Company news in brief

18 May 2020 | Business

Implats closes mine over Covid

South Africa's Impala Platinum said on Saturday it would temporarily close its Marula mine after detecting 19 coronavirus cases among workers reporting back for duty at the site in northern Limpopo province.

"Implats has identified 19 positive cases during the week, all of them asymptomatic. Of these cases, 14 were identified as the result of proactive testing of employees returning to work. None of these employees had started work at the mine," the company said in a statement.

Impala said it was concerned that 17 of the cases were from employees living in nearby communities, while two had travelled from another province, suggesting "the prevalence of Covid-19 among local communities is far higher than the company's initial estimates".

It said the site would not reopen until the appropriate health measures had been put in place.

South Africa, the world's No. 1 platinum producer, is gradually restarting operations in its key mining sector, which was shut down as part of a nationwide coronavirus lockdown now in its eight week. – Nampa/Reuters

Spar warns on HY results

South African retailer and wholesaler SPAR Group said on Friday half-year results will be at least 20% lower from a year ago, due to losses at its Polish business, which was under restructuring.

The grocery chain, which also sells building materials and medicines in Southern Africa, said headline earnings per share, the main profit measure in South Africa, was expected to be 17% to 27% lower between 434.6 cents and 382.2 cents per share for the six months to March 31. – Nampa/Reuters

SAA spent big after bankruptcy protection

South African Airways (SAA) has spent just under R10 billion since it entered a form of bankruptcy protection, business rescue practitioners said on Friday as they flagged a structured wind-down process as their preferred option for the carrier.

A fifth of the money was spent on aviation fuel and 16% went on salaries and allowances, referring to some of the major expenses incurred during this time.

Administrators at SAA said in the absence of extra funding the best way forward might be to run a structured wind-down of the business rather than liquidation, which opposition parties have called for.

"There is no question of doubt in my mind that a liquidation process would materially erode value and the net recovery for creditors could be an absolute disaster," said Les Matuson, joint business rescue practitioner at SAA, when answering questions from lawmakers.

On Wednesday, the administrators, who have no previous aviation experience and are under pressure to produce a restructuring plan after being in the job for five months, said they would not sell assets for an interim period without involving the government. – Nampa/Reuters

Eskom claws back billions in tariffs

South African energy regulator Nersa said on Friday it will allow utility Eskom to recover R13.3 billion from customers for electricity supplied in the 2018/19 financial year, lower than what the state-owned power utility had applied for.

Nersa said in a statement it will give its reasons for the decision once certain requirements have been finalised and will draw up an implementation plan for recovering the tariffs within a reasonable period of time.

Cash-strapped Eskom applied in August 2019 to Nersa to claw back R27.3 billion from electricity customers through power tariffs, saying it needed to cover costs incurred for the financial year 2018/19.

Eskom supplies more than 90% of South Africa's electricity but is struggling with high debts and faulty power stations which prompted it to impose several rounds of severe power cuts last year, hurting the country's economy. – Nampa/Reuters

Richemont posts 67% drop in profit

Richemont is seeing strong demand in China but globally expects "headwinds in the months ahead" due to the new coronavirus, the owner of Cartier jewellery said on Friday as it reported annual profit falling by two thirds.

The world's second-biggest luxury group said net profit for the year to the end of March fell 67% to 931 million euro (US$1.01 billion), missing the 1.29 billion euro expected by analysts. Sales rose 2% to 14.2 billion euro, in line with estimates.

The Swiss company which also owns watchmakers Piaget, IWC and Vacheron Constantin said its profit fall also reflected the non-recurrence of a 1.4 billion euro post-tax accounting gain it had last year. Excluding this, profit fell 34%.

The company's watch brands bore the brunt of the downturn, with operating profit falling 20% and sales down 4% in the year. Jewellery was more resilient, with sales up 2% and operating profit falling 7%.

The company had begun to see some signs of improvement, including in China, where the outbreak started. "Since our 462 boutiques in China have re-opened after the virus, we have seen strong demand," it said.

Richemont chairman Johann Rupert said 2020 would continue to see the impact of the new coronavirus. – Nampa/Reuters

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