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Archive for October, 2009

Oct 16 2009

About men, women and everything else…

Published by under Opinion,Top Stories

The Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) published its annual ranking of “Germany’s Top 25 Most Influential Businesswomen” today. What the paper didn’t write was even more interesting than what it wrote. [Read on]

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Oct 09 2009

Naspers buys in Hungary, doesn’t tell a soul

Published by under Companies,Top Stories

On the topic of the disclosure duty of listed companies and in support of my “thing” against Naspers and/or the JSE, here another bit of information which hasn’t (yet) made it to South Africa – although it happened in early August. For what I mean with “thing”, read here. [Read on]

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Oct 05 2009

And what about transparency in big companies?

Published by under Companies,More News

I’m back on this issue of information dissemination and transparency. Sorry, for boring you. But, as far as I’m concerned, the danger lurking behind it is (in the long-term) on a par with the danger which emanated from the financial sector for the world economy in the years before 2008**.

I’m referring to the duty of listed companies to inform the public of what they are doing. And the games some multinationals play when it comes to this “duty to disclose”.

Stock exchanges say their listed companies must publish all information of “wesenlike belang”. Fine. But, it’s over to those companies to interpret “wesenlike belang” and boy, do these interpretations run amok!

Some say, when the CEO of a major subsidiary in Europe resigns, it is of “wesenlike belang” and a press release has to go out. Others don’t. Some lose R500 million and say it’s not important enough to tell the shareholders. Others lose R1 million and release a long statement.

What is “wesenlik” varies from company to company, depending on their sizes and who is at their helms.

When companies operate in countries with strange languages, the definition of what needs to be communicated to the outside world, gets even fuzzier. What is easier for a SA listed company than to do business in eastern Europe and never release any information in English about what it does there? The local media may report, but the news seldom make it out of the country. And the JSE doesn’t have the foggiest…

In short, the issue of information dissemination is a thorny one – and open to manipulation.

Naspers is right up there when it comes to “playing around” with this duty to inform. It always moves in the grey area, releasing only the bare minimum and then immediately withdrawing behind high walls when asked for more. Yes, it’s quite ironic, that a company which started out as a “house of journalists” should now be so shy when it comes to disseminating information.

I was reminded again of this truth, when reading this article by Reuters. (It’s about Naspers wanting to extend a $800 million loan by 2 years from 2011 to 2013….pretty important, I’ll say. Why isn’t there anything about it on the Naspers portal under “Media Centre”?)

I refer here to Naspers, but I’m sure what is true here, is true for many big companies out there.

There are, of course, also the exceptions. And, I’m proud to say, some of the best big companies (in this regard) are also SA-linked. Take, for instance, SABMiller, the 2nd biggest beer company in the world.

In my experience, this is a multinational which takes its duty to inform seriously! A quick glance at the SABMiller and Naspers corporate websites confirms this view. The one is lively, packed with news and efforts to build a positive image. The other is static, thin on press releases and reminds of a history lesson.

So far this year Naspers has published nine press releases, including one on the Paarl fire and one on prizes awarded by Ton Vosloo. Between 23 September 2009 and 5 October 2009 (a period of 12 days) SABMiller published exactly the same number of press releases – nine.

If a multinational company such as Naspers (working flat-out to internationalize) adhered to the JSE and LSE rules on disclosure with nine press releases over nine months, then the JSE and LSE rules are too slack.

** The bankers have done their bit to rubbish the image of the free market; non-transparent, arrogant company bosses may still push the world economy into the arms of the socialists.

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