Company news in brief

12 February 2020 | Business

Eskom's bid for bigger tariffs rejected

Eskom's urgent bid for larger electricity tariff increases was rejected by the Pretoria High Court on Monday, in a fresh setback for the cash-strapped South African power utility.

Eskom lodged an urgent application with the court for a tariff increase of 16.6% from April and a rise of 16.7% from April 2021 to compensate for what it said was an error by energy regulator Nersa.

On Monday the court ruled that the utility had failed to prove that its dispute with Nersa was urgent, meaning that Eskom will now likely face months of court hearings as it argues its case with the regulator.

Eskom believes Nersa miscalculated its tariffs for the financial years beginning in 2019 to 2021 by treating R69 billion of bailouts which the utility has been promised as revenue.

Last year Nersa set Eskom's tariff rises at 9.4% for 2019/20, 8.1% for 2020/21 and 5.2% for 2021/22. – Nampa/Reuters

Google cancels African wind farm deal

Google's plans to buy a 12.5% stake in Africa's largest wind farm have been cancelled after delays to the project, Danish wind turbine maker Vestas said on Monday.

The 310 megawatt (MW) Lake Turkana wind farm in Kenya was initially set for completion 2017, after which Google had committed to buy the stake from Vestas.

But the delay led to the cancellation of the deal with Google in 2019, Vestas said.

"Due to delays relating primarily to the transmission line, the Vestas agreement with Google was canceled in 2019," a Vestas spokesman told Reuters, adding that it was in talks with other potential buyers of the stake.

Google was not immediately available for comment. – Nampa/Reuters

Michelin sees softer 2020 income

French tyre maker Michelin forecast on Monday a slightly lower operating income in 2020, saying the forecast did not include the systemic effect of the coronavirus crisis in China.

The Paris-based company, which restarted operations in its three factories in China on Monday morning, also forecast a free cash flow of more than 1.5 billion euro, also without accounting for the epidemic's effects.

Michelin reported a 2019 segment operating income of 3.01 billion euro in 2019, up 179 million euro at constant exchange rates, and roughly in line with analysts' estimates of 3.02 billion euro.

The group said volumes fell 1.2%, in line with overall markets, while its structural free cash flow beat guidance at 1.62 billion euro.

Michelin said it expected a slight decline in its 2020 passenger car and light truck tyre markets, while truck and off-road tyre markets should continue to soften. – Nampa/Reuters

Nissan wants Ghosn to repay

Nissan informed a Dutch court on Monday that it would request that former boss Carlos Ghosn repay the compensation he received from its Dutch-based joint venture with Mitsubishi, a source close to the Japanese carmaker said.

Ghosn used a joint venture between Nissan and Mitsubishi to grant himself a salary and bonus worth 7.3 million euro without the knowledge of the companies' boards, lawyers for the firms said at an earlier court hearing.

Nissan would seek a refund on the basis that the compensation was not properly authorised, the source said.

Ghosn has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and one of his attorneys said on Monday that allegations of unknown or unjust payments were unfounded. – Nampa/Reuters

Alibaba offers loans to virus-hit firms

Alibaba Group Holdings said on Monday its affiliate Ant Financial's MYBank unit would offer 20 billion yuan (US$2.86 billion) in loans to companies in China in light of the coronavirus outbreak, with preferential terms for Hubei firms.

It said 10 billion yuan will be made available for firms in Hubei, the central Chinese province that is the epicentre of the outbreak. They will be offered one year loans on a zero interest rate basis for the first three months and a 20% discount on rates for the remaining nine months.

Firms across China can also get access to another 10 billion yuan of one-year loans, on which interest rates will be discounted by 20%, it added.

Workers were returning to offices and factories around China on Monday as the government eased some restrictions on working during a coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 900 people, most of them on the mainland.

Chinese regulators have urged banks to lower the interest rates and extend loans to targeted companies that have been affected by the outbreak. – Nampa/Reuters

ABC: Oscar ratings fall to all-time low

The US television audience for Sunday’s Academy Awards fell to an all-time low, reflecting an industry-wide trend away from broadcast TV.

The Oscars audience dropped 20% from a year ago, to an average TV audience of 23.6 million total viewers, according to Walt Disney Co-owned ABC, citing data from Nielsen.

The average unit cost for a 30-second TV ad during the ceremony ranged from US$1 689 300 to US$2 272 900, according to the research firm SQAD. ABC owns broadcast rights for the Oscars through 2028. – Nampa/Reuters

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