S.Africa’s Transnet swings to heavy loss as rail volumes decline

By Nelson Banya

(Reuters) – South Africa’s state-owned logistics company Transnet slumped to an annual loss of 5.7 billion rand ($304 million) in its last financial year, it said on Friday, citing continued declines in rail freight volumes and higher borrowing costs.

The loss for the year ended March 31 compares with a 5 billion rand profit the year before, largely driven by a huge property valuation gain.

Transnet said its freight rail operations were adversely affected by floods in the KwaZulu Natal province in April 2022, as well as cable theft, vandalism of infrastructure and operational inefficiencies in the general freight and coal export segments.

CEO Portia Derby said cable theft had reached “crisis levels”, with 1,000 km of cable having been stolen between April 2022 and March 2023.

“While it is an improvement on the 1,500 km stolen the previous year, this still translates to over 3,500 events, each creating significant bottlenecks and sizeable backlogs that can take days to clear,” Derby said.

Cable theft increases costs and results in lost freight volumes and frequent, unscheduled maintenance to replace the cables, she added.

During the financial year, Transnet also suffered an 11-day strike which impacted its rail and port operations.

Revenue in the year to March 31 was flat at 68.9 billion rand, compared with 68.5 billion last a year before, as improved port and pipeline performances helped offset the impact of a 13.6% decline in rail volumes.

($1 = 18.7499 rand)

(Reporting by Nelson Banya in Harare; Editing by David Goodman and David Holmes)