COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

02 December 2021 | Business

South Africa's Aspen signs deal

South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare took a step towards a licensing deal to package and sell Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine in Africa, announcing on Tuesday it had signed non-binding terms with subsidiaries of the U.S. drugmaker.

While Aspen did not give a firm date on when it expects the deal to be finalised, Stephen Saad, chief executive of Aspen, told Reuters he is "hoping to get this deal out as soon as possible in 2022."

Aspen's shares rose sharply after the announcement, which was hailed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a "transformative moment" in the drive towards greater vaccine equity.

If confirmed, the deal would make Aspen the first African company to have a right to distribute and price the vaccine, which it would market under its own brand name of Aspenovax.

"What is happening today is going to make a significant contribution to transforming production of vaccines in Africa," said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, at an online presentation of the deal.

She said the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, first detected in southern Africa, had focused minds on the urgent need to diversify the manufacturing of vaccines as part of efforts to improve their availability. -Nampa/Reuters

Exxon to offer spending outlook

Exxon Mobil will brief Wall Street on Wednesday on its spending plans, with investors looking for how it will balance oil and low-carbon initiatives without compromising shareholder returns.

This year, the largest US oil producer slashed costs by slowing several big expenditures while boosting investment in low-carbon ventures. The briefing will be the first opportunity for analysts to quiz executives on spending and proposed new investments in carbon capture and biofuels.

Exxon's disclosure of expected returns targets are the "main concern" for shareholders, said Ben Cook, portfolio manager of Hennessy BP Energy Transition Fund, which holds shares in Exxon. Its nearly 6% dividend yield is critical to investors, he said.

A fourfold increase in low-carbon spending through 2027 to US$15 billion raised "the question of which legacy projects will be pushed out and whether the new low-carbon investments could generate comparable returns" to oil, Scotiabank analyst Paul Cheng said.

The update will be the first under a board that includes three new members elected last spring by investors demanding the company cut spending, boost returns and better address climate concerns. -Nampa/Reuters

JPMorgan to back KKR

US fund KKR's proposal to buy Telecom Italia (TIM) includes a letter of commitment by JPMorgan to support the 45 billion euros (US$51 billion) financing needed for the deal, Italian daily Il Messaggero reported.

JPMorgan said in the letter it was ready to lift its commitment above 45 billion euros if necessary, the newspaper added. JPMorgan and KKR both declined to comment.

Two sources familiar with the matter confirmed JPMorgan's role in arranging the financing for the bid. Sources had previously said JPMorgan was advising KKR together with Citi and Morgan Stanley.

In the non-binding proposal submitted to TIM's board, KKR has set an indicative price of 0.505 euros a share, valuing Italy's biggest phone group at 10.78 billion euros or 33 billion euros including TIM's net debt of 22.5 billion.

Il Messaggero said 34 billion euros in the financing package would be used to refinance TIM's debt under a "change of control" clause, with an additional 11 billion euros representing a cash confirmation required by market regulators to cover the offer's equity value. -Nampa/Reuters

Scotiabank profit beats estimates

Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank) reported kicked off fourth-quarter reporting on Tuesday with better-than-expected profit, as strength in its Canadian and wealth management units and lower provisions in its international business offset weaker capital markets performance and continued margin pressure.

Canada's third-largest lender also announced a dividend of C$1 a share, up from the 90 Canadian cents it has paid in the last eight quarters, the first major bank to do so following the lifting of restrictions by the country's financial regulator earlier this month. read more

Canadian banks and investors have been hoping for an improvement in non-mortgage lending, as earnings beats over past quarters have been driven by the release of loan-loss reserves set aside last year, and home loans. read more

Scotiabank took provisions of C$168 million during the quarter, down from C$1.1 billion a year ago. Excluding the impact of provisions and taxes, the bank posted adjusted profit of C$3.6 billion, up 4% from a year ago.

While net interest income in Canada did rise 7% due to stronger lending, it was tempered by a decline in margins, as loan growth remained skewed to residential mortgages, which have lower rates. -Nampa/Reuters

Volvo sales down on supply crunch

Volvo sales and profits fell in the third quarter due to the global shortage of semiconductors, but supply is now improving, the Swedish automaker said Tuesday.

The auto industry has struggled with a lack of chips that are key electronic components for cars, forcing some factories to pause production.

"The supply situation has improved going into the fourth quarter, but the industry-wide shortage of semiconductors is expected to remain a constraining factor," chief executive Hakan Samuelsson said in an earnings statement.

Sales volume fell 17 percent to 149,900 units sold in the third quarter, the company said. Revenue fell by seven percent to 60.8 billion kronor (US$6.7 billion).

Net profit was 31 percent lower at 2.3 billion kronor. The number of vehicles coming out of Volvo factories fell by 31 percent in the third quarter due to the supply chain issue.

"In addition to general semiconductor shortage, new Covid-19 outbreaks in Southeast Asia affected our suppliers leading to temporary production halts in our plants," Volvo said. -Nampa/AFP

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