News in South Africa 2nd December:
1. Localised restriction for Western Cape:
The provincial government in the Western Cape is seeking legal advice, over localised restrictions, as the province records a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
Stricter COVID-19 regulations are expected to be announced this week.
New infections are outpacing all attempts to control it. There are now more active cases in George and surrounds than at any point during the pandemic to date. Officials say these statistics are still gaining momentum, just as the December holiday migration kicks off.
According to the Garden Route Health District Director, Zee Brickles,”The areas of biggest concern are Knysna, Bitou, on the Eastern Cape border, George and Mossel Bay where we are seeing the largest number of new infections.”
It’s in these areas particularly that the provincial government, is mulling over isolated restrictions to break the hold this killer virus has on the rural district.
2. Wage talks to commence:
Earlier this year a case was lodged by public service unions against the state for reneging on a planned wage increase related to the final year of an agreement signed in 2018. This is part of government’s plan to slash its compensation budget by R160 billion over three years as it seeks to get control of the country’s finances.
The government has performed an 11th-hour climb down and offered to enter into settlement talks with public sector unions over salary increases it had previously said are unaffordable.
The government wants a hearing on its long-running wage dispute with state employees, which was due to be heard in court on Wednesday, to be postponed to February so that unions can consider a settlement instead.
The request for postponement was sent in a letter on Tuesday from the state attorney to all related parties in the matter, mainly members of the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council.
“Government has reached out to unions to try to resolve the dispute through an out of court settlement,” the letter from the state attorney reads. The state believes there is a “realistic prospect” to resolve the dispute, which it views as preferable to having it determined by a court ruling.
“Time is required for government to work out, calculate and then convey to the unions, the precise details of what the settlement means for the different salary levels in the bargaining unit.
But that was not enough to prevent a court battle that may have huge ramifications for the credibility of fiscal policy and the government’s intention to contain SA’s ballooning debt after unions rejected the department of public service & administration’s offer to delay the case until after February 1 to allow time for negotiation.
3. Sasol – Lake Charles sold:
Sasol has agreed to sell a $2 billion stake in its US base-chemicals business to LyondellBasell Industries to help pay down debt.
The unit will become a joint venture between the Johannesburg-based company and US chemicals giant, Sasol said in a statement Friday. This was due to be voted on by shareholders and as of yesterday Sasol has stated that the shareholders have come to an agreement and its sale of a 50% interest in Sasol’s Base Chemicals business at Lake Charles to LyondellBasell has been completed.
Sasol has been looking to reduce borrowings after a series of cost overruns and delays at its Lake Charles chemicals project in Louisiana were exacerbated by a historic rout in the oil market. The deal will cut debt to about $8 billion from $10 billion, the company said, building on the disposal of other assets such as last month’s sale of an air-separation unit to Air Liquide SA for R8.5 billion.
The new joint venture will focus on base-chemical production including ethylene and polyethylene, the group said. For LyondellBasell, the deal is expected to add to cash flow and earnings within one year “with significant upside as market conditions continue to improve,” Chief Executive Officer Bob Patel said in a separate statement
4. E-tolls may continue into 2021:
E-tolls on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) appear set to be part of the lives of motorists for another year – unless the government finally takes a decision to scrap the controversial scheme.
This follows SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) engineering executive Louw Kannemeyer confirming on Tuesday that the contract awarded to Electronic Toll Collections (ETC) for the management and collection of e-tolls has been extended by a further year until December 2, 2021.
“This will bring the contract to the maximum eight-year period, as was allowed for in the original contract, or shorter if the new contractor is appointed before the end of the maximum period allowed,” he said.
Kannemeyer added that ETC’s original approved contract value has not increased due to the extension because the original contract did make provision for a two-year contract extension.
However, Sanral’s comments are at odds with the views of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).
Outa executive director Advocate Stefanie Fick said on Tuesday that Sanral is legally obliged to halt its contract with ETC for the management of e-tolls today (December 2, 2020).
Fick said Sanral’s e-toll collection contract that was awarded to ETC in 2013 was supposed to end on December 2, 2018 but was extended to December 2020.
5. Sygnia profit increase:
Sygnia advised its shareholders that earnings per share for the year ended 30 September 2020, compared to the year ended 30 September 2019, are expected to increase by between 65% and 70%, to between 142.6 cents per share and 146.9 cents per share (30 September 2019: 86.4 cents per share).
Headline earnings per share for the year ended 30 September 2020 compared to the comparative period are expected to increase by between 62% and 67%, to between 142.6 cents per share and 146.9 cents per share (30 September 2019: 87.9 cents per share).