Company news in brief

26 March 2020 | Business

Sasol to bid to supply Eskom with power

South Africa's Sasol will bid to provide struggling state-owned utility Eskom with temporary supplies of power, the petrochemical producer told Reuters on Tuesday.

On Monday, Eskom published a request for proposals (RFP) on a government tender website inviting bids from existing generating plants with at least 5 megawatts (MW) of spare capacity to supplement its own supplies.

Sasol, the world's top manufacturer of motor fuel from coal, said it could supply Eskom with up to 50 MW of power, subject to maintenance requirements and natural gas availability.

Sasol can generate power at its Sasolburg and Secunda plants from gas, as well as from steam turbine generators integrated within its operations.

The RFP stated that the maximum contract period for the power purchase agreement with Eskom would be 36 months. Eskom has previously procured power from companies including Sasol during times of crisis. – Nampa/Reuters

Kia Motors may make face masks

South Korea's Kia Motors Corp is considering making face masks at its Chinese

factory to help battle the spread of the coronavirus, a spokesman said yesterday.

The announcement follows a similar move by Fiat Chrysler , whose CEO Mike Manley said earlier this week that one of the group's plants in Asia would be converted to produce face masks for healthcare workers and would reach a target of one million masks per month in coming weeks.

Kia could make masks at its Yancheng plant after the Chinese government encouraged carmakers to do so, the spokesman said. He declined to comment on possible timing or any manufacturing target.

Kia has suspended production at its Georgia plant in the United States, its Slovakia site and operations in India due to the coronavirus pandemic. – Nampa/Reuters

Qantas secures financing deal

Qantas Airways Ltd yesterday secured A$1.05 billion (US$627.8 million) against its aircraft fleet to help it ride out the coronavirus crisis, sending shares up 30%, as airlines in the Asia-Pacific region sliced away capacity and jobs.

The Qantas financing of seven Boeing Co 787-9s for up to 10 years at a 2.75% interest rate showed there is still low-cost funding available to airlines with strong fundamentals, even as the global industry calls for more government aid to help replace an estimated US$250 billion of lost revenue in 2020.

Qantas has cut all international flights and put two-thirds of its 30 000 staff on leave but so far has maintained its investment-grade credit rating.

It is continuing with a costly programme to upgrade the interior of its grounded Airbus SE A380 super-jumbos, in an expression of confidence demand will eventually return to normal.

Other airlines in the region are also looking at ways to raise cash beyond government aid. – Nampa/Reuters

Renault to make medical visors

Renault workers in Spain have begun using 3D printers to manufacture visors for health workers from home, the French carmaker said on Tuesday, in a scheme that could be expanded to make other medical equipment elsewhere.

The move, which echoes experiments under way at other carmakers to find ways to boost production of medical equipment up to and including ventilators, is still small-scale, while shortages in Spain and elsewhere are acute.

Employees sent home because of factory closures have made around 50 mask supports, which are then completed by inserting acetate sheets that shield the face, the company said.

An engineer at the firm said it might be even able to use 3D printers in France to make parts for ventilators, vital for treating severely ill coronavirus patients.

Another French car manufacturer, PSA, said it was working with Air Liquide to look for ways to help the industrial gas maker increase its ventilator production. – Nampa/Reuters

Netflix, Facebook to cut data traffic

Streaming service Netflix Inc and social media giant Facebook Inc said on Tuesday they would reduce the amount of data their services use to ease congested telecoms networks in India, were millions are using home internet amid a lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Netflix will reduce traffic over Indian telecom networks by 25% over the next 30 days, the company said in a statement, following similar moves in Europe to help internet service providers experiencing a surge in usage.

The producer of original shows such as "The Crown" and "Sex Education", Netflix has over 16 million paying users in the Asia-Pacific region, but it does not disclose subscriber figures for India.

Facebook said it will temporarily reduce bit rates, or cut picture quality, for videos on Facebook and Instagram in India, the company's biggest market by number of users.

India has enforced lockdowns across several cities, with prime minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announcing a nationwide shutdown from midnight for 21 days to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Mobile networks are likely to come under increased pressure as people increasingly use home internet to work and stream online content. – Nampa/Reuters

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