Cape Times - - NEWS -

Twenty-four years since open­ing its doors, Women In­vest­ment Port­fo­lio Hold­ings (WIPHOLD) con­tin­ues to set the bench­mark as a sus­tain­able model of broad­based black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment. South Africa’s premier black women-owned in­vest­ment com­pany, has more than 200 000 ben­e­fi­cia­ries through the WIPHOLD In­vest­ment Trust and the WIPHOLD NGO Trust, which jointly hold a 33.5 per­cent stake in the busi­ness. It also has a multibil­lion-rand in­vest­ment port­fo­lio. This is founded on a phi­los­o­phy of long-term in­vest­ment in strate­gic and, in­creas­ingly, con­trol­ling stakes that de­liver tan­gi­ble growth and re­turns.

Now firmly in­vested in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices, agri­cul­tural and in­fras­truc­ture sec­tors, the com­pany has grown sig­nif­i­cantly from its hum­ble be­gin­nings at the dawn of democ­racy. In 1994, South Africa was alive with pos­si­bil­ity, in­clud­ing for black en­trepreneurs who had been de­nied op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth un­der apartheid.

It was in this en­vi­ron­ment that four spir­ited women, in­clud­ing Louisa Mo­jela and Glo­ria Ser­obe, joined forces. Their vi­sion was to build a com­pany ded­i­cated to the eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment of a broad base of black women and the pair are still in­volved.

Mo­jela, group chief ex­ec­u­tive, re­calls, ‘’Men were get­ting their act to­gether and tak­ing hold of op­por­tu­ni­ties. We couldn’t just wait for some good man to rock up and in­vite us to take part in the new econ­omy. The chal­lenge was to do it for our­selves and we de­cided that what­ever we did needed to in­volve crit­i­cal mass if we were se­ri­ous about the em­pow­er­ment of women.’’

Armed with seed cap­i­tal of R500 000 and a vi­sion to har­ness the col­lec­tive strength of women’s pur­chas­ing power into lu­cra­tive in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, they set about mo­bil­is­ing a mass move­ment of women from the ground up. Road­shows were con­ducted across all nine prov­inces as they shared their vi­sion for a women-led in­vest­ment com­pany.

By 1997, af­ter al­most two years of road shows and pre­sen­ta­tions tar­get­ing grass-roots women they were look­ing to bring on board, WIPHOLD be­came the first South African com­pany to open a gen­der ex­clu­sive pub­lic of­fer. R100 mil­lion was raised with 18 000 women as share­hold­ers and ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Two years later, af­ter se­cur­ing ad­di­tional fund­ing from in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors, WIPHOLD listed on the Jo­han­nes­burg Stock Ex­change with a mar­ket cap­i­tal­i­sa­tion of R804 mil­lion. It was the first black, women-owned and women-man­aged com­pany to list.

In 2003 the com­pany delisted to in­crease its women share­hold­ing, which had been di­luted as a re­sult of prior cap­i­tal raised from in­sti­tu­tional in­vestors. It was at this time that the WIPHOLD NGO Trust was formed to ex­tend the ben­e­fi­ciary base to in­clude NGOs fo­cused on women and chil­dren.

Mo­jela says, “When WIPHOLD was formed 24 years ago, it was, in many senses, a prod­uct of the times, im­bued with the op­ti­mism and vigour char­ac­terised by our na­tion’s first bold strides into its demo­cratic era. We are grate­ful for that en­abling en­vi­ron­ment cre­ated by gov­ern­ment and en­hanced in later years by the in­tro­duc­tion of BEE leg­is­la­tion. It enabled us to build our bal­ance sheet.

“Now, as a ‘grown-up’ com­pany, we are us­ing it to buy sig­nif­i­cant or con­trol­ling stakes in com­pa­nies and create op­er­a­tional busi­nesses. We fo­cus on the fi­nan­cial ser­vices, agri­cul­tural, ser­vices and in­fras­truc­ture sec­tors. Our ac­qui­si­tion of Sas­fin, in­vest­ment in Mamba Ce­ment, and our agri­cul­tural busi­nesses – specif­i­cally the Cen­tane and Mbashe ini­tia­tive – speak di­rectly to this.”

