Today’s Top 8 Business Stories – 23 July


1) South African Excess Deaths Surge to 59% as Virus Spreads
South African excess deaths, a measure of mortality exceeding historical averages, are surging as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the country. Between May 6 and July 14 there were 17,090 more deaths from natural causes than would have been expected, the South African Medical Research Council said in a weekly report published on Wednesday. “In the past weeks, the numbers have shown a relentless increase.

2) Muted South African Inflation May Give Room for Rate Cut
Flagging demand and a drop in imports mean the impact from a weak rand on South African consumer-price growth has been muted. Inflation dropped below the 3% bottom of the central bank’s target range in May, creating room for the monetary policy committee to lower its benchmark interest rate even further on Thursday. The median estimate of 16 economists in a Bloomberg survey is for a 25 basis-point reduction. –With assistance from Simbarashe Gumbo.

3) Vodacom’s First-Quarter Sales Jump as More People Work From Home
The pace of sales growth at Vodacom Group Ltd. accelerated in the first quarter, boosted by a surge in demand for data and voice services in South Africa, as more people worked and studied from home. Service revenue at Africa’s largest mobile-phone network operator by market value grew by 7.6% in the three months through June, Johannesburg-based Vodacom said in a statement on Thursday.

4) South Africa Secures $304 Million Virus Loan From AfDB
South Africa secured a loan of about 5 billion rand ($304 million) from the African Development Bank to assist with fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The loan approved on Wednesday is the second from a multilateral lender after the country received a $1 billion emergency facility from the New Development Bank last month to help offset the damage caused by the virus and finance the government’s 500 billion-rand stimulus package.

5) Eskom Seeks Advisers on Break-Up Plan, Raising Green Finance
The indebted South African utility that supplies about 95% of the nation’s electricity is seeking consultants to advise it on matters ranging from its break up into separate transmission, generation and distribution units to raising so-called green finance.

6) Sasol Delays Operations of Lake Charles Unit By a Month
The last remaining Lake Charles Chemical Project unit to come online is low-density polyethylene plant, which was damaged during a fire in January. * Repair work is ongoing; unit is expected to achieve beneficial operation before the end of October 2020, later than the previous guidance for the end of September ** “Some challenges were experienced in the completion of the restoration process, resulting in a slight delay”.

7) South African Stocks Lifted by Miners as Rates Decision Awaited
South Africa’s main stock index rises 0.5% as of 9:49 a.m. in Johannesburg, with miners contributing heavily to gains as investors seek to look past the latest tensions between Beijing and Washington. Banks are weaker before a central interest rates decision later Thursday. A survey of 16 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg expect the South African Reserve Bank to cut the repurchase rate by 25 basis points.

8) Zimbabwe Turmoil Prompts Allan Gray to Cut Stock Valuations 45%
South African money manager Allan Gray has slashed the valuations for Zimbabwean stocks in its African fund by 45% following economic turmoil that saw the government shut the country’s bourse last month. Zimbabwe’s official exchange rate and equity prices don’t reflect reality, the Cape Town-based firm said in commentary provided to investors.

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