08 March 2018 | Sakenuus

Company news in brief

FirstRand H1 profit growth slows

First Rand, South Africa's biggest lender, reported a 6% increase in half-year diluted headline EPS, to 224 cent, a substantial slowdown from a year ago.

FirstRand, along with its rivals, has struggled to grow lending at a faster rate, as a stagnant economy and high personal debt levels have hit both investment and spending.

While higher, the rise in FirstRand's EPS was less than half the 14% rise posted in the same period a year before, while net interest income, a key measure of lending profitability, increased 7% to R23.7 billion, it said in a results filing.

FirstRand said it had secured regulatory approval for its 1.1 billion pound (US$1.52 billion) acquisition of British banking newcomer Aldermore. – Nampa/Reuters

Kobe Steel: Fraud went on 50 years

Kobe Steel Ltd admitted on Tuesday its data fraud has been going on nearly five decades and also revealed new cases of cheating, highlighting the challenges facing the 112-year-old company mired in compliance failures and malfeasance.

Japan's third-biggest steelmaker said its CEO will step down to take responsibility for the widespread data fraud scandal that came to light last year, although doubts remain over its corporate culture and the possibility of future fines.

Kobe Steel, which supplies steel parts to manufacturers of cars, planes and trains around the world, admitted last year to supplying products with falsified specifications to about 500 customers, throwing global supply chains into turmoil.

The company, in announcing the results from a four-month-long investigation by an external committee, said it had also found new cases of impropriety, widening the total of affected clients to 605, including 222 customers overseas.

Inappropriate actions were widespread, and were carried out with the knowledge and involvement of many, including management, the company said. – Nampa/Reuters

Bezos tops Forbes world's rich list

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos is now the world's richest person, having snatched the top spot from Microsoft founder Bill Gates who slips to second place, according to Forbes magazine's annual billionaires list published Tuesday.

Bezos' fortune shot up to US$112 billion, Forbes said, after a 59% rise in Amazon shares over the past 12 months that put him way ahead of the US$90 billion listed for Gates.

After the announcement, Bezos' worth rocketed again to US$127 billion in line with a spike in Amazon stock, widening the gap between him and Gates.

Legendary investor Warren Buffett held on to his number-three ranking, followed by French industrialist Bernard Arnault, who jumped to fourth-richest person from his previous number 11 spot, mostly thanks to euro strength against the US dollar, the magazine said.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was fifth on the list. – Nampa/Reuters

Lego sales fall for the first time in 13 years

Lego's sales fell last year for the first time since 2004 as the Danish toymaker struggled with tough retail markets in Europe and North America, highlighting the challenges facing the new chief executive.

The privately-owned company, famous for its colourful plastic bricks, could be facing its biggest test since flirting with bankruptcy in the early 2000s after a sudden halt to more than a decade of strong growth.

Sales fell 8% to 35 billion Danish crowns (US$5.8 billion) in 2017, compared with a 6% increase in 2016 and a far cry from the 25% growth achieved in 2015.

Consumer sales grew in seven of Lego's 12 largest markets in December and that the company started 2018 in a better position. – Nampa/Reuters

WeChat accounts cross one billion mark

WeChat's worldwide accounts have crossed the one billion mark, according to the chief executive of its parent company Tencent.

The all-in-one app is a daily necessity for most Chinese, bringing together messaging, social media, mobile payment, games, news and other services.

The huge user base which Tencent has built up both inside and outside China for its all-in-one app. It compares with 2.1 billion monthly active users on Facebook and 1.5 billion on its messaging app WhatsApp.

The popularity of WeChat - and profits from its addictive mobile games - have pushed Tencent's earnings and share price sharply upwards.

The company surpassed Facebook in market value last year and the 47-year-old Ma has rocketed to near the apex of China's rich list. – Nampa/AFP