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Monday, 20th September 2021
8:13:45pm

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A newly created Netherlands-based infrastructure development company is planning to build and operate a number of new LNG facilities in countries across West Africa in order to improve market penetration for the fuel in the region.

Ecow-Gas -- an affiliate of the Tema LNG Terminal Company (TLTC) that owns the soon-to-be-commissioned LNG import facility in Ghana -- has won exclusive rights to build and operate storage and regasification facilities in Liberia and Sierra Leone, S&P Global Platts has learned.

The Ghana terminal will act as a regional LNG hub, with shippers able to bring small-scale LNG into Liberia and Sierra Leone by reloading from the Tema facility.

This improves the overall economics of small-scale LNG in the region as the terminal can reload any amount of LNG from 7,000 cu m to 30,000 cu m, ensuring that supply to smaller regional markets can be flexible to their demand.

The completion of the construction of the Tema LNG terminal will create an LNG hub with a storage capacity in excess of 180,000 cu m to serve the regional market.

It means that the need for large amounts of capital expenditure and credit costs to introduce LNG into new countries has been removed. "Countries can share risk and absorb capacity as demand fluctuates," a source with knowledge of the deal said.

In addition, inland markets such as Burkina Faso could take LNG by truck given that the Ghana facility also has the ability to load LNG directly onto trucks.

Ecow-Gas declined to comment when contacted by S&P Global Platts.

S&P

Financial services group and Africa’s biggest lender by assets, Standard Bank warned on Wednesday (3 March) that it expects to report a substantial decline in earnings for the year ended December 2020 as it struggles with unsecured loans.

The lender said it expects headline earnings per share to be between 40% and 50% lower, while earnings per share are anticipated to be between 45% and 55% lower than in 2019.

Standard Bank warned at the end of November last year that it had identified pockets of pressure in its Personal & Business Banking (PBB) portfolio, particularly within personal unsecured lending.

An unsecured loan is credit extended by the lender that doesn’t require any type of collateral. Instead of relying on a borrower’s assets as security, lenders approve unsecured loans based on a borrower’s creditworthiness. These loans can include personal loans, student loans, and credit cards.

The bank said in November that balance sheet growth has slowed, margin pressure continues, as the impact of previous interest rate cuts filter through. The country’s repo rate is at an all-time low of 3.5%, following numerous cuts in recent quarters, to try to kick-start a stagnant economy. The prime lending rate is at 7%.

Moody’s Investors Service warned at the end of January, that 2021 will be a challenging year for banks in the country, with trading conditions remaining difficult.

The outlook for the South African banking system is negative, driven by persistent challenging operating conditions, deteriorating loan performance and lower profitability, Moody’s Investors Service said in its report. Banks’ stable funding, good liquidity and capital buffers will mitigate risks and protect financial stability.

Overall, operating conditions will remain weak for South African banks over the outlook period, with economic activity remaining sub-par amid limited progress made on economic reforms. Weakened corporates and households, along with subdued business opportunities, will dampen banks’ financial performance.

“We expect loan performance to deteriorate in 2021, with problem loans to continue rising beyond the 5% of gross loans reached in November 2020, as both corporate and household balance sheets are stretched by weaker profits and disposable income,” said Constantinos Kypreos, senior VP at Moody’s Investors Service.

“That said, banks’ good risk management, low interest rates and government support measures should help contain the deterioration and keep non-performing loans at single-digit levels.”

Lower dividend pay-outs and other capital enhancing measures will help maintain capital metrics at current levels, Moody’s said.

Standard Bank said in November that its position on the declaration of a final dividend for the full year 2020 has not yet been decided.

-BusinessTech

THE Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement plans to establish a labour union to liberate Namibian workers in the public sector from reactionary and co-opted unions.

This was revealed by AR leader Job Amupanda as part of the movement's agenda for 2021 released last week.
Amupanda said the union, to be known as the Revolutionary Union, would strive to liberate Namibian workers from reactionary and ineffective unions of which the leaders have colluded with employers to exploit workers.
The union would seek to gain collective bargaining at state-owned enterprises and the entire public sector.
He said the movement has already started registering the union.
Amupanda said his movement has over the years received numerous calls from workers countrywide to effectively respond to labour-related issues.
He said these workers came to the AR's doorstep despite being represented by registered trade unions.
Amupanda said the current unions representing workers in the public sector – the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu) and the Namibia Teachers Union Nantu) – have been co-opted and at times neglect issues affecting their members.
“This is worse for the public sector where a cabal of unions affiliated to South West Africa ... have repeatedly sold the workers for political gain. Workers in the public sector need to be liberated from this tyranny and collusion,” Amupanda said.
He said the union would be autonomous, yet maintain a symbiotic relationship with the AR movement.
Its constitution, programmes, activities, and campaigns would aim to bring about “real emancipation” for the country's workers, he said.
The AR's union would also raise labour awareness and organise workers to fight oppression by “facing black and white oppressors and the capitalist oppression of the working people of Namibia”.
Apart from establishing a trade union, Amupanda revealed the AR would start with the establishment of AR communities, which are equivalent to political party branches.
“The AR community will be the only structure to be established during this phase. It is for this reason that we declare 2021 as the year of an AR community. It is a year in which in every location, every informal settlement, and every suburb an AR community will be established,” he said.

