Company news in brief

19 November 2020 | Business

SPAR reports rise in FY earnings

South Africa's SPAR Group yesterday reported an increase of 8.8% in full-year earnings, supported by strong demand for groceries during the coronavirus lockdown period.

The grocery chain and wholesaler, which also sells building materials and medicine, said normalised diluted headline earnings per share (HEPS) rose to 1 262.6 cents in the year to Sept. 30 from 1 160.6 cents a year earlier.

SPAR declared an annual dividend of 865 cents per share, up 8.1% from the previous year.

Group turnover rose 13.5% to R124.3 billion, while profitability increased 15.6%, driven up by a change in the sales mix, as more home consumption boosted higher-margin grocery and fresh categories.

In Ireland, its EUROSPAR outlets offering a convenience range of groceries benefited from locations in neighbourhood stores at a time when shoppers favoured convenience stores over big supermarkets. – Nampa/Reuters

Pfizer ‘didn't delay vaccine results’

Pfizer Inc "didn't conspire with anyone" to delay release of efficacy results for the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with German partner BioNTech SE until after the US presidential election, chief executive Albert Bourla said on Tuesday.

"The elections were always for us an artificial line. It may have been very important for the president but not for us," Bourla said at New York Times event.

"I didn't receive any pressure per se on me to do something that was not appropriate ... I would never do something like that," he said.

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine was more than 90% effective at preventing Covid-19, based on an initial analysis.

Bourla had originally suggested the companies would have vaccine results by the end of October, but did not release the findings until 9 Nov., nearly a week after the election. – Nampa/Reuters

Exxon discovery not financially viable

An oil exploration campaign led by Exxon Mobil Corp at the Tanager-1 well in the Kaieteur block off Guyana's coast discovered hydrocarbons but it does not appear to be financially viable on its own, a spokesman for the company said on Tuesday.

As part of a consortium with Hess Corp and China's CNOOC Ltd, Exxon has made 18 discoveries totalling some 8 billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas in Guyana's massive Stabroek block, southwest of Kaieteur. Production of light, sweet crude from Stabroek's Liza-1 well began last year.

Exxon is also the operator of Kaieteur and holds a 35% stake in the block, where Cataleya Energy Ltd and Ratio Guyana Ltd each hold 25% stakes. Hess holds the remaining 15%.

Exxon's oil discoveries have the potential to transform the economy of Guyana, a poor South American country of some 750 000 people that has until now depended on agriculture and mining. But other oil explorers' discoveries have not been as promising as Exxon's finds in the Stabroek block.

Westmount Energy Ltd, which holds shares in Cataleya and Ratio, told the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday that preliminary evaluation of the Tanager discovery indicated it contained less-valuable heavy crude. It said it expected the well to be plugged and abandoned in the coming days. – Nampa/Reuters

Walmart forecasts promising holiday season

Walmart Inc said on Tuesday it was optimistic about its holiday sales prospects in a pandemic-ridden year after the big-box retailer beat Wall Street expectations for quarterly results as Americans increasingly shift their spending online.

The surge in demand for essentials seen at the peak of the coronavirus lockdowns has carried into the second half of the year, with consumers relying on its same-day delivery and store pick-up services to buy everything from groceries to sporting goods.

This helped its US e-commerce sales grow 79% with strong results across all channels and helped boost same-store sales and profit margins.

Operating income jumped 22.5% to US$5.79 billion in the third quarter, while Walmart reported adjusted earnings per share of US$1.34 that topped expectations for US$1.18.

Total revenue rose 5.2% to US$134.71 billion, beating estimates for US$132.23 billion. – Nampa/Reuters

Halfords profit jumps on cycling boom

British bicycle and car product retailer Halfords reported a more than doubling in first-half profit, boosted by a Covid-19-driven cycling boom, but cautioned on its second half outlook due to the impact of lockdowns on motor vehicle traffic.

Cycling has increased in popularity as many Britons avoid travelling on public transport during the pandemic and increasingly view it as a health and leisure activity.

Halfords' revenue rose 9.6% to 638.9 million pounds in the six months to Oct. 2, with a 54.4% jump in like-for-like sales of cycling products contrasting with a 23.7% fall in motoring products sales, reflecting less car journeys.

The group made an underlying pre-tax profit of 56 million pounds, up from 25.9 million pounds in the same period last year.

As Halfords is deemed an "essential" retailer by the government, its stores can trade through lockdowns. – Nampa/Reuters

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