Amazon is planning to offer a credit card to U.S. small-business customers, furthering its push to supply companies with everything from reams of paper to factory parts, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The e-commerce giant has been in talks with banks including JPMorgan Chase on a co-branded credit card for small-business owners who shop on its website, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing private negotiations. An Amazon spokesman declined to comment.

Seattle-based Amazon (AMZN, -0.68%), the world’s largest online retailer, has been looking for a way to replicate in the workplace the success that’s made it a go-to shopping destination for households. In October, the company launched a Prime membership program offering fast free delivery for businesses, which was seen as a way to grab market share from factory-equipment providers such as WW Grainger and Fastenal and office-supply stores like Staples (SPLS, +0.00%) and Office Depot (ODP, -3.53%).

Amazon is hoping the new credit card, which will feature rewards points for purchases, will also let it eventually add offerings such as business insurance through a portal designed for its small-business customers, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Amazon could use customers’ transaction data to help tailor the rewards, this person said. The retailer has already lent $3 billion to more than 20,000 small businesses that sell via its marketplace in the U.S., U.K. and Japan, Amazon said last year.

Warring banks
The battle for small businesses’ spending has also been heating up among U.S. card issuers such as JPMorgan and American Express. Over the past few years, those lenders have debuted retooled proprietary small-business cards as well as new co-branded offerings for such customers.

A representative for JPMorgan (JPM, -1.24%) declined to comment.

AmEx (AXP, -2.33%) says it is the top card issuer for U.S. small businesses and that its portfolio is larger than its five nearest competitors combined, according to a presentation last week. The New York-based company doesn’t disclose total purchase volume for the category. In 2016, small businesses spent about $72.9 billion a year on JPMorgan’s credit cards, $46.7 billion on Capital One Financial’s and $15.6 billion on Citigroup’s, according to a June 2017 edition of the Nilson Report.

AmEx shares slipped on the news, declining 1.4% to $97.67 at the close of trading on Monday. The report also rattled stocks of AmEx credit-card rival Discover Financial Services and Amazon supply-chain competitors Grainger and Fastenal.

Amazon already offers two credit cards for consumers with JPMorgan and Synchrony Financial. Those cards come with as much as 5% cash back on purchases. The retailer is also in talks with JPMorgan and Capital One about a product similar to a checking account that could help it lower the amount it spends on card fees every year.

Source: Bloomberg / Fortune

Former President Jacob Zuma spent R15.3-million in his battle to avoid prosecution – all funded by the taxpayer.

President Cyril Ramaphosa disclosed this information to the Democratic Alliance on Tuesday‚ in a bid to settle legal action bought by the party over Zuma’s refusal to disclose his legal fees in the so-called Spy Tapes case.

The State Attorney indicated that Ramaphosa intends to disclose this information in Parliament on Wednesday‚ in response to questions from EFF leader Julius Malema.

Malema also wants to know “on what legal provision(s) or policy did the State rely when using state resources to fund the former President’s legal costs?”

Zuma steadfastly avoided answering DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s questions about how much his so-called Stalingrad campaign has cost taxpayers.

And that may be because he has agreed to pay back the money if he’s convicted.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Tyrone Seale last week told Financial Mail that the state would continue to fund Zuma’s legal fees if he went on trial for corruption‚ on the basis of an undertaking that was concluded between Zuma and then president Thabo Mbeki in 2006.

“The former President signed an undertaking to refund the state if he is found to have acted in his personal capacity and own interest in the commission of offences with which he was charged.”

It remains unclear whether these costs will include the money spent by Zuma in avoiding prosecution.

Maimane told TimesLIVE on Tuesday evening that the DA would ensure the money was paid back.

“We want to claim it back and we want to ensure that Zuma is personally liable. We will do an analysis of how the determination went,” he said.

By Karyn Maughan for Times Live

The recession that never happened

The South African economy grew 3.1% during the fourth quarter compared with the previous quarter — putting growth for the year at 1.3%, beating Treasury’s and other forecasts.

Compared with a year earlier, gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 1.5% in the fourth quarter of 2017.
Treasury had expected growth of 1% for the year.

