Mum’s the word
IT SEEMS COMMUNICATION isn’t the primary concern of telecommunications company Telkom, the fixed line telephone giant. Neither is good corporate governance, nor transparency. Telkom announced to the market on 28 January it had given 52 919 shares to CE Reuben September. “Shares granted in terms of a restraint of trade agreement between Mr September and Telkom,” was all Telkom would say about the rather hefty R8,1m worth of free shares.
Investors would do well to remember Telkom paid September R13,2m in “fringe and other benefits” in its 2008 financial year for a total package of R19,1m. Only when shareholders questioned this at its annual meeting were they told that a “large chunk” of that was “related to (September’s) restraint of trade agreement” by chairman Shirley Lue Arnold. No mention of any shares was ever made. Not at the AGM and not in Telkom’s annual report.
It took Finweek no less than four telephone calls and three emails to Telkom – between 4 and 11 February – to be given a short non-answer. Telkom company secretary Matlakala Monyai listened to our enquiries regarding the shares allocated to September before asking that our questions be written down for her to answer, the same process adopted by Telkom’s media liaison department before her. On both occasions the written answers that were returned were to contact the other department.
After being shuttled around – from the media liaison department, to a consultant in Telkom’s company secretary’s office, to media liaison and then back to the company secretary, before finally being referred again to media liaison – came the statement: “Telkom does not comment on remuneration matters – they are a board decision which can be queried by shareholders at the AGM.” That was from its media relations department – a week after our initial questions.
A request to the company secretary to talk to the board chairman, human resources or its remuneration committee was again met by an exhortation to go via the media liaison department. We’re still waiting. We