Ciaran Ryan

Our man Trev

There are a few staples in Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel’s annual Budget speech that seem to get an airing each year. Last year he thanked everyone who offered Budget suggestions, including the person who recommended scrapping income taxes altogether. After giving it due consideration, Manuel decided against it.

Mzi Khumalo in Zim damages claim

Controversial mining magnate Mzi Khumalo is at the centre of a $7,4-million damages claim that got under way this week in the Harare High Court. This is reportedly the highest ever damages claim in Zimbabwe's history, and relates to the purchase of Lonmin's gold mines in Zimbabwe by Khumalo's Pemberton International Investments for $15,5-million in 2002.

Mittal’s metal is no steal

It is up to 40% cheaper to buy South African-made steel in foreign countries than it is in the local market, even after shipping, wharfage and other costs have been paid. That's because Mittal Steel (previously Iscor) prices its goods in the domestic market as if they were imported -- known as import parity pricing.

‘I hope history will judge him kindly’

The murder of mining magnate Brett Kebble in Johannesburg this week comes just weeks after being ousted as head of Western Areas, JCI and Randgold & Exploration amid accusations of financial irregularities and corporate governance lapses. His name has also been tied to the mysterious disappearance of 14,4-million shares in Randgold Resources, worth about R1,5-billion at current prices.

MTN feathers its bed in the Middle East

Spurned in its bid to acquire Celtel, which has licences in 13 African countries, MTN has set its sights on the Middle East. First prize would be a stake in the Irancell consortium, now potentially up for grabs after the Iranian government baulked at handing over 70% of the licence to Turkish operator Turkcell.

Old Mutual’s blonde ambition

Opinions are divided as to whether Old Mutual seems to have settled for second prize in its bid for Skandia, the distressed Swedish life and funds management group. Old Mutual has been looking to add new legs to its international business and had peered under the skirts of companies such as United Kingdom-based Britannic before eyeing Skandia, which has fallen on hard times.

Bet big, or lose your shirt

Single stock futures are steadily overtaking warrants as the drug of choice for those in search of investment thrills. Stories abound of individuals making profits of 50% or even 100% on single stock futures over two or three days, but less well told are the stories of investors nursing monstrous losses over a similar time frame.

Spending more on telephony than your bond?

Many South Africans are paying more on their monthly phone and Internet bills than on bond repayments, according to Doug Reed, CEO of Data-Pro, an AltX-listed company that competes with Telkom by providing voice telephony over the Internet. A study by the Link Centre at Wits University says the telecoms sector generated an annual revenue of R74-billion last year.

Retirement wars hot up

Discovery Life has thrown its hat into the retirement funding ring with the launch of Optimiser, a product the company says is made-to-order for those fed up with the high costs and lack of transparency in a much-criticised industry. This comes at a time when the government is overhauling the country's retirement funding regulations.

Last chance for foreign banks

The Reserve Bank is likely to shut the door on foreign ownership after two of the Big Four retail banks acquire a foreign partner, an analyst suggested this week. "The question is, when does the Reserve Bank close the door on foreign ownership of local banks? Maybe after two of the Big Four are in foreign hands, maybe three? In the end it may be more of a political decision than a commercial one".

Delinquent debt tops R40bn

Despite low interest rates and improving economic conditions, debt delinquency is now reckoned to be more than R40-billion in South Africa. Most of this -- more than R24-billion -- is owed to municipalities for unpaid services such as electricity and refuse removal. The culture of non-payment is still strong in South Africa.

CIS Act relaxes restrictions, protects investors

Paging through the financial press, you may notice your unit trust prices quoted as Net Asset Value (NAV) rather than the old ''buy'' and ''sell''. This is just one of the more visible changes introduced by the Collective Investment Schemes (CIS) Act.

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