Alec Hogg presented a refreshingly positive perspective of the South Afriacn economy in the wake of the annual Wolrd Economic Forum gathering at Davos in Switzerland earlier this year. 
Among those in attendance were (ltr) Investec representatives Candice Whitemanand Nana Peprah and Sameela Mahadea (Morar Inc).
Some of the guests enjoying breakfast in the convival surrounds of the the Protea Hilton ahead of the presentation by Alec Hogg.

Turning the Titanic is never easy, but at least the tide is running the right way. This, in essence, was the message from presenter Alec Hogg at a Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business breakfast sponsored by Investec at the Protea Hilton. Speaking about his visit to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Hogg said the SA delegation led by president Cyril Ramaphosa made a hugely positive impact; an investor breakfast was booked out for the first time in years; Ramaphosa’s speech - without notes - on policy certainty, fighting corruption and fixing SOEs - excited foreign delegates; and talk was about investing “at the bottom of a cycle” with huge potential upsides.

On other fronts, South Africa is also righting some legacy wrongs; no other country would or could have implemented commissions of enquiry to investigate their leaders. Such a move would be highly unlikely in China and Russia, for instance. Similarly, the Bosasa enquiry was motivated by a personal urge to come clean on self-enriching corruption, a hopeful sign of greater culpability.


Hogg commented on a greater environmental awareness taking hold globally, a consideration that should be incorporated into planning for the future in South Africa. Hogg concluded by advising people to invest in South Africa, a complete turn-around from two years ago when he suggested people should “take their money out of the country”. By all accounts, am uplifting presentation that left guests in a positive mood. (With thanks to Leo Quayle)

  Today in History  

2011: An earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, killed 185 people with a magnitude of only 6.3, but with one of the highest intensities ever recorded in an urban area.

Today is good to show the finger to those predisposed towards loud-mouthed intimidation, on International Stand Up to Bullying Day.

  News worth knowing  


The Sharks Board will deploy stage three of its programme to roll out drum lines at the KZN beaches under its protection. Drumlines are far more selective than nets in terms of catching potentially dangerous sharks with very little by-catch of dolphins, rays and turtles as well shark species that pose little threat to bathers. On March 1, drumlines will replace some of the nets at all the eThekwini beaches between Westbrook and Umgababa. Earlier, it deployed drumlines at all five protected beaches between Zinkwazi and Ballito in the KwaDukuza Municipality. The first drumlines were laid in 2007, at 20 protected beaches between Hibberdene and Port Edward in the Ray Nkonyeni Municipality. (KZNSB)



One of the measures mooted in the 2019 Budget Review merge or close provincial entities with duplicated functions and reducing non-essential administrative personnel to help contain costs. While provinces continue to balance rising costs and growing demand for services within tight budgets, wage costs continue to increase. In 2018/19, it accounted for 61% of provincial spending. While provinces have cut back on personnel - from 923 646 in 2012/2013 to 881 228 in 2017/2018 - the cost of these employees rose from 58.5% to more than 60% of provincial spending over the matching period, says the Budget Review. In other words, fewer employees are taking home larger wage packets.



South African trade unions are seething with anger following Wednesday’s budget speech, with a number of them threatening to go on strike in response to  the government’s austerity plans. Public service unions have decried high vacancy rates, saying finance minister Tito Mboweni’s announcement that the government plan to offer voluntary severance packages to thousands of workers flies in the face of existing collective bargaining agreements. In an effort to curb spending on the wage bill Mboweni said national and provincial compensation budgets would be reduced by R27 billion over the next three years, while older public servants would be “allowed” to take early retirement, saving an estimated R4.8 billion in 2019/20, R7.5 billion in 2020/21 and R8 billion in 2021/22. The public wage bill  now stands at 35% of the total budget and the plan is to shed 30 000 employees through natural attrition. Meanwhile, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said it would embark on a mass mobilisation campaign, calling for both Cosatu and the SA Federation of Trade Unions to stage a “total shutdown” over the decision to unbundle Eskom. (BDLive)



Financial support for Eskom by the government is the reason behind the rising debt to GDP ratio, treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane told parliament’s joint finance committee yesterday. The national budget, which was tabled in parliament on Wednesday, allocated R23 billion a year for the next three years to Eskom to assist it to service its debt. The support is anticipated to continue over 10 years, amounting to a total of R150 billion, although this may vary depending on Eskom tariffs, electricity demand and economic growth. A year ago the Treasury said that SA’s debt to GDP ratio was projected to stabilise at 59.6% in 2023. That has now been pushed higher with debt projected to stabilise at 60.2% in 2023. The plan to stabilise debt is an important part of the government’s pledge to fiscal consolidation. SA’s steeply rising debt is crowding out spending on other budget items and is a key concern raised by credit ratings agencies. (BDLive)



