. The last round of negotiations in 2018 led to power outages after workers reacted angrily to Eskom’s initial refusal to hike wages. The company later offered above-inflation increases, and a three-year agreement was signed. Eskom has not disclosed its position ahead of the talks. National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) are demanding salary increase of 15% in the 2021/22 financial year. The Solidarity union is seeking a 9.5% annual increase. Inflation is currently around 3%. Unions argue Eskom’s woes are chiefly linked to corruption and mismanagement over many years, and that workers should not lose out as a result.
  • Impala Platinum said on Friday third quarter group output at managed operations rose by 4% to 5.59 million tonnes, with higher volumes reported at Impala Rustenburg, Impala Canada and Marula. That’s according to Reuters, which says high prices for metals extracted by Implats such as platinum, palladium and rhodium have thrown the mining company a lifeline despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The platinum miner said group production in the nine months to March 31 rose by 11% to 17.38 million tonnes, benefiting from the inclusion of Impala Canada, which it bought in 2019.
  • There is a lot of greed in the cryptocurrency markets with many first-time investors who do not understand the technology behind it. This is according to Luno Africa’s general manager Marius Reitz, who was speaking to BizNews Power Hour about the recent Bitcoin price swings. The Bitcoin price had a particularly volatile period in April. It hit a record high of more than $64,000 on 14 April but plummeted to below $50,000 a week later, reports MyBroadband.co.za. Reitz said even with its drop to below $50,000, Bitcoin was still up 72% for the year to date. “People often forget that. We’ve been in extreme greed territory for quite a long period now,” he said.
  • Angola has reimposed movement restrictions and increased fines to limit a second wave of Covid-19 infections, reports Bloomberg. Government offices will operate with only 50% of staff, while the private sector will be allowed 75%, Minister of State Adao de Almeida told reporters in the capital, Luanda, on Wednesday. Home gatherings will be restricted to 15 people and a 10 pm to 5 am curfew introduced, he said. Fines will range from 20,000 kwanza ($30) for unmasked people to 450,000 kwanza for hosting parties. Health Minister Silvia Lutucuta. It reported 226 new infections and four deaths on Wednesday, taking cumulative cases to 26,178 and 591 deaths. The nation is seeing more cases of the variants first identified in South Africa and England, with the English version being more deadly and more infectious, she said. Unlike in the first wave when most cases were asymptomatic and deaths were mainly among elderly male patients with co-morbidities, the second spike seems to affect people uniformly despite their gender or age, Lutucuta said.
  • China has ordered its tech giants – including Tencent, which underpins Naspers – to unbundle financial services. Companies have turned their mobile payment apps into financial supermarkets, offering loans and insurance policies, reports BizNews Premium partner The Wall Street Journal. China’s central bank and four other regulatory agencies told some of the country’s biggest financial technology firms — including WeChat operator Tencent Holdings Ltd., ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing Technology Co. and e-commerce firm JD.com Inc. that their apps should no longer provide financial services beyond payments, according to people familiar with the discussions. During the nearly three-hour-long meeting at the People’s Bank of China’s Financial Market Department, regulators told company representatives that the bundling of several financial services within a single platform obscured how much money was flowing into the various products, creating risks for the broader financial system, these people said. Whether for Ant or the other tech giants, the unbundling of the various financial services will almost certainly deal a blow to the companies’ future profitability and valuation. “We expect the delinking of Ant’s payment and microloan business to weaken its competitive advantage of cross-selling through its Alipay platform,” Fitch Ratings said in a report last week. Together with other regulatory challenges, it added, the delinking “may moderate Ant’s revenue and profit growth in the near term.” For more on that story and other important investment-related articles, subscribe now to BizNews Premium.
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