Tag: deal

SAA remains a disaster

Source: MyBroadband

Less than three weeks after taking to the skies again, South African Airways (SAA) is already facing a backlash from staff, cancelled flights, and support problems.

Only days after relaunching flights on 23 September 2021, SAA made significant changes to its new international schedule.

Some flights to Kinshasa and Lusaka were cancelled, and the airline delayed the launch of daily flights to Maputo.

Testing by MyBroadband further revealed that the airline’s support services — specifically its refund department — are not operating.

Calling the SAA’s refunds helpline triggers an automated message, after which the call is disconnected.

A reservations agent told MyBroadband that the SAA Refunds Department had been closed down, and they could not assist with any refunds.

MyBroadband contacted SAA’s communications department for clarity about this issue, but the request for comment went unanswered.

In the latest blow to the airline, SAA workers represented by the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and Numsa will picket outside the Airways Park office in Kempton Park on Tuesday.

These workers are unhappy about unfair working conditions, including a 35% pay cut and the airline’s bloated management structure.

SACCA President Zazi Sibanyoni-Mugambi said that while their members had to take a 35% pay cut, SAA management has increased their salaries.

She added that employees who have taken voluntary severance packages are being employed again when current SAA employees can fill those positions.

“The biggest concern to us is that we have an SAA CEO who refuses to see the unions,” Sibanyoni-Mugambi said.

To make matters worse, there is no deal yet between the SAA’s new equity partner, Takatso Consortium, and the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE).

The Takatso Consortium is set to take a 51% shareholding in South African Airways and pump billions into the struggling airline.

This deal has not happened yet, which means Takatso is not currently involved in any SAA operations.

Speaking to Moneyweb on 29 September, Takatso CEO Gidon Novick said he naively thought the deal could be done a lot quicker.

Novick dismissed speculation that Takatso’s shareholders — Harith and Global Aviation — withdrew from the process.

“Both are involved. Harith is the key strategic funding partner, and Global and the team at Lift are involved as technical partners. So, it’s very much in play, very much intact,” Novick said.

Novick could, however, not commit to a timeline on when they will make a deal with the DPE.

It means SAA is currently operating without its promised equity partner, it has staff and union challenges, and its customers are faced with uncertainty about flights and support services.

This is familiar territory for South Africans who are tired of funding a failed airline gutted by mismanagement and corruption, and which burned through billions in bailouts.


Xerox in hostile takeover bid for HP

By Nico Grant for Bloomberg

HP has said that rival Xerox has started an unsolicited offer for all outstanding shares of HP, escalating a battle for control of the personal computer giant.

Xerox has pitched HP investors on a cash-and-stock offer worth $24 a share. For each HP share, a holder would receive $18.40 in cash and 0.149 Xerox shares. The photocopying pioneer has said combining the companies would yield $2 billion in cost savings and more than $1 billion in additional revenue growth. Both hardware companies have invented technologies still in use by consumers and office workers, and have struggled in a world increasingly driven by software.

HP’s board has rejected Xerox’s offer as undervaluing the Palo Alto, California-based company, and said last week it will return $16 billion to shareholders in an effort to show it can stand on its own. HP executives, however, said they will engage Xerox to discuss a potential combination on their terms.

On Monday, HP said in a statement that it will review Xerox’s offer over 10 business days before advising the best course of action for shareholders.

SA, UK strike post-Brexit deal

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

The ANC’s Minister for Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, has concluded a groundbreaking new trade deal with the UK, ensuring all existing trade arrangements and more have been cemented prior to the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU).

With the prospects of a no-deal Brexit having risen significantly in recent months, the onus has been on the UK to engineer new trade deals with partners across Africa and the rest of the globe in the event of a disorderly exit from the EU and immediate trade on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.

The spectre of a no-deal Brexit has been the elephant in the room in terms of the financial markets for several months, with the pound looking increasingly weak against both the US dollar and the euro.

However, the pound has also become a forex market of interest among investors option trading in South Africa who are already speculating on the future price of sterling in the event that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new Brexit withdrawal agreement bill is approved by Parliament. Put options are also a useful hedge for those with ‘long’ positions on sterling in case a no-deal Brexit happens out of the blue, causing the pound to crash.

