Company news in brief

10 March 2018 | Business

MTN cuts dividend to rein in debt

South African telecoms firm MTN Group cut its 2018 dividend on Thursday to cut debt but outlined increases in the next three to five years, lifting sentiment in the firm which some investors had expected to scrap this year's payout.

MTN said it was cutting its 2018 dividend to 500 cents from 700 cents in 2017 but would use this year's figure as a base to increase payouts by 10 to 20% in the next three to five years, describing this as a "progressive" dividend policy.

MTN, which operates in more than 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East, wants to expand from telecoms services into financial services, music streaming and e-commerce.

The new dividend policy would help cut MTN's net debt, which stands at R57 billion, more than double the pile of its nearest rival Vodacom.

Group service revenue rose 7.2% to R124 billion, due to strong performance in Nigeria, the company's most lucrative where it has also been embroiled in a dispute over repatriating funds and unregistered SIM cards. – Nampa/Reuters

Eskom to launch probe into SAP contract

South Africa's state-run power utility Eskom said on Thursday it would launch its own probe into a contract with German software maker SAP which has ensnared the company in a wider graft scandal.

SAP said on Thursday it had found compliance breaches and "indications of misconduct" in public sector deals in South Africa involving the Guptas, friends of former president Jacob Zuma accused of corruption.

Both Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing. – Nampa/Reuters

Exxaro eyes Optimum quotas

South Africa's Exxaro Resources Ltd said on Thursday it was interested in buying coal export quotas from the Gupta family's Optimum Coal mine that is now in business rescue proceedings.

Chief Executive Mxolisi Mgojo made the comments as he announced Exxaro's results that showed an impairment charge had driven down full-year earnings by 65%, despite an improving operating profit.

The impairment relates to replacing its economic empowerment vehicle used to boost the level of black shareholders in Exxaro.

Optimum Coal mine, which has faced a strike by its workers over unpaid salaries, sought protection from creditors on Feb. 20 with seven other companies owned by the Guptas who are accused of corrupt ties to former President Jacob Zuma.

Exxaro declared a final dividend of 400 cents per share, compared with 410 cents last year. – Nampa/Reuters

Botswana pays Russia's Norilsk Nickel

Botswana has paid Norilsk Nickel US$45 million to settle a dispute after its state-run mining company pulled out of buying a stake in a South African mine from the Russian firm, the minerals minister said on Friday.

Botswana's state-run BCL Mine pulled out of a 3 billion pula (US$281 million) deal in October 2016 to buy a 50% stake in Nkomati Nickel Mine from Norilsk due to a lack of funds, prompting the Russian firm to file a legal claim.

Minster of Minerals Sadique Kebonang confirmed the settlement and said the payment was approved through a presidential directive on Jan. 24.

Norilsk Nickel declined to comment. – Nampa/Reuters

China Resources Beer in talks with Heineken

China Resources Beer (Holdings) Co Ltd is in talks to acquire Heineken NV’s China business in a deal that could be worth more than US$1 billion, as the country's largest brewer seeks new growth from premium brands, five people close to the discussions said.

The negotiations come as global beer giants such as Heineken, AB InBev and Carlsberg are facing fierce competition from local rivals and each other in emerging markets, which have been touted as the growth engine for the world's biggest brewers.

China is the world's largest beer market by volume. CR Beer's biggest brand, Snow, is the world's top-selling beer, but is almost exclusively sold in China.

One of the sources said the deal between CR Beer and Heineken would most likely include three breweries – in Guangdong, Hainan and Zhejiang provinces - Heineken's distribution operation and its brands in China.

The two brewers have discussed a share-swap as part of the transaction, the source said. – Nampa/Reuters

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