Is this loadshedding, revisted?

Eskom has been dogged by allegations of corruption and mismanagement, and this is showing in its expected financial results over the short and medium term. In addition, two of Eskom’s suppliers of coal – namely, two Gupta mines – have stopped operations due to an inability to pay staff.

As the embattled parastatal’s bills mount, questions surround whether or not there will be enough coal to keep power on this winter.

Eskom’s problems far worse than expected

The Rapport reported that Eskom expects a loss of R8.1-billion in the short term, which is set to balloon to R26,5-billion in the medium term.

These projected losses are the highest a state-owned enterprise has ever experienced in South Africa.

The National Treasury described Eskom’s financial problems as the single biggest risk to the South African economy and public finances.

This echoed the views of finance minister Malusi Gigaba, who said in January that Eskom’s financial woes could collapse the economy.

“There would be no currency, and no economy for the country if Eskom went belly-up,” said Gigaba.

To address the mismanagement at Eskom, Gigaba said in his recent budget speech that the government has strengthened Eskom’s board and management with “highly-capable, ethical, and credible leadership”.

Further allegations of mismanagement
In related news, the Sunday Times reported that former Eskom executive Matshela Koko’s wife has received millions of rand from the power utility.

“Documents in the possession of state capture investigators suggest the money flowed to companies where Koko’s wife, Mosima, is a director,” said the Sunday Times.

The report stated that the money was “channelled through Eskom service provider Impulse International, where Mosima’s 27-year-old daughter, Koketso Choma, was a non-executive director”.

In March last year, the Sunday Times reported that Koko’s stepdaughter received contracts for her company worth R1 billion from Eskom.

The report stated that Choma was appointed as a director at Impulse International in April 2016, after which it received eight contracts from the division of Eskom which Koko headed up.

Third Gupta-owned mine fails to pay workers’ salaries

An employee at Shiva Uranium mine‚ a Gupta-owned company based in Klerksdorp‚ North-West‚ says they have been left in the lurch after the company failed to pay them their salaries last week.

“We have not been paid February salaries. We were told that we would be paid on the 28th. This is very frustrating as most of us live far from work and are struggling to get money for transport‚” said the employee‚ who asked not to be named.

She said the company told them on Friday that the payments were delayed because it does not have a bank. “They also told us that they have an international bank and the funds have to be converted from dollars into rands and that the process takes long.”

Koornfontein coal mine is the second Gupta-affiliated mine not to pay salaries to its workers.

They were also told that the delay was due to Eskom not paying the company.

The country’s commercial banks have cut ties with Gupta-owned companies – citing reputational risk – while the only bank which services the companies‚ Bank of Baroda‚ is to exit South Africa at the end of March.

“We know there is trouble brewing there. They are just not telling us the truth.”

She said most workers have since Friday taken leave because they either do not have money to take public transport or put fuel in their cars.

“I do not know what I would have done had it not been for my partner‚ who has helped out with the kids’ school fees and other household expenses‚” the woman said.

She said the company has denied that it is under business rescue as the workers have heard from media reports.

“We have asked them if they are under distress and they said no. They don’t want us to take action against them and have threatened us with our jobs‚” she said.

Shiva Uranium is the third Gupta-owned company to not pay its employees. Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines have also failed to pay workers their salaries this month.

Workers at Optimum downed tools on Wednesday last week‚ saying they wanted to know whether the mine would be sold following reports that the mine’s owners‚ the Gupta family‚ could no longer be found.

Koornfontein supplies coal to Komati power station‚ Optimum supplies coal to Hendrina power station and Brakfontein supplies coal to Majuba power station.

E-Tolls: Makhura admits system failure

In his State of the Province address on Monday, Gauteng Premier David Makhura acknowledged that the highly contested e-tolls system in Gauteng has been a failure. Makhura’s comments follow a number of years of resistance to the multibillion-rand e-tolls project by civil organisations and motorists.

“It’s loud and clear for all to see that e-tolls have not worked,” Gauteng Premier David Makhura said during his State of the Province address.

But it’s not the first time that Makhura has admitted that the e-tolls system was ill-conceived.

Delivering his 2017 State of the Province address, Makhura said: “We are mobilising resources for public transport infrastructure in ways that will ensure that we do not commit the same mistakes done with the e-tolls. We can’t build roads and only later inform citizens that they must pay. In fact, there will be no new e-tolls on our new roads.”