The largest positive contributor to fourth-quarter growth was the remarkable recovery in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector, which increased 37.5% and contributed 0.8 of a percentage point to GDP growth.

The trade, catering and accommodation industry grew 4.8% and contributed 0.6 of a percentage point.

The primary sector (which includes agriculture and mining) increased by 4.9%, the secondary sector (manufacturing, electricity and construction) grew by 3.1% and the tertiary sector (trade, transport, finance, government and personal services) grew by 2.7% compared with the third quarter.

This signals that the country’s economy is poised for a recovery.

It is a vast improvement on the dismal 0.3% GDP growth achieved in 2016 but still remains weak by the country’s historic standards.

In the third quarter, the economy grew by 2% quarter on quarter, demonstrating a resilience that suggested it was in better shape than most economists had previously thought.

Expenditure on real GDP increased by 3.1% in the fourth quarter of 2017, while final consumption expenditure by general government increased by 1.3%.

Treasury is forecasting growth to rise to 1.5% in 2018 on political and policy certainty, renewed confidence and rising private fixed investment.

Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said on Monday that it was likely that the growth forecasts would be revised upwards due to improved business and investor confidence.

Growth for 2016 was revised up to 0.6% from 0.3%.

Third-quarter GDP growth in 2017 was revised higher, from 2% to 2.3%.

The changes were based on better access to data sets, said Statistics SA deputy director-general Joe de Beer.

The revisions indicate that SA wasn’t actually plunged into a recession last year. A recession is based on two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

The performance in the fourth quarter of 2016 has been revised from a 0.3% contraction to growth of 0.4%.

By Sunita Menon for Business Day

Job cuts loom at Ricoh

Ricoh plans to cut about 4,000 jobs as early as fiscal year 2019 to streamline its struggling, core office-equipment business, the Nikkei reported on Thursday.

The company will let go off 3 000 employees through a sale of a logistics unit in Japan and trim management positions in Europe — reducing its global workforce by 4 percent, the Japanese daily said.

Ricoh and legacy companies that supply office printing equipment such as Xerox Corp have been looking to sell assets and focus on other areas of growth as paper printing increasingly gives way to digital alternatives.

Earlier this year, Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings said it would buy Xerox in a $6.1 billion deal to gain scale and cut costs. That proposal has, however, hit road blocks as two of Xerox’s top shareholders — Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason — opposed the deal.

Ricoh, meanwhile, has already cut over 5,000 jobs in North America since beginning of this year, the Nikkei said.

The 59-year old company has reported declining profits for the past four years. Its stock has shed nearly two-thirds of its market value since its peak in 2007.

Ricoh did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside regular business hours.

The Nikkei said last month that Ricoh was conducting impairment tests on its slumping North American business, and may have to take a related charge of about 100 billion yen ($943.04 million).

The company will sell a copier factory in the Chinese industrial hub Shenzhen and is planning to dispose of its equity stake in a Coca-Cola distributor for about 56 billion yen ($528.50 million), the Japanese business daily reported on Thursday.

Expenses related to the job cuts and other restructuring efforts are expected to weigh on the company’s fiscal 2018 performance, the Nikkei reported.

Ricoh will also set aside 200-billion yen for acquisitions of commercial and industrial printing companies as it looks to move away from office printing, according to the report.

Source: Japan Today

Over 27‚000 cryptocurrency investors have fallen victim to one of the biggest Bitcoin scams to hit South Africa, TimesLive reported.

Hawks spokesman Captain Lloyd Ramovha confirmed the commercial crimes unit was investigating complaints against BTC Global‚ a company which asked investors to send their cryptocurrency to an online wallet address.

Many of the victims were South African, but the extent of the scam spread to the US and Australia.

“The amount is over $50 million and could rise as more victims come forward‚” said Ramovha.

He said the company was being investigated for violating the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act, but could not confirm whether it was a Ponzi scheme or if the people behind it are South African.

Victims from South Africa told TimesLive they had invested between R16‚000 and R1.4 million with BTC Global.

BTC Global’s selling point was the skill of its “master trader” Steve Twain, whom many victims believe does not exist.

