Sugar producer Tongaat Hulett expects shares to resume trade on Monday after 7-month suspension

Sugar producer Tongaat Hulett says it expects that its shares will resume trading on the JSE on Monday, about seven months after it asked the bourse to suspend trade amid an investigation.

In an earnings report for the six months ended September 2019, Tongaat said the JSE has agreed to lift the suspension with effect from Monday.

The group had asked the stock exchange to suspend the shares in June 2019 after it uncovered accounting irregularities that resulted in inflated assets and profits. The probe lead to the restatement of the group's September 2018 results. 

On Friday, Tongaat reported that gross revenue for the six months fell by 1.5% to R8.085 billion. Operating profit jumped to R1.278bn from R315m in 2018, due, in part, to the application of hyperinflation accounting to its Zimbabwean operations. The group's net loss, meanwhile, decreased by 19% to R318m, from R392m in 2018.  

Debt reduction and operations 

Tongaat said it had committed to reducing its South African debt by at least R8.1bn by March 2021, which it would do via a combination of cost savings, asset sales and an equity capital raise. Total borrowings across the group's South African, Zimbabwean and Mozambican operations stood at R12.9bn in September 2019.

The group's South African sugar operations generated an operating loss of R283m against a loss of R121m in 2018. "Management is of a view that the financial performance will improve going forward," it said. 

Profit at its Zimbabwean operations jumped to R928m against R306m in 2018, while its Mozambican divisions turned an operating profit of R122m, in part due to the completion of a 90 000-ton refinery, which meant the operations could benefit from a price premium from the sale of refined, as opposed to raw, sugar.