COMPANY NEWS IN BRIEF

Alexforbes ups dividend by a third

South Africa's biggest retirement fund administrator, Alexforbes, has upped its interim dividend by a third, reporting on Monday that its strategic shift away from insurance towards investment administration and related services has boosted its income.

The Johannesburg-headquartered group increased its dividend by 33% to 20c in the six months to end-2023, when profit from continuing operations jumped 66% to R339 million.

"Alexforbes is attracting new business alongside high retention rates and competitive investment returns," CEO Dawie de Villiers said in a statement. "Our business is quickly adapting to the needs of our clients by embracing technological transformation to improve our client experience and by introducing further efficiencies into our environment."

Group operating income increased 13% to R1.9 billion, helped a slew of acquisitions in the last year and a half. Though operating expenses climbed 15% to R1.56 billion, Alexforbes said this was partly due to the high levels of corporate activity as it consolidated its acquisitions.-Fin24

Aspen bulks up footprint in China

South Africa's biggest pharmaceutical group, Aspen Pharmacare, has agreed to buy the Chinese subsidiary of Swiss drugmaker Sandoz for €92.6 million (R1.88 billion).

The acquisition brings a portfolio of products, including Sandostatin, which treats hormonal disorders; Aclasta, which is used to treat osteoporosis; and Voriconazole, used to treat fungal and yeast infections.

The acquisition also includes a pipeline of new products for the short-to-medium term, with €18.5 million of the acquisition price dependent on the performance of these drugs.

The transaction still needs approval from competition authorities in China and is expected to conclude in the second quarter of 2024.

Aspen, valued at R83.8 billion on the JSE, has made clear it was looking to diversify its portfolio in China in order to mitigate the risk from that country's volume-based-procurement model. -Fin24

Nampak reports R4 billion loss

Nampak, which is in the middle of a turnaround under new management, has reported a R4 billion full-year loss as South Africa’s largest packaging group grappled with foreign exchange losses in Nigeria and increasing competition.

But there appeared to be some green shoots showing under new CEO Phil Roux, with the group’s Bevcan South Africa operation performing strongly to improve its trading profit by 28%, and its DivFood returning to profitability with an "improvement of R77 million in its trading profit".

The company’s trading profit also increased 2% to R1.6 billion, while cash generated from operations also came in at R1.6 billion, a 95% improvement before working capital changes were taken into account.

Nampak, however, booked a total loss of almost R4 billion, from a profit of R19 million in the prior year.-Fin24

ADvTECH's Roy Douglas to retire

ADvTECH CEO Roy Douglas will retire from the JSE-listed private education group at the end of February next year after a decade at the helm.

The owner of brands such as Trinityhouse and Crawford said in a statement on Monday that Geoff Whyte, Nando’s CEO for Africa, the Middle East and Asia, would be taking over the top position from 1 March 2024.

ADvTECH said Douglas would remain with the company for a "suitable period after he steps off the board to ensure a seamless handover".

The company, valued at just over R13 billion on the JSE, paid tribute to Douglas, saying that he had successfully led ADvTECH through its expansion strategy, resulting in the company "becoming the leading private education and recruitment group across the continent".-Fin24

Capital Appreciation maintains dividend

Fintech and software group Capital Appreciation maintained its interim dividend as earnings held up despite a difficult economic backdrop.

Revenue rose 3% to R554.2 million in the six months ended 30 September 2023, while headline earnings more than doubled to R80.6 million, partly benefiting from a three-month contribution from recently acquired Dariel Solutions.

Cash from operations climbed 55% from the prior corresponding period to R159.9 million, allowing for an interim dividend of 4.25 cents per share, equal to the shareholder distribution in the previous half-year.

"Our continued investment in growth-related initiatives, including additional skills, new technology solutions, developing proprietary owned software and international expansion has positioned the group well to meet this demand," Capital Appreciation CEO Bradley Sacks said in a statement on Monday announcing the group’s half-year results.-Fin24

Prosus eyes next wave of growth from AI

Prosus Ventures, the venture capital arm of Prosus, is eyeing the massive potential of software-as-a-service (SaaS) in India as one of the most likely places it will find tech startups poised for a wave of growth.

The group says it already has stakes that could prove beneficial, given the world's fifth-largest economy appears to be on the cusp of a consumer boom.

This is being driven by a double-digit nominal GDP growth rate and tailwinds from what it says are supportive government policies.

Prosus listed on the Euronext Amsterdam exchange and the JSE, and the interests of Naspers outside of South Africa, including stakes in Tencent as well as food delivery service Swiggy – one-half of India's delivery duopoly – India's largest edtech BYJU, as well as Eruditus – which focuses on executive education.-Fin24

SA airline sued Boeing for US$83 million

Shuttered local airline Comair has asked a US court to toss out a breach of contract claim brought against it by Boeing, saying the claim should be barred because the US aeronautics giant allegedly engaged in fraud and intentional misrepresentation.

Comair and Boeing have both made claims for damages against the other in an ongoing US court case linked to Comair's decision to terminate a multi-million-rand order for eight 737 MAX aircraft.

Comair cancelled the order in February 2020, in the wake of two fatal 737 MAX crashes that made global headlines. At that time, it had received only one of the eight aircraft on order.

South Africa's oldest private airline, which is in provisional liquidation, asked a US court to award it "at least" US$83 million in damages. It argued that Boeing had "placed profits over safety and led with a plan of deception" and cut corners in a "rush" to get its 737 MAX to market.-Fin24

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