$1.15bn Black Empowerment Deal
JOHANNESBURG ? South Africa\'s biggest insurer, Old Mutual Plc, will sell 12.75% of its local businesses to black investors and staff in a deal worth 7.2 billion rand ($1.15 billion), it said yesterday.
London-listed Old Mutual said around 40% of the shares would go to staff in a move that will affect half a million black South Africans and is one of the country\'s biggest black economic empowerment transactions to date. Old Mutual is also selling stakes in its majority owned banking and insurance units Nedcor and Mutual & Federal.
South African financial services companies must sell at least 10% of their capital to black investors under an industry charter aimed at shifting more of the mostly white-controlled economy into the hands of the black majority. But Old Mutual said the deal also made good business sense and would help attract more black staff and customers.
Huge Oil Found in Sudan
LONDON ? Drilling for oil has begun in Sudan\'s troubled Darfur region after preliminary studies showed there were abundant quantities of oil. Sudan\'s main oilfields are in the south and disputes over oil drew out negotiations to end 20 years of civil war.
A peace deal signed in January revived interest in Sudan\'s potential oil reserves but analysts say the conflict in Darfur, where tens of thousands have been killed and at least 2 million driven from their homes, has scared off investors.
The ABCO consortium ? in which Swiss company Cliveden owns a 37% share ? owned the rights to the field. Work on the first oil well, southwest of El-Fasher in North Darfur State, is underway. Sudan began exporting oil in 1998 and exports around 300,000 barrels a day, which is set to rise to 500,000 barrels by August.
Africa On The Backburner At Summit
JAKARTA ? African leaders invited to Indonesia for a summit this week with Asian counterparts may get second billing with bilateral issues, including a feud between Japan and China and North Korea\'s nuclear crisis, likely to hog the limelight. Nearly 50 heads of state or government will attend the 50th anniversary commemoration of the first meeting of Third World countries in Bandung, Indonesia, among them leaders of China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Myanmar and South Africa. The formal agenda for the Asia-Africa summit that begins on Friday and ends on Sunday is devoid of controversy, but bilateral discussions will be closely watched, especially if the Japanese and Chinese leaders meet to discuss a row over World War Two history.
Priests Being Outsourced
BOMBAY ? Catholic priests in flowing white cassocks are the latest to join India\'s booming outsourcing bandwagon. Faced with a shortage of clergymen and dwindling churchgoers, Catholic churches in Europe, the United States and Latin America are seeking the services of Indian priests to run parishes and say Mass.
The Syro Malabar Church in Kerala, with an estimated 3.3 million followers, is a major contributor of clergymen for overseas missions, according to a report by Reuters. The 18-million-strong Indian Catholic church says up to 5,000 priests are working in Europe, the United States, Africa and Latin America.
The growing influence of the Indian Catholic church became evident when Vatican experts tossed up the name of Bombay\'s archbishop, Ivan Dias, as the only serious Asian contender for the next pope.
Treasure Returns, 6 Decades Later
AXUM ? Thousands of Ethiopians cheered and cried joyously as Italy returned the first piece of the Axum obelisk yesterday, an ancient national treasure Rome\'s fascist regime plundered 68 years ago. Cheers erupted as the massive cargo jet carrying the first piece of the funerary monument broke through the early-morning mist of the shrouded sky of Axum, a northern city that was the centre of ancient Ethiopia\'s civilization.
The Russian-made Antonov 124 cargo jet, one of only two types of plane large enough to carry the granite monument\'s three parts, alighted smoothly in landlocked Ethiopia on a runway specially built to accommodate its bulk. The jet, paid for by Italy and flown from Rome, landed nearly six decades after Italy promised to return the 24-metre (78 feet) obelisk after its World War II defeat.