He added: “I must admit publicly, as I did last year, that all the efforts we have made through the advisory panel have not led to the resolution of concerns of Gauteng motorists regarding affordability. We have tried our best. The ultimate solution can only come from national level. We will continue to engage in order to represent the interests of our residents.”

On Monday, Makhura again admitted that e-tolls had failed and that the implementation of the system had increased the cost of living for many motorists and commuters in Gauteng.

Drawing from Ramaphosa’s envisaging of a “new dawn” in the country, Makhura said: “The new dawn must also bring a solution to the protracted and unresolved problem of e-tolls. Accordingly, I will engage President (Cyril) Ramaphosa in order to find a new and more equitable funding model to support the continued expansion of Gauteng’s road network and public transport system. Please send me!” he said.

The Organisation Outdoing tax Abuse (Outa) said it was in total agreement with Makhura in calling for a new and more equitable funding model to expand Gauteng’s road network.

“The compliance rate of e-tolls, based on the South African Roads Agency’s (Sanral’s) own version in their 2017 Annual Report, is 29%. If this figure is correct, it is clear that the system has failed. SANRAL could not in more than four years succeed to ensure a higher compliance rate. If compliance on this scheme doesn’t go up to at least 85% the scheme will never survive,” Outa’s Transport Portfolio Manager Rudie Heyneke said.

Heyneke said OUTA would not back down on the issue of the unaffordability of e-tolls, and would further engage the Minister of Transport, the Presidency, and the executive on the matter.

He said the organisation was busy preparing a submission for the Minister of Transport and the Presidency, and would in the near future engage with the executive to show the negative impact e-tolls have on the taxpayer and on the Sanral budget and proposed alternatives.

The writing has always been on the wall. Apart from firm resistance from Gauteng’s motorists, the highest compliance level ever achieved was 40% in June 2014, according to information released by Outa. This was achieved at R120-million and around R140-million short of target.

“The collection costs and litigation costs are too high when measured against the revenue generated by e-tolls,” Outa said in a statement.

Sanral had argued in court that it could achieve a payment rate of 93% which would generate the R260-million required to cover the cost of the project and the R22-billion borrowed for the freeway upgrade project.

But none of Sanral’s targets has been reached despite aggressive marketing and offers of discounts of up to 60% to all e-toll defaulters to encourage them to settle outstanding bills. According to Outa, by May 2016 less than 2% of outstanding bills were settled while e-toll bills increased to over R2-million a month. The cost of administering the e-tolls were capped at R1-billion a year.

When the e-tolls system was about to be rolled out, motorists and taxpayers objected vociferously, particularly over a lack of proper public consultations prior to the implementation of the system. This outcry as well as warnings from civil organisations like Outa were ignored.

Outa Chairman Wayne Duvenage told Daily Maverick the organisation was pleased with the premier’s acknowledgement. Duvenage said the issue was not only a provincial matter, but also a national one.

“E-tolls were a bad decision,” Duvenage said.

By Bheki C. Simelane for Daily Maverick

Cyril reshuffles cabinet

President Cyril Ramaphosa has fired 10 ministers from his cabinet, moved some to other portfolios and appointed David Mabuza as his deputy.

Ramaphosa announced the changes in a late-night address at the Union Buildings on Monday night.

It was bound to be a tough balancing act for President Ramaphosa, as he moved to strengthen his team in government, appease his supporters who backed him in the race for ANC president and give just enough to those seen as Jacob Zuma’s allies, who he may need as his party looks to retain control of government in next year’s national elections.

He also had to ensure the new cabinet is one which speaks to the ANC’s theme of unity, while ensuring those so-called “Gupta ministers” implicated in state capture are ousted.

Ramaphosa indicated he would retain existing ministries and departments until a review of the configuration, size and number of national government departments is completed.

The president has explained why he made the changes.

“These changes are intended to ensure that national government is better equipped to continue implementing the mandate of this administration and specifically the tasks identified in the State of the National Address.

“In making these changes, I’ve been very conscious of the need to balance continuity and stability for the need for renewal, economic recovery and accelerated growth in our country.”

