Fiji Business briefs:Lion One, RB Patel, Fiji Airways

Lion One Metals Ltd has received high-grade gold results from two recent drill holes, one deep and one shallow, at its 100% controlled Tuvatu alkaline gold project in Fiji. It describes the interval discovered during the shallow drill as “narrow but exceptionally high-grade.” “This is a big step-out and gives us high confidence we have discovered a significant root structure below the Tuvatu lode system,” said Lion One technical advisor Quinton Hennigh.

Fiji Airways has been awarded the Diamond certification, the highest standard for travel safeguards in a COVID-19 world by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and SimpliFlying. The rating is offered only to airlines that provide hospital-grade health safety measures. The intensive audit investigates 58 areas across 10 stages of a customer’s airline experience; from online check-in, testing and contact tracing, airport journey, lounge, and onboard experience, and upon arrival at a destination. Fiji Airways becomes the first airline in the world its size to attain the Diamond certification, joining the likes of United Airlines, Etihad Airways, Alaska Airlines, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Turkish Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic, and Air Canada.

Fiji has signed an agreement with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility that will unlock up to US$12.5 million (approx. FJ$26 million) in results-based payments for increasing carbon sequestration and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The five-year agreement will reward efforts to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation under Fiji’s emission reductions program which aims to reduce emissions by 2.5 million tonnes over five years and contribute to restoration of ecosystem services essential for increasing resilience to climate change, such as soil retention and flood regulation.

 The RB Patel Group has declared an interim dividend of 1.5 cents per share totalling $2.25 million, to be paid on 24 February 2021. Board Chairman Yogesh Karan said “The results for the half year demonstrates the company’s resilience in turbulent times. Although turnover and profits are below last year’s results the performance is very respectable with the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, closed borders and a significant economic downturn”. The turnover for the current period was $67M compared to $69M last year a decline of just over 3%. Profit after tax for the six months was $3.9M against last year’s $4.2M, a drop of almost 8%. Income from other sources which is mainly rental income saw a decline of just over 35%. The company provided rebates to tenants who were impacted by the pandemic on a case-by-case basis mainly in our JetPoint Complex in Nadi. Some tenants had to terminate their tenancies.

Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor Ariff Ali says the return of economic activity in Fiji to pre-pandemic levels will be long and uncertain given the extended closure of international borders. “However, the recent vaccine rollout announcements, both locally and in major tourism source markets of Australia and New Zealand, are pulses of positivity. Based on the vaccination outturn globally and the possible commencement of international travel later in the second half of the year, the Fijian economy is anticipated to register positive growth in 2021.”

Ali says  the financial system remains stable, bolstered by strong capital and liquidity positions of banks. However, vulnerabilities emanating from a prolonged economic downturn could heighten debt serviceability pressures and loan defaults in the near to medium term.

Free Bird Institute has been given the nod to allow international students from China and South Korea to enter Fiji as long as they are brought in a COVID-safe manner. Chief Financial Officer, Waisale Iowane said, “Students from China and South Korea are collectively the secondary market for FBL…we are confident that we would be able to capitalise on this opportunity.”

Kontiki Finance has appointed a new director, Cecil Browne. He has 47 years’ experience in the banking industry with more than half of them in executive roles, retiring as Bank of the South Pacific Fiji GM Corporate in November 2019 where he worked for 10 years.

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Secretariat and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) have discussed a proposed Regional Symposium on Trade Financing for Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). The symposium is scheduled for March and will discuss a way forward for new and enhanced strategies on Trade Financing for MSMEs. It is expected that this will be done through sharing of lessons learnt and exchange of information amongst regional and international trade officials.