Fiji Business Briefs: Fiji Kava, Survivor, FNPF, Fiji Airways

Fiji Kava has released its half year financial results (for the six months ending 31 December 2020) and it reports revenue of A$496,379 for the period, up 111% on the previous six months. Fiji Kava reported a statutory net loss of A$1.5 million, a 28% improvement over the prior period, which it attributes to increased sales and decreased expenses due to tight cost controls over operations. It identifies supplier details with Blackmores company BioCeuticals in Australia and supply, distribution and marketing deals in China as highlights for the half-year. Fiji Kava says challenges due to customs delays, testing bottlenecks and freight constraints show early signs of normalising. It continues to invest in developing potential new products, including capsules, drinking kava, tea bags and speciality ingredients. Read the full statement here 

A repatriation flight from Fiji to Kiribati had to be cancelled on Sunday because Fiji Airways does not have the crew to service the flight. A statement from the Kiribati President’s office says: “Fiji Airways confirmed in its communication that the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement for flight crews upon arrival in Nadi when they carry passengers into Fiji has contributed to difficulties in acquiring the required crew for this chartered flight. Fiji Airways indicated that this issue may be extended until March, but this will be firmed at a later date.” Kiribati is looking at other options in the meantime.   

Meanwhile Fiji Airways is extending the use of flight credits to the end of 2022. The credits are for cancelled flights resulting from COVID-19 enforced border closures from 19 March last year. Scheduled commercial flights on the airline’s international network suspended in March continue while border restrictions remain in place at Fiji Airways’ destinations.

The Sydney-headquartered contact centre company Unity4 plans to set up in Fiji, employing 30 people as a start. Unity4 will add Suva to the list of its centres this year. It already operates in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA.

The South Pacific Stock Exchange (SPX) says average total stock market return for 2020 stood at 9.1% (tax-free) in comparison to 43% the previous year. The result is largely attributed to declines in share prices recorded by 9 of the 20 listed entities. The volume and value of trades also fell significantly by 67.5%  percent and 65.4%, respectively owing in part to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and no new entity listings.

The  Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) plans to acquire the QBE Insurance Arcade Building (subject to usual regulatory consents), reassuring its members that while it is being conservative in its investment approach during the pandemic, it also recognises investment opportunities available in the market. The acquisition will add to the Fund’s overall property portfolio, which now stands at 29 properties.

Fiji will welcome back the United States reality show Survivor to begin production in the country this month. It’s the  first major  production  approved  under the  Fijian  COVID  Safe  Economic Framework.  Beginning in mid-February, the cast and crew will enter Fiji in three groups, adhering to the 72-hour pre-departure testing then 14-days quarantine at a Government designated quarantine facility under 24/7surveillance from the RFMF and supervision of our Health experts.

The iTaukei Trust Fund Board (TTFB) and the Home Finance Company Pte Ltd  (HFC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that sees the establishment of a Loan Guarantee Scheme (LGS) to enhance the entrepreneurial drive of existing or potential local resource owners’ businesses post COVID-19.

Free Bird Limited has opened a new restaurant in Lautoka offering Japanese Udon meals. Executive Chair, Hiroshi Taniguchi said they had been looking at how to diversify the business, capture the local market and manage its risk portfolio and that the venture will “allow us to continue to employ people in our business.”  Chief Financial Officer, Waisale Iowane said, “The opening of this restaurant will assist us reduce our reliance on revenue from the international market to some extent. Whilst this expansion is relatively small given our scale of operations, we believe that this is a step in the right direction for us.”

The Republic of China (Taiwan) is setting up a new Centre for Agricultural Technology Transfer in Nausori, Fiji. Representative of Taipei Trade Office in Fiji Jessica Lee said the centre represents a FJ$3 million(US$1.5 million) funds injection. The Centre will house two smart greenhouses, built with sensors of controlling lighting, temperature, humidity and data mining, which will be suitable for high valued crops cultivation and production as well as weather resilience for cyclone and earthquake. 

The World Bank has approved a US$50 million (FJD$102.7 million) Credit to support Fiji’s recovery from the impacts of COVID-19 and severe tropical cyclones Harold and Yasa. The project has a special focus on women who have been disproportionally affected by the crisis.  The Fiji Social Protection COVID-19 Response and System Development Project – which is the first project announced following the recent approval of the World Bank Group’s new Country Partnership Framework for Fiji – will support the government’s COVID-19 relief measures, with a particular focus on cash transfers targeting Fijians in the formal sector who have lost their jobs or have had their working reduced hours as a result of COVID-19 through the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF).

Fiji’s trade minister, Faiyaz Koya has told a real estate agents conference that while the COVID-19 pandemic has nearly brought the industry to a halt, the review of the Real Estates Agents Act will strengthen professionalism and transparency in the industry. The Reserve Bank states that commercial banks’ new lending for investment purposes declined by 24.9% in 2020, driven by lower lending to the real estate (-25.7%) and building & construction (-23.1%) sectors.