As the UK became South Africa’s fourth-largest export market in 2018, it was imperative for the South African government to have clarity and certainty as a Commonwealth trading partner, regardless of the Brexit outcome. Minister Patel has confirmed that the new trade agreement is effectively a “rollover” of the terms of trade in their existing European Partnership Agreement, which will enable “seamless” and “uninterrupted” trade to continue post-Brexit.

This new deal is essential for the protection of up to 175,000 jobs that have been created as a consequence of increased trade links between South Africa and the UK. It’s now a marketplace worth an estimated R142 billion to the South African economy.

What does this new trade deal offer for South Africa?

First and foremost, all automobiles assembled in South Africa can continue to be exported to the UK with tariff-free access. The new arrangement also extends the nation’s tariff-free quota for unrefined and refined sugar, canned fruits and wine – the latter extending to a whopping 70 million litres of South African wine. This is very good news for the Western Cape given that wine was its most influential export to the British Isles in 2018, valued at R1.89 billion. The new agreement also extends South Africa’s quota levels for specific duty-free products, whilst safeguarding the agricultural sector’s health and safety standards for all new products.

The nation’s existing trade terms on EU livestock will also remain applicable to British poultry, until March 2022 at the earliest.

This new trade continuity deal doesn’t just benefit South Africa before the Brexit deadline, it also offers certainty to the five other nations on the African continent within the Southern African Customs Union and Mozambique (SACU+M). The preferential trade terms will provide continued access to UK markets for Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini too.

In total, the trading relationship between the UK and the entire SACU+M was worth R184.3 billion in 2018. Consumers in the UK will continue to benefit from greater choice of goods exported from SACU+M, while the SACU+M will also benefit from UK exports of automobiles, machinery, appliances and much more.

By Taizo Wada for Nikkei Asian Review

Japanese stationery maker Kokuyo has indirectly taken a 37% stake in compatriot pen maker Pentel through an investment fund, the company said Friday.

Kokuyo, the country’s leading maker of stationery products with a strength in notebooks, will invest 10.1 billion yen ($92 million) in a fund operated by Mercuria Investment, which currently serves as the largest shareholder of Pentel. Kokuyo will become the fund’s, and through it, Pentel’s top shareholder.

Pentel is an unlisted company known for producing the world’s first modern mechanical pencil in 1960. More recently its colorful gel ink ballpoint pen has won a devout following around the world.

Kokuyo aims for growth in Asia, where stationery demand is expected to increase, and other markets by tapping Pentel’s overseas sales network.

Kokuyo only makes about 20% of its stationery-related sales overseas, while Pentel generates over 60% of its revenue abroad through roughly 20 foreign sites. The companies’ products are also complementary, given Kokuyo’s strength in notebooks and Pentel’s know-how in writing instruments.

The fund operated by Mercuria, a private equity company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s first section that counts the state-run Development Bank of Japan as an investor, acquired Pentel shares from the pen maker’s founding family last year.

Mercuria will continue to contribute to Pentel’s management after Kokuyo’s investment.

“We do not know any information other than what was in the disclosure. We will explore a response going forward,” Pentel said.

Pentel booked sales of 40.9 billion yen in the year ended March 2018. Kokuyo has sales of 315.1 billion yen.

State power utility Eskom wants Treasury to approve a R24-million contract to purchase 9 217 office chairs, the Sunday Times reported.

The request for thousands of “operator and visitor chairs” follows an even bigger contract for office and soft chairs was signed in 2013 for R72.7 million.

According to the paper, Treasury conducted an inspection of Eskom’s offices, and found that only 500 chairs were required, and not the requested 9,200.

Eskom said its request for the R24 million expansion to the current office furniture contract was due to an “urgent need for replacement chairs while initiating a tender process”, however, a Treasury source told the Sunday Times: “The application just looked wrong and we suspected collusion between Eskom and the service provider.”

Debt and corruption scandals at Eskom make the utility the biggest risk to South Africa’s economy and the government needs to replace its management, Goldman Sachs Group said recently.

