Independent Media liquidation looms; unions battle job cuts; world’s richest move into cash

By Jackie Cameron

  • Sekunjalo Independent Media on Tuesday received an application for its liquidation from the Public Investment Corporation citing SIM and its executive chairperson Dr Iqbal Survé as respondents. Iqbal Survé’s Independent Media group is believed to owe at least R1.5bn to the PIC, which it borrowed to buy the company. As the Mail & Guardian reports, the liquidation application follows the PIC’s head of legal services, Lindiwe Dlamini, telling the finance committee in Parliament that the state asset manager would be looking to recoup its funds from the Sekunjalo-led consortium. This is after the company had failed to service a 2013 loan from the PIC to acquire Independent Media from its Irish owners.
  • SAA is headed for a battle with unions after it was revealed that management plans to chop about 100 jobs. Bloomberg reports that South African Airways has set itself up for a confrontation with labor unions after the cash-strapped carrier initiated talks that could see its workforce reduced by almost a fifth. The reorganisation of all the airline’s units, excluding low-cost carrier Mango, Air Chefs and the SAA Technical unit, could result in 944 of its 5,149 employees being fired, SAA said in an emailed statement late Monday. The Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s biggest labour group, denounced the decision and accused the airline of failing to consult adequately. “It’s a reckless announcement. You cannot just throw people on the unemployment line,” Sizwe Pamla, the federation’s spokesman, said by phone on Tuesday.
  • South Africa’s public-service union called for urgent talks with the government on plans to reduce the state’s wage bill. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said last month he’s redoubling efforts to cut the government’s payroll to rein in a widening budget deficit. The nation’s 1.3 million public servants take home 35% of national spending and compensation has grown faster than any other category barring payments for financial assets since 2007. Loss-making Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. poses the biggest risk to the economy and naming a permanent CEO to turn it around is widely seen as a top priority for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration. The government has missed several self-imposed deadlines to fill the post.
  • Wealthy people around the globe are hunkering down for a potentially turbulent 2020, according to UBS Global Wealth Management. A majority of rich investors expect a significant drop in markets before the end of next year, and 25% of their average assets are currently in cash, according to a survey of more than 3,400 global respondents. The US/China trade conflict is their top geopolitical concern, while the upcoming American presidential election is seen as another significant threat to portfolios.
  • Turning to the performance of stocks on the Johannesburg stock exchange, the best performer on Tuesday was Telkom, which gained nearly 7% by the close of trading. Telkom is reported to be in talk to acquire smaller telecoms player Cell C. Telkom is trading under a cautionary announcement.
  • Amplats was also among the top 5 performers. It gained more than 6% as news emerged that South Africa’s biggest platinum mining union has sealed wage agreements with Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum, and Sibanye-Stillwater, the union said in a statement sent to media on Tuesday.