Presumably after all of the public comments have been received and the Financial Services Board (FSB) confirms what most people reckoned was the correct legal interpretation, Strate will have an opportunity to explain why it unilaterally decided to shut off share ownership information to data vendors for more than three months.
Because Strate is the only party authorised to maintain and control the electronic register of shareholders of JSE-listed companies, it is uniquely placed to provide this information to the market.
The only alternative to getting it from Strate is to get the information from the individual companies or their share transfer agent. This is so time consuming that it is not a realistic alternative.
The data vendors, which pay Strate for the names and holdings of shareholders, package the information so that it is easily accessible, and sell it on to investors. In an ideal world the up-to-date information on who actually owns the company would be made available on the company’s website. But we live in an imperfect world and the data vendors have to cover the cost of collecting and packaging the information and, presumably, making a bit of profit.
Strate has intimated that there were parties who would have challenged it if it continued to supply the shareholder information after the June implementation of the Financial Markets Act.
The FSB has now clarified that it is only confidential information that cannot be made available. The FSB notes that the act defines confidential information as “personal information that belongs to a person and is not generally available to or known by others”. The names and addresses of shareholders have to be available for inspection by third parties in terms of the Companies Act.
President Jacob Zuma had a tête-à-tête with editors, bureau chiefs and political editors in his Pretoria guesthouse this week.
He praised the media, both foreign and local, for contributing to the progress that the country had made “in moving from a pariah state status to a thriving vibrant young democracy”.
He was fresh from the tripartite alliance summit – attended by leaders of the ANC, the SACP and Cosatu – where it was proposed that the National Development Commission should be placed within the state with