By Richard Reynolds, Head of Strategic Accounts at trade credit insurer Atradius
South Africa is a well-established market for UK businesses with significant opportunities for trade. It can boast extensive national resources and an established infrastructure, albeit in need of improvement in some areas. Seen as the leading services destination, regional manufacturing hub and most industrialised country in Africa, it is also often the springboard for businesses into Sub Saharan Africa. A diversified economy enables favourable access to global markets while a young talented workforce is hungry for future growth. Meanwhile, special economic zones have been established to give special incentives to investors, which it continues to attract, particularly for those seeking a location to access the rest of the continent.
The UK is South Africa’s fifth biggest export market, accounting for 5% of its total exports. Annual UK exports to South Africa totalled £4.2bn with bilateral trade between the UK and the South African Customs Union (SACU) worth £9.7bn. According to the ONS, top goods exported to South Africa from the UK over the last year were cars, beverages, mechanical power generators, medicinal and pharmaceutical products and consumer manufactures. The numbers are substantial, with exports of machinery and mechanical appliances valued at £409m in 2018 and motor vehicles worth £335m, whiletrade of beverages – including whisky – was worth around £136m. In addition, top services imported by South Africa from the UK were transportation, travel, intellectual property, business services and financial services. With a solid history and well-established relationships, there are many success stories of UK businesses trading with South Africa and achieving robust growth, and there is still scope for new market entrants and new opportunities.
However, no overseas market is without its trade challenges and this holds true for South Africa. Improvements are still wanting in South African infrastructure, particularly within energy and transport. Unemployment remains high with two thirds of those unemployed under the age of 35 and there is still considerable division in the country, which is challenged by deep poverty, high crime rate and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) legislation with affirmative action to right the wrongs of the past. These negative issues combined render current market conditions challenging, as evidenced by South Africa’s fall in the Ease of Doing Business Index from 39th in 2013 to 82nd this year.
When trading in any market the biggest risk to a business is always the risk of non-payment, which can manifest in many guises from insolvency and economic decline to policy changes and exchange rate fluctuations. While non-payment can be crippling for a business, late payment can also squeeze a business and affect its ability to trade. This is particularly significant when you consider South African economic growth was weak in 2018 at less than 1% and in Q1 2019, GDP contracted 3.2% quarter on quarter. More positively, confidence indicators are expected to gradually improve in H2 due to the election outcome. That said, GDP growth is forecast at just 0.6% for 2019, rising to 1.6% in 2020, as it will take time for the effects of reform to show. The latest Atradius South Africa country report also highlights a rise in business insolvencies with an increase of 30% year-on-year to March 2019. With a subdued performance in manufacturing and mining alongside a struggling consumer sector, linked to weaker household spending, it is expected insolvencies will increase further.
Any market has the potential to be defined by its risks but the difference between success and failure is how these risks are managed – and therefore reduced – in order to bring financial reward. Risk has always been an inherent part of trade and astute businesses should not let challenges blind them to the opportunities that lie beneath.With this in mind, businesses must ensure they fully understand the wider market as well as the opportunities and manage the risks accordingly. Knowledge has always been the bedrock of sound trade and it has never been more important to obtain comprehensive and real-time information about your customers and the wider market. Trading briefs and insights into the performance and intricacies of the market are essential to mitigate businesses against risks and seize the vital opportunities for growth. Moreover, with the speed of change in the global economy, this information has got to be kept up to date in real time. All of this needs to be done well in advance of any trade relationship being formed.
Ensure you have sufficient resources and that there is enough demand for your product or service. Create an export plan which includes realistic objectives for volume and revenue growth as well as profitability, marketing and logistics. Build up a solid understanding of the legal and regulatory framework in South Africa as well as its business culture. Familiarise yourself with the payment practices of the region as a whole, the wider sector as well as that of individual buyers. And should something go wrong, you’ll want to be assured that there are legal safeguards in place so you can get paid with trade credit insurance acting as a buffer should the worst happen; it can also protect you from currency fluctuations as well as political, terrorist and economic risks.
With experts on the ground around the world, Atradius has a unique intelligence into global markets and can provide first-hand, real-time information and advice into the opportunities and risks of doing business not only within the wider South African market but with a specific customer. It’s why Atradius is relied upon as a trade partner to businesses, supporting them to mitigate risk and build a strong platform for growth. With uncertainty dominating the global agenda, this type of support is essential in order to thrive whatever the future brings.
UK might need negative rates if recovery disappoints – BoE’s Vlieghe
By David Milliken and William Schomberg
LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England might need to cut interest rates below zero later this year or in 2022 if a recovery in the economy disappoints, especially if there is persistent unemployment, policymaker Gertjan Vlieghe said on Friday.
