HARARE, Oct 5 (Reuters)Zimbabwe’s finance minister said on Monday the economy would not be as severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as initially feared and foreign currency inflows had shown resilience.

The southern African nation was already grappling with runaway inflation, shortages of drugs in hospitals and strikes by public workers before the novel coronavirus arrived in March.

“I am more bullish again even during this COVID-19 moment, I think the economy will surprise us on the upside,” Finance minister Mthuli said during an online media conference.

“Our prognosis is that the impact of COVID-19 overall on Zimbabwe is not as deep as in other countries,” Ncube said but declined to give details or a new economic growth forecast.

Ncube had said during a mid-term budget statement in July that the economy was set to shrink by 4.5% this year owing to the fallout from the pandemic.

Ncube said the government had made significant progress on economic reforms, including cutting its wage bill from 92% of the total budget in 2017 to below 50% now and had stopped printing money and stabilised the exchange rate.

But ordinary Zimbabweans say life has become harder since Ncube was appointed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s cabinet two years ago with salaries lagging soaring inflation of 761% and prices of basic goods rocketing up.

Electricity tariffs rose 50% last week, which would feed into inflation, but Ncube said this was necessary to keep the state power company viable and enable it to pay coal suppliers.

Most teachers have refused to return to class since schools re-opened last week for the first time since March, saying they do not earn enough to work.

Ncube said mining and agriculture would anchor an economic recovery. The government would resume token payments to creditors like the World

The press release created instant shock waves. On August 27th, Exelon Corporation, one of the biggest suppliers of electricity in the U.S., announced that in a year it would close two nuclear plants in Illinois that together produce four gigawatts of power, even though the plants are licensed to operate for decades more. The two plants — Byron and Dresden — “face revenue shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Chicago-based Exelon said.

State and local officials denounced the move as reckless saber-rattling. Not only would the plants’ closure cost thousands of good jobs, it would also jeopardize Illinois’ clean energy ambitions.

Yet Exelon’s announcement, far from unprecedented, is part of a well-worn pattern. In at least four states from Ohio to New York, a handful of nuclear companies have taken a now-familiar series of actions: announce closures, enter tense talks with state officials concerned about the loss of good jobs and clean power, win subsidies, rescind the closures. 

Some portray this as brinkmanship, arguing that nuclear power companies know states can’t afford to lose them and so threaten premature closures in exchange for padded profits. “We’ve seen this Exelon rate hike and hostage-taking script several times before,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center. A commentary in the Chicago Tribune accused Exelon of “posturing as a victim of the market.”

Backers of this view point to independent studies that have found that several nuclear plants that have asked for subsidies in the past, such those as in New Jersey and Connecticut, are in fact profitable

Renters are taking advantage of lower interest rates to become first-time home buyers, creating a housing boom:

Real estate has now become popular. Real estate listings are moving quickly. And this is quite different from what we were seeing in December and January of 2020. Yes, we are seeing a migration from the cities. We are seeing people take advantage of the low interest rates. Once again housing is becoming affordable.

– John Villano, CEO and CFO, Sachem Capital, in the latest earnings call

Sachem Capital (SACH) has been in a position to benefit from the new popularity. The company reported a 41% increase in revenue despite the pressures of COVID-19. Net income increased from $0.06 per share to $0.10.

Business

Sachem is in the business of hard money lending, a business that is not as ominous and foreboding as it may sound. A hard money loan is simply a short-term loan secured by real estate. Lenders of these loans are typically individuals or companies rather than traditional lenders such as banks.

Hard money loans are often made to property flippers, a business popularized by Chip and Joanna Gaines of the HGTV television show Fixer Upper.

Chip and Joanna Gaines. Source: HGTV

Flippers buy a house, renovate it, and resell it for a profit. Flippers prefer to take a short-term loan instead of a fifteen-year loan, even if they pay higher interest rate for the loan. The loan application process is faster and less of a hassle. Builders also make use of hard money loans, for the same reasons.

Sachem makes short-term loans of three years or less. The loans typically have a maximum initial term of one to three years. Interest rates on loans are between 5% and 13% per year. The loans also have origination fees

  • PepsiCo is focused “100%” on its strategy in energy drinks, CEO Ramon Laguarta said on the company’s earnings call Thursday in response to a question about whether it would follow Coca-Cola into hard seltzer.
  • Laguarta indicated that hard seltzer is one of “a lot of opportunities in front of us,” and that energy drinks offer more long-term potential while hard seltzer could be a shorter-lived trend.
  • The comments show how PepsiCo and rival Coca-Cola are taking different paths during the pandemic, capitalizing on two distinct categories that have both been in-demand.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Pepsi and Coke spent years fighting each other over cola. Lately, though, the two have been taking different paths when it comes to selling beverages to pandemic-weary consumers.

Coca-Cola jumped into hard seltzer on Tuesday, announcing a partnership with Molson Coors that will bring an alcoholic version of its Topo Chico hard seltzer to the US in 2021. But PepsiCo doesn’t have any plans to follow suit, CEO Ramon Laguarta said Thursday during an earnings call.

Instead, PepsiCo is devoting its “100% focus” to its plan for energy drinks, he said in response when an analyst asked him whether PepsiCo would also break into hard seltzer.

Laguarta pointed to PepsiCo’s work on energy drinks, including its acquisition of Rockstar, a distribution agreement with Bang Energy, both of which it announced earlier this year and is still integrating into its business. Those, along with its Mountain Dew- and Starbucks-branded beverages, are a top emerging category for the company, he said.

“Those four big pillars, that’s taking a lot of our focus, and that’s going to be our priority, especially in 2021,” he said.

PepsiCo’s focus on energy drinks during the pandemic marks a different path from Coca-Cola, though both categories have been growing