Friday, 13 April 2018


The two “share prices” of the country which are the exchange rate of the rand and the yield of the long-dated government bond both showed some weakness this month. Perhaps because the excitement of having a new president who can both read and count is wearing off a bit. The realisation dawns that despite these skills, the problems caused by his predecessor are now buried deep in the fabric of the nation. The livelihoods which have been fashioned in the top echelons of the state and its agencies are more numerous and lucrative than most of us know. Now that honesty and competence are hopefully returning as job-keeping requirements, the fight-back by those who need to be fired is becoming violent and litigious. This week an ex-chairman gate-crashed a board meeting of which he is no longer a member. He denied that his term of office has ended. And there’s the wrangle happening among the spooks and spies who operate our supposed security apparatus. Just what they do is deliberately “secret” but there seems to be far too many of them, when what we really need is plenty of trained constables able to recognise lawlessness and act accordingly. Oh, and not sell or “lose” their firearm.
Sagarmatha is such a pretty name and sits well on the planet’s highest mountain. To use it for a South African company which, we are assured, will be the continent’s largest Multi-Sided Platform (MSP to the cognoscenti) shows confidence if nothing else. The hype and puffery for this new company which was scheduled to be listed today has been extraordinary, as too has been the fancy financial footwork used in the aggregation of a number of existing enterprises into Sagarmatha Technologies. Despite some ballyhoo in its balance sheet it is claimed that it will be large enough to be termed a Unicorn. All this baffling jargon has been used by commentators and journalists many of whom have their salary cheques signed by the man behind the deal, one Dr Iqbal Survé.   This perhaps does raise some queries about the claims that the new company will make its shareholders and backers wildly wealthy.  The fly in the ointment however was the last-minute discovery by the JSE that Sagarmatha Technologies might not be compliant with some requirements of the Companies Act and consequently cancelled the listing. Dr Survé could now ask A2X, the competing stock exchange, if they will list his company. Perhaps they are less fussy with rules.
 A Unicorn, by the way, is not only a mythical beast but is also a “technology start-up worth more than a billion dollars”. Great stuff for a bunch of small business who have yet to demonstrate that their products attract enough customers and earnings to be worthy of that valuation in rands let alone dollars. And that MSP thing? Well, apparently Google and Amazon are fine examples!
Our tax collecting agency SARS, has warned taxpayers that any profits they make from trading bitcoins and other so-called cryptocurrencies must be declared. There’s not much chance of that happening. Not only are the deals unreported to any authority and therefore probably invisible, but also it is doubtful that many locals have actually banked any true profits. Rather, the taxman could be swamped with losses used to offset profits made in other more conventional securities. Interestingly, the massive price spike working its way through the Bitcoin market at present has spawned a number of far more sanguine analyses about the drawbacks and illusionary benefits of the fascinating and novel block-chain structure on which the “crypto assets” depend. The number of participants who truly understand how they work and how they might be valued remains very small. Caveat Emptor.
While athletes in the green and gold have been collecting a wonderful haul of medals at the Commonwealth Games, no nation can equal the record set by the chaps from Cameroon who have swept the board in the unscheduled Hide and Seek event. Eight of them disappeared several days ago and so far, no one in Australia has found them. I doubt they’ll come back for the medal ceremony though.
James Greener
Friday 13th April 2018