BUSINESS ROUNDUPGAUTENG R250-M IT TENDER The Gauteng provincial government has awarded the largest provincial IT contract in SA - a R250-million tender to link provincial headquarters in Johannesburg with 100 regional and district offices and 52 local authorities using voice, data and video transmission technology.
The winning consortium is led by IT group Spersom but includes Hewlett-Packard, National Data Systems, Mercer, Compaq, Lucent, Oracle, Sony and Cisco. Over 60 small, black contractors have been commissioned to work on the contracts.
Mohamed Bhyat, Gauteng's chief director, information systems, says the use of smart technology will lead to greater transparency at all levels of government and will provide a seamless flow of information between all levels of government.
He also indicated the new systems would enable the province to reduce its workforce.
The tender involves the upgrading, design and replacement of communications, voice, digital and ISDN equipment, along with related software, networking and video conferencing products.
STEEL IMPORTS HIT SURPLUS The main reason for the R873-million turnaround in SA's trade balance from February to March - leading to a R360-million deficit - was a R1.19-billion jump in machinery imports to R4.6-billion as the Saldanha Steel project neared completion. Imports rose R896-million to R11.45-billion, while exports remained virtually static with a R24million rise to R11.1-billion.
The cumulative trade surplus for the first quarter of the year was, however, only 4.3% lower at R626-million compared with R654-million last year. The growth rate in first-quarter exports of 12.4% on the same quarter a year ago was only marginally less than the import growth.
Excluding gold and diamonds, export growth rose to 18.7%. Gold exports are rising as the gold price bottoms - they rose by 23% in March.
AFROX PROFITS RISE Afrox, the diversified medical and gas company, reported a 16% improvement in turnover to R1.25-billion in the six months to end-March. Taxed profits were up by 13% to R110-million. An interim dividend of 14.2c (13c) will go to shareholders.
Afrox said on Thursday the increases were achieved despite tighter trading conditions in the industrial and healthcare divisions. Eight Cape hospitals were added to its hospital operation. The group expects tight trading conditions to continue in the second half but expects new plants, the extended hospital network and improved productivity to positively influence profits.
CRISIS AS BANK COLLAPSES Zimbabwe's first bank collapse has severely dented confidence in the banking system, and analysts said this week its future would depend on a rapid tightening of the supervision system. Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa withdrew United Merchant Bank's licence on Wednesday after an audit showed it was insolvent and undercapitalised.
The crisis has raised questions about the effectiveness of the central bank's supervision and the ministry's licensing considerations.
PETROL PRICES SET TO RISE Petrol and diesel prices will rise 1c and 3c a litre respectively from next Wednesday, the Central Energy Fund said on Friday. The increases will push the cost of a litre of 93 octane to 226c and diesel to 185.10c in Gauteng. ý Reports by BT staff, Reuters, I-Net