SA’s Elon Musk gets set to make space history; troubled Tiger Brands to chop jobs; Distell; Rand

By Jackie Cameron

  • South Africa’s most successful global tech entrepreneur Elon Musk – founder of electric car manufacturer Tesla is getting set for another historical step in his business journey. His space exploration firm SpaceX gets set to take US astronauts into orbit this week. Bloomberg says Musk is about to face his biggest test after almost two decades as a space entrepreneur: launching human beings into orbit. If the weather holds and there are no technical issues, a SpaceX Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket will blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 4:33pm on May 27 reports Bloomberg. Two NASA astronauts – Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley – will be on board, with a docking at the International Space Station scheduled for 19 hours later, it says. The history of spaceflight is made up of moments etched into humanity’s collective memory, including Yuri Gagarin’s orbit of the Earth in 1961, Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” onto the moon in 1969 and the loss of Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, says Bloomberg. “We haven’t had two humans shoot up into space on a commercial spacecraft ever. That’s an absolute first. It’s an epic moment,” Luigi Peluso, an aerospace analyst with AlixPartners, is quoted as saying.
  • Food producer Tiger Brands said on Monday it is looking at “significant” job cuts and won’t pay an interim dividend as its business is hit by supply disruptions and margin pressures due to the impact of the coronavirus. That’s according to Reuters, which notes that the owner of Jungle Oats and Tastic rice said first-half headline earnings fell 35% and it expects coronavirus-related costs of about R500m ($28m) to hit profit in the second half due to rand weakness, global supply chain disruptions and additional costs incurred during a lockdown in South Africa to curb the spread of the virus. As a result the company has started looking at cost-cutting measures, including possibly “significant” job cuts, chief executive Noel Doyle told reporters in a media call. “Not just in headcount but right across our whole offering and of course we have to look at a couple of the categories where we have been incurring significant losses,” he said. Tiger Brands employs more than 11,200 people in South Africa, excluding seasonal staff, a company spokesperson said.
  • The Tiger Brands share price lost more than 4% by the end of Monday’s trading session. The best performer was the liquor group Distell, which gained more than 6.5% – undoubtedly on news that a ban on alcohol sales is to be lifted as South Africa moves in June to level 3 of Covid-19 containment. Offshore investors sold a net R1.95bn ($110.79m) of South African stocks last week and bought R2.17bn in bonds, data from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange showed on Monday.
  • The rand strengthened slightly after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced plans to get 8m people back to work in an easing of Covid-19 restrictions. South African business leaders lauded the government’s plan to substantially ease a nationwide lockdown that’s crippled the economy, even though the country’s cases are still on an upward trajectory – a third of its 22,583 infections were diagnosed in the past week alone, notes Bloomberg. But with unemployment and business closures skyrocketing and the central bank anticipating a 7% economic contraction this year, Ramaphosa acknowledged that maintaining the lockdown had become unsustainable.
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