JSE-listed Blue Label Telecoms has once again buckled under the weight of its investment in Cell C, with its shares shedding more than 13percent, after the mobile operator defaulted on the payment of interest on a $184 million (R2.67billion) loan.
The share price slipped to R2.75 at 12.26pm, closing at the same price.
Blue Label yesterday flagged that Cell C was also facing a possibility of defaulting on interests and capital payments related to bilateral loan facilities with Nedbank, China Development Bank Corporation, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, due by the end of this month.
Blue Label Telecoms, which bought the 45percent stake in Cell C for R5.5bn in 2017, has been heavily exposed to losses in Cell C, prompting it to write down the value of its investment in Cell C to zero.
The default on the payment, which was due in December last year, is the latest blow to Cell C, South Africa’s third-biggest mobile operator, which has been grappling with a liquidity crunch.
Cell C said in a statement yesterday that the suspension of payments was in line with the group’s wider initiatives to improve liquidity and to restructure the company’s balance sheet.
“Cell C continues to work proactively with all stakeholders to improve its liquidity, debt profile and long-term competitiveness as part of its turnaround strategy,” said the company.
It said the S&P Global status on certain loan facilities and senior secured bonds remained unchanged at D.
Analysts said that the default was the latest indication of the magnitude of Cell C’s problems.
Ofentse Dazela, a director for pricing research at Johannesburg-based Africa Analysis, said yesterday that Cell C’s repayment default came as little surprise given that it had been struggling to address its R9 billion debt burden.
“The default is the latest indication that the company is in tatters,” Dazela said, citing that Cell C was relying on its roaming agreement with MTN to keep afloat.
In November, Cell C said that it had entered into an extended roaming agreement with MTN, to better control its capital expenditure and operating costs.
“What will happen if Cell C cannot service costs of the roaming agreement with MTN? The future is ominous and Cell C’s image has been tainted with subscriber confidence waning,” said Dazela.
“I do not understand why they did not seriously consider Telkom’s bid,” said Dazela.
Last month, Cell C rejected the takeover offer from telecoms company Telkom.
Peter Takaendesa, the head of equities at Mergence Investment Managers, also said the announcement was in line with his expectations, because rating agencies downgraded Cell C to a default rating in August 2019.
“There are no easy short-term solutions to Cell C’s financial problems and the key question now is what terms will lenders put on the table if liquidation is not an option.
“It is a very difficult position for any company to find itself in as all survival options become very costly,” Takaendesa said. He said while the long-proposed recapitalisation from the Buffet Consortium was likely to be costly to existing stakeholders, this was the only practical near-term solution to the company’s financial problems.
“Alternatively they could re-open failed talks with Telkom, but unfortunately the terms of the transaction will likely be much less attractive next round,” Takaendesa said.
Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is set to deliver his Budget 2020 address today as SA battles unemployment, low economic growth, the likelihood of tax revenue shortfalls and warnings of a possible downgrade by Moody’s.
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10 things to look out for in the Budget 2020 address:
– Details on the creation of a new state bank;
– Details on the sovereign wealth fund proposed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation Address;
– What will be done about the public sector wage bill, which is at 35% of public spending;
– How much has the tax revenue gap has widened?
– Any update on state funding for National Health Insurance (NHI)?
– Any (extra) funding for embattled South African Airways?
– Mboweni may provide an update on the steps the state will take to ease Eskom’s debt burden;
– Mboweni will likely provide an update on the SA’s debt position as debt servicing costs are the fastest-growing part of the budget;
– Mboweni may give a rather gloomy summation of the health of SA’s economy;
– Will Mboweni caution about a possible downgrade by ratings agency Moody’s?
Corporate South Africa, through its investment in the SA SME Fund, is enabling the commercialisation of technology innovations developed by South African universities through its R150 million investment into the University Technology Fund (UTF).
This is the first university technology fund in Africa, says the SA SME Fund.
It notes that R25 million will be allocated to pre-commercialisation funding, which includes proof of concept and technology development support and R125 million for commercialisation.
Ketso Gordhan, CEO of the SA SME Fund, says:“This investment is intended to unlock the vast potential located inside our world-class universities by commercialising South African technology.
“This will not only create viable businesses and jobs, but will also encourage a culture of innovation throughout universities in South Africa. We are exceptionally excited about the potential that this creates.”
According to the Fund, SA punches above its weight in research capability, having doubled its output since 2000.
However, it notes that where the country lags is in the commercialisation of the research and patents, which is the gap that the SA SME Fund’s investment is aiming to address.
While the UTF’s initial university partners are University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University, who provide pipeline for the Fund and each contributed R20 million to co-invest with the UTF, the SA SME Fund’s next step is to expand the programme to universities across South Africa.
The Fund says the UTF will be managed by Stocks and Strauss, an independent third-party fund manager.
It adds that the founders and directors of Stocks and Strauss, Wayne Stocks and Daniel Strauss have a deep understanding of technology and the early stage investment space, having been investors, founders and operationally involved in early stage technology businesses.
Wayne Stocks, partner at Stocks and Strauss, says:”We are excited to work with Universities to commercialise the world-class intellectual property that has, and is being developed. We will work with them to leverage their research to drive sustainable growth, profit and transformation within the University ecosystem and the broader economy.”
The Gauteng government is pressing ahead with plans to create a hi-tech special economic zone in the province, which it hopes will spur the province into the digital economy.
This is according to premier David Makhura, who gave his State of the Province Address yesterday outside Pretoria.
Makhura said the broader plan of making the province the Silicon Valley of Africa remains on track.
“This includes the integration of The Innovation Hub, our network of Ekasi labs, Tshimologong Precinct, universities and research institutes.”
