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Attacks on foreigners in South Africa prompt stock market pain

Shoprite and MTN shares bear the brunt of local xenophobic violence.

The growing backlash to xenophobic violence meted out on African nationals living in South Africa is being felt on the Johannesburg stock exchange.

MTN, the continent’s largest mobile phone operator, fell as much as 2%, after the company closed its offices in Nigeria following attacks on its premises in three cities. Shoprite, Africa’s largest food retailer, dropped after its stores were attacked in Lagos. The benchmark South African index was 0.2% higher as of 2:27 pm after climbing as much as 0.7%. The MSCI Emerging Marketz Index rose 1.5%.

Read: Under siege in Nigeria, SA businesses shut stores

“It’s exactly the reason why local retailers and stocks like MTN who have African exposure are losing ground today,” said Henre Herselman, a derivatives trader at Johannesburg-based Anchor Private Clients, which oversees R38 billion ($2.6 billion) for clients. “I have seen several announcements from companies stating they have closed shops out of a fear a retaliation.”

I am sending a Special Envoy to President Ramaphosa to share our deep concern about the security of Nigerian lives and property in South Africa, and to ensure that the South African Government is doing everything within its power in this regard.

— Muhammadu Buhari (@MBuhari) September 3, 2019
The latest spate of South African attacks broke out in Johannesburg on Sunday and saw the destruction of more than 50 shops and business premises mainly owned by Africans from countries in the rest of the continent. Cars and properties were torched and widespread looting took place. The violence against African nationals may be a reaction to extra competition for jobs and services in Africa’s most-industrialised economy.

Read: MTN Nigeria says all stores will be closed after anti-South African attacks

Ramaphosa says South Africa must quell attacks on foreigners as summit starts

“From footage I’ve seen it most definitely will hit Shoprite hard because it goes beyond lost sales, but also cost of repairs and restoring the damage,” said Nolwandle Mthombeni, an analyst at Mergence Investment Managers in Cape Town. “I don’t think this is a permanent deterrent from expanding into rest of continent, but it does mean any short term plans may be pushed out till the attacks are well in the rear-view.”

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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Should not be called Africa’s most industrialized economy but Africa’s most violent country.

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