Eskom Chair Joins MultiChoice; PIC’s Matjila Cries Foul; Zim Politician Treason Charge; Branson Space Tourism IPO

Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza has raised eyebrows for accepting yet another directorship. South Africa’s power utility Eskom is in deep trouble. It needs a government bail-out and its problems are believed to be the biggest obstacle to an improvement in economic growth. As Bloomberg reports, Eskom is regarded as the biggest risk to the nation’s economy, yet Mabuza has taken on a non-executive director role at pay-TV company, MultiChoice. Bloomberg notes that the announcement adds to an impressive list of Mabuza’s board positions. He is also chairman of the Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Africa board, Sun International and the Casino Association of South Africa. He did recently give up the chairmanship at Telkom, though.

As the probe into allegations of wrongdoing at the Public Investment Corporation continues, its former chief executive officer at the time state capture and corruption were rife, has denied wrong doing. Several witnesses have implicated Daniel Matjila in dodgy deals, but he says a PIC report implicating him in irregularities was a political stitch up. And, the commission of inquiry heard on Tuesday, a lifestyle audit has not produced evidence that he took out an irregular loan from failed South African lender VBS Mutual Bank. The inquiry is into whether the fund, which oversees about $150bn in assets, deviated from its mission to best safeguard pensions for more than 1.2 million South African state workers. The ongoing inquiry has heard from about 70 witnesses – several of whom flagged Matjila himself as playing a key role in approving questionable deals, which he denies, reports Bloomberg.

The independence of the South African reserve bank is back in the spotlight with its deputy governor Kuben Naidoo moving to reassure investors by highlighting the importance of an independent central bank. Some senior officials in the ANC have this year called for SARB to explicitly target economic growth and job creation. But other ANC officials aligned with President Cyril Ramaphosa rejected the call to change the bank’s mandate and reassured investors that the independence of the SARB was not under threat. “In the South African context we do feel an independent bank is an important check in the equation… Our system has given government the fiscal policy levers,” SARB Deputy Governor reportedly Kuben Naidoo said in a public lecture.

We will soon be able to invest in space travel to Mars. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has plans to become the first publicly listed human spaceflight company. It expects that the deal to go public will give it enough capital to fund the business until its spaceships can commercially operate and send tourists into space, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company will list its shares as part of a merger with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp, a special purpose acquisition company, which will take a 49% stake in Virgin Galactic, says Reuters. Following the investment, the combined company will have a pro forma enterprise value of $1.5bn. Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, and since its early days his ambitious timeline for taking customers into space has suffered delays and setbacks. Hundreds of people, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber, have paid or put down deposits to fly on one of Virgin’s suborbital flights, says the news agency. Some of Virgin Galactic’s ticket holders have been waiting over 14 years for their trip. A 90-minute flight, which allows passengers to experience a few minutes of weightlessness, costs about $250,000, it adds.

Zimbabwean authorities have charged a senior official of the country’s main opposition party with treason for comments attributed to him in a newspaper report on Monday, according to lawyers in the capital, Harare. As Bloomberg reports, Job Sikhala, the deputy secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change, “presented himself to the police this morning and they’ve charged him with attempting to overthrow a constitutionally elected government,” Obey Shava, a lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said in an interview. “He denies the charges, but we are now trying to go to court.”

Britain’s mid-cap index, the FTSE 250, fell for the third straight session on Tuesday amid a deteriorating economic outlook and Brexit tensions, says Reuters, noting that the FTSE 250 shed 0.6%, as a hefty profit warning from German chemicals giant BASF rocked several industrial companies. Sterling fell towards its lowest levels in more than two years, pressured by a cocktail of gloomy retail sales data and lingering fears of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, it continues. Rupert Harrison, portfolio manager and head of research for the diversified strategies team at BlackRock, is quoted as saying the outlook had deteriorated over the past three months, while the chance of an “extreme outcome” had risen compared with the probability of a managed exit.

On the JSE, the major movers of the day were miner Sibanye and pharmaceuticals company Aspen, both inching up not far off 2%, while the losers were paper company Sappi, which fell more than 6%, and Italtile, which dropped in value by more than 3%.

Late on Tuesday, R14.18 would get you one dollar, while R17.65 could buy you one pound and R15.89 one Euro.