Eskom plans to raise almost R340 billion ($26 billion) in the next five years, while meeting R413 billion of interest and debt repayments, which amount to 8% of South Africa’s gross domestic product.

The utility is caught up in allegations of corruption related to contracts it signed with companies linked to the Gupta family, who are friends of president Jacob Zuma. It’s also without a permanent chief executive officer and has suspended its finance director. Zuma and the Guptas deny any wrongdoing.

Source: BusinessTech

Hush-hush Shoprite deal stuns investors

Back in 2011, when critics got into a flap about the R595m that former Shoprite CEO Whitey Basson made when he exercised a chunk of the share options he’d received as part of his remuneration package, chairman Christo Wiese told the Financial Mail: “I would pay R1bn in the middle of the night for another Whitey.”

At Shoprite’s AGM in late October 2016 Wiese again jumped to the defence of Basson’s remuneration package. This time he told testy investors, who’d questioned the R100m (including a cash bonus of R50m) paid to Basson in 2016, “I would have been happy to pay him much more”.

Shoprite’s recent shocking Sens announcement about Basson’s Put option is proof that Wiese was not exaggerating. Far from it. It seems Wiese actually understated the generosity he (on behalf of his shareholders) was prepared to heap upon Basson, who retired from the group in December. The Sens announcement released last Friday revealed the existence of a remarkable and hitherto unheard-of employment agreement that obliged Shoprite to repurchase any shares put to it by Basson.

A few days earlier, on May 2, Basson notified Shoprite that he was exercising the put option at the middle market price of R211. It turns out this was a five-year high for the share.
If shareholders approve the transaction, Shoprite will have to repurchase 8.7m of Basson’s shares at this price, which means handing over R1.8bn to the man who is largely responsible for building the group into the largest food retailer in Africa. Wiese’s comment about being happy to pay Basson so much more will come back to haunt shareholders as they face an eye-popping R144m/year in additional interest costs to fund his generous gesture.

Some analysts have expressed concern that Basson’s decision to sell all but 400,000 of his Shoprite shares is an indication that he believes the group is now ex-growth. Others say it’s an appropriate move for someone who must walk away and let a new executive team put their stamp on the business.

At this stage, despite Wiese’s 45% voting bloc, it’s not a dead certainty the transaction will get the necessary 75% shareholder approval. It’s difficult to see why shareholders, particularly the Government Employees Pension Fund with a 16.3% holding, would vote in support. It’s not as though Basson will ever do another full day’s work for the group. A R144m/year interest bill is a hefty thank you and not the sort of gesture hard-nosed investors are inclined to make.

If it is blocked, it is unclear what happens to Basson’s right in terms of the employment agreement. Presumably he could pursue the matter through the courts.

It wouldn’t be the first time this year Wiese failed to get his way with a controversial deal. In February a plan to combine Shoprite with Steinhoff’s African brands was called off when key shareholders were unable to reach agreement on the share-exchange ratio to be applied.
While there’s little debate about the contribution Basson made to Shoprite during his 37 years in the driving seat, there is huge debate over the nature and origins of this little-known employment agreement. It’s a debate that will grow in the weeks between now and when the shareholders get a chance to vote on it.

Jean Pierre Verster of Fairtree Capital says the issue is not about how much value a CEO creates: “This put obligation leads to a misalignment of interests between the company and its executives.”

Verster says inevitably, if it is in the interests of the executive to sell the shares, it will not be in the company’s interest to buy them. “R211 isn’t extremely expensive but it is close to full value, which means it’s in [Basson’s] interest to sell — but would the company be buying if it weren’t obliged to?”

Perhaps even more disturbing is that no-one outside the company seems to have been aware of the employment agreement giving Basson the extremely lucrative put option. There was certainly no sign of it back in 2011 when Basson sold the approximate 10m shares in the high-profile R595m deal.

The company says the agreement was concluded in December 2003 but analysts have been unable to find any trace of it, either as a note to subsequent remuneration reports or as a contingent liability. Analyst Syd Vianello said he was unaware of any such agreement anywhere in the past 15-20 years.

Amazingly, given the money and the parties involved, shareholders might never have been any the wiser were it not for the JSE’s listings requirements. The JSE’s Andre Visser says because it is a specific repurchase and involves a related party, shareholders have to give approval.

