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S.African stocks rebound, MTN leads charge

By on March 8, 2012

South African stocks rebounded on Wednesday after their heaviest one-day loss in over 3 months in the previous session, led by Africa’s biggest telecoms group, MTN Group, which cheered investors by jacking up its dividend cover.

More broadly, the Johannesburg bourse shrugged off a one-day nationwide strike led by union umbrella group COSATU that brought some gold mines to a standstill.

European shares steadied after two days of losses and the euro recovered from a 3-week low as markets awaited the outcome of a Greek debt restructuring deal.

Johannesburg’s benchmark blue-chip Top-40 index added 0.71 percent to 29,822.39, while the broader All-Share index rose 0.61 percent to 33,592.32.

MTN was in the spotlight, climbing 3 percent as investors welcomed a promise to pay 70 percent of its earnings as a dividend, up from 65 percent, after a 43 percent jump in full-year profit.

However, the company also said it was struggling to get money out of Iran due to tougher Western sanctions. Despite the problems, the Iran business has been a money-spinner for MTN, said Credit Suisse analyst Richard Barker.

“That business just goes from strength to strength. That’s the ironic thing. It’s probably been their strongest performing business over the last couple of years,” he said.

Miners recovered in line with metal prices after sharp falls in the previous session.

Lonmin, the world’s third-largest platinum producer which was the worst performer among Johannesburg blue chips last year, rose 1.46 percent, clawing back some of the ground it lost on Tuesday when it slid more than 5 percent.

Platinum producers were largely unaffected by the nationwide stay away that hit sectors across the economy including gold and coal miners.

But gold mining shares rose as bullion prices snapped three days of losses. AngloGold Ashanti, the top producer of the precious metal, jumped 1.80 percent to 305.69 rand while rival Harmony Gold ended up about 1.0 percent.

Advancers outnumbers decliners 159 to 125 with 68 unchanged.


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