COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

17 November 2020 | Business

Vodacom reports a rise in H1 earnings

South African mobile operator, Vodacom Group reported a 15.7% rise in half-year earnings, boosted by a once-off deferred tax rate adjustment and reinstated medium-term targets.

The firm, which is majority owned by Britain's Vodafone, said headline earnings per share for the six months ended Sept. 30, rose to 532 cents from 460 cents a year earlier.

In May, Vodacom had postponed issuing medium-term forecasts due to the uncertain economic outlook for its markets as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to unfold.

"We do however expect this outlook to improve into FY22," the company said, adding that this assumption of economic improvement, together with the relative demand for its services to date, provides the basis for reinstating medium-term targets.

Overall group revenue grew by 7.8% to 47.8 billion rand (US$3.09 billion), while service revenue rose by 7%, buoyed by strong demand for voice, data and financial services during the coronavirus lockdown. - Nampa/Reuters

Nissan explores possible sale of 34% stake

Nissan Motor is looking to sell some or all its 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors, Bloomberg News reported yesterday, citing unidentified sources, a move that would reshape a three-way alliance that includes France's Renault.

"There are no plans to change the capital structure with Mitsubishi," a Nissan company spokeswoman told Reuters in an emailed statement. A Mitsubishi Motors spokesman said the same, adding the company would continue to collaborate within the alliance.

Nissan, struggling to recover from the pandemic-induced downturn, could sell its stake to a Mitsubishi group company such as Mitsubishi Corp, which already owns a fifth of Mitsubishi Motors, Bloomberg said.

Such a deal would fundamentally alter a three-way partnership built by Carlos Ghosn, former chairman of the alliance, which plunged into confusion when he was arrested in 2018 on charges of financial misconduct.

Ghosn had wanted a full merger of Renault and Nissan, which was shelved, according to Reuters sources, as the companies decided to fix the troubled alliance. - Nampa/Reuters

Korean Air to spend US$1.6 bln

Korean Air Lines Co Ltd said it will spend 1.8 trillion won (US$1.62 billion) to become the largest shareholder of indebted Asiana Airlines Inc, in a deal that would create the world's 15th biggest carrier.

The suitor plans to issue 2.5 trillion won worth of shares next year to fund the deal with buyers including its own parent, Hanjin Kal.

Asiana's state-run creditor Korea Development Bank (KDB) said the 2.5 trillion won will include liquidity and funds to conduct integration efforts such as the consolidation or closure of redundant businesses.

Hanjin Kal's largest shareholder, the Korea Corporate Governance Improvement Fund (KCGI), has said any KDB investment would likely support current management. The activist fund favours replacing family-appointed executives with outsiders.

Combining South Korea's two biggest carriers would create the world's 15th largest airline based on the industry measure of kilometres flown by paying passengers, according to 2019 data from the International Air Transport Association. That represents a jump from 28th for Korean Air and 42nd for Asiana. - Nampa/Reuters

Walmart nearly exits Japan

Walmart Inc is selling a majority stake in Japanese supermarket chain Seiyu to investment firm KKR and e-commerce company Rakuten for over US$1 billion, after suffering years of poor profitability amid stiff competition.

The deal, which values Seiyu at 172.5 billion yen (US$1.65 billion) including debt, comes after on-off speculation about the world's biggest retailer looking to exit Japan. It is below the 300-500 billion yen it reportedly sought a few years ago.

KKR will buy 65% of Seiyu and Rakuten will acquire a 20% stake while Walmart will retain 15%, the companies said in a joint statement on Monday.

Walmart first entered the Japanese market in 2002 by buying a 6% stake in Seiyu, and gradually built up its stake before a full takeover in 2008.

The Seiyu deal is the latest divesture of underperforming assets by Walmart, following its exits in Britain and Argentina, as it struggled to compete with nimble local rivals. – Nampa/Reuters

J&J launched a new late-stage trial

Johnson & Johnson launched a new late-stage trial in Britain yesterday to test a two-dose regimen of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine among thousands of volunteers, as the US drug maker expands its trials by geography and type.

The UK arm of the study is aiming to recruit 6 000 participants among a total of 30 000 people globally, scientists leading the UK trial said. Volunteers will be recruited at 17 sites across the UK.

J&J signed an agreement for the two-dose global Phase III clinical trial with the British government in August, to run in parallel with a 60 000-person trial of a single shot of the experimental vaccine which was launched in September.

If the results of the single-shot trial are positive, the company said it could simplify distribution of millions of doses compared with leading rivals requiring two doses.

The efficacy of a double-dose vaccine could be affected if people fail to return to get a second shot.- Nampa/Reuters

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