Ramaphosa has moved Nomvula Mokonyane to the Department of Communications, Jeff Radebe to Energy, Naledi Pandor to Higher Education, Malusi Gigaba back to Home Affairs, Lindiwe Sisulu to International Relations.

Gwede Mantashe has been brought in as the minister of Mineral Resources, Bheki as minister of Police, Blade Nzimande is brought back as Transport minister and the minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation is Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

The much-criticised Bathabile Dlamini remains in the corridors of power, moving to The Presidency, where she will work under Ramaphosa’s eye. Dlamini is moved to the portfolio of women, in a straight swap with Susan Shabangu, who will now head up the Social Development department.

Derek Hanekom, who was ousted by Jacob Zuma after he emerged as one of the former president’s fiercest critics, goes back to Tourism, while Zweli Mkhize goes to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.


David “DD” Mabuza, also known as “The cat” – a reference to his numerous political lives – comes to the deputy presidency with a cupboard full of skeletons.

As a young activist in his home province of Mpumalanga, he was once accused of being an apartheid spy, a claim which has been revived by his mentor-turned-nemesis Mathews Phosa.

Mabuza was fired as Education MEC by Phosa in the 1990s for infamously inflating matric results in Mpumalanga.

As premier in that province he was engulfed in tender scandals and linked to a land claims scam.

His name has also been associated with a string of political assassinations in Mpumalanga, although he has never been criminally charged.

DD Mabuza’s greatest hurdle will be his own crisis of credibility as he assumes the position of deputy president.

So, who got the chop?

Fikile Mbalula

Faith Muthambi

Mosebenzi Zwane

Des van Rooyen

Lynne Brown

Bongani Bongo

Hlengiwe Mkhize

Nkosinathi Nhleko

David Mahlobo

Joe Maswanganyi

By Clement Manyathela for EWN 

One of the biggest changes in finance minister Malusi Gigaba’s recent budget speech was the proposed increase of the VAT rate to 15%.

While the rate is still subject to final parliamentary approval, it is expected to come into effect from 1 April 2018.

Despite the increase being the first in over two decades, the VAT Act currently contains a number of rules which cater for an increase in the VAT rate.

These rules cover, for example, what happens when contracts have been entered into before the VAT rate is increased, where no invoice has yet been issued or payment received.

They also explain why its important to actively track and issue receipts when these transactions are made, to ensure that the correct VAT rate is applied.

Di Hurworth, director of Value Added Tax at KPMG South Africa, broke down exactly how these rules will work when the VAT rate changes in April:

Should goods have been provided before 1 April, or services performed before 1 April, then the current VAT rate (14%), not the new VAT rate of 15%, will apply.

Should goods be provided on a periodic basis or services be performed over a period which falls before and after the effective date of 1 April, then an apportionment must be made on a fair and reasonable basis and the 14% VAT rate will apply to the portion before 1 April 2018, and the VAT rate of 15% will apply on the portion of the supply of goods or services from 1 April 2018.

Specific rules relate to the sale of fixed property.

Hurworth said that there were also special considerations where the time of supply (invoice or payment) falls within the period from the date the minister announces the increase in the VAT rate (21 February 2018) and ending on 1 April 2018.

“If the goods will be provided more than 21 days after 1 April, or the services will be performed after 1 April, the new VAT rate should be charged on the supply of goods or services – i.e. 15%,” she said.

“However, there are certain exceptions to this. This rule therefore prevents invoices being raised before 1 April where goods will be supplied more than 21 days after the effective date.”

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

Bidvest on Monday reported a better set of first-half results, leveraging off the diverse nature of its portfolio.
Easily one of the better proxies of the local economy, its portfolio spans services, freight, automotive, office and print, commercial products, financial services and electrical companies.

Trading profit rose 12% to R3.1bn in the six months to end-December, as revenue rose 10.7% to R39.9bn.
The services, freight, and office and print divisions were the standout performers, with increases in trading profit of 24.3%, 18% and 12.7%, respectively. The automotive division disappointed though, with trading profit down 6%.

Bidvest SA also counted on the acquisition of facility management services group Noonan, as well as the additional three-month contribution from Brandcorp.

The share of profits from associated companies, before capital items, was up 26.4%.

