COMPANY NEWS IN BREIF

21 June 2021 | Business

FirstRand taking over Selpal

FirstRand has found offering banking to cash-only businesses in South African townships trickier than expected, but the firms involved are also far bigger than it realised.

Africa's biggest lender by market capitalisation announced the takeover of financial technology firm Selpal in March, with the aim of capturing a greater slice of the township economy.

Millions of people live in townships, which were areas designated for non-whites under apartheid and are often satellites of South Africa's major cities.

Wealthy residents, golf courses and shopping malls are also now a feature of the country's most populous township, Soweto, near Johannesburg, as well as a large poorer population living hand-to-mouth in often cramped conditions.

Townships are also home to millions of firms from tiny informal shops to big wholesalers, historically ignored by major banks in South Africa, which make up a sizeable untapped market.

After almost three years, FirstRand has found that the scale of the unbanked businesses is much larger than it thought, Jesse Weinberg, head of the small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) customer segment at FirstRand's retail division FNB, said. - Nampa/Reuters

Vale, BHP propose reais DIP financing

Bankrupt miner Samarco Mineracao SA plans to receive a 1.2 billion reais (US$238 million) debtor-in-possession loan extended by its controlling shareholders, Vale SA and BHP Group Ltd, to maintain its activity, according to court documents reviewed by Reuters.

But a group representing 80% of Samarco's debt excluding Vale and BHP oppose the move, saying the DIP financing goal would be to protect Vale and BHP assets. Among these creditors are York Global Finance, Ashmor, Solus and City National.

Creditors also requested that Samarco stop making payments to Renova, a foundation set up by BHP Group and Vale SA to compensate for a deadly dam burst at a jointly owned Brazilian mine in 2015.

Any contribution to Renova should be made directly by Samarco's controlling shareholders, creditors say, as they would also be responsible for the disaster, as well as Samarco.

Samarco filed for bankruptcy protection in April to prevent creditors' claims from affecting operations that resumed in 2020, more than five years after a tailings dam collapsed in the town of Mariana in one of Brazil's worst environmental accidents. - Nampa/Reuters

Vodafone, Amazon to launch edge computing

Vodafone said it has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to launch "edge computing" services for its business customers in the UK.

"Edge computing" uses augmented reality and machine learning to analyse bulk data where it was gathered whether factory floor, oil rig or office space before moving it to remote servers in the cloud. To work, it needs fast data transfers of the kind that 5G will provide.

The launch follows Vodafone's trials with companies in a range of areas, including sports technology, autonomous transport, biometric security, remote virtual reality, and factory automation.

"Edge Compute and 5G is a combination no other service provider can deliver in Europe, which means we can offer something unique to our customers," said Anne Sheehan, business director, Vodafone UK.

The company will initially offer low-latency "edge computing" services to customers in London and the surrounding area, as well as towns and cities including Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Cardiff. - Nampa/Reuters

BP to buy solar projects in Spain

Energy giant BP is close to buying solar power projects for between 400 million euros and 500 million euros in Spain from conglomerate Grupo Jorge, Expansion newspaper reported on Friday, citing unidentified industry sources.

Lightsource bp, BP's solar power unit, would take over a portfolio of photovoltaic power projects with a total potential capacity of 700 megawatts from Grupo Jorge, a privately held company with assets in pork meat, agriculture and renewable energy, Expansion said.

Spain has become one of the most active markets for solar and wind power. Many large companies including BP's rivals such as Total, Repsol and Galp have bought assets in recent months.

BP itself had announced in February the acquisition of a portfolio of solar projects with a potential capacity of 845 megawatts.

Spokespeople at BP and Grupo Jorge did not answer emails and calls seeking comment. - Nampa/Reuters

BBVA opens Bitcoin trading service

Spain's BBVA said on Friday said it was launching a bitcoin trading service for private banking clients in Switzerland interested in digital asset investment.

The bank said the new business, launching on June 21, would include bitcoin trading and custody services, with the aim of extending it to other cryptocurrencies. It would not offer advice on these types of investments, it said.

BBVA said that during a gradual roll-out it had detected a "significant desire" among investors for crypto-assets or digital assets to diversify their portfolios despite their volatility and high risk, BBVA Switzerland's Chief Executive Alfonso Gomez said in statement.

The trading service comes amid growing institutional interest in bitcoin. The largest cryptocurrency is seen by investors and some companies as a hedge against inflation as governments and central banks turn on the stimulus taps.

El Salvador has become the world's first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender even though central banks globally have repeatedly warned that investors in the cryptocurrency must be ready to lose all their money. - Nampa/Reuters

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