SA NEEDS JOBS AND HONESTY
The market is never wrong . . . or so they say. If that adage holds true, the local economy looks set for some vibrancy in the medium term. Though it must be said that to date there is not much market movement — in terms of euphoric share price shifts — to suggest investors are totally captivated by the political changes that resulted in Cyril Ramaphosa wresting the ANC and state leadership away from Jacob Zuma.
Certainly, shifts in the rand at the time of writing could easily be construed as investors losing faith in SA once again.
But let’s look at the big picture. In the past two weeks two sizeable consumer-aligned businesses — glassmaker Consol and household-brands conglomerate Libstar — have decided to wend their way to the JSE. While these businesses do have international or African ambitions, the main operational focus is firmly on expanding profitable footholds in SA.
Both companies will earmark the capital raised in their respective listings to bolster capacity, which does show a sense of confidence in the long-term viability of consumer industries in SA.
One might also remember that these are not the only consumer-centric businesses to have eyed the JSE lately. Long4life, an acquisitive investment vehicle steered by deal-making doyen Brian Joffe, and Kaap Agri, a specialist retailer with the adventurous PSG as a large shareholder, listed on the JSE last year. Health-care retailer Dis-chem also listed last year, and has since enjoyed a strong run as investors backed its command of a captive consumer niche. The emergence of new fishing enterprises, including Sea Harvest and Premier Fishing, also speaks to an economy with increased spending power across the middle class.
While it may be a little premature to speak of a consumer-driven listings boom, there are persistent murmurings of other consumer-type listings — most notably Bounty Brands (backed by the Coast2coast team that formed health-care brands specialist Ascendis) and Premier Group (a consumer-goods conglomerate controlled by Brait).
Acorn Agri and Overberg Agri, two unlisted agribusiness players, are in the throes of a merger that is expected to culminate in a listing on the JSE.
What’s more, Homechoice — a catalogue retailer which seems to harbour ambitions to become the Amazon of Africa — has chosen this delicate juncture to raise substantial capital for its various growth endeavours.
Listings booms seem to roll around every 10 years or so. On this basis, the JSE (and maybe some of the newer bourses that have sprung up recently) is slightly overdue for a rush of new listings. Are we seeing the start of a serious newlistings advance?
Every listing boom has a theme — the late 1980s being focused on (sometimes very wonky) venture capital and entrepreneurial endeavours, the 1990s brought the technology wave and the late-2000s the infrastructure thrust.
The listing of a slew of consumer-related counters would signal considerable long-term faith in the local economy (notwithstanding the ripple effects of the recent Vat increase). But would it not be a real confidence booster, of the nitty-gritty kind, to see an Sa-focused mining exploration company with decent scale seeking a listing on the JSE? That would require a greater degree of certainty around key regulatory issues, though that might not happen too soon.
But hopefully we don’t have to wait until 2028 to see some meaningful pick-up in mining activity on the bourse.
In a country as starved of investment, entrepreneurship and jobs as SA, the loss of one corporate firm is one too many, as is the loss of one job. SA should try to protect every job, every entrepreneur, every investment.
It is in this context that the demise of audit firm Nkonki Inc, which has announced it will file for voluntary liquidation after the auditor-general cancelled its contracts with state institutions, is regrettable and takes SA backward on many levels. Nkonki is one of those professional outfits that lent their enormous credibility to the state-capture project, a crime against the people. The first point on which Nkonki’s demise is regrettable is that it is one of only a few truly blackowned and managed national audit and accounting firms with, more or less, the capacity to conduct this important work.
The demise of Nkonki, brought about by the greed and unethical conduct of those whose job it was to look after the firm and its employees, removes from the audit profession a key black institution with a proud history of resilience in what has been a hostile environment. But, it must be said, Nkonki should not be the last audit firm or consultancy to die among those who facilitated the looting of public resources. The upstanding and ethical among Nkonki employees should have no problem finding other jobs. Their skills are widely sought-after.