Company news in brief

16 October 2019 | Sakenuus
Helios Towers in steady London debut

Shares in African mobile networks operator Helios Towers were up slightly on their market debut in London yesterday, providing some relief to a jittery market for initial public offerings.

The company, which operates phone masts in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, had earlier yesterday priced its IPO at 115 pence per share, at the low end of its pricing range. The shares rose more than 4% at one stage in early trade to 120 pence per share before settling just above the IPO price at around 116 pence by 0830 GMT.

Helios Towers set its IPO size at 250 million pounds and gave the company a market capitalisation of 1.15 billion pounds (US$1.45 billion). The size was short of the maximum target of US$500 million.

Helios operates phone masts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania. It had shelved previous plans for its IPO amid concerns about political risks in DRC and Tanzania.

Helios has said it will use the proceeds for expanding its services, including possibly into new countries. – Nampa/Reuters

Uber launches boat service in Lagos

Global ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] on Friday launched a pilot test of a boat service in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos to attract commuters seeking to avoid the megacity’s notoriously congested roads.

The United Nations predicts that Nigeria’s population will more than double to 400 million by 2050, which would make it the third most populous country in the world after China and India.

The combination of population growth and congestion has made Nigeria, and more broadly West Africa, attractive to foreign transport companies.

Uber’s chief business officer told Reuters in June the company planned to launch the service to carry travelers in the Lagos megacity of around 20 million people that is built on a lagoon.

The pilot phase will operate on weekdays from 07:00 GMT to 16:00 GMT on a fixed route between two locations in the city. Passengers will be charged a flat fare of 500 naira (US$1.39) per trip, compared with about 300 naira by minibus for a similar journey in the commercial hub of the West African country where most people live on less than US$2 a day.

Uber’s boat initiative follows a number of motorcycle ride-hailing firms that have targeted West Africa as an area for expansion in the last few months. – Nampa/Reuters

Hyundai to invest billions in tech

Hyundai Motor Group said yesterday it plans to invest 41 trillion won (US$34.65 billion) in mobility technology and strategic investments by 2025, as South Korea’s top automaker accelerates its attempts to catch up in the self-driving car race.

The plan, which Hyundai said encompassed autonomous, connected and electric vehicles, comes after the company and two of its affiliates announced an investment of US$1.6 billion in a joint venture with US self-driving tech firm Aptiv.

Hyundai’s plan also received a boost from the South Korean government, which said yesterday it plans to spend 1.7 trillion won from 2021-27 to boost autonomous vehicle technology.

The government expects Hyundai to launch a nationwide service of fully autonomous cars to fleet customers in 2024 and the general public by 2027.

This push is part of a blueprint for future cars president Moon Jae-in announced at an event at Hyundai Motor’s research centre near Seoul. – Nampa/Reuters

Harley-Davidson halts e-production

Harley-Davidson Inc (HOG.N) said on Monday it has stopped production and deliveries of its first electric motorcycle after discovering a glitch in the final quality checks.

The motorcycle maker said it has discovered a “non-standard condition” with LiveWire, which it began shipping to its dealers late last month, prompting additional testing and analysis.

While the company said its testing is progressing “well,” it did not offer a timeline as to when the production will resume.

The company is betting on electric motorcycles to attract the next generation of younger and more environmentally conscious riders to reverse declining US sales.

LiveWire - priced at US$29 799 - has been available for preorder in the United States since January. The bulk of the orders for the bike were coming in from existing and old riders, its dealers told Reuters. – Nampa/Reuters

Sinopec weighs cuts in runs

Asia's largest refiner, Sinopec, is weighing plans to cut crude oil imports in December and reduce output at its refineries after a surge in global tanker freight rates hit margins, four sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The cost of shipping crude to Asia has surged over the past two weeks after companies stopped using nearly 300 tankers for fear of violating US sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.

Refining margins have yet to catch up with the jump in freight rates, forcing refiners to absorb the high shipping costs for now.

"Freight rates have jumped to US$8-US$9 a barrel, up by US$7 a barrel. It's eaten up a chunk of the [refining] margins," one of the sources said.

In a sign that the company was already trying to unload some of its excess supply in the spot market, Sinopec's trading arm Unipec UK offered four west African crude cargoes last week, but failed to sell them, traders said. Sinopec could not be immediately reached for comment. – Nampa/Reuters

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