According to Makhura, his government has also been engaging the private sector, especially ICT companies, on how to collaborate and share resources in the rollout of affordable broadband connectivity and free WiFi to poor households in Gauteng.
The Gauteng government believes investing in Internet connectivity will increase the province’s GDP by 1.5%, improve service delivery to citizens, create new industries, as well as provide new platforms for small businesses to integrate with the mainstream economy.
The province has since 2018 been developing a business case, feasibility study and business plan for the proposed Gauteng science and hi-tech special economic zone.
In his speech, Makhura said: “The work of creating the Gauteng innovation ecosystem in order to build a smart, innovation-driven and knowledge-based economy will be driven by the Premier’s Digital Transformation Advisory Panel, which will be unveiled in March this year.”
In addition, the premier said this will enable Gauteng to take full advantage of the opportunities “in the digital economy and prepare society for the future – schools and universities, the healthcare system, policing and crime prevention, governance, business and civil society operations”.
Moreover, Makhura said: “The ground-breaking work we are already doing with ICT companies to expand digital economy skills and link private sector innovation and skills academies with our public education system will build a solid base for a more innovation-driven and knowledge-based economy of the future.”
The premier explained that attracting investment into the Gauteng economy is a key priority of his ANC-led administration.
“This is one of the main focal areas of my job as the premier of Gauteng, the economic hub of our country.”
According to Makhura, rapid technological change and digital transformation is reshaping the way human beings live and work, “with major opportunities that must be enjoyed by all, instead of being the preserve of elites”.
Turning to the new smart city in Lanseria, Makhura thanked president Cyril Ramaphosa for his full endorsement of its development.
During his State of the Nation Address, Ramaphosa said this city, which he referred to as a truly post-Apartheid city, will have 350 000 to half-a-million people who will call it home in the next decade.
“This process is being led by the investment and infrastructure office in the Presidency, alongside the provincial governments of Gauteng and North-West, working together with the cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Madibeng.”
Makhura commented: “This generated unparalleled private sector support. We will build a new city stretching from Lanseria (Gauteng) to Haartebeespoort Dam (Madibeng, North-West), and this will take shape during this decade.”
Furthermore, the premier said the province’s new smart cities will not only be designed to be 5G-ready but will also set new standards in green infrastructure – converting waste to energy and setting up electricity micro-grids that “we expect to draw at least half its power from renewable sources”.
PRETORIA – The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has identified over US$7 billion in cash and properties stashed outside the economically-struggling country by former and current senior government officials and captains of industry, the state-owned Herald newspaper reported on Wednesday.
The revelation comes as the ZACC intensifies efforts to recover ill-gotten wealth hidden outside Zimbabwe’s borders.
Some of the properties and cash were reportedly identified in Switzerland, London, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mauritius and Spain.
ZACC chairwoman and former high court judge Loice Matanda-Moyo told state media on the sidelines of a three-day workshop on asset recovery in Harare that more accurate investigations were underway.
“Informally, we have now identified over US$7 billion worth of property and cash all over the world which were siphoned by our former leaders, current leaders, private sector and individuals. So this information we only got informally, so now we have to formalise the process so that we start the processes of repatriating the monies back home,” the Herald quoted her as saying.
Nairobi — Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai failed to appear before a parliamentary committee over the transfer of the non-local teachers in the northern part of Kenya on Tuesday, forcing legislators to abort the session.
The two instead sent in their representatives despite summons which indicated that they were required individually.
Teachers Service Commission Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nancy Macharia was the only one who appeared in person before the Education Committee as had been directed by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi who ordered that the trio should provide a ministerial explanation on why teachers were withdrawn from Wajir, Mandera and Garissa.
The three officials had been summoned last week by the committee through Speaker Muturi to answer to questions from MPs on the parameters used to effect the massive transfers of the teachers in the volatile northern part of Kenya that is often the target of Al Shabaab.
Magoha had dispatched his Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang with Mutyambai sending in his deputy Njoroge Mbugua, a move that irked the MPs who accused them of violating Speaker Muturi’s orders.
In an apology letter read out to the MPs, the committee Chairman Julius Melly (Tinderet) notified the members that CS Magoha had pleaded to be away citing other engagements.
Bomachoge Borabu MP Abel Ogutu raised the objection on the constitutionality of the session noting that it would be unwise to proceed without the presence of the two interested persons, CS Magoha and IG Mutyambai who were required to be part of the session in person.
“The Speaker was very clear on the matter that the interested people should appear in person. It would therefore be wrong to proceed with this meeting,” he protested.
Samburu East MP Jackson Lentoi backed the sentiments and argued that giving a green light on the meeting would risk having a half-baked session where the officials present would give unsatisfactory answers.
“With Magoha and Mutyambai absent and judging by previous sessions, it is evident that the officials present will tell us that they first have to consult with their supervisors prior to giving their responses. This would be just a waste of time,” he said.
Wajir East MP Ahmed Kolosh who had petitioned the House to have the matter deliberated noted that the matter required a multi-sectoral approach and proceeding with the meeting without the required people would be inflicting a great injustice to the teachers and students in the north.
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“It would be unfair to have the session proceed. This matter requires the presence of CS Magoha and the IG and in fact they should be told to appear before us as soon as today (Tuesday) afternoon,” he said.
In his submission before the House last week, Kolosh had lamented that the move by the government had immensely affected the quality of education in the region.
He termed the move unconstitutional insisting that it was the prerogative of the government to provide security to the teachers and not transfer them instead in what he described as a temporary solution.
During the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally in Garissa on Sunday, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga assured residents that President Uhuru Kenyatta was committed to have permanent solution on the matter.
“It is painful for children to go to classrooms where there are no teachers. We must find a solution to this,” the former premier said.