COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

28 July 2021 | Business

Aspen supplying Johnson & Johnson vaccine

South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare started supplying the first batch of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine to the country on Monday.

It is the first set of vaccines to be manufactured in the country from active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) substances used to make the final drug product sourced from Europe, Aspen said.

South Africa's vaccination drive suffered a major setback in April after US Federal Drug Administration halted production of J&J vaccines at a plant in Baltimore run by Emergent Biosolutions Inc after it was found to be contaminated.

Aspen, which has been contracted by J&J to manufacture the vaccines in South Africa in a process called 'fill and finish', had been sourcing APIs from the Baltimore plant and was asked to destroy 2 million doses as part of the finding of the FDA.

The supplies will also be distributed to other African countries under the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team under which J&J has committed to supply 220 million doses of the single shot vaccine, Aspen said. -Nampa/Reuters

Anglo American Platinum earnings soar

South African miner Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) on Monday posted a near 7-fold increase in half-year earnings and paid a record dividend as higher metals prices and increased output boosted profit, sending its shares higher.

The precious metals miner declared a record interim dividend of R175 per share, including a base dividend and a special dividend, compared to R10.23 a year earlier.

Headline earnings per share, the main profit measure used in South Africa, for the six months ended June 30 surged 572% to R176.47 per share versus R26.27 a year earlier.

High prices for metals extracted by Amplats, including platinum, palladium and rhodium, have boosted profit with the average rand prices for the platinum group metals (PGM) it mines up 29% during the period.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) during the period rose 385% to a record 63.3 billion rand with net cash at R57.6 billion. -Nampa/Reuters

Zimplats plans solar power plants

Impala Platinum Holdings Zimbabwe unit Zimplats plans to build two solar power plants with generation capacity of 185 megawatts to power its operations, the country's energy regulator said on Monday.

The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority said Zimplats, the biggest platinum group metals producer in Zimbabwe applied to build a 105 MW plant at Ngezi, southwest of Harare, where it has mines and two concentrators, and 85 MW at nearby Selous where there is a smelter and concentrator.

Zimplats, which also jointly owns smaller platinum miner Mimosa Mining Company with Sibanye Stillwater, imports its power from Mozambique's Hydro Cahora Bassa.

Zimbabwe has experienced acute power cuts in the past, the latest in 2019 that lasted up to 18 hours a day, which affected the mining sector, the country's biggest earner of foreign currency.

The government expects 100MW of electricity to come from new renewable energy projects by the end of this year and other mining companies are also planning to produce power from solar energy. -Nampa/Reuters

Bezos offers NASA US$2 billion

Fresh off his trip to space, billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos on Monday offered to cover up to US$2 billion in NASA costs if the US space agency awards his company Blue Origin a contract to make a spacecraft designed to land astronauts back on the moon.

NASA in April awarded rival billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX a US$2.9 billion contract to build a spacecraft to bring astronauts to the lunar surface as early as 2024, rejecting bids from Blue Origin and defense contractor Dynetics. Blue Origin had partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp and Draper in the bid.

The space agency cited its own funding shortfalls, SpaceX's proven record of orbital missions and other factors in a contract decision that senior NASA official Kathy Lueders called "what's the best value to the government."

In a letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Bezos said Blue Origin would waive payments in the government's current fiscal year and the next ones after that up to US$2 billion, and pay for an orbital mission to vet its technology.

In exchange, Blue Origin would accept a firm, fixed-priced contract, and cover any system development cost overruns, Bezos said. -Nampa/Reuters

McDonald's creates new unit

McDonald's Corp is bringing its digital, data analytics, marketing, restaurant development and operations segments into one unit as it focuses on driving growth through its global app and new MyMcDonald's Rewards program, the company said on Monday.

The company rolled out MyMcDonald’s Rewards on July 8 as fast-food chains have raced to launch loyalty programs to spur sales, reach younger consumers and give customers more ways to order.

To lead the new unit, McDonald's promoted Manu Steijaert to a new global chief customer officer position, effective Aug. 1 and reporting to Chief Executive Officer Chris Kempczinski. Steijaert previously ran international operated markets including European countries, Russia and Australia.

Nearly half of all restaurant customers use at least one loyalty program, particularly when ordering fast-food, according to a consumer survey from loyalty program provider Paytronix Systems Inc and PYMNTS.com.

The programs rake in valuable data about customers' food orders and habits, which restaurants use to push specialized deals in the hope of getting people to eat there more often and spend more money on extra items. -Nampa/Reuters