Vlieghe said he thought the likeliest scenario was that the economy would recover strongly as forecast by the central bank earlier this month, meaning a further loosening of monetary policy would not be needed.
Data published on Friday suggested the economy had stabilised after a new COVID-19 lockdown hit retailers last month, while businesses and consumers are hopeful a fast vaccination campaign will spur a recovery.
Vlieghe said in a speech published by the BoE that there was a risk of lasting job market weakness hurting wages and prices.
“In such a scenario, I judge more monetary stimulus would be appropriate, and I would favour a negative Bank Rate as the tool to implement the stimulus,” he said.
“The time to implement it would be whenever the data, or the balance of risks around it, suggest that the recovery is falling short of fully eliminating economic slack, which might be later this year or into next year,” he added.
Vlieghe’s comments are similar to those of fellow policymaker Michael Saunders, who said on Thursday negative rates could be the BoE’s best tool in future.
Earlier this month the BoE gave British financial institutions six months to get ready for the possible introduction of negative interest rates, though it stressed that no decision had been taken on whether to implement them.
Investors saw the move as reducing the likelihood of the BoE following other central banks and adopting negative rates.
Some senior BoE policymakers, such as Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden, believe that adding to the central bank’s 875 billion pounds ($1.22 trillion) of government bond purchases remains the best way of boosting the economy if needed.
Vlieghe underscored the scale of the hit to Britain’s economy and said it was clear the country was not experiencing a V-shaped recovery, adding it was more like “something between a swoosh-shaped recovery and a W-shaped recovery.”
“I want to emphasise how far we still have to travel in this recovery,” he said, adding that it was “highly uncertain” how much of the pent-up savings amassed by households during the lockdowns would be spent.
By contrast, last week the BoE’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, likened the economy to a “coiled spring.”
Vlieghe also warned against raising interest rates if the economy appeared to be outperforming expectations.
“It is perfectly possible that we have a short period of pent up demand, after which demand eases back again,” he said.
Higher interest rates were unlikely to be appropriate until 2023 or 2024, he said.
($1 = 0.7146 pounds)
(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by William Schomberg)
UK economy shows signs of stabilisation after new lockdown hit
By William Schomberg and David Milliken
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy has stabilised after a new COVID-19 lockdown last month hit retailers, and business and consumers are hopeful the vaccination campaign will spur a recovery, data showed on Friday.
The IHS Markit/CIPS flash composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, a survey of businesses, suggested the economy was barely shrinking in the first half of February as companies adjusted to the latest restrictions.
A separate survey of households showed consumers at their most confident since the pandemic began.
Britain’s economy had its biggest slump in 300 years in 2020, when it contracted by 10%, and will shrink by 4% in the first three months of 2021, the Bank of England predicts.
The central bank expects a strong subsequent recovery because of the COVID-19 vaccination programme – though policymaker Gertjan Vlieghe said in a speech on Friday that the BoE could need to cut interest rates below zero later this year if unemployment stayed high.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due on Monday to announce the next steps in England’s lockdown but has said any easing of restrictions will be gradual.
Official data for January underscored the impact of the latest lockdown on retailers.
Retail sales volumes slumped by 8.2% from December, a much bigger fall than the 2.5% decrease forecast in a Reuters poll of economists, and the second largest on record.
“The only good thing about the current lockdown is that it’s no way near as bad for the economy as the first one,” Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said.
The smaller fall in retail sales than last April’s 18% plunge reflected growth in online shopping.
BORROWING SURGE SLOWED IN JANUARY
There was some better news for finance minister Rishi Sunak as he prepares to announce Britain’s next annual budget on March 3.
Though public sector borrowing of 8.8 billion pounds ($12.3 billion) was the first January deficit in a decade, it was much less than the 24.5 billion pounds forecast in a Reuters poll.
That took borrowing since the start of the financial year in April to 270.6 billion pounds, reflecting a surge in spending and tax cuts ordered by Sunak.
The figure does not count losses on government-backed loans which could add 30 billion pounds to the shortfall this year, but the deficit is likely to be smaller than official forecasts, the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank said.
Sunak is expected to extend a costly wage subsidy programme, at least for the hardest-hit sectors, but he said the time for a reckoning would come.
“It’s right that once our economy begins to recover, we should look to return the public finances to a more sustainable footing and I’ll always be honest with the British people about how we will do this,” he said.
Some economists expect higher taxes sooner rather than later.
“Big tax rises eventually will have to be announced, with 2022 likely to be the worst year, so that they will be far from voters’ minds by the time of the next general election in May 2024,” Samuel Tombs, at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said.
Public debt rose to 2.115 trillion pounds, or 97.9% of gross domestic product – a percentage not seen since the early 1960s.
