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Investors are prepared for the worst as the day of reckoning looms for Eskom, the state-owned power utility seen by Goldman Sachs Group Inc as the biggest threat to the country's economy.
Yields on benchmark South African government notes are at their highest in three weeks, trumped only by junk-rated Nigeria, Turkey and Lebanon among 29 major emerging markets. Rand-denominated sovereign debt has lost 3% for dollar investors this half, the worst performance after Colombia and Argentina. Foreigners have dumped a net R25 billion of the country's bonds this year, cutting their holdings to 37% of the total, from 43% less than 18 months ago.
The rand has weakened 4.6% in the half to date, and is among the five worst-performing developing-nation currencies versus the dollar. Speculative long-rand contracts retreated to the lowest level in more than three months last week, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. When it comes to the cost of insuring South Africa's debt against default, only Turkey and Argentina are more expensive.
Ramaphosa on load shedding: If you don't pay, you're part of the problem
A risk premium was priced in to the rand and local debt partly due to weak economic fundamentals and uncertainty on the future of Eskom, the medium-term budget policy statement and the credit assessment from Moody's, said Elna Moolman, a Johannesburg-based economist at Standard Bank Group Ltd.
Last week, the government published its latest Integrated Resource Plan, which maps out the energy mix for the next decade. It includes a switch to more green energy as the country, which sources most of its electricity from coal, faces pressure to meet emissions-reduction targets.
South Africa will develop a framework to take aging coal-fired plants out of service, Ramaphosa said. While this will present challenges for communities and workers where fossil fuel-powered energy generation takes place, "it also presents opportunities for those affected to have access to technologies that are more cost-effective and better for human health."