The rand rose to the strongest level since February after Eskom’s biggest bondholder was said to have a rescue plan for the state-owned company.
The currency, which was already being buoyed by a global rally, added as much as 0.9%, bringing the dollar-rand pair close to crossing below its 200-week moving average. The nation’s 2026 bonds rallied, putting the yield on course to closing below 8% for the first time in more than a year.
The Public Investment Corp. wants to convert its $6.4 billion holding into equity in return for a say over Eskom’s management, including board representation, said five people with direct knowledge of the talks.
“A debt-equity swap means that a creditor becomes a shareholder, and if the amount of debt swapped is large enough, even potentially a controlling shareholder. In my lingo, that is tantamount to privatisation, albeit in stealth mode,” said Cristian Maggio, the head of emerging-market strategy at TD Securities in London.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen unless the government accepts that privatisation is needed. It would be a very welcome development, but it ain’t gonna happen.”
A plan for the struggling utility would be a relief for government bonds and the rand, which have been weighed down by concerns over the impact of bailouts on the nation’s finances. The potential proposal coincides with a rally in emerging markets, which advanced on bets the US will cut borrowing costs this month for the first time in more than 10 years.
The rand added 0.9% as of 2:29 pm in Johannesburg to 13.86 per dollar. The main stock gauge was little changed.
Eskom, which supplies about 95% of the electricity used in Africa’s most industrialised economy and has been labeled “too big to fail” by President Cyril Ramaphosa, has more than R440 billion ($32 billion) of debt, and doesn’t generate enough cash to service it. The National Treasury is finalising a bailout plan over and above the R68 billion pledged in the February budget.
© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.