COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

31 March 2021 | Business

Discovery in touch with vaccine makers

South African health insurer Discovery Ltd said on Monday it was in contact with all Covid-19 vaccine producers but cannot independently source vaccines as procurement and distribution is in the hands of the government.

As in many countries, vaccine procurement in South Africa is centralised and controlled by government but the pace of procurement and inoculation has been slow, with less than 250 000 people, or just 0.5% of the population vaccinated so far.

This has prompted calls from health experts to allow the private sector to source vaccines to bolster government efforts.

"While we might be in contact with vaccine manufacturers, the acquisition of the vaccine and the policy for responsibility of government, until such time as government informs otherwise," said Ryan Noach, CEO of the company's medical scheme administrator Discovery Health.

"We have been in regular liaison with vaccine manufacturers since September 2020," Noach said in an emailed response to Reuters. He said the company is taking all measures to "ensure the procurement is efficient, and stock available quickly, especially for the most at risk."-Nampa/Reuters

Visa to allow payment using cryptocurrency

Visa Inc said it will allow the use of the cryptocurrency USD Coin to settle transactions on its payment network, the latest sign of growing acceptance of digital currencies by the mainstream financial industry.

The company told Reuters it had launched the pilot program with payment and crypto platform Crypto.com and plans to offer the option to more partners later this year.

Bitcoin, the most popular crypto coin, jumped to a one-week high on the news, rising as much as 4.5% to US$58,300 and heading back toward a record-high above US$61 000 hit earlier this month.

Visa subsequently confirmed the news in a statement. The USD Coin (USDC) is a stable coin cryptocurrency whose value is pegged directly to the US dollar.

Visa's move comes as finance firms including BNY Mellon, BlackRock Inc and Mastercard Inc take steps to make more use of cryptocurrencies for investment and payment purposes.

Tesla Inc boss Elon Musk, a major proponent of cryptocurrencies, said last week that customers can buy its electric vehicles with bitcoin, hoping to encourage more day-to- day use of the digital currency. -Nampa/Reuters

Exxon, Chevron take a slow walk

Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp have scaled back activity dramatically in the top US shale oil field, where just a year ago the two companies were dominating in the high-desert landscape.

The cautious approach of the two largest US oil companies is a major reason domestic oil production has been slow to rebound since prices crashed during pandemic lockdowns in 2020.

Production now is about 11 million barrels per day (bpd), down sharply from the record of nearly 13 million bpd hit in late 2019.

The share of drilling activity by Exxon and Chevron in the Permian Basin oil field in Texas and New Mexico dropped to less than 5% this month from 28% last spring, according to data from Rystad Energy.

"We essentially hit a pause button," said Chevron Chief Financial Officer Pierre Breber. "When the world was oversupplied, we didn't see the virtue in putting more capital to add barrels." Neither company is likely to boost spending until next year, according to the companies and analysts. – Nampa/Reuters

Nike sues company that made 'Satan Shoes'

Athletic shoe maker Nike Inc on Monday sued a New York-based company that produced "Satan Shoes" purported to contain a drop of human blood as part of a collaboration with "Old Town Road" rapper Lil Nas X.

Nike said in the lawsuit that the company, MSCHF Product Studio Inc, infringed on and diluted its trademark with the black-and-red, devil-themed shoes, which went on sale online on Monday. Lil Nas X is not named as a defendant in the suit.

The shoes are customized Nike Air Max 97 sneakers that contain red ink and "one drop of human blood" in the sole, according to a website describing the 666 pairs of limited-edition shoes. The back of one shoe says "MSCHF" and the other says "Lil Nas X."

Several media outlets reported that the shoes sold out in less than one minute at a cost of US$1018 per pair. Lil Nas X said on Twitter he would choose the recipient of the 666th pair from social media users who circulated one of his tweets.

Nike, in its lawsuit filed in federal court in New York, said the shoes were produced "without Nike's approval and authorization," and the company was "in no way connected with this project."- Nampa/Reuters

Hyundai to suspend some S.Korea output

South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co plans to temporarily suspend production at its Ulsan No.1 plant in South Korea due to component sourcing issues between April 5 and April 13, according to the automaker's union.

"No decision has been made on the reported temporary suspension of the facility," Hyundai said in a statement to Reuters. The union said the component issues involve front view cameras and power electric modules.

Korea Economic Daily reported on Monday that the global microchip shortage has affected manufacturing front view cameras for Hyundai's Kona vehicles.

Hyundai was until recently one of the automakers least affected by the chip shortage, largely because it maintained a large stockpile of chips unlike its global peers, Reuters reported last month.

Last week, Honda Motor Co Ltd and General Motors Co both announced that they would continue production suspensions at plants in North America for the coming weeks, citing the chip shortage as one of several reasons. – Nampa/Reuters

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