Johannesburg - Sasol’s chief financial officer, Christine Ramon, who shocked the market on Monday with the announcement that she would be severing all ties after the release of its financial 2013 results next month, sold R33.7 million worth of company shares in May.
There is no indication that the sale of the 81 700 shares had anything to do with Ramon’s abrupt departure, but, as one analyst said: “Given the way this news was relayed to the market you can be sure analysts and shareholders are looking in all sorts of dark corners for an explanation.”
The Stock Exchange News Service (Sens) announcement on Ramon’s share sale noted that the deal was “pursuant to implementation of options”. Sasol’s 2012 annual report reveals that Ramon had a direct beneficial holding of 21 500 shares and held 41 556 shares indirectly for a total of 63 056.
The shares were awarded to her at R249 each shortly after she joined in 2006, and the sale made a pretax profit of R13m. The share price moved to a high of R481 before easing back to yesterday’s close of R479.70.
Sasol has been in a closed period since end-June, during which Ramon could not have traded her shares. Had she sold them this week, she would have made a pretax profit of R19m.
While analysts were annoyed at the way Sasol announced the exit of its second most senior executive and expressed concern it might point to bigger problems, few felt Ramon’s departure would leave a gap in management.
One analyst said the timing was bad given that Sasol had announced a high-risk $21 billion (R215 billion) capital expenditure project in Louisiana, US, which was equivalent to the group’s market capitalisation. Another noted that recently there seemed to be a reshuffling of top management and that a number of experienced executives had left Sasol. “The chief executive [David Constable] was appointed in 2011 but is something of an unknown,” said the analyst, adding that he and Ramon might have had difficulties working together.
In recent weeks, Sasol has had to cancel a R300m contract for coal from a company owned by Welile Nolingo, the general secretary of the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union, which has a major presence at Sasol.
The Sens announcement stated Ramon resigned from Sasol “as well as from all other directorships and offices she holds at the company and its subsidiaries and/or affiliates”. - Business Report