state-owned enterprises

Some SOEs are reporting billions in losses while running operations that are much smaller than Eskom. Image: Pixabay

South Africa’s seven worst-performing state-owned enterprises

Seven of South Africa’s state-owned enterprises have collectively reported losses exceeding R187 billion since 2017.

state-owned enterprises

Some SOEs are reporting billions in losses while running operations that are much smaller than Eskom. Image: Pixabay

Based on financial performance, there are seven ‘finalists’ when it comes to South Africa’s worst-performing state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

This is according to Moneyweb, who have published a list where “the competition is fierce” for the title of worst SOE.

Eskom takes the cake with substantial annual losses totalling R103 billion from 2017 to 2023.

However, other SOEs like South African Airways (SAA), Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa), SABC, PetroSA, and Denel are consistently reporting billions in losses each year while running operations that are much smaller than Eskom.


The state-owned power utility’s ongoing operational and financial challenges have seen it post annual losses of more than R20 billion in three of the last seven years.

An improvement in Eskom’s financial performance in 2022 saw losses decrease to less than R12 billion. This was before losses jumped to a new high in 2023, with a recorded deficit of nearly R24 billion for the year.

Eskom lost R2 billion per month last year in its efforts to mitigate load shedding.

SAA’s losses

SAA recently released its annual reports for the past four years, which showed consistent and significant losses.

These losses surpassed R5 billion per annum since 2017 and totalled over R34 billion from 2017 to 2022.

Despite SAA management’s claims of improvement, the airline remains technically insolvent, with total liabilities exceeding assets by more than R1 billion.

The 2022 annual report highlighted a positive equity position and operational improvements. However, the Auditor-General raised concerns about irregular expenditure and poor record-keeping practices, casting doubt on the sustainability of SAA’s financial management.

Additionally, SAA’s cash flow from operations was negative by nearly R6 billion, indicating that only a small portion of the government bailout from the previous year remains.


Prasa’s overall reported loss since 2017 surpasses R21 billion, with management admitting that Prasa is failing to run passenger trains properly.

The rail agency saw operational losses exceeding R14 billion in the year ending March 2023 – although this reflected differently in financial statements due to a capital grant of R10 billion to repair infrastructure.

State-owned enterprises Denel, Post Office, SABC

The Post Office’s losses have surged to over R2 billion per year, while the SABC posted a loss exceeding R1 billion in the last financial year.

Denel, which reported a profit of R282 million in 2017, faced a substantial loss of nearly R2 billion in 2020 (the most recent available results).

The defence company’s management claims to have trimmed losses to below R1 billion in 2021 and 2022, respectively and has projected an ‘optimistic’ profit of R1.6 billion in 2023.


South Africa’s national oil and gas company is emerging as the SOE with the biggest woes.

PetroSA’s losses have skyrocketed, reaching a staggering R5.6 billion in 2020 – with no reports released since.

Management has acknowledged that the company is unsustainable due to depleting gas fields. This poses a significant threat to its operations.

According to the Auditor-General, PetroSA’s total liabilities exceeded total assets by R4.5 billion in 2020.

To keep PetroSA going, the SA government has redirected Eskom’s diesel purchases to PetroSA for running diesel generators.