Trade Tatler
“The salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.”
John Kenneth Galbraith


THIS ISSUE:     02 Nov - 08 Nov

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Shoprite  Payday

Emboldened no doubt by the spirit of rebellion abroad in the world these days, a growing and vocal minority of Shoprite shareholders are registering their disapproval at the Big Red One’s remuneration policies, in particular vis-à-vis their executives’ salaries. At the AGM last week, 57% of shareholders voted in favour of the policy, down from 70% last year, while 43% objected. CEO Pieter Engelbrecht earned R20.3m in 2018, down from R25.8m in 2017, but will pocket as much as R33m if he hits his numbers this year. This latter is even at this early stage very much at issue: the market out there is tough, and the business grew sales just +0.4% in the quarter through September. Also of note at the AGM was the absence of one Oom Christo Wiese, who also did not attend the board meeting afterwards.
Comment: Executive remuneration is a thorny issue but one where one supposes great gains in goodwill could be made by executives and businesses willing to tighten their currently comfortably accommodating belts.

Fin 24 04/11/18

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Woolworths  Clothes maketh the bloke

Sending them back where they belong this week is Woolworths, which has decided to drop the David Jones brand from its clothing ranges, rebranding the noxious Aussie gear under the existing Classic Collection range. Australia has been a blessing and a curse for the Dapper One, which enjoyed success both here and there with Country Road, but which is struggling to recoup its R20bn in the David Jones department store. Woolies has had to write the investment down to the tune of around R7.5bn, but is not giving up, even as Mr Moir speaks in muted tones about the search having started for his replacement. The David Jones turnaround has involved adding food to retail in existing stores, and investing around A$200m in its flagship Sydney store.
Comment: Australia, eh. Where the hopes of South Africa’s retail finest go to be cruelly dashed. To be honest, we have a feeling it’s not you, it’s them.

Business Day 01/11/18

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Fishing  Deep cover

Premier Fishing saw a +40% surge in full-year net profit to R95m on the back of good catches and good sales, particularly of squid, which they catch in abundance together with lobster, small pelagics, hake, horse mackerel, swordfish and tuna. They also own an abalone farm. The acquisition of Talhado last year saw the fleet expand from four to 22 vessels, which also helped production. Sea Harvest, in the meantime, although not particularly apropos, has like other businesses in the sector made great strides in the area of empowerment: since Brimstone dropped R700m-odd on buying out Tiger Brands ten years ago, Sea Harvest has listed on the JSE, got its black ownership up to 80%, and become a Level 1 BBBEE contributor, with over 70% black senior and middle management, while distributing wealth to shareholders including employees.
Comment: Nice work, that sector.

IOL 31/10/18, 02/11/18

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IMPERIAL Logistics  Wheels within wheels

Speaking of BBBEE, which we were just then, logistics business IMPERIAL has just appointed Afropulse as its BBBEE partner, in a deal worth R200m. Afropulse, as you may know, is an investment, investor relations and corporate advisory company headed up by Phumzile Langeni, one of our President’s four envoys in the $100bn investment drive. The R200m will get Afropulse a share in an investment vehicle – if you will – within IMPERIAL Logistics that will serve the energy, mining and chemicals sectors. In other IMPERIAL news, their share price dropped by 7% after a so-so first quarter performance and after shareholders agreed to the unbundling of the business.
Comment: The unbundling into a logistics and an automotive business will make eventual sense to punters as the market learns to better understand the separate units on their own merits.

IOL 31/10/18

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Factories  Trouble down at the mill

Factories, eh. The workhorses of the manufacturing sector. Faceless, smoking things, plonked down in the unfashionable parts of town. Unsung, except occasionally by Springsteen or Dire Straits, and now, we are told, underutilised too. SA’s factories, according to StatsSA, are operating at only 81% of their capacity in the third quarter, up from 80.6% in the second, but still. How can this be? The biggest contributor to the 20-odd percent that is not being used is a simple lack of demand from an enervated consumer base, at 11.7%. “Other” is the (not particularly illuminating) second biggest factor (4.1%), while a lack of materials and skilled people account for the rest. Our most underutilised plants are clothing factories at 72.3%; our least underutilised are petroleum and plastic plants at 83.8%.
Comment: These seem like numbers that can be tackled incrementally. Interesting reading.

Business Day 01/11/18

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Choppies  Cuts like a knife

Not a great week for Choppies: it has been suspended from the JSE and the Botswana Stock Exchange, and one of their senior non-execs, a Mr Sydney Muller, has also quit with immediate effect, and with no reasons given. In September, you may recall, the presumably troubled retailer relisted on both the Botswana and South African stock exchanges after changing auditors, but based on the continued absence of a P&L, it’s been booted off again. Choppies runs ±200 stores, mainly in Botswana and in the north-western parts of South Africa. It has a market value of around R50m, and territorial ambitions.

Business Day 01/11/18

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Plastic waste  Trashed

H&M, Mars, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Kellogg and Nestlé are among 250 major FMCG businesses which have promised to cut all plastic waste from their operations, to eliminate all single-use plastics from their value chains, and to invest in new technology so all packaging can be recycled by 2025. The initiative comes from a partnership between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and is an excellent first step in the eventual clean-up of our cities and our seas.

The Independent 29/10/18

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Communications  Big gulp

Over in the United States, where corruption is codified into law, big soda businesses like Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Co employ lobbyists and communications agencies to influence local government to drop levies on a range of food and drink, notably beverages containing vast quantities of sugar. So, for example, voters in states like Oregon and Washington have been targeted by a $25m ad campaign to fight anti-obesity efforts by local government, from the disingenuously-named ‘Yes! To Affordable Groceries’ group.

CNBC 03/11/18

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Anheuser-Busch InBev  Small beer

The $100bn purchase of SABMiller, together with a string of craft breweries has proven to be something of a millstone around the neck of the world’s biggest brewer, as beer consumption continues its decline in the world’s two biggest markets, the US and Brazil. This has resulted in marginal volume increases for the third quarter, a halving of the dividend and a 10% decline in the share price. Scale is not without its risks.

The Motley Fool 2/11/18

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