BTC Global promised investors that if they sent their Bitcoin to its wallet address they would receive guaranteed returns of 14% per week.

Its website now displays a message which states that Steven Twain is missing and calls for victims to stop threatening harm to the admin team.

Source: MyBroadband

The controversial Films and Publications Amendment Bill, labelled by some as the “Internet Censorship Bill”, has been passed by the National Assembly.

According to the Parliamentary Monitoring group, the Bill was passed by the National Assembly on 6 March and will now be transmitted to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence. After that it heads to the desk of the president to be signed into law.

The Bill is supposed to address the shortcomings of the Films and Publications Act of 1996, but has come under fierce scrutiny since it was first gazetted, with many calling for it to be overhauled for infringing on freedom of speech.

The Bill aims to make changes in order to provide for technological advances, especially online and social media platforms, in order to protect children from being exposed to disturbing or harmful media content. It also aims to curb revenge porn and hate speech.

According to Eyewitness News, opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) criticised the legislation saying it amounts to censorship and may be unconstitutional. The vote in the National Assembly was reportedly 189 in favour, 35 against with no abstentions.

Opponents of the Bill in the past voiced concerns over the vague and broad terminology used; stipulations that would see the Film and Publication Board (FPB) overstepping into the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA’s) regulatory jurisdiction; and that it contained constitutional infringements on citizens’ right to privacy and freedom of expression. Last year, the FPB made some changes to the Bill after it received many comments from the public and industry players.

Source: ITWeb 

Remgro is in advanced talks to buy fibre provider Vumatel as South Africa’s richest man seeks to consolidate the country’s expanding broadband infrastructure industry, according to people familiar with the matter.

A deal by billionaire Johann Rupert’s investment vehicle would give an equity value of closely-held Vumatel of about 1.1 billion rand ($93 million), said the people, who asked not to be identified as the talks are private.

Rupert would then combine Vumatel with rival Dark Fibre Africa, in which Remgro owns a majority stake, the people said. The deal could still fall through, and if so Vumatel would consider selling shares on Johannesburg’s stock exchange, they said.

A spokesman for Dark Fibre declined to comment. A spokesman for Remgro said she didn’t have an immediate comment and Vumatel couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The deal would allow Dark Fibre, which has a network of about 10,000 km (6,214 miles), to expand into South Africa’s fast-growing fiber-to-home industry, which Vumatel helped to pioneer after entering the market in 2015. Households in cities including Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are increasingly seeking higher speeds and more capacity to handle rising consumption of data for services including streaming.

Dark Fibre trails Econet Wireless Global Ltd. unit Liquid Telecom in terms of network size. The company has raised 1.25 billion rand in debt funding and extended a revolving credit facility to 1.1 billion rand to fund expansion, according to its website.

Talks between Dark Fibre and Vumatel started in October and could be concluded within the next two months, said the people. Banks working on the deal include Standard Bank Group Ltd. and Investec Ltd., one of them said. Neither lender could immediately be reached for comment.

Rupert has a net worth of $8 billion, according to the the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Johannesburg-based Remgro also owns stakes in international private hospital operator Mediclinic International Plc and South African spirits maker Distell Group Ltd.

Canon comes after the aftermarket – again

Canon is suing at least 15 companies in the United States.

The imaging giant and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) believes the sale and distribution of Aftermarket cartridge products infringe its patents.

Many remanufacturing and new-built companies being named are well known include Ninestar, Static Control and Print-Rite North America.

Many industry players have commented to RT Media this could be as big an issue as the infamous Canon dongle gear legal battles since 2012. Many aftermarket players in China and the U.S. developed workaround solutions that did not infringe Canon’s patents, so that cartridge remanufacturing and manufacturing could continue.

Canon is claiming seven patents it filed a number of years ago, and as early as 2006, in the U.S. have now been granted in the last few months. The asserted U.S. patents are 9,746,826, 9,836,021, 9,841,727, 9,841,728, 9,857,765, 9,869,960, and 9,874,846.

Both HP and Canon laser printers use Canon’s patented technologies in theri respective laser printers and printing consumables.

