Company news in brief

13 July 2020 | Business

SA govt to make SAA funding commitment

The South African government is "on course" to provide a funding commitment for the restructuring of loss-making South African Airways (SAA), a senior official said on Friday.

SAA's creditors are due to meet on Tuesday to vote on a restructuring plan that envisages scaling back the airline's fleet and shedding jobs but requires at least R10 billion of new funds to work.

"The first thing we need to do is give an indication to the business rescue practitioners by the 15th that we are in a position to provide funding," the acting director-general of the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), Kgathatso Tlhakudi, told Reuters. "That we are on track to be able to achieve."

Tlhakudi said the DPE, the ministry responsible for SAA, was currently "socialising the idea" within government that it needed to do the initial heavy-lifting to clean up SAA's balance sheet.

"There are very few investors that will want to come and clean up, deal with the legacy issues, so in our engagements within government we are getting that position across." – Nampa/Reuters

SA's Denel seeks to revise bailout conditions

South African state defence firm Denel may not survive the next few months unless the government lets it use some promised bailout funds to generate revenues rather than to repay debt, the chief executive said.

Denel, one of several struggling state firms, launched a recovery plan in 2018 but the Covid-19 pandemic dealt a blow to the company, which makes equipment ranging from armoured vehicles to attack helicopters and missiles.

"I am a positive guy, but I'm gravely concerned that we are not going to make it in the next two to three months," CEO Danie du Toit told Reuters.

Denel received R1.8 billion from the state in 2019 and, in this year's budget, was promised another R576 million. But it has only received R72 million of the latest funds, which are earmarked to help clear debt.

Du Toit said Denel was asking the government to let it use some funds to restart operations after the easing of a national lockdown, helping to generate revenues from a R14 billion order backlog. He said the orders offered a lifeline, but the company might have to pay penalties or repay customer advances if orders were delayed or not fulfilled. – Nampa/Reuters

Barrick Gold sends dispute notice to PNG

Canadian miner Barrick Gold Corp said on Friday it served a dispute notice to the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government over the country's refusal to extend a mining lease in the Porgera valley.

The company said the notice was sent by its subsidiary Barrick (PD) Australia Pty Limited, an investor in the Porgera mine, citing a violation in a bilateral investment treaty between PNG and Australia as well as international law governing foreign investment.

In April, Papua New Guinea's government refused to extend Barrick's expired lease on environmental and social concerns, prompting the company to trim its annual gold production forecast to 4.6 million-5.0 million ounces from an earlier 4.8 million-5.2 million ounces.

In May, the miner offered an extra 15% stake in the Porgera mine to local landowners, according to a letter from its CEO, in a bid to break an impasse with the national government over the mine's future.

Barrick and China's Zijin Mining Group each own 47.5% of the Porgera mine. – Nampa/Reuters

Carlsberg expects better H1 operating profit

Danish brewer Carlsberg said on Friday it expects a smaller than forecast drop in first-half operating profit as its key Chinese market rebounded strongly during the second quarter, sending its shares up 5%.

The world's third biggest brewer after Anheuser Busch InBev and Heineken said it expects a decline in operating profit of 9% in the first six months of the year, compared to analysts' consensus forecast for a 26% fall, according to a Jeffries note to clients.

"Although government lockdowns are gradually being lifted, the sales development across our regions in the coming months continues to be volatile and uncertain, not least during the important summer months," it said, keeping its full-year guidance suspended.

"Carlsberg is navigating the crisis well," Jefferies analysts said in the note. "Beyond 2020 and the easy comparison in 2021, which should be a summer of sport, Carlsberg remains an attractive investment proposition."

In a market update ahead of full results due on Aug. 13, the company said second quarter sales fell 15% with volumes down 8%. – Nampa/Reuters

Boeing in scramble to shore up financing

Boeing is scrambling to shore up financing for the 737 MAX as it awaits regulatory approval for design changes after the plane was grounded following two fatal crashes, industry sources said.

Boeing is anxious to resume deliveries once regulators declare it safe and airlines agree training. But confidence in the jet has been hit by the 15-month grounding, making the financing needed to ensure smooth deliveries scarce and compounding a dearth in demand due to the coronavirus crisis.

The value of MAX jets on the aircraft market has fallen by 11% since the start of 2020 and is likely to face more pressure in coming months, depending on the timing of its return, Eddy Pieniazek of aviation advisers Ishka said.

With capital markets unavailable after the collapse in air travel during the coronavirus crisis and banks refusing most new business, only leasing companies have spare financing capacity though many are also fighting their own problems, bankers say.

Boeing's strategy, first reported by Reuters last month, has been to encourage lessors to strike deals with airlines to buy MAX jets and rent them back to airlines. – Nampa/Reuters

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