COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

30 March 2021 | Business

Kenya's Equity Group pre-tax profit drops

Kenya's Equity Group Holdings said that full-year 2020 pre-tax profit fell 30% to 22.17 billion shillings (US$202 million), as its loan loss provisions rose due to effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The group, which also operates in South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, said its provisions for bad loans climbed to 26.63 billion shillings from 5.3 billion shillings in 2019.

Central banks in Kenya and other countries where Equity operates allowed lenders to offer relief to distressed customers in mid-March 2020 after the first Covid-19 case was reported.

"That has provided relief to our customers. This helped to keep the lights of the economy running," Chief Executive James Mwangi told a virtual investor briefing.

Mwangi said that, by the end of December, 40 billion shillings of those restructured loans had resumed repayment, while another 9 billion shillings had been classified as non-performing loans. - Nampa/Reuters

Chevron eyes deal for Shell oil refinery

Chevron Corp has emerged as a leading contender to buy a Royal Dutch Shell Plc refinery in the US Pacific Northwest, three people familiar with the matter said.

Shell has been trying to sell its 145 000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Puget Sound refinery in Anacortes, Washington, for at least a year. Reuters reported in January 2020 that the refinery was for sale.

"As a matter of policy, we don't comment on market rumours or speculation," said Chevron spokesman Braden Reddall, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith declined to comment.

The Puget Sound plant supplies fuel markets in the northwest and competes with plants owned by BP, Marathon Petroleum and Phillips 66. Shell last month settled a seven-year-old dispute with the US Environmental Protection Agency over past air pollution violations from the facility.

Chevron has been an active acquirer. It paid US$4.1 billion for oil and gas producer Noble Energy last year and three years ago bought a 112 229-bpd Texas refinery for about US$350 million. - Nampa/Reuters

Nomura flags US$2 billion loss

Nomura Holdings Inc flagged a possible US$2 billion loss at a US subsidiary, prompting Japan’s biggest brokerage and investment bank to shelve a hefty bond issuance and sending its stock tumbling by the most in over a decade.

Nomura’s stock was greeted by a deluge of sell orders at market open, pushing its price down as much 16% in early trade.

The firm in a statement said the US$2 billion hit derived from transactions with a US client. It based the estimate on market prices as of March 26 and said it could change depending on the unwinding of the transactions and market fluctuation.

The announcement came after a series of block trades in the United States on Friday that investors said caused drops in the stock prices of numerous companies. The trades were linked to sales of holdings by Archegos Capital Management, a person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Nomura’s loss was related to Archegos’ trades, Bloomberg reported citing people familiar with the matter, one of whom said Archegos was a prime brokerage customer of Nomura. – Nampa/Reuters

Athletic and Axios in merger talks

News website Axios and sports media firm the Athletic are in talks to merge and could go public through a blank-check company, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The discussions are at an early stage and could fall apart, the report said, adding that the financial terms could not be learned. Axios and the Athletic did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

The combined company may seek to raise money for expansion and acquisitions, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the investor presentation.

SPACs, or black-check companies, have been behind some of the most high-profile public listings in the past year, including electric-vehicle start-up Nikola Corp and luxury electric-car maker Lucid Motors.

A blank-check firm is a shell company that raises money through an initial public offering to buy an operating entity, typically within two years. - Nampa/Reuters

Aviva sells Polish business to Allianz

Aviva has sold its Polish operations to Germany's Allianz for 2.5 billion euros (US$2.94 billion) in cash, completing a programme to sell European and Asian assets begun last year, the British insurer said on Friday.

Allianz beat rival bids from Italy's Generali and Dutch insurer NN, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday.

Aviva boss Amanda Blanc, who joined the firm as CEO in July 2020, has been selling assets at pace to focus on the life and general insurer's core businesses of Britain, Canada and Ireland. Aviva also has joint ventures in China and India.

"The sale of our Polish business is an excellent conclusion to the refocusing of our portfolio announced just eight months ago," Blanc said, adding that the sale of the eight businesses would generate 7.5 billion pounds (US$10.31 billion) in cash.

Allianz, which first entered the Polish market in 1997, is Europe's biggest insurer. Allianz said the deal would make it the number two in central and eastern Europe in terms of operating profit. It has several other businesses in the region, including Russia and Ukraine. - Nampa/Reuters

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