Company news in brief

18 March 2020 | Business

Sasol aims to generate US$6 bn

South Africa's Sasol aims to generate US$6 billion by the end of the 2021 financial year through several measures, including a potential rights issue and asset sale, as the company looks to address debt levels after a crash in the price of oil.

Sasol saw its shares plunge last week, falling to a 21-year low after oil prices dived, raising concerns about its debt levels following delays and cost overruns at its Lake Charles Chemicals project (LCCP) in Louisiana.

The world's top manufacturer of motor fuel from coal said it would target immediate measures to deliver a cash improvement of approximately US$1 billion by June, 30 2020.

Sasol said it could raise up to US$2 billion in a potential rights issue after the 2020 financial year results.

The company had already entered into a standby underwriting agreement with BofA Securities, Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Securities for a rights issue.

Sasol, which has completed a review of its assets started in 2017, said it would accelerate disposals and expand the scope to realise proceeds above its previous target of US$2 billion. – Nampa/Reuters

Tunisair to lose US$24.6 mln this month

Tunisia's national carrier Tunisair is expected to lose 70 million dinars (US$24.6 million) in March and 80 million dinars in April due to the coronavirus, chief executive Elyes Mankbi told Reuters on Monday.

Tunisia has already announced many restrictions on air travel to regions affected by the coronavirus, including some of Tunisair's busiest destinations in Europe and North Africa.

State-owned Tunisair has already been losing money every year since Tunisia's 2011 revolution, prompting urgent demands in parliament for it to be restructured.

Its loss in 2017, the last year for which there is official data, was 226 million dinars, and its loss in 2016 was 165 million dinars.

Mankbi has previously said the company needs more planes, less onerous state regulation of its procurement processes, a big staff reduction and other measures. Restructuring would cost 1.3 billion dinars (US$456 million), he has said. – Nampa/Reuters

Exxon pledges 'significant' spending cuts

Exxon Mobil on Monday said it will make "significant" cuts to spending in the face of the unprecedented slide in oil prices due to the global coronavirus outbreak.

The decision was a stunning reversal for the largest US oil producer, which two weeks ago pledged to "lean in" to the market drop and maintain its investments in a belief that oil demand would rise in the long run.

"We remain focused on being a safe, low-cost operator and creating long-term value for shareholders," said Exxon chief executive Darren Woods.

On Monday, Exxon asked non-essential employees at several locations to work from home to reduce the risks of spreading the coronavirus among its offices and refineries.

Exxon is reevaluating undisclosed cuts to its capital spending budget, and will details specific cuts later, Woods said in a statement. It earlier said it planned to spend between US$30 billion and US$33 billion this year. – Nampa/Reuters

Anglo slows Peru copper project

Global miner Anglo American said yesterday it was slowing down the construction work of the Quellaveco copper project in Peru, following a 15-day national quarantine to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Latin American country has suspended constitutional rights including free movement and assembly as it tries to deal with the fast-spreading virus, which had infected 71 people as of Sunday.

Anglo said the work on the project will be significantly slowed, with only critical areas of the project continuing as normal.

The Quellaveco project, with an expected capital cost of US$5 billion to US$5.3 billion, is expected to start production in 2022.

Copper accounts for nearly 20% of Anglo's annual revenue. – Nampa/Reuters

Amazon to hire 100 000 workers

Amazon.com Inc on Monday said it would hire 100 000 warehouse and delivery workers in the United States to deal with a surge in online orders, as many consumers have turned to the web to meet their needs during the coronavirus outbreak.

With shoppers clearing out shelves in fear of quarantines or product shortages, retailers are racing to keep food and hygienic items in stock and have employees on hand for in-store work or delivery.

"We want those people to know we welcome them on our teams until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back," Amazon said in a blog post.

Amazon's headcount fluctuates seasonally, recently peaking for the holiday quarter at 798 000 full and part-time workers. It was not immediately clear how many people Amazon would employ after it hires 100 000 more.

To draw new employees, Amazon said it would add US$2 to its minimum US$15 per hour to US workers' wages through April. The extra pay for hourly employees in North America and Europe is expected to cost more than US$350 million, Amazon said. – Nampa/Reuters

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