Bidvest holds investments in pharmaceuticals group Adcock Ingram (38.5%), airline operator Comair (27.2%), Mumbai Airport (6.75) and a 52% interest in Bidvest Namibia.

But trading profit in Bidvest Namibia slumped 68% as a result of what the group said was sluggish economic growth
in that market, and fishing industry and operational challenges.

All in all, group headline earnings per share (HEPS) rose 12.5% to R5.74 and interim dividend per share 12.3% to R2.55.

By Andries Mahlangu for Business Day

The National Credit Regulator (NCR) will investigate Standard Bank’s new credit card fee, according to a report in the Sunday Times.

The bank has been charging a standalone monthly “card fee” of between R10 and R210 to customers who use its credit cards only, with the fee depending on the type of card the customer uses.

The card fee was implemented at the beginning of 2018 and is charged in addition to the monthly service fee of R40.

According to the NCR, the Credit Act has a closed list of charges a credit provider can levy on customers – and the card fee is not one of them.

The NCR said it would investigate Standard Bank’s card fee and take approporiate action if the fee is found to be illegal.

According to Standard Bank’s pricing guide for 2018, the card fees are as follows:

Gold, Blue, and Access cards – R10.00
Titanium standalone – R25.00
Platinum standalone – R40.00
World Citizen standalone – R210.00

The report follows SA Consumer Satisfaction Index results in 2017 showing that Standard Bank customers are the least satisfied.

Standard Bank did not respond to requests for comment sent by the Sunday Times.

Source: MyBroadband

Takealot guilty of “fake” prices

The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) has found Takealot guilty of selling products at higher prices than what it advertises the goods for.

In a recent sponsored Facebook promotion, Takealot advertised DKNY perfume at R369 – a saving of 62% on the normal price.

When a consumer tried to purchase this product, however, they had to pay over R200 more than the advertised price.

A complaint was lodged with the ASA regarding this practice after Takealot told the client it was “not responsible for advertising appearing on third-party platforms”.

According to the complainant, Takealot told her “its terms and conditions exempt it from liability emanating from its own advertising”.

Takealot responds
Takealot responded to the complaint, stating it is not an ASA member and that the organisation’s rulings are therefore not binding to it.

The online retailer did acknowledge that this was the third complaint of this type brought to the ASA.

It explained there “may be lags in bringing the pricing of third-party advertisers in line with price changes”.

“The product on special had sold out when the complainant claimed the deal, but the advertising had not been changed,” said Takealot.

ASA ruling
The ASA rejected Takealot’s argument that it was not responsible for advertisements from third-party advertisers.

“If Takealot uses third-party advertisers, then it must ensure that checks and balances are in place that such advertisers only display correct information,” said the ASA.

“The reality is that Takealot benefits from the traffic flow to its website and it must take responsibility for the actions of the third-party advertiser.”

The ASA subsequently rejected Takealot’s submission that its advertising is not misleading.

It said consumers are led to believe that advertised products at the discounted rates are available on Takealot, which they are not.

The complaint that Takealot’s advertisement promising a discounted price was misleading was upheld, and it advised the company not to repeat this advertising.

Source: MyBroadband 

Even before being elected as South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa was a people person, joining some for walks, and then jogging along Sea Point promenade. He is clearly liked, but for how long will that honeymoon last?

Coming after the extended period of uncertainty in South Africa resulting from Jacob Zuma’s reluctance to resign, Cyril Ramaphosa’s first State of the Nation address restored dignity and decorum to Parliament, and pressed all the right buttons.

He was gracious to all (even giving thanks to Zuma for facilitating what the ANC has termed “the transition”), before launching into the delivery of a peroration which proclaimed the breaking of a new dawn. South Africa’s “moment of hope”, which was to be founded on the legacy of Nelson Mandela, had returned.

Ramaphosa combined extensive tribute to the heroes of the ANC’s liberation Struggle with the gospel of social inclusion according to the holy writ of the Freedom Charter. This was time to move beyond the recent period of discord, disunity and disillusionment.

The speech was delivered with panache and confidence. It had style, declaring to the nation and the world that he, Cyril Ramaphosa, was in charge.

But along with the style, there was the solid substance. The overall impression was that Ramaphosa intends to impose a new coherence and efficiency on government. Although acknowledging the calamity of the dismally low rate of economic growth, he was upbeat about the future, about the reviving fortunes of the commodities market, and the upturn in the markets.

