Company news in brief

Standard Bank withdraws guidance Standard Bank yesterday withdrew its financial guidance citing uncertainty caused by the coronavirus which has forced South Africa into a 21-day lockdown expected to take a toll on an already sputtering economy. Africa's largest lender by assets is the first of South Africa's major lenders to warn that its outlook and guidance might no longer stand. The bank's guidance, given just weeks ago when it reported 2019 results, was already relatively pessimistic, with the lender warning that the outlook and operating environment in its markets was uncertain and challenging. “While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold and countries respond to this crisis in different ways, there is a high degree of uncertainty regarding the impact it will have on Standard Bank's financial performance in the 2020 financial year,” Standard Bank said in a statement. Rivals Nedbank and Absa both said they would not meet key profitability targets on time due to a further deterioration in the South African economy, which slipped into recession in the final quarter of 2019. – Nampa/Reuters Spur to defer dividend payment South African franchise restaurant chain Spur Corporation said on Monday it will defer the payment of its 2020 interim dividend until Oct. 5, in order to preserve cash reserves during the nationwide 21-day lockdown period. The interim dividend amounts to R71 million and was due to be paid on April 6 to shareholders, the owner of Spur Steak Ranches restaurants and fast-food RocoMamas burger chain said. All the group's restaurants operating in South Africa ceased trading on Thursday, while similar measures have been, or are expected to be, implemented at many of the group's overseas operations. Spur has over 600 outlets, with restaurants in various parts of Africa, Mauritius, the Middle East and Australasia. – Nampa/Reuters Netcare scraps 2020 outlook South Africa's Netcare has scrapped its 2020 outlook, suspended spending on projects and share buybacks, and may need to review its dividend policy due to the impact of coronavirus, the private hospital company said on Monday. “The impact of Covid-19 introduces significant forecast risk. Netcare will be better positioned to provide updated guidance at the time of publishing its interim results in May 2020,” it said in a statement. “This may also necessitate a revision of Netcare's dividend policy.” Non-essential elective surgery at Netcare's hospitals has also been suspended following a 21-day national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus that started last week, it said. The company said its financial position and cash flow remained in a healthy condition and it had cash balances and committed banking facilities in excess of R3.5 billion from which to manage its future liquidity requirements. Netcare said R800 million of spending earmarked for new and current projects had been postponed, as had further share buybacks, to preserve cash and ensure liquidity. Netcare, which competes with Life Healthcare and Mediclinic, said it expected total patient days to fall by 2.7% in its hospital and emergency services division, the company's biggest, in the six months ending on March 31. – Nampa/Reuters Harmony Gold sees lower output Harmony Gold Mining Company said yesterday it expects limited gold production during the 21-day lockdown in South Africa in the wake of the fast-spreading coronavirus. The South Africa-based miner expects to produce between 650kg and 700kg of gold in the country during the lockdown. Harmony Gold said it would suspend all exploration and capital projects as “cash preservation is key” in the current situation. The miner said that all nine of its underground mines in South Africa have ceased mining, while its open-pit mining operations in the country's northwest province continue to mine and treat its ore, but at a reduced rate. – Nampa/Reuters Visa transaction volumes hurt Visa Inc said on Monday its transaction volumes had been hit as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on consumer spending, leading it to forecast mid-single-digit percentage revenue growth for the second quarter. “As countries have imposed social distancing, shelter-in-place or total lock-down orders, domestic spending, most notably in travel, restaurants, entertainment and fuel, has sharply declined week on week,” the world's largest payments network said in a statement. The company said transaction volumes fell in the second half of March and there has been a rapid deterioration in cross-border travel-related spending. Mastercard Inc, American Express, and PayPal Holdings Inc have also warned of slowing revenue growth due to the outbreak. Visa, which reported a 4% fall in March to date in US payments volume from a year earlier, said it expects operating expense growth in high single digits and earnings per share growth in the high end of low single digits. – Nampa/Reuters

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The Covid-19 pandemic is putting enormous strains on the public health systems around the world, and millions of people in the world's most