Company news in brief

27 March 2020 | Business

Rand Refinery shuts smelter

Rand Refinery will shut its smelter and significantly scale down its gold refining during South Africa's 21-day lockdown over coronavirus, the gold refiner said yesterday.

One of the world's biggest gold refineries, Rand Refinery said it would primarily process "residual surface materials" from South African gold mines and mine dore received from the rest of Africa.

The refiner, the only one in Africa certified to deliver gold to major international banks, processes gold from countries including Ghana, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Namibia, Guinea and Zimbabwe.

"A complete shutdown of the refinery would have had a domino effect on the production on the continent," Rand Refinery CEO Praveen Baijnath said, adding that the sale of refined gold in London provides an important boost to African economies.

"Without the vital foreign exchange, the efforts by various governments on the continent to fight the pandemic would have been severely compromised." – Nampa/Reuters

SAA rescue plan deadline extended

Creditors of cash-strapped South African Airways (SAA) have authorised an extension of the deadline for the airline's business rescue plan until May 29, the airline's administrators said yesterday.

State-owned SAA entered a form of bankruptcy protection in December and is fighting for its survival.

The specialists appointed to try to save the airline requested the latest extension for the rescue plan because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

SAA said last week that it would suspend intercontinental and African regional flights until the end of May because of the coronavirus.

It has also suspended domestic flights during a 21-day nationwide lockdown ordered by president Cyril Ramaphosa to try to contain the local spread of the virus. – Nampa/Reuters

Intu seeks debt waivers

UK-based mall operator Intu is asking its banks to waive its borrowing terms and seeking support from the government's coronavirus emergency schemes, the company said yesterday, as it reported a collapse in rent payments by tenants.

British retail property owners and tenants have been working together this week to defer rent payments and find other ways for shops, businesses and landlords to cope with a countrywide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Intu, which owns Manchester's Trafford Centre in northwest England, Lakeside in eastern England's Essex and several other properties across Britain and Spain, said on Tuesday it would lower its service charges for tenants by 22%.

But with the company already struggling with the collapse of a number of UK retail tenants, it said it had received only 29% of rents due on Wednesday and was discussing the situation with its lenders.

Britain promised last week to guarantee 330 billion pounds of bank lending to business and a further 20 billion pounds in tax cuts, grants and other help in the face of the crisis. – Nampa/Reuters

Mylan, Pfizer delay merger

Drugmaker Mylan NV's merger with Pfizer Inc's off-patent branded drug unit, Upjohn, will now close in the second half of this year, the companies said yesterday, blaming the coronavirus pandemic for the delay.

Due to restrictions on large gatherings, the general meeting of shareholders to approve certain matters for the deal to go through has been postponed to June 30, Mylan said.

The merger, which will bring blockbuster treatments Viagra and Lipitor from Pfizer under one umbrella with Mylan's EpiPen, is part of years-long effort by Pfizer to split into three parts - innovative medicines, lower margin off-patent drugs facing generic competition and consumer healthcare.

The combined company is expected to have 2020 revenue of US$19 billion to US$20 billion. – Nampa/Reuters

Airbnb wants to extend debt facility

Airbnb Inc on Wednesday held a phone meeting with bankers to discuss extending an existing US$1 billion debt facility as the home rental start-up grapples with a slowdown from the coronavirus outbreak, according to a source who participated in the meeting.

The deliberations echo that of many US companies that have been rushing to borrow more money and boost their cash coffers as the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic hits their business and threatens a prolonged downturn.

Airbnb’s revenue in 2019 exceeded US$4.8 billion, a 35% increase year-on-year, excluding any foreign exchange impacts, and 2019 was the fourth straight year that the company was cash flow positive, according to the source.

The company, which said in September that it planned to list its shares in 2020, had expected earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation to be break or even positive in 2020 prior to the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

Airbnb’s bookings in major cities across the world have suffered as travellers cancel trips and stay at home to protect themselves and prevent the spread of coronavirus, data from Airbnb-analytics firm AirDNA shows. – Nampa/Reuters

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