A ma­jor foothold in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor came in Oc­to­ber last year, with the ac­qui­si­tion of a 25.1 per­cent stake in na­tional bank Sas­fin. From an own­er­ship per­spec­tive this made the bank one of the most em­pow­ered in the coun­try and un­der­scored its com­mit­ment to trans­for­ma­tion.

Ser­obe adds, “The sec­tor is a cor­ner­stone of any econ­omy and crit­i­cal to re­al­is­ing our vi­sion of the eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment of black women. We fo­cus on investing in busi­nesses that we be­lieve can de­liver strong re­turns over the long term and have high-cal­i­bre man­age­ment with sound cor­po­rate gover­nance. Sas­fin more than meets those cri­te­ria and we look for­ward to work­ing to grow and trans­form the busi­ness.’’

In the same month, WIPHOLD also ac­quired a 25.1 per­cent stake in in­surance pro­cure­ment ser­vices provider Blue­spec Hold­ings.

“It is in a prime po­si­tion to cater for in­surance com­pany com­mer­cial pro­cure­ment re­quire­ments, and we bring the ex­pe­ri­ence, knowl­edge and skills to add value in the eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tives and goals that Blue­spec in­tends de­liv­er­ing on,” says Ser­obe.

She adds, “We con­sider our­selves busi­ness dis­rupters in in­dus­tries where change was ide­alised but lacked the so­lu­tions and drive to trans­form. In Blue­spec, we see both steely de­ter­mi­na­tion and tabled so­lu­tions to ef­fect real change and this ex­cites us greatly.”

WIPHOLD’s 23.9 per­cent share­hold­ing in Mamba Ce­ment is a flag­ship in­vest­ment and typ­i­fies a longterm in­vest­ment strat­egy and will­ing­ness to adopt a con­sid­ered, in­formed ap­proach to investing in tar­geted sec­tors.

In 2006, an ex­clu­sive dis­tri­bu­tion and co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment was signed through which Ji­dong Ce­ment, the largest ce­ment pro­ducer in north China, as­signed WIPHOLD the rights to dis­trib­ute its prod­ucts. The con­struc­tion of a R1.6 bil­lion, state-of-the-art ce­ment pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity near Northam in Lim­popo soon fol­lowed, sig­nif­i­cantly expanding South Africa’s in­land pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity.

Since its in­cep­tion in 2014, WIPHOLD’s flag­ship agri­cul­tural in­vest­ment, the Cen­tane and Mbashe ini­tia­tive in ru­ral East­ern Cape, has cul­ti­vated over 2 000 hectares of land across 32 vil­lages and dis­trib­uted more than R18 mil­lion to par­tic­i­pat­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers.

Ser­obe elab­o­rates, “The ini­tia­tive recog­nises the in­her­ent po­ten­tial of the East­ern Cape’s vast tracts of arable land, that the proper use of land re­sources by com­mu­nal farm­ers has the po­ten­tial to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in en­hanc­ing food se­cu­rity, par­tic­u­larly in poor com­mu­ni­ties. A strong busi­ness model with enor­mous so­cial im­pact that is be­gin­ning to trans­form the lives of the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, it speaks di­rectly to a key WIPHOLD strat­egy of in­te­grat­ing so­cial and de­vel­op­ment ob­jec­tives into core com­mer­cial busi­ness op­er­a­tions.

“Our jour­ney is surely an ex­am­ple of what was in­tended by BEE pol­icy – to use the en­abling en­vi­ron­ment to build a bal­ance sheet that through dis­tri­bu­tions and core busi­ness strate­gies would ben­e­fit not just a few but a broad-base at the grass­roots to be eco­nom­i­cally em­pow­ered and able to en­ter the main­stream econ­omy. The com­pany’s jour­ney speaks to the spirit of BEE, and its trans­for­ma­tive po­ten­tial.

“Every­thing we do is about gen­er­at­ing re­turns for our broad-based share­hold­ing. We’ve con­sis­tently stayed true to our found­ing vi­sion of the eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment of black women. We have given of our best to in­ter­pret what a sus­tain­able and trans­for­ma­tive BEE com­pany should look like.”

Louisa Mo­jela, group chief ex­ec­u­tive

Road­shows were con­ducted across all nine prov­inces as they shared their vi­sion for a wom­en­led in­vest­ment com­pany

WIPHOLD’s 23.9 per­cent share­hold­ing in Mamba Ce­ment is a flag­ship in­vest­ment

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