Flash briefing – Government defends ‘New’ SAA bailout; Oil and Sasol plunge; Gupta sanctions; OM China expansion

By Linda van Tilburg

  • The South African government says it was aiming for South African Airways to fly again in the first half of next year, after it gave the airline a new R10.5 billion bailout in the mid-term budget. Several government officials have come out in defence of the bailout with Deputy finance minister David Masondo saying, it was not a bailout and it was needed for the airline to meet its financial obligations, including to retrench workers and customers who have paid for flights. Treasury-General Dondo Mogajane said SAA was too important for the local aviation market too fail and that five potential strategic-equity partners were waiting in the wings.  Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan accused critics of the bailout of lacking ‘financial literacy’ and said next steps would be, to appoint an interim board, a CEO and CFO.
  • Sasol shares have plummeted on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange by more than 11% following a drop in the price of oil to its lowest level since May, extending a slump with growing lockdown restrictions in Europe raising the risk of more demand destruction. The JSE All Share Index registered another drop of around 1% on Thursday after the biggest plunge in seven months of 3.3% on Wednesday. After briefly stepping back from losses following the budget speech, the Rand again weakened, trading around R16.40 per dollar.
  • Old Mutual is expanding its business in China, while considering exiting some markets on its home base, as part of a refreshed strategy to focus on more profitable areas of its operations. Old Mutual is now seeing growth in the “high double digits” from its Chinese venture, Chief Executive Officer Iain Williamson said in an interview. Demand for its products in the world’s second-largest insurance market went up, even as the coronavirus pandemic hit most of its other units, he said. Regulators have indicated that they were keen for old Mutual to advance their business in China.
  • British Lord Peter Hain have again raised the issue of the Guptas in the British House of Lords today asking the British government to impose sanction on the brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta who he said were responsible for looting R7 billion from South African taxpayers. He said the sum was laundered abroad through British banks like HSBC, Standard Chartered and Bank of Baroda and despite raising the issue repeatedly before, he has had no formal reply for the British Financial Conduct Authority.
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