Goldman Models Risk of 1000 Bps Eskom Blowout for South Africa

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Goldman Models Risk of 1000 Bps Eskom Blowout for South Africa

An American multinational investment bank and financial services company, Goldman Sachs said South Africa’s rand could tumble 3.5 per cent if state-run power utility Eskom suffers a major sell-off in its bonds, but it could also jump 4.5 per cent if the firm’s troubles improve.

Goldman’s analysts said an Eskom risk gauge used by the bank was now close to its most elevated reading since it was started in 2013, suggesting that markets were currently pricing “close to peak Eskom risk”.

While there was no precedent in South Africa, they said international experience with distressed quasi-sovereign entities suggested Eskom credit spreads to U.S. debt could conceivably widen to more than 1000 basis points.

Goldman’s analysts said, “In a negative one where Eskom risk rises further, the rand could weaken by 3.5 per cent and (South African government debt) yields could widen by 45 basis points.  Adding that even more outsized reactions were also possible.”

In contrast, in a positive scenario where Eskom stress dropped back to 2014 levels, modelling pointed to a 4.5 per cent stronger rand and a 55 basis point improvement in 10-year government yields.

Eskom said back in December it wanted the government to take on 100 billion rand ($7.2 billion) of its debts. It has been implementing power cuts in recent months and is fighting for survival after a decade of financial decline.

The next Eskom-related developments to watch include: a report from a high-level taskforce at the end of January; the finance minister’s budget speech in mid- to late February; and a tariff announcement from South Africa’s electricity tariff regulator, NERSA, due by March 1.

“With more acute financial and operational issues at the company and the taskforce report due at the end of the month, we think that policy decisions relating to Eskom could be more forthcoming now than they have been at times in the past.”

Goldman said “Nonetheless, given the current political constraints related to upcoming general elections (likely to take place in May 2019), any deeper-cutting and more comprehensive policies may only be possible post-elections.”

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