-The Namibian

Angola has asked a Dutch court to hand over a half-billion-dollar stake in the Portuguese oil company Galp linked to ex-first daughter Isabel Dos Santos, its lawyers told Reuters. 

Angola's government says top officials under former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos took advantage of high oil prices in the last decade to spin a global web of business deals that led to their personal enrichment at the country's expense.

Battered by COVID-19 economic fallout and mired in foreign debt, Angola is seeking to recover assets it says were siphoned off.

Its prime focus is Isabel dos Santos, the ex-president's daughter, a business tycoon who became Africa's richest woman.

The legal bid for the Galp stake has not previously been reported.

Dos Santos briefly ran state oil company Sonangol from 2016 until 2017, when her father's four-decade rule ended.

Representatives for Isabel dos Santos, who lives outside Angola, did not reply to a Reuters request for comment.

She has denied any connection to the holding company at the centre of the case - Exem - which she says was owned by her late husband, rejects charges of wrongdoing and says she faces a political witch hunt by Angola's new leadership.

Representatives of Exem did not reply to a request for comment. Dutch law firm Van Doorne, which represents Exem in the lawsuit, also did not respond to a request for comment.

The legal claim by Sonangol is due to be heard in the last week of May in the Amsterdam court of appeal, the 100%-state owned company's lawyer Emmanuel Gaillard of law firm Shearman & Sterling said.

It will argue that Exem's stake was acquired through embezzlement and money laundering.

"It's all corruption ... you (Exem) owe us the shares, the indirect participation in Galp, because it's theft. It's illegal, therefore you have to pay it back," Gaillard said.

HOLDING COMPANIES

Sonangol's lawyers say the sale by Sonangol of part of its stake in Esperaza to Exem made no business sense for Angola and was made to enrich the former first family. 

Under President Dos Santos, Sonangol sold a 40% stake in an offshore holding company, Esperaza, to another holding company - Exem - owned by Isabel's husband Sindika Dokolo, a Congolese businessman who died in a diving accident last year.

Esperaza, in which Sonangol retained a 60% stake, in turn partnered with the business empire of Portugal's Amorim family to form yet another holding company, Amorim Energia, which is the largest shareholder in Portuguese oil company Galp Energia with a 33.3% stake.

The value of holding company Exem's indirect stake in Galp fluctuates with oil prices and is currently worth about $500 million.

A source with knowledge of the Amorim family's position, who declined to be named, said its main interlocutor in the joint stake was not Exem but Sonangol, calling their partnership with the state firm "good and close".

"(The case) does not affect these relations, it does not change anything", the source added.

A representative of Esperaza did not respond to a request for comment.

Galp has said it has no dealings with Dos Santos. It declined further comment for this story.

The dispute, which is being heard in Amsterdam after both sides agreed on arbitration, already resulted in a ruling last September that removed Exem's representative from Esperaza’s board and put its stake under the control of a court-appointed trustee. 

-Sunday Times

Italian wine group Zonin has added two new South African wines to its portfolio featuring a Sauvignon Blanc and a Shiraz from the very southernmost tip of Africa.

Dubbed ‘Land’s End’, the two wines bear the Wine of Origin label ‘Cape South Coast’ but the fruit is predominantly sourced from the Cape Agulhas Wine Triangle, an emerging cool climate wine region at the very southernmost tip of Africa.

The fruit is sourced from multiple growers, sustainably farmed and vinified at a Fair Trade accredited winery.

The wines are being released into the US first through Zonin’s subsidiary 1821 Fine Wines & Spirits, priced at US$11 a bottle, joining the other wines in the portfolio from across Italy as well as Chile and the US.

The latest Gomberg Frederikson Report this September noted a 16% increase in volumes of South African wine sold in the US.

Shawn Balzano, national sales director for 1821, said that while many consumers “may not be familiar with this particular area”, more US customers were becoming “aware of the fantastic values coming out of South Africa,” and, “we are excited to be the first in the US to offer wines from this emerging top-quality district at this price point. These are cool-climate wines at a very cool price.”

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