Company news in brief

Investec ups dividend 15%

Investec, the niche bank and wealth manager, upped its interim dividend by almost 15% after a rise in interest rates helped boost its first-half earnings. It has also benefitted from strong corporate loan growth and increased revenue from its South African wealth and investment operations.

The Johannesburg- and London-listed firm, which reports its results in pounds, said on Thursday that headline earnings per share jumped 15.3% to 39.7p in its six months to September. This profit measure, which excludes one-off items, leapt almost 30% in rand terms due to a weaker local currency.

The group upped its interim dividend by 14.8% to 15.5p per share, or R3.52, reporting a 4% increase in net core loans to £31 billion in neutral-currency terms, largely driven by corporate lending in both the UK and South Africa.

Customer deposits increased 1.9% annualised to £39.9 billion, while funds under management (FUM) in Southern Africa increased by 2% to £20.2 billion, mainly driven by discretionary net inflows, as well as foreign exchange translation gains on dollar-denominated portfolios.

Investec's return on equity (ROE), a measure of its profitability, rose to 14.6% in the half-year, up from 12.9%. It expects this to remain above the mid-point of its 12% to 16% target range when it next publishes its full-year results. – Fin24

MultiChoice books R1bn loss

DStv owner MultiChoice said its loss widened to about R1 billion, and it lost subscribers. But, it's still gearing up for its battle for Africa's eyeballs, including through the launched of a revamped Showmax.

The group reported its headline loss widened to R1.2 billion in the six months to end September from R248 million, with revenue falling 1% to R28.3 billion.

Its loss after tax was R911 million, while core headline earnings - its preferred measure that excludes non-recurring and non-operational items - fell 5% to R1.9 billion. The group had to contend with a depreciation of African currencies against the US dollar, load shedding, as well as a R500 million spend on Showmax.

In total, South African customer numbers were 5% lower at 8.6 million, but it added that, encouragingly, the premium base posted 5% growth, reflecting a positive trend for the first time in many years.

Inflationary pressure also weighed on its Africa business, with the group saying that after adding 1.4 million new subscribers in its 2023 financial year, subscriber growth in Africa only picked up 100 000 in its first half of 2024 to 13 million. – Fin24

Woolworths suffers volumes hit

Woolworths has warned shareholders volumes have fallen in its core food and fashion businesses.

The JSE-listed retailer cited a struggling local economy, a bird flu outbreak that hit key product lines, port congestion, as well as the Cape Town taxi strike as major headaches.

Woolworths fared even worse in its other key market, Australasia, with its Country Road chain experiencing sales declines of more than 10% in the 20 weeks ended 12 November.

The company said it faced an "increasingly challenging macro-economic backdrop" in both geographies, with interest rate increases and higher living costs hitting both footfall and discretionary spending.

At group level, its turnover and concession sales from continuing operations by increased by 4.7% and by 3.9% in constant currency terms.

Woolworths reported "continued strong underlying growth" in its food business, with turnover and concession sales growing by 8.4%, or by 7.2% on a comparable store basis. But the group also passed on selling price inflation of 9.4%, which implies volumes fell. – Fin24