Company news in brief

13 February 2020 | Business

MTN flags 2019 profit jump

South Africa's MTN Group expects full-year headline earnings to rise as much as 50%, it said on Tuesday, still a slowdown from the previous year due to one-off items including interest on regulatory fines in Nigeria.

MTN Nigeria has been dealing with a 330 million naira (US$1.1 million) fine for failing to cut off more than 5 million unregistered SIM cards, a substantial

MTN, which is due to report 2019 results on 11 March, said headline earnings per share (HEPS) would likely be within a range of 438 cents to 506 cents on the IFRS 16 accounting basis adopted at the start of the year.

That compares to 337 cents in the previous year. On a like-for-like IAS 17 accounting basis, MTN expects to report growth in HEPS - a key profit measure in South Africa that strips out one-off items - of between 55% and 75%.

However that is still slower than the 85% jump the company reported in 2018. It attributed the slowdown mainly to items outside its regular business, including interest on the Nigerian fines, foreign exchange losses and hyperinflation adjustments.

It also said it anticipated some drag from write-downs on payments linked to its business in Iran, and the impact of asset sales made during the year. – Nampa/Reuters

AngloGold to sell assets to Harmony Gold

AngloGold Ashanti said yesterday it will sell its remaining South African assets for about US$300 million to Harmony Gold.

The gold miner said in May it will review divestment options for its South African assets, which include the world's deepest mine, as it looks to streamline its portfolio and focus on assets that deliver higher returns.

Harmony Gold reported a rebound in interim profits on Tuesday on the back of rising gold prices and said it was looking for acquisitions in its home market, elsewhere in Africa and Papua New Guinea.

Harmony reported headline earnings per share, the main profit measure used in South Africa, of 249 cents for the six months ended Dec., rebounding from a loss of 4 cents in the same period a year ago.

Earnings were boosted by a 19% climb in the group's average gold price during the six months, although it also faced production cuts in South Africa due to nationwide power cuts, and rising operating costs. – Nampa/Reuters

Heineken sees 2020 profit growth

Heineken, the world's second largest brewer, expects to benefit from lower barley and aluminium costs this year after 2019 earnings rose exactly in line with expectations.

The Dutch maker of Heineken, Europe's top-selling lager, as well as Tiger, Sol and Strongbow cider, said yesterday revenues should rise on the back of higher volumes and prices, coupled with consumers shifting to more expensive beers.

Together with a more moderate rise of input costs, this should result in a mid single digit percentage rise in operating profit this year, barring negative economic or political developments.

Chief financial officer Laurence Debroux declined to put a numerical range on Heineken's forecast.

The guidance is the same as that given by Heineken a year ago. However, the company tempered profit hopes in October, saying operating profit would rise by only 4%.

The final figure for 2019 before one-offs was 4.02 billion euro, a 3.9% rise and exactly in line with the market consensus. – Nampa/Reuters

Total chief dismisses Tullow takeover idea

Total chief Patrick Pouyanne dismissed the idea it might buy its partner in East Africa and Guyana, Tullow Oil, whose share price slumped to 19-year lows in December over a string of bad news, stoking takeover speculation.

Total is a partner in all growth markets for Tullow Oil whose market capitalisation shrank to around 633 million pounds as of yesterday from 3.28 billion pounds in September. It is slashing its workforce and restructuring its portfolio.

Amid industry speculation about a potential Tullow takeover target, Pouyanne told Reuters when asked whether Total might buy Tullow: "Stop dreaming ... no."

As of late 2019, Tullow was saddled with US$2.8 billion in debt, a hangover from the last oil price crash which saw Brent crude futures plummet to below US$30 a barrel in 2016.

Tullow declined to comment. – Nampa/Reuters

Airbnb swings to a loss

Home rentals giant Airbnb Inc swung to a loss for the first nine months of last year as costs climbed sharply, The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people close to the company.

Airbnb posted a net loss of US$322 million for the first nine months through September 2019, compared to a US$200 million profit for the same period a year earlier, the report added.

In September last year, the company said it planned to list its shares in 2020 and is widely expected to take a direct-listing route for its market debut.

Airbnb was most recently valued at US$31 billion, according to data provider PitchBook. However, the company's most recent internal valuation was sharply lower than that, according to WSJ.

The company's debut is the most awaited listing of 2020, but the timing could be affected by the coronavirus epidemic, according to the report. – Nampa/Reuters

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