Stock markets and what you should know

Africa money worthy cassava transformed into lucrative cash crop

The seeds of prosperity for some rural Africans may lie in a crop that has sustained them with calories for centuries but has generated virtually no wealth for their poor countries. Cassava - with its starchy root used to make tapioca - thrives in Africa's tropical climates, through drought or deluge, but maize and other crops have had distinct advantages over the hardy tuber. Until now. Cassava can remain in the soil for a couple of years but its main drawback has been that it has to be processed within 48 hours of harvesting or it spoils. An unlisted Dutch-based company called DADTCO has developed a processing method for cassava and dispatches a mobile unit with the equipment to rural villages, so farmers don't have to harvest their crop until it arrives. The implications could be revolutionary on a continent where much economic activity still centres on small-scale farming. The potential has already been spotted by global brewer SABMiller which has started making beer from cassava in northern Mozambique."This creates we believe a fly-wheel for commercial cassava production in Mozambique," Mark Bowman, the brewer's managing director for Africa, told the Reuters Africa Investment Summit in April.

"In the short term 1,400 or 1,500 farmers benefit directly. We expect we can grow that up to 6,000 farmers as the product grows," he said. DADTCO chief executive Peter Bolt told Reuters that similar projects are being rolled out in Zambia, Ghana and South Sudan with more to follow."Our target is to roll out in 26 or 27 sub-Saharan African countries in the next couple of years," he said in a telephone interview from his Netherlands base.

MORE THAN BEER And it's not only brewers that are focusing on cassava. Unilever , the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant, is targeting the root to make sorbitol, a key ingredient in toothpaste and other products. Unilever and some of its business partners are currently in talks about investing in a starch complex to process cassava into starch or sorbitol in Nigeria, which is the world's biggest producer of the root and a big market for Unilever's 3 billion euro a year Africa business.

"We are already in exploratory talks to source 100,000 tonnes of cassava per year for processing in Africa into sorbitol for use in our oral care products like toothpaste," said Frank Braeken, Unilever's executive vice president for Africa. It remains to be seen how far the "cassava revolution" can go but it surely raises new hope on the economic and food security fronts for the world's poorest continent. When it comes to pure sustenance and survival, cassava is hard to beat because of its durability, even if maize and other staples generally have higher starch contents. According to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, 37 percent of Africa's dietary energy comes from cassava and per capita consumption on the continent is close to 80 kgs per year. But instead of being grown primarily for household consumption, expect more cassava to be stored in the ground for eventual sale. Almost like money in the bank.

Bank of china eyes usd7bn bond issue for silk road plan

HONG KONG, June 19 (IFR) - Bank of China is planning to raise as much as USD6-7bn from a multi-currency bond offering to support a USD40bn Silk Road Fund that will improve Asia's links to Europe. The Chinese bank is to issue senior unsecured bonds in US dollars, Singapore dollars and renminbi, according to sources close to the deal. The financing may be announced as early as next week. Barclays, Citigroup, DBS, HSBC and Bank of China's own underwriting team are the lead banks working on the deal, the sources said. President Xi Jinping announced a USD40bn commitment to set up a Silk Road infrastructure fund last November, and the fund began operations earlier this year. The fund's initial USD10bn capital came from China's foreign exchange reserves and state-owned policy institutions. Under the so-called "One Belt, One Road" initiative, China aims to create a modern Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to boost trade and extend its global influence. Projects under the plan include a network of railways, highways, oil and gas pipelines, power grids, Internet networks, maritime and other infrastructure links across Central, West and South Asia to as far as Greece, Russia and Oman, increasing China's connections to Europe and Africa. (Reporting By Frances Yoon; Editing By Steve Garton)

Bank of cyprus mulling loan book swap with greek bank

ATHENS Aug 20 Bank of Cyprus is looking into swapping part of its loan book with a Greek bank operating in the Mediterranean island as part of moves to strengthen its capital base, it said in a stock exchange filing on Monday. Cypriot banks operating in Greece have been battered by the country's debt crisis and deep recession which have caused losses in the sovereign debt restructuring and a rise in non-performing loans and as a result Cyprus sought emergency financial aid from its EU partners on June 25. The Bank of Cyprus filing came in response to a newspaper report that it is in talks with Greek lender Alpha Bank on swapping part of its loan book with Alpha's loans in Cyprus.

"In the context of planning to strengthen its capital position and shield its balance sheet, the bank is looking into a number of options. One such option is exchanging ... assets and liabilities with one of the Greek banks active in Cyprus," the Bank of Cyprus said in the filing."At this stage there is nothing specific to announce," it said, without naming any Greek bank.

Alpha Bank, which declined to comment, is one of Greece's three largest lenders which have offered to buy Credit Agricole's struggling Greek unit Emporiki Bank, put up for sale by the French lender to limit its exposure to Greece.

The report by daily newspaper Kathimerini said Alpha Bank's impaired loans in Cyprus were smaller than the Bank of Cyprus's non-performing credit in Greece and that the difference would be made up in some form including shares. Greece's economy is expected to stay in recession for a fifth straight year in 2012, with gross domestic product seen contracting by more than 7 percent.