Deservedly, Ramaphosa was to be allowed to enjoy the applause, as opposition members rose to their feet alongside the ANC MPs to give him a standing ovation which went far beyond ceremonial ritual. After the disaster of Zuma, it would seem to have given a massive fillip to South African pride and confidence.

It also gave the opposition parties a problem. With Zuma gone and a credible ANC president in place, they are facing an uphill electoral battle.

The new president committed to ensuring ethical behaviour and leadership, and to a refusal to tolerate the plunder of resources by public employees or theft and exploitation by private businesses. Critically, this would entail a transformation in the way that state-owned enterprises such as the power utility Eskom would be run.

There would be a new beginning at state-owned enterprises. They would no longer be allowed to borrow their way out of their financial difficulties. Competent people would be appointed to their boards, and there would be an appropriate distancing of their strategic role from operational management. And board members would be barred from any involvement in procurement.

This would all be part and parcel of a much wider reconfiguration of government, presumably a code for the reduction in the number of departments and a reduction in the size of ministerial ranks.

Ramaphosa also committed to hands-on government, promising he would be visiting each department over the forthcoming year.

The forging of a social compact between government, business and labour would define the new era. A part of it would come from a new presidential economic advisory council. There would be summits for jobs and investment; convening of a youth working group to promote youth enterprise and employment and a summit for the social sector to forge a new consensus with NGOs and civil society.

This would add up to the construction of a “capable state” to foster much needed economic recovery. There would be concerted efforts to promote and aid small and medium business and revive manufacturing. Stress was laid on the importance of arriving at consensus around a mining charter, a document designed to guide transformation in this industry.

Due reference was made to preparing South Africa to embrace the fourth and fifth industrial revolutions and the encouragement of scientific innovation and new technology. And there was an explicit undertaking from Ramaphosa that he would take personal responsibility to ensure social grants be paid. And “no individual person in government” would be allowed to obstruct social grants delivery, a brutal, albeit indirect, put-down of the minister concerned.

The one aspect of the speech which would have raised eyebrows among the Davos crowd was Ramaphosa’s re-iteration of the ANC government’s commitment to the expropriation of land without compensation as part of radical economic transformation. This highlighted the ANC’s proposed change to the constitution adopted at its recent national conference.

But that commitment was also fudged by linking any expropriation to ensuring agricultural production and food security. Cynics may argue that this was simply a form of words. In the context of Ramaphosa’s general investment seeking demeanour, agricultural capital and international business are unlikely to be unduly alarmed. But if they are wise, they will take it as a warning to come to the party of “social transformation”.

Ramaphosa has played a long game since he was passed over for president in the mid-’90s in favour of Thabo Mbeki. After playing a key role in crafting the constitution, he left politics, made a lot of money by spearheading the first round of black economic empowerment, and then returned to politics to play what must at times have been a mortifying role as deputy president under Zuma.

He suffered a great deal of criticism for being complicit in the Zuma-era corruption because of his silence – silence he would have reckoned was necessary to secure his rise to the top.

Clearly, Ramaphosa is not above criticism. He is no saint. He lives in the shadow of the massacre of miners at Marikana. Only towards the end of the ANC leadership race did he let fly against corruption and state capture.

Yet it could so easily have been so different. What would the mood have been now if Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma had won the ANC leadership?

Few would have been convinced that she would have been able or willing to leave the legacy of the corruption of the Zuma years behind. In contrast, although there is extensive acknowledgement that Ramaphosa will meet considerable opposition from within the ANC patronage machine if he is to realise his ambitions, he has indeed provided hope.

Yet the irony is that we need to pay due deference to David Mabuza, premier of the province of Mpumalanga.

If it had not been for his last moment tactic of throwing his provincial delegates’ votes behind Ramaphosa at the ANC conference to thwart a Dlamini Zuma victory at the ANC national conference, South Africa would be having to face a very different future.

In true ANC style, the irony is that the moment of hope was facilitated by someone who has been portrayed, even from within the party, as a political hoodlum.

By Roger Southall for The Conversation, published on IOL

In November 2017, the government announced additional steps it would take to reduce its budget deficit by R40bn in the 2018–19 financial year, through reducing expenditure by R25bn and increasing revenue by R15bn.

