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MTN to raise $1-billion from asset sales, profit surges
7 March 2019, 11:21 AM

MTN Group plans to raise more than R15-billion rand in asset sales over the next three years, Africa’s biggest telecoms group said on Thursday after reporting a massive jump in 2018 profit.

MTN, whose shares surged more than 7% on the announcement, is reviewing its operations in some markets and its investments in e-commerce platforms, as part of a plan to focus on high-growth markets in the Middle East and Africa.

As part of the review, the South African company has agreed to sell its minority stake in Botswana’s Mascom for $300-million. It sold its sole European unit in Cyprus last year.

MTN said its investments in tower companies and e-commerce platforms, such as African online retailer Jumia, were valued at R40-billion and would be sold as they were not long-term strategic assets.

“The group has committed to the portfolio review realizing more than R15-billion over the next three years, excluding any proceeds from its R23-billion position in IHS,” the company said. IHS is a builder of cell phone towers.

Shares in MTN jumped 7.2% to R81.70 by 0731 GMT, outperforming a 0.5% rise on the benchmark JSE Top-40 index

Growth Plan

Founded with government help after the end of apartheid in 1994, MTN has been one of South Africa’s biggest corporate success stories, but clashes with regulators have distracted management and crimped growth.

Chief Executive Rob Shuter, appointed in 2017 from Vodafone, has drawn up a growth plan that includes branching out to music streaming and mobile financial services.

In 2018, the company reported an 85% surge in headline EPS to 337 cents, underscoring the Shuter’s turnaround efforts from a devastating fine in Nigeria.

Headline EPS is the main profit measure in South Africa that strips out certain one-off items.

The bottom line is still not even half the level MTN reported in 2015, the year before it agreed to pay a $1.7-billion fine in Nigeria for missing a deadline to cut off unregistered SIM card users.

The fine was reduced from more than $5-billion after MTN made concessions, including a promise to list its Nigeria unit.

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The flotation of MTN Nigeria, which accounts for a third of MTN’s revenues, is likely to take place by the end of June this year, the company said.

The unit has also been embroiled in other rows with the Nigerian authorities. It agreed to pay $53-million in December to resolve a dispute with the Central Bank of Nigeria and is involved in a court battle with the Nigerian attorney general over $2-billion in back taxes.

MTN has also faced run-ins with authorities in other countries, including Uganda, where four senior executives were deported in recent weeks on accusations of compromising national security.

Lillian Barnard.
Microsoft’s first data centres now opened in Africa
7 March 2019, 8:26 AM

Microsoft’s first data centres in Africa have been opened in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Called Microsoft Azure, it aims to help drive investment and significant growth in line with both the continent’s digital transformation objectives and the realisation of new economic opportunities.

Microsoft South Africa’s Managing Director, Lillian Barnard, explains how this affects ordinary South Africans and business: “Azure gives organisations the ability to build digital businesses at scale. So basically organisations can get infrastructure as service as well as platform as a service available and they can literally go and innovate.”

Barnard says the advantages for business are innovation at large and will create an estimate of 112 000 new jobs in South Africa.

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South African president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Africa set to post reasonable economic growth
7 March 2019, 7:25 AM

President Cyril Ramaphosa says African countries are projected to post a reasonable growth in the next year.

Addressing the CEOs from more than 100 countries Ramaphosa said Africa’s growth will be higher than other emerging and developing countries.

He told the gathering that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will present more opportunities for potential investors.

The President quoted reports from the World Bank and the African Development Bank which project growth at 4% this year increasing to 4.1% next year. He says the agreement by African leaders to establish an African Free Trade Area will further boost and revolutionise economic development in the continent.

“In the past decade, Africa has grown at a rate of 2 – 3% points faster than the global GDP. The growth of African economies has been supported by increasing foreign trade, investment flows, and also skills that we have been acquiring. The establishment of this Free Trade Area will create this huge market. This is in the context of the expectation that Africa’s working age population is likely to double to 1-billion in the next 24-years, surpassing in terms of working population in both China and India.”

He said that Africa’s diversified markets offers great opportunities for potential investors.

“Africa is indeed the next frontier of global growth. It has vast untapped potential and a huge appetite for investment. We encourage you to explore the opportunities that exist, not only in South Africa but also across the continent.”

Ramaphosa was joined by Rwandan president Paul Kagame in an effort to attract foreign direct investment to the continent.

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Political parties urged to ban single use plastics in manifestos
7 March 2019, 6:56 AM

Greenpeace Africa in Cape Town is calling on South Africa’s political parties to adopt a ban on single use plastics in their manifestos ahead of this year’s general elections.

South Africans go to the polls on May 8.

Spokesperson Angelo Louw says several African countries such as Kenya and Rwanda have already adopted bans on certain single use plastic items.

“What the Cape Town group is saying to South African politicians in South African politics is that there are close to 26 countries in Africa who have already taken steps to eradicate single use of plastics, and it was welcoming last week when the Department of Environmental Affairs said that they are keen to go ahead with the plastic ban. We wanted to really demonstrate that this was the call of South African people that a plastic ban is something that an ordinary South African supported.”

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Durban shooting.
Police are investigating the death of five family members in KZN
7 March 2019, 6:22 AM

KZN police are investigating after a family of five were found shot dead at their home in Montclair, south of Durban.

They say the father, Sandile Mkhize, allegedly shot dead his wife and their three children – before turning the gun on himself.

Mkhize was a senior court interpreter and his wife – a well-known magistrate at the Durban Magistrates’ Court.

Neighbours have described the family as humble and say the incident was unexpected.

Police spokesperson Thulani Zwane says a gun was found on the scene with no evidence of a break-in.

“The Montclair police will open four counts of murder as well as one inquest docket for further investigation. All of them have gunshot wounds on their bodies and we also found a firearm. It is not clear at this stage what really happened.”

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