Covid cases up to 1,353; SA trade surplus; Naspers jumps; SA leads Africa in Covid-19 campaign; new Sanlam bosses

Written on 03/31/2020
Jackie Cameron

By Jackie Cameron

  • Covid-19 update: 1,353 confirmed cases in South Africa, the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize said late on Tuesday. For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, listen to the daily BizNews Inside Covid-19 podcast with Alec Hogg.
  • South Africa recorded its biggest trade surplus in 14 months in February as exports to Europe surged. The trade balance swung to a surplus of R14.15bn from a revised deficit of R2.72bn rand in January, the South African Revenue Service said in a report on Tuesday. The trade surplus could help narrow the shortfall on South Africa’s current account, and provide some support for the rand which fell to a record on Monday after Moody’s Investors Service cut the nation’s credit rating to junk, reports Bloomberg.
  • Shares in Africa’s most-valuable company, Naspers, have advanced 11% since 2020 began, the best quarterly performance in a year, says Reuters. This is because coronavirus has confined hundreds of millions of consumers indoors, driving demand for online services and entertainment. In stark contrast, the broader South African benchmark index had lost 24% by Monday’s close, set for its worst quarter on record.
  • MTN will push on with a plan to reduce its majority stake in the wireless carrier’s Nigerian business, though turmoil caused by the coronavirus may require the sale to be done in smaller chunks than anticipated, that’s according to Bloomberg. The impact of the pandemic on international financial markets doesn’t change the importance of selling part of the 79% shareholding to local investors, Chief Financial Officer Ralph Mupita said in an interview. However, the rest of a three-to-five year plan to dispose of R25-billion of assets will probably take a back seat for now, he said. “In Nigeria we still want to do part of our retail offer, even if it’s a smaller part of the total planned sale,” Mupita told Bloomberg by phone. “We are applying our minds to doing this at the moment.” MTN is disposing of part of its largest division after a series of disputes with Nigerian authorities, most recently over tax payments and the withdrawal of cash from the country, says Bloomberg.
  • There has been a change of guard at Sanlam, which has today announced that the Sanlam Board has approved new appointments in three of its most senior positions in the diversified financial services group. The Sanlam Board, said in a statement, it has approved that: Elias Masilela the former Chief Executive Officer of the Public Investment Corporation, has been appointed as independent non-executive Chair of Sanlam, Dr Johan van Zyl’s departure as Board Chair in June 2020 was announced in March 2019; Paul Hanratty has been appointed as Group CEO from 01 July 2020, with Ian Kirk, the current Group CEO, supporting him until December 2020 when his five-year contract at Sanlam ends; Abigail Mukhuba has been appointed as Group Financial Director from 01 October 2020. Mukhuba joins Sanlam from mining company African Rainbow Minerals where she has held the position of Finance Director since 2017. She qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2005 and holds an MBA (UCT), M Com (RSA and International Tax) (RAU), B Com (Hons) (RAU), B Compt (UNISA). She has held several senior finance positions at KPMG, BMW SA and Exxaro Resources Limited.
  • In other news making global headlines, South Africa will dispatch about 10,000 field workers to check up on people in their homes. As Bloomberg reports to its global audience, this is the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to do so. The field workers will refer people with symptoms to local clinics or mobile clinics for testing, and those with severe symptoms will be transferred to hospitals, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday.
  • South Africa’s competition watchdog said on Tuesday it was investigating over 300 complaints against retailers and suppliers for charging excessive prices for essential products during the coronavirus outbreak. As Reuters reports, the majority of complaints related to hand sanitisers and face masks, followed by toilet paper, flu medication and other products, the Competition Commission said in a statement.