In addition, because the repurchase price is at a premium to the average price at which the share traded in the previous 30 business days, Shoprite must obtain a fairness opinion.

Shareholders will be provided with this opinion, full details of the repurchase and the date of the meeting “in due course”, says the company. This means shareholders will have plenty of time to mull over the latest controversial agreement involving SA’s wealthiest businessman — and to wonder how many other similar employment agreements are waiting to be detonated.

By Anne Crotty for Financial Mail

Shoprite, Steinhoff deal called off

South Africa’s Steinhoff’s and grocery retailer Shoprite have called off a potential deal to create an African retail giant.

In a joint statement, the two firms said “the fact that the relevant parties could not reach an agreement in respect of the Share Exchange resulted in the negotiations being terminated.”

As a result both companies saw a notable increase in their respective stock prices with Steinhoff’s shares in Johannesburg rising more than 7% since the announcement, while Shoprite’s stock jumped more than 6%.

The deal was the idea of retail magnate Christo Wiese, who owns 16% of Shoprite and 23% of Steinhoff, and would have given Steinhoff a major interest in the R110-billion Shoprite.

According to the Global Powers of Retailing list published in Janaury 2017, Steinhoff International, a manufacturer and retailer of mostly furniture and household goods, is currently the biggest retailer in the country and 72nd in the world.

Shoprite Holdings is the second biggest retail brand in the country, ranked 110th.

Source: www.businesstech.co.za

International Paper Co., the largest maker of corrugated cardboard packaging, is betting big on disposable nappies.

The Memphis-based company says Monday it agreed to pay about $2,2-billion to Weyerhaeuser Co. for assets that will double its production of so-called fluff pulp, used in hygiene products.

Demand for the absorbent raw material manufactured from softwood is growing at a faster pace than that for cardboard or paper, helped by booming sales of adult-incontinence products and increased spending on personal-care items by the expanding middle classes in developing nations. The deal will make International Paper the leader in the global fluff-pulp market, putting it ahead of Koch Industries Inc.’s Georgia-Pacific, according to BMO Capital Markets analyst Mark Wilde.

“The market is a good market,” International Paper CEO Mark Sutton says. “It’s growing globally. It’s all about consumer products that make people’s lives better.”

International Paper, the world’s largest paper company, says the all-cash deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter and generate annual cost savings of about $175-million by the end of 2018.

Regulatory scrutiny
The Weyerhaeuser assets have a total annual production capacity of almost 1,9-million metric tonnes and employ about 1 900 workers in the US, Canada and Poland. The transaction will give International Paper five mills and two converting factories that produce fluff pulp, softwood pulp and specialty pulp.

International Paper expects to realize a $300-million tax benefit from the transaction. Net of that saving, the company says it’s paying 5.4 times the target’s 2015 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. That’s less than the multiple paid in six comparable deals over the past five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The deal is International Paper’s largest since its $4,27-billion acquisition of rival corrugated-packaging manufacturer Temple-Inland Inc. in 2011.
International Paper shares were little changed Monday, rising 0,4% to $43.46 in New York. The deal may draw some regulatory scrutiny and investors are likely to be concerned about the amount of new fluff production capacity hitting “a growing, but relatively modest-sized market over the next three to four years” Wilde, who rates International Paper “market perform”, says.

Possible divestments
To close the acquisition, International Paper may be willing to sell as many as two of the mills if required by regulators, Sutton says on the call. The new capacity being added to the market “is targeted at different levels of products,” he says. “I think we’ll be able to operate very, very well within that environment.”

Federal Way, Washington-based Weyerhaeuser says in a separate statement that the sale completes the first phase of its review of its cellulose-fibres business. The company is still reviewing the future of its liquid-packaging board facility and its newsprint and publishing-papers venture.

Weyerhaeuser expects to use some of the estimated $1,6-billion of after-tax proceeds from the pulp deal to repay term loans related to its $2,5-billion share-buyback programme. Its stock rose 0,5% to $32.28.

By Megan Durisin and Simon Casey for www.bloomberg.com

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