Company news in brief

24 March 2020 | Business

SA's Standard Bank gives payment holiday

South Africa-based Standard Bank will give a payment holiday to small businesses and full-time students in a bid to ease financial pressures on its customers as COVID-19 spreads across the country.

Standard Bank, Africa's largest lender by assets, said on Sunday the payment relief for small enterprise customers with turnovers of less than R20 million would kick in on April 1 and run to the end of June.

The relief will come from capitalising the interest and fees typically paid to the bank each month and changing the terms of repayment to a later date, Standard Bank said.

All full-time students with a loan at the bank will receive a payment holiday over the same period at 0% interest and with zero fees, Standard Bank said.

“This, we hope, will relieve cash flow constraints currently caused by the Covid-19 outbreak,” said Standard Bank South Africa chief executive Lungisa Fuzile. – Nampa/Reuters

Exxon cuts spending over virus

Exxon Mobil Corp is notifying contractors and vendors of planned near-term cuts in capital and operating expenses over a coronavirus pandemic, and will announce the plans once they are final, company spokesman Jeremy Eikenberry said on Sunday.

"Based on this unprecedented environment, we are evaluating all appropriate steps to significantly reduce capital and operating expenses in the near term," Eikenberry said.

Exxon reduced production on Saturday at its refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and cut 1 800 contract workers on Friday, sources have told Reuters.

The contract workers are employed by third-parties contracted by Exxon for refinery maintenance.

Exxon is also expected to delay a US$30-billion liquefied natural gas plant in Mozambique. – Nampa/Reuters

Walmart ups minimum wage

Walmart Inc said yesterday it has temporarily raised entry wages for workers in its e-commerce warehouses by US$2, following similar moves by rivals, as it attempts to manage a shopping surge brought about by the coronavirus outbreak.

Walmart said the hike will increase entry wages for workers in e-commerce fulfilment centres or warehouses to between US$15 and US$19 an hour effective immediately through Memorial Day, a holiday in the United States that falls on May 25 this year.

The world's largest retailer, which employs 1.5 million people in the United States, has struggled to keep store shelves stocked and fulfil online orders amid panic-buying by shoppers spooked by the outbreak.

Last week, Walmart said it would pay special cash bonuses totalling US$550 million to hourly staff and hire 150 000 temporary workers through the end of May in its stores and fulfilment centres.

On Sunday, the retailer said it has set up federal drive-through coronavirus testing sites in the parking lots of two stores in Illinois. – Nampa/Reuters

McDonald's to temporarily close UK, Ireland

McDonald's Corp said on Sunday it would temporarily close all its restaurants in the UK and Ireland by Monday evening because of the coronavirus outbreak.

In China, the epicentre of the virus, McDonald's has reopened 95% of its restaurants, chief executive officer Chris Kempczinski said on Friday.

Separately, the fast-food chain has suspended share buybacks to help it navigate through the crisis, but has not changed its dividend policy. – Nampa/Reuters

Virgin companies to invest US$250 mln

British entrepreneur Richard Branson said on Sunday companies in his Virgin empire will be investing US$250 million in coming weeks and months to save jobs from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

"Because many of our businesses are in industries like travel, leisure and wellness, they are in a massive battle to survive and save jobs", Branson wrote in a blog. He didn't say if the US$250 million just represented salaries of furloughed staff.

"Our airlines have had to ground almost all their planes; our cruise line has had to postpone its launch; our health clubs and hotels have had to close their doors and all bookings to our holiday company have stopped", he added.

Virgin companies employ more than 70 000 people across 35 countries.

Branson - one of Britain's best-known businessmen who launched his career in the 1970s in records before expanding into airlines, banking, TV, health clubs and space – described the crisis as the "most significant" during his lifetime. – Nampa/Reuters

Shell lowers 2020 spending

Royal Dutch Shell will lower spending by US$5 billion and suspended its vast US$25 billion share buyback plan in an effort to weather the recent collapse in oil prices, it said yesterday.

The Anlgo-Dutch oil major said it would reduce capital expenditure to US$20 billion or below from a planned level of about US$25 billion while seeking to reduce operating costs by an additional US$3 billion to US$4 billion over the next 12 months.

The cuts are expected to boost Shell's cash generation by between US$8 billion and US$9 billion on a pretax basis.

The Shell cuts mirror moves by rivals such as Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and France's Total, who have all announced plans for sharp reductions in spending.

Even before the coronavirus outbreak, Shell faced weaker revenue because of slowing demand for petrochemicals, which led it to slow its US$25 billion three-year share buyback programme late last year. – Nampa/Reuters

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