THE WEEK AHEAD
MONDAY: South African and European Union trade negotiators meet in Pretoria over the next two days for another round in the drawn out trade negotiations, which began in June 1995. The EU is clearly exasperated at the indecisiveness of the SA team, one official calling it the "EU's most difficult negotiations yet". SA is being pressed to shift gears and fast-track its response to the EU trade proposals, which were tabled in March last year. The EU is offering SA companies tariff-free access to its markets in return for a phased-in opening of the SA market to European companies. The EU is seeking to exclude SA agricultural exports, which has proved the major hurdle in the talks.
TUESDAY: Two of the country's largest banks are set to announce their results for the year to end-September over the next few days. Nedcor is likely to lead the pack in terms of income growth - at the interim stage taxed earnings were up 28% to R575-million.
First National Bank's results are of particular interest - they are the first under the stewardship of MD Viv Bartlett, who took over when the bank was experiencing difficult times. Analysts expect earnings growth in the region of 17% to 19% for the year, but they will also be looking for a sharp cut in the group's costs-to-income ratio.
WEDNESDAY: Recently listed retailer Wooltru is set to lodge a formal offer for Australian fashion retailer Country Road this week. Wooltru, already a significant shareholder in the group, has offered A$2 a share for Country Road. It is being opposed by Australian Retail Investment, which last week bid A$2.25 for another 7.7% stake.
THURSDAY: Parliament breaks for a summer recess with a number of bills, such as the long-term and short-term insurance bills, unlikely to be passed into the law in the current session. However, the National Assembly is set to vote on one of the government's most controversial pieces of legislation, the Basic Conditions of Employment Bill, this week after it was rushed through Nedlac and the parliamentary process over the past few weeks. A second labour law, establishing a national training framework, will only be heard in Parliament next year.
FRIDAY: The government is set to pave the way for large-scale investments in the Eastern Cape when it launches the Fish River spatial development initiative at a conference in East London. The Fish River SDI is modelled on the successful Maputo Corridor. Projects set to be announced include the Coega Industrial Development Zone, supported by Gencor's R2-billion zinc smelter, a new Rolls-Royce engine factory and a number of tourist projects. However, the government is likely to withdraw proposals for a coastal road linking Port Edward to Port St Johns.