Briefing | Flash

Flash briefing: Covid variants get name changes, SA’s is now Beta – WHO; unemployment rises; S&P500 CEO pay hikes

  • South Africa’s official unemployment rate rose to a new high in the first quarter as the construction and trade industries shed jobs. The jobless rate rose to 32.6% from 32.5% in the three months through December, Statistics South Africa said Tuesday in a report released in the capital, Pretoria. That’s the highest number on record, says Bloomberg. Unemployment according to the expanded definition, which includes people who were available for work but not looking for a job, rose to 43.2% from 42.6% the previous quarter. That was as the number of discouraged work seekers surged by 201,000 people in the quarter. South Africa’s official unemployment rate is the third-highest of 82 countries tracked by Bloomberg.
  • The World Health Organisation has changed the way it names Covid-19 variants in an effort to de-stigmatise some countries. The major variants of concern have been renamed, with the UK variant called Alpha, South Africa’s variant Beta. Brazil’s is now called Gamma and the India variant is now referred to as Delta. India has another variant called Kappa, while a US-specific variant is being referred to as Epsilon. The first known variant, which was identified in Wuhan, China, is not present on the list of recommended names published by the WHO this week.
  • South African miner Sibanye-Stillwater says it will buy back up to 5% of its shares in the market, or about R10bn worth of the stock. The share price rose sharply on the news. sending its stock price up sharply. Sibanye reported a massive increase in first-quarter core profit last month, on the back of higher prices for metals, including gold, platinum, palladium and rhodium. In a statement, Chief Executive Neal Froneman said the board considered the repurchase “the most appropriate and value-enhancing allocation of surplus capital at this stage, to ensure ongoing delivery of superior returns to shareholders.” Sibanye reinstated its dividend in 2020 for the first time since 2017. Share buybacks decrease the number of outstanding company shares, boosting per share earnings and lowering the price-to-earnings ratio.
  • Median pay reached $13.4m for chief executives of the biggest US companies in 2020, setting a fifth straight annual record/ in a year when businesses and their leaders battled a global pandemic. Most S&P 500 CEOs got raises of about 5% or more as their companies recorded annual shareholder returns of about 8%, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

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