Investec and Naspers bake under a hostile glare

Business

COMPANY COMMENT

Investec and Naspers bake under a hostile glare

BusinessLIVE

COMPANY COMMENT
Spare us the hand-wringing about Investec’s dual bosses
Business Leadership SA’s stance on the appointment of joint CEOs at Investec – one black, one white – is at once predictable and surprising.
Predictable that it has taken to view the two appointments as a case of a white CEO nannying a black CEO until he is ready.
While this may be understandable given the case of Sim Tshabalala and Ben Kruger at Standard bank – with Tshabalala eventually named group CEO last year – it is probably, in Investec’s case, misguided.
Investec, since it established a dual listing back in 2002, has had two centres of power: South Africa under the hand of CEO Stephen Koseff, and London, under MD Bernard Kantor. This tradition it seems will continue under Hendrick du Toit who’ll oversee Investec’s considerable international businesses, with a continued focus on asset management, while Fani Titi will hold the fort in South Africa and have oversight of the specialist banking operations, arguably the harder job.
The decision to make a non executive a joint CEO surely shows considerable regard for Titi’s abilities. He’ll be held responsible for Investec’s main money spinner too, as specialist banking in South Africa is still the biggest single contributor to earnings.
The assertion by Bonang  Mohale, CEO of BLSA,  that Titi’s appointment perpetuates the narrative that black people “are in perpetual training without ever graduating” is, in this case, widely off the mark.
Mohale’s public disquiet with the black-white demographic of Investec’s new leadership is also likely to make for some interesting discussion at BLSA’s next meeting, given Koseff’s membership on the organisation’s board.COMPANY COMMENT
Good and right that critical Naspers report hit the public eye
It’s easy to forget that Naspers is the largest media group in South Africa. It’s not just that its media business is dwarfed by the Tencent giant and its Multichoice operations, it’s that the group’s head office seems totally out of touch with its South African media roots.
How else can you explain the rather bizarre decision to ask Investec to withdraw an analyst report that it says has damaged Naspers and its shareholders? Naspers hasn’t said the report shouldn’t be published. “All we’re asking is that they retract the current version with the inaccuracies so that people do not rely on it, and re-issue it incorporating the correct facts and calculations,” Naspers told Bloomberg.Within minutes of word getting out that Naspers was unhappy it seemed that almost everyone in the market had managed to get sight of the offending report. In South Africa a stamp of disapproval is almost guaranteed to ensure success.
The report was released on January 22 and in a few more weeks might have died a quiet death, known only to Naspers aficionados. But thanks to the target company there’s now no chance of that happening. And rightly so. This is a great report and deserves to be widely read. The authors have obviously spent a considerable amount of time researching this remarkably complex company. And, perhaps inevitably, there are areas of disagreement not just between the authors and Naspers but between the authors and other analysts. That’s how it works.
One really important issue raised by Investec is that the liberal use of share-based awards has meant Naspers’ executives have benefited hugely – and inappropriately - from Tencent’s remarkable performance. This deserves all the attention Naspers has ensured it now gets.

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