Woolworths reported that it rebounded to a net profit of R1.89 billion in the first half of its 2019 financial year from a R4.86 billion loss caused by a R6.9 billion impairment of Australian department store chain David Jones. Woolworths cut its interim dividend for a second consecutive financial year. The retailer declared a 92c dividend for the first half of its 2019 financial year, down 15% from the 108.5c paid in the first half of its 2018 financial year, which in turn was down 18% from the R1.33 paid for the first half of its 2017 financial year. “Trading conditions are unlikely to improve in the short term in either SA, where the consumer remains under considerable pressure from a weak economy, and in Australia, where consumer sentiment remains constrained,” Woolworths CEO Ian Moir said. (BDLive)



The spending spree on its new building, the launch of a commercial bank and other new business initiatives left a dent in Discovery’s bottom line in the six months to end-December 2018. Despite collecting R18.5 billion in insurance premiums after paying reinsurance costs, the insurer reported a 14% decline in net profit to R2.3 billion for the period. The culprit was expenditure on new initiatives, which ate up 21% of the group’s earnings. The company borrowed more to fund these initiatives, resulting in an additional R128 million in finance costs. Discovery said that if it were to adjust its financial statement, removing the impact of the new head office lease, its normalised headline earnings would be R102 million higher than reported. (BDLive)



Sibanye-Stillwater remained in a loss-making position, with the difficulties at its gold operations offsetting strong performances in its platinum group metal (PGM) businesses and thwarting its plans to reduce debt. Sibanye, the largest source of SA gold and a major international producer of PGMs, reported a post-tax loss of R2.5 billion for the year to end-December compared with a R4.4 billion loss the year before. Sibanye’s plans to repay debt were thwarted by the strike by about 14 000 employees, or half its workforce, at its gold mines since November 21 that has dragged on for three months, said CEO Neal Froneman. The gold mines lost 75 390oz of gold during the year to the strike and safety incidents. The US palladium and platinum business now contributes half of the company’s adjusted ebitda, buoyed by the increasing price of palladium because of a deep deficit of the metal used to make autocatalytic devices for petrol engines. Sibanye’s revenue for the year grew by 10% to R50.7 billion, with the US PGM business bumping up revenue by 73% and the Southern African PGM unit increasing revenues by 14%. The gold business reported a 16% fall in revenue. (BDLive)



EOH Holdings Chief Executive Officer Stephen Van Coller is in a race against the clock to restructure the sprawling South African IT business before shareholders and lenders run out of patience. Van Coller, a former executive at the Barclays Africa Group and MTN, was brought in to turn around the troubled business and improve its corporate reputation after allegations of corruption linked to government contracts. He plans to break Johannesburg-based EOH into different parts to release greater value from a portfolio of more than 270 companies, while appointing PwC as an internal auditor and launching a whistle blower app. Van Coller has his work cut out. EOH shares went into free fall last week when Microsoft cut ties with the company which, according to TechCentral website, came after receiving allegations from a whistle blower about a contract with the ministry of defense. The stock has plunged 45% this year, making it the worst performer on South Africa’s benchmark index. (Fin24)



Absa is considering South African Reserve Bank deputy governor Daniel Mminele as a potential replacement for departing Chief Executive Officer Maria Ramos. The bank is seeking a permanent replacement for Ramos, who is stepping down later this month after a decade in charge. Her successor will be responsible for leading Absa as it embarks a new era, after former parent Barclays sold down a majority stake. (Bloomberg)



Zimbabwe has floated its quasi-bond note currency, effectively devaluing the unit in what experts say is in preparation of a local currency through slow erosion of bloated bank balances that have driven Zimbabwe’s official inflation to above 50%. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, John Mangudya said the government has had to do away with the 1:1 valuation for bond notes against the US Dollar. The central bank will now authorise bureau de changes to purchase foreign currency without limits but shall be limited to sell foreign currency for small transactions up to a maximum aggregate daily limit of US$10 000 (about R140 000) per bureau de change. (IOL)



Nigeria has ordered foreign oil and gas companies to pay nearly US$20 billion (about R280 billion) in taxes it says are owed to local states, industry and government sources said, in a move that could deter investment in Africa’s largest economy. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corp (NNPC) cited what it called outstanding royalties and taxes for oil and gas production. Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil , Eni, Total and Equinor were each asked to pay the central government between $2.5 billion and $5 billion, said the sources. (Reuters)




“It is hard to know what to prioritise in raising children for this constantly changing world,” says Paul Bushell. Come and be enlightened as Bushell, who has a regular slot on East Coast Radio with Jane Linley-Thomas, helps parents to focus on raising emotionally intelligent children. Singakwenza is hosting Bushell at Cordwalles Preparatory School in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday, February 28, at 6 pm. The cost is R70 per person and R120 per couple. Book at or on (033) 3431650 or see  All proceeds to charity.



The KwaTembe community in the northern reaches of the uMkhanyakude district will stage the Umthayi Marula Festival this weekend. An estimated 20 000 visitors, including from Mozambique and Swaziland, are expected. The festival, among other attractions, is a showcase for the region’s cultural heritage and is increasingly popular with overseas tourists. Proceedings get underway tomorrow at 7 am at the Emfihlweni, in the Mhlabuyalingana Municipality. For more information, contact Nathi Olifant on 0609705113 or Bongani Tembe on 0823272600.


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