Friday, 6 June 2008


So Governor Mboweni is becoming camera shy? That’s cute. He believes (probably correctly) that photographers and picture editors are always looking for an unflattering moment to plaster across the front page with an appropriately droll caption.. We shall be watching you on TV even more intently that usual on Thursday, sir. If you carry out your threat to raise rates by a large amount nothing will save you from the ire and mockery of the nation.
There were plenty of market-moving events and speeches this week. A talking shop in Cape Town has allowed all and sundry to stand in front of The Mountain and offer us their opinions. In the written word I was intrigued by the reported offer to buy the second worst fixed line phone company in the world for a price much greater than its market value, provided the company first disposed of its most valuable asset! Odd stuff that. Then, despite the evidence on the roads to the contrary, it seems that very many fewer cars and trucks are being sold than a year ago. I was alarmed by the following phrase in a hardware supply company’s report:”... sudden and dramatic reverses in the building industry.” I was even more distressed to learn that the state hands out R5.5bn per month in aid to 12m benefactors. That’s a quarter of the population! Taking this information together with the figure which shows that growth in tax receipts is slowing quickly, it’s little wonder that the bond market is bear-infested.
Keep an eye on the US dollar / Euro exchange rate. There is a growing consensus (not yet shared by me) that the dollar has seen its worst and is on the way back to world domination.
I was really very saddened by some of the stuff that appears in the prospectus for the so-called Sasol Inzalo share offering which is open to Black People only. The offer is of course a response to the state’s deeply misguided attempt to interfere in the allocation of resources through its appalling BEE program. The prospectus echoes some of the stuff that I used to find deeply embarrassing and indefensible when  I was a student in England in the early 1970s and my accent betrayed my homeland. In those days my accusers would brandish the annual report of which ever South African government department decided how many people needed to be reclassified from one race group to another. Now, in this prospectus, we find phrases such as “: …citizens who were regarded as Coloured before 27 April 1994, but are of Chinese origin.” Equally offensive is the need to refer investors to a definition of who qualifies as a Black Person. This is outrageous, demeaning and totally contrary to what I thought we as The Rainbow Nation were striving for. By the way, the offer appears to be very generous and worth taking up despite the trading and listing strictures that will prevail for a couple of years. Get a prospectus from any post office.
And still on this theme might I suggest that the only difference between racism and what is being called xenophobia is that one of those words is more difficult to spell.
A warming Leek and Dragon soup will be served in Bloemfontein tomorrow, and the Grand Prix from Montreal will be on screen at very awkward times and is there really enough level ground in the Alps to host a soccer tournament?
James Greener
6th June 2008