News in South Africa 18th March:

1. Eskom costs keep rising:

New research from the CSIR revealed that Eskom produced less electricity in 2020 than it did in 2010, but the cost to produce this electricity has tripled.

Eskom costs keep rising
Image taken by: Pok Rie

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) recently released its annual statistics on power generation in South Africa for 2020.

These power generation statistics show Eskom produced 227TWh of electricity in 2020, a 4.8% year-on-year decline.

The research further revealed that Eskom produced 249TWh of electricity in 2010, which means there has been an 8.8% decline in electricity production over the last decade.

Eskom’s current installed capacity of 45,117MW is in line with around 44,000MW in 2010. The decline in energy production is therefore linked to unplanned breakdowns.

The Eskom fleet’s Energy Availability Factor (EAF) declined from 71.9% in 2018 to 65% last year – the lowest in history.

Unplanned outages accounted for 20.9% of generation capacity which was not available, much higher than planned maintenance at 11.2%.

Load shedding back as Stage 2:

Last night, Eskom increased load shedding from Stage 1 to Stage 2 – but outages will be suspended between 10:00 and 14:00 today for the memorial service of King Goodwill Zwelithini.

2. Annual retail sales fell:

Annual retail sales fell by 3.5% year-on-year in January, Statistics South Africa announced – this was mostly due to the ban on alcohol sales.

Measured in real terms (constant 2015 prices), retail trade sales decreased by 3,5% year-on-year in January 2021.
Negative annual growth rates were recorded for:

  • retailers in food, beverages and tobacco in specialised stores (-33,6%);
  •  all ‘other’ retailers (-15,1%); and
  • general dealers (-6,0%) – see Table 5.

The main negative contributors to this decrease were:

  • retailers in food, beverages and tobacco in specialised stores (contributing -2,6 percentage points); and
  • general dealers (contributing -2,5 percentage points) – see Table 6.

Seasonally adjusted retail trade sales decreased by 1,6% in January 2021 compared with December 2020. This
followed month-on-month changes of -0,8% in December 2020 and 2,0% in November 2020. In the three months
ended January 2021, seasonally adjusted retail trade sales increased by 0,9% compared with the previous three
months.

3. China’s vaccines soon available:

China’s coronavirus vaccine manufacturer Sinovac Biotech says it is able to supply South Africa with 5 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine “within weeks”, however, local regulators have yet to approve it for use.

Phase 3 trials for the vaccine have been conducted in four countries, and overall efficacy came in at just over 50%, rising to 65% for severe disease.

This jumped to about 90% for hospitalisation and very severe disease. Authorities are still assessing it.

“Speed is of the essence, but we have to be as sure as we possibly can, in the context of limited data for all of these vaccines, that this vaccine is going to work in our setting, with our variant.” – Prof. Helen Rees, Chair – South African Health Products Authority

4. Tourism Equity fund clarification:

Government’s R1.2 billion Tourism Equity Fund is not only for businesses which are 100% black owned, but open to those which are at least 51% black-owned and controlled, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane told the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday.

The response to the fund has been overwhelming from both black and white [people]. There are white businesses saying they always wanted partnerships with black businesses, but could not because banks were not supporting them as they did not have security. Now the fund will help ensure this,” the minister said.

The fund was announced earlier this year and, in response to questions by council members, she explained that its aim was to support transformation in the industry. Other important components the fund looks at include involvement by women, the youth and people with disabilities, and rural areas, since the tourism industry still lags with transformation in these categories.

“Promoting black ownership in tourism is very important. Very few enterprises achieve the ownership target. We want to move away from empowering only a few,” the minister said. She was adamant that any attempt to challenge the specifications of the fund in court, will be defended.

“Many people have said a fund like this is long overdue. Also, remember we are talking of a mere R1.2 billion support. It will not even touch the tip of the iceberg, but we said let us do our best to contribute to transformation even with this little amount.”

5. Covid-19 knocks investment companies:

Investment group Remgro has warned that its headline profit will fall by 45% to 55% for the six months to end-December.

Rand Merchant Investment Holdings saw its headline profit fall by 3% to almost R1.6 billion for the six months to end-December. The company owns stakes in companies like Discovery (25%) and Momentum Metropolitan (27%), as well as almost 90% in OUTsurance. OUTsurance’s normalised profit increased by 23% to R1.4 billion, thanks to fewer claims during lockdown in South Africa.

The investment fund African Rainbow Capital Investments, controlled by Patrice Motsepe and incorporated in Mauritius, has reported a 8% fall in its IFRS Net Asset Value (NAV) from June to December last year. ARC Investments owns stakes in Alexander Forbes, Rain and TymeBank, which now has 2.66 million customers, with approximately 50% of customers actively using their accounts.

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, Business Insider, MyBroadBrand, StatsSA, 702, Fin24, and Sharenet.

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