How a hum­ble stock got me started on the JSE

Financial Mail - Investors Monthly - - Editor’s Note - MARC HASENFUSS email Marc on hasen­[email protected]­me­

OUR SPE­CIAL EDI­TION on rank­ing the stock­bro­kers got me think­ing about how much this noble vo­ca­tion has changed over the decades.

I have been deal­ing with stock­bro­kers since the late 1980s. When I left Busi­ness

Day af­ter a short stint (I did not en­joy Johannesbu­rg) to join the old Ar­gus in Cape Town, I cashed out my pen­sion fund (all R1,038 of it) and took it to a small bro­ker­age in cen­tral Cape Town.

I re­call the stock­bro­ker — who was not keen on deal­ing with such a princely sum — urg­ing me to put the money in a 32-day no­tice ac­count or unit trust. But I per­sisted, and be­came the proud owner of 967 shares in small in­dus­trial ser­vices counter Toco Hold­ings.

In those days you would re­ceive a real share cer­tifi­cate — the Toco pa­per em­bla­zoned with the com­pany’s logo, a snort­ing bull. Share cer­tifi­cates (and I still have a few for fram­ing) were so damned tan­gi­ble — al­most like hold­ing a Kruger­rand. They were posted to you, or you had to fetch them from the bro­ker’s of­fice. And scrip div­i­dends, es­pe­cially when you re­ceived four or five new shares, did not seem worth the ad­min­is­tra­tive and pro­duc­tion ef­fort.

I bailed out of Toco at roughly three times my orig­i­nal pur­chase price in the mid-1990s — just as well, be­cause things at the com­pany turned rather nasty in sub­se­quent years.

The point is, that small Toco in­vest­ment gave me the mo­men­tum I needed to start in­vest­ing on the JSE.

I think BoE Corp — the hold­ing com­pany for spe­cial­ist bank Board of Ex­ecu­tors — was my sec­ond in­vest­ment on the JSE. I also flit­ted out of BoE be­fore it got bogged down in its grand fi­nan­cial ser­vices am­bi­tions.

Per­haps I should have quit while I was ahead. But af­ter two suc­cess­ful in­vest­ments you be­come a Master of the In­vest­ment Uni­verse.

Dal­liances on such colour­ful mining coun­ters as Gazankulu Gold Hold­ings, Weswits, Con­sol­i­dated Mining Corp and Gri­qua­land Ex­plo­ration & Fi­nance Co brought me back to earth with a bump.

Then there were the missed chances. If only I had heeded the ad­vice of the stock­bro­ker who tipped me off about Jan­nie Mou­ton’s tilt at PAG Hold­ings in 2005. The shares were 30c — yes, 30c!

Over­all I’ve prob­a­bly been done more for my stock­bro­ker in terms of bro­ker­age (take a bow, Mr Sylvester) than I have for my re­turns. Oth­er­wise why else would I be cling­ing to my day job (which, for the record, I still en­joy im­mensely)?

But let’s just say I still op­ti­misti­cally dab­ble in the stock mar­ket and can cel­e­brate the fact that these days stock­broking is a far friend­lier ex­er­cise for the or­di­nary in­vestor. Slick on­line plat­forms are in abun­dance, and cost-ef­fec­tive frac­tional share own­er­ship ini­tia­tives like Easy Equities al­low ev­ery­one to lever­age the JSE’s power.

Change, I think, has been for the good. ■■IM

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