This was in addition to R15bn-worth of additional tax hikes announced in the 2016 national Budget and R31bn in additional spending cuts of R15bn and R16bn announced in the 2016 and 2017 national budgets, respectively.

The latest monthly government budget figures for December 2017 suggest revenues are likely to undershoot the February 2017 estimates by close to R50bn, broadly in line with the government’s estimates outlined in the October 2017 medium-term budget.

The value-added tax (VAT) rate in South Africa was last raised to 14% in 1993 (from 10%) and remains below that of a number of the country’s emerging-market peers. Moreover, South Africa’s narrow tax base makes the case for a rise in VAT over a further increase in personal income-tax rates. The Treasury’s tax statistics suggest about 1.7m taxpayers were responsible for 78% of all personal income tax collected in the 2016–17 financial year. This points to a tax base that is too dependent on a small number of individuals.

Although raising VAT is a more effective way of increasing revenues, it would be a controversial decision ahead of national polls in 2019. In Momentum Investments’ opinion, a number of alternative revenue-raising options to raising VAT exist at this stage (see the table below).

These include allowing for limited compensation for fiscal drag (the government was able to collect R12bn through this avenue in the previous fiscal year); removing the VAT zero-rating on fuel (this could raise up to R18bn but prove contentious, as the taxi industry is a powerful constituency within the ruling party); and raising sin taxes (on alcoholic beverages and tobacco). The government raised R2bn from the latter in the previous fiscal year.

Momentum Investments believes that raising the top marginal tax rate from 45% would hurt already fragile consumer confidence and subdued household spend. Similarly, the company does not expect a hike in the company tax rate (currently at 28%). Previously, the Davis Tax Committee alluded to a large gap between the headline and effective corporate tax rates in South Africa, suggesting a number of loopholes needed to be addressed before considering a hike in the company tax rate.

The government has additionally committed to implementing the health promotion levy (or sugar tax) by April 1 2018, which could raise an additional R2bn. Moreover, wealth taxes have been debated, but SBG Securities estimates this could raise between R5bn and R8bn at most. In its February 2017 Budget, the government highlighted it was refining measures to prevent tax avoidance through the use of trusts, which could boost revenue collection at the margin.

Wealth taxes have been debated, but SBG Securities estimates this could raise between R5bn and R8bn at most
Absa notes the government could consider removing the VAT exemption on municipal property rates to generate higher revenues. The February 2017 Budget showed this exemption amounted to R10.5bn in the 2014–15 financial year.

While previously the Davis Tax Committee acknowledged VAT as a potential source of funding for additional spending needs, such as the National Health Insurance scheme, recent comments made by the current health minister hinted at using medical tax credits as an alternative source of funding. The minister noted that 8.8m people belonged to a medical scheme. This could provide about R20bn in tax credits per year, which would be sufficient to cover the health ministry’s priority programmes (amounting to R69bn over four years).

Also, the Treasury published its Draft Carbon Tax Bill for public comment, open until March 2018. The actual date of the carbon tax has not yet been announced, but the Treasury noted it would be complemented by a package of tax incentives and revenue-recycling measures to minimise the effect on energy-intensive sectors in the first phase (up to 2022). The Treasury also said the effect of the tax in the first phase was designed to be revenue neutral, after taking the complementary measures into account.

Possible revenue measures
Fiscal drag: Intake – R12bn (last year); likelihood: very high probability
Fuel levies or VAT on fuel: Intake – R3.2bn (last year) or R18.2bn; likelihood: high probability
Sin taxes (alcohol and tobacco): Intake – R2bn (last year); likelihood: high probability
Sugar tax: Intake – R2bn; likelihood: bill passed and due for implementation
Wealth tax: Intake – R5bn–R8bn; likelihood: high probability – delays?
Carbon tax: Intake – initially revenue neutral; likelihood: high probability – draft bill out for public comment
Removal of medical aid tax credit: Intake – R20bn or R2bn (above R750,000); likelihood: moderate probability (higher in medium term)
Dividend withholding tax: Intake – R6.8bn (last year); likelihood: moderate probability (increased previously)
Taxing top marginal bracket: Intake – R4.4bn (last year); likelihood: low probability (steep increase previously)
VAT (0.5% increase): Intake – R11.5bn (last year); likelihood: low probability (higher in medium term)
Company tax increase: Intake – ?; likelihood: low probability (negative business sentiment)

(Source: Nedbank, RMBMS, SBG Securities, national Treasury, Momentum Investments)

While the revenue shortfall for the 2017–18 financial year is in large part due to lower growth outcomes, lower tax buoyancy rates (tax revenue growth per unit of gross domestic product growth) exacerbated low revenue outcomes.

