Company news in brief

28 February 2018 | Business

Shoprite benefits from upmarket strategy

South Africa's Shoprite defied a struggling domestic economy with double-digit profit growth on Monday, as its new strategy to sell ready-made gourmet products began to pay off.

Shoprite, which runs more than 2 600 outlets across Africa, said supermarkets in South Africa reported a 7.8% growth in sales, or 3.5% on a like-for-like basis. Supermarkets outside South Africa reported a fall in sales of 0.4%, with a like-for-like decline of 6.4%.

Shoprite reported a 14.2% increase in diluted headline earnings per share (HEPS) of 525.2 cents for the six months to the end of December, compared with 460 cents a year earlier.

Total turnover grew 6.3% from R71.2 billion to R75.8 billion. – Nampa/Reuters

StanChart’s 2017 profit soars

Standard Chartered Plc resumed its dividend payout after unveiling a six-fold jump in annual pretax profit, indicating the bank was making progress in its return to revenue growth following a painful two-year restructuring.

Pretax profit at the emerging markets-focused lender jumped to US$2.41 billion in its latest financial year, up from US$409 million in 2016.

Operating income, closely watched by investors who want StanChart to deliver profit from core business growth rather than lower provisions for bad loans, was up nearly 3% to US$14.43 billion, according to the bank's statement yesterday.

The bank said its board recommended resuming a dividend on the back of the improving financial performance and strong capital. It proposed a full year dividend of 11 US cents per ordinary share. – Nampa/Reuters

JSE to launch project bonds in March

Africa's largest bourse, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), will begin listing "project bonds" from mid-March, an official said on Monday, giving institutional investors a window to invest in infrastructure projects.

The bonds will provide private firms a chance to get a foothold in infrastructure projects in Africa's most industrialised economy, where project financing has traditionally come from banks and government.

Capital markets have already reduced lending to some state-owned companies, such as sole power supplier, Eskom.

South Africa plans to spend billions of US dollars over the next three years to build and revamp roads, power stations and ports, government officials said.

Sasol decoupled firm from SA rating

South African petrochemicals group Sasol said on Monday that ratings agency Moody's has decoupled the company from the sovereign rating, which would allow it to have higher ratings and borrow more cheaply than the government.

Sasol will look to offload around US$1 billion in assets across its portfolio and only retain those that generate the highest returns on investment, the company said.

The firm said it would look at all its assets, including those in South Africa, Europe and North America, and evaluate them based on trading environment, potential return generation and whether they fit Sasol's strategy.

The Sasol board also changed its dividend policy to pay them on a range based on core earnings per share, which the firm believes reflects the sustainable business operations and is a measure of its business and financial performance.

Sasol declared a gross interim dividend of R5.00 per share, up from R4.80 the previous year. – Nampa/Reuters

Apple plans biggest iPhone yet

Apple Inc is preparing to release three new smartphones later this year, including the largest iPhone ever, a device that may have a bigger display than arch-rival Samsung's flagship phone, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the products.

The trio also includes an upgraded handset the same size as the current iPhone X and a less expensive model with some of the X's key features.

The new phones could revive the screen size wars of years past at a time when smartphone makers are straining to come up with new features to lure buyers in a saturated market.

Global smartphone sales were down 0.1% last year, according to research firm IDC, with Apple and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd expanding shipments only 1.9% and 0.2%, respectively.

The iPhone maker is already running production tests with suppliers and is expected to announce the new phones this fall. – Nampa/Reuters

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