Steve Weedon (pictured), the newly appointed director of strategic development at Print-Rite is in the United States. He told RT Media in an exclusive interview it is still too early to really know the detail of the lawsuits. “We need to get into the detail now of what these new patents are really saying, what their claims are and how they relate to those people who have workaround patents for the dongle gear issues to determine what the complaints from Canon are at this time.”

Source: RTM 

Tiger Brands has asked consumers to remove any Enterprise ready-to-eat meat products from their fridges and place it in a plastic bag – away from other foods.

The reputational damage suffered by Tiger Brands following the outbreak of listeriosis that has claimed 180 lives in South Africa since last year is likely to hurt the diversified food giant’s balance sheet over the short to medium term only, analysts said yesterday.

Ron Kiplin, a portfolio manager at Cratos Wealth, said yesterday it would take Tiger Brands some time to turn operations around after Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi identified its Enterprise Foods factory in Polokwane as the source of the food-borne disease.

“They (Tiger Brands) appear not to have had the right controls in place, and it is an indictment on operational management,” he said, adding that operational management at the factory had to be held accountable, although the buck stopped with top management.

“They need to hold a proper inquiry to be able to tell their customers they have the right controls in place, otherwise the reputational damage will continue for longer,” he said.

Kiplin said the company’s processed foods division was likely to take a knock, but it would not have a major impact on group profits, because Tiger Brands was highly diversified.


Chris Moerdyk, a corporate marketing analyst, said although the immediate damage to the brand was enormous, it was likely that it would recover.

Moerdyk said wealthy people would start moving away from processed meats.

“The bulk of their market is people in the lower economic group,” Moerdyk said. “This group of people buy processed meat because it is cheaper. Polony is almost a staple food for many poor South Africans. They do not have alternatives.”

He said the damage to the brand would be limited to the medium term.

“Not long ago, Ford Kuga cars burnt and killed people. Ford is now back to sales of before that period. People thought that the Ford Kuga would not sell again, but people continue to buy the cars,” said Moerdyk.

Tiger Brands recalled its processed food products and halted production at its factories in Polokwane and Germiston after the report by Motsoaledi.

The move prompted Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Botswana to ban cold meat imports from South Africa.

Bomikazi Molapo, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff), said the department would not be involved in the disposal of the processed meat products.

“The recall was instituted by the National Consumer Commission, and the suspension by the Department of Health. Therefore, the Daff will not be involved in the disposal of the products,” said Molapo.

By Dineo Faku for IOL

Standard Bank has denied that it has opened a bank account associated with the Gupta family.

It was reported earlier on Tuesday that the top-4 bank had agreed to open bank accounts for business rescue practitioners controlling seven Gupta companies.

However, Standard Banks spokesperson Ross Lindstrom has said the bank terminated all dealings with the Gupta family and all entities controlled by it with effect from June 2016, and that that decision still stood.

Earlier, business rescue practitioner Louis Klopper confirmed that Standard Bank had agreed to open a new account‚ with strict conditions limiting access only to Klopper and his partner practitioner‚ Kurt Knoop.

Klopper said this had been a crucial stumbling block to getting the Gupta companies‚ particularly the four mines owned by the family‚ back up and running.

However, in an e-mail to Business Day, Linstrom said on behalf of the bank: “Standard Bank of SA has not opened and will not open accounts with these companies. Any impression created to the contrary was created by an employee that was acting out of mandate.

“Communication between the employee and [Klopper] was not authorised and did not follow the internal processes of the bank. Disciplinary procedures are currently under way.”

The Gupta family has had to make do with facilities at the Bank of Baroda — a relationship that has deteriorated since the bank started to come under pressure from the Reserve Bank over the large number of suspicious transactions the Gupta family were processing.

On February 16 the directors of Gupta-owned Tegeta filed for business rescue‚ placing Optimum‚ Koornfontein and Brakfontein coal mines in Mpumalanga, as well as Shiva Uranium in the North West, under Klopper’s control.

Property investment companies Confident Concepts and Islandsite Investments 180 were also placed under business rescue.

The mines employ roughly 3 000 people‚ most of whom went on strike when salaries were not paid on February 25. The permanent staff‚ about 1 500 people‚ were paid last week.

By Kyle Cowan for Business Day

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