Media reports have suggested the hit to institutional credibility at the South African Revenue Service has negatively affected personal and corporate tax morality. The overall tax buoyancy ratio dipped to 1.01 in the 2016–17 financial year, but the Treasury anticipates a recovery to 1.31 in 2018–19 before a decline to 1.1 in 2020–21 (still above the long-term average of 1.08). A further breakdown of the Treasury’s tax buoyancy projections suggest a sharp pick-up in the company tax and VAT buoyancy rates in the medium term.

By Sanisha Packirisamy and Herman van Papendorp for Business Live

South Africa’s largest retailers

As retailers in South Africa look to support the economy through turbulent times, five of the country’s top retailers feature in global professional services firm Deloitte’s ranking of the 250 biggest retail groups in the world. Pre-scandal Steinhoff is the highest on the list, while Shoprite and Spar also feature.

Few sectors offer reliability at the moment in the South African economy. Although the country is the second richest in Africa behind only Nigeria, and is endowed with economically promising demographic trends, the last few years have represented a slump in economic growth, resulting from a severe dip in global oil prices in 2015.

Most sectors of the economy have been struggling since, including the ever-lucrative mining industry, which has suffered from a plummeting of prices and a spike in costs. However, amid this struggle, one sector that appears to be on the mend is the retail sector, which had its own mini-crisis in 2016, but has since recovered strongly with growth of almost 5% annually.

Now, a report from Big Four accounting and advisory firm Deloitte has revealed the primary drivers of growth in the sector. The report, which ranked the 250 biggest retailers in the world, featured five of South Africa’s major retail groups.

Top five retailers in South Africa

The highest-ranking South African retailer on the list was Steinhoff International at 68th on the global list. The firm was founded by Bruno Steinhoff in 1964 in the town of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Today, Steinhoff International operates in 31 countries, and recorded retail revenues of nearly $13.6 billion in 2016. In 2017, the firm went on an expansion drive, acquiring five firms, including Mattress Firm in the US and Poundland in the UK.

However, since Deloitte conducted its research, the firm has been shrouded in scandal, as sustained irregularities were found in the firm’s accounts for the last few years, forcing the resignation of its CEO and causing an 80% collapse in its shares. Steinhoff’s ranking may, therefore, be affected in retrospect.

The largest retailers in South Africa

The second-highest South African retailer on the list was Shoprite at 94th, with operations stretching across 15 countries, and retail revenues of just over $10 billion in 2016. The firm was founded four decades ago in 1979, and has since grown to employ 144,000 people across its international operations. Alongside the Johannesburg stock exchange, Shoprite also has secondary listings on the Namibian as well as the Zambian stock exchanges.

The SPAR Group of South Africa was next on the list, at 156th, operating across 11 countries and closing fiscal 2016 with just over $6 billion in revenues. The group began operations in 1963, when eight wholesalers were handed exclusive rights to the SPAR brand, which they utilised to supply 500 small retailers. The group now works out of six distribution centres and supplies to more than 1000 SPAR stores across South Africa.

In fourth for the South African list, and 156th in the global ranking is Pick n Pay Stores, with seven countries of operation and revenues of nearly $5.5 billion in 2016. Founded in Cape Town in 1967, the firm now employs approximately 50,000 people worldwide, and stretches across the African continent with operations in Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia, and others.

Woolworths of South Africa rounded out the South African presence on the list, with operations in 14 countries and revenues just short of $5 billion. The Cape-Town-based retailer, which was founded as early as 1931, has achieved an impressive compounded annual growth rate of 18.9% since 2011.

Global leaders
Meanwhile, the list of leading retailers across the world had some predictable names on it, with Wal-Mart Stores leading by an enormous margin, followed by another US-based retailer, Costco, in second.

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

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