The PMI survey and a separate measure of manufacturing from the Confederation of British Industry, showing factory orders suffering the smallest hit in a year, gave Sunak some cause for optimism.
IHS Markit’s chief business economist, Chris Williamson, said the improvement in business expectations suggested the economy was “poised for recovery.”
However the PMI survey showed factory output in February grew at its slowest rate in nine months. Many firms reported extra costs and disruption to supply chains from new post-Brexit barriers to trade with the European Union since Jan. 1.
Vlieghe warned against over-interpreting any early signs of growth. “It is perfectly possible that we have a short period of pent up demand, after which demand eases back again,” he said.
“We are experiencing something between a swoosh-shaped recovery and a W-shaped recovery. We are clearly not experiencing a V-shaped recovery.”
($1 = 0.7160 pounds)
(Editing by Angus MacSwan and Timothy Heritage)
Oil extends losses as Texas prepares to ramp up output
By Devika Krishna Kumar
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oil prices fell for a second day on Friday, retreating further from recent highs as Texas energy companies began preparations to restart oil and gas fields shuttered by freezing weather.
Brent crude futures were down 33 cents, or 0.5%, at $63.60 a barrel by 11:06 a.m. (1606 GMT) U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 60 cents, or 1%, to $59.92.
This week, both benchmarks had climbed to the highest in more than a year.
“Price pullback thus far appears corrective and is slight within the context of this month’s major upside price acceleration,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates.
Unusually cold weather in Texas and the Plains states curtailed up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production and 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas, analysts estimated.
Texas refiners halted about a fifth of the nation’s oil processing amid power outages and severe cold.
Companies were expected to prepare for production restarts on Friday as electric power and water services slowly resume, sources said.
“While much of the selling relates to a gradual resumption of power in the Gulf coast region ahead of a significant temperature warmup, the magnitude of this week’s loss of supply may require further discounting given much uncertainty regarding the extent and possible duration of lost output,” Ritterbusch said.
Oil fell despite a surprise drop in U.S. crude stockpiles in the week to Feb. 12, before the big freeze. Inventories fell by 7.3 million barrels to 461.8 million barrels, their lowest since March, the Energy Information Administration reported on Thursday. [EIA/S]
The United States on Thursday said it was ready to talk to Iran about returning to a 2015 agreement that aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Still, analysts did not expect near-term reversal of sanctions on Iran that were imposed by the previous U.S. administration.
“This breakthrough increases the probability that we may see Iran returning to the oil market soon, although there is much to be discussed and a new deal will not be a carbon-copy of the 2015 nuclear deal,” said StoneX analyst Kevin Solomon.
(Additional reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar in London and Roslan Khasawneh in Singapore and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; Editing by Jason Neely, David Goodman and David Gregorio)
UK might need negative rates if recovery disappoints – BoE’s Vlieghe
By David Milliken and William Schomberg LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England might need to cut interest rates below...
UK economy shows signs of stabilisation after new lockdown hit
By William Schomberg and David Milliken LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy has stabilised after a new COVID-19 lockdown last month...
Dollar extends decline as risk appetite favors equities
By Stephen Culp NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar lost ground on Friday, extending Thursday’s decline as improved risk appetite...
Bitcoin hits $1 trillion market cap, soars to another record high
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Tom Wilson NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin touched a market capitalization of $1 trillion as it...
Shares rise as cyclical stocks provide support; yields climb
By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed NEW YORK (Reuters) – A gauge of global equity markets snapped a 3-day losing streak to...
Battling Covid collateral damage, Renault says 2021 will be volatile
By Gilles Guillaume PARIS (Reuters) – Renault said on Friday it is still fighting the lingering effects of the COVID-19...
Portable Oxygen Concentrators Market to Register 7.8% CAGR Through 2026; Sales to Surge as Oxygen Therapy Becomes Crucial in Covid-19 Treatments
Portable oxygen concentrator manufacturers are largely concerned with the maintenance of inventories throughout the coronavirus crisis, with optimization of supply...
Cancer Supportive Care Products Market to Reach US$ 32 Bn by 2030; Sales Limited by Complications for Cancer Patients Through Covid-19 Infections
The cancer supportive care products market is anticipated to reach a valuation of US$ 32 billion by 2030. The industry is expected...
Bronchoscopes Sales to Rise 1.5x Between 2018 and 2028; Potential Covid-19 Diagnostic Applications to Generate Lucrative Growth Opportunities
Bronchoscope manufacturers remain focused on development initiatives to improve product functionality and accuracy for higher adoption amid healthcare facilities. The bronchoscopes...
US$ 1.1 Bn Hypoparathyroidism Treatment Market Still in Infancy
Mushrooming incidences of thyroid cancer have amplified the number of thoracic surgeries, thus stimulating growth of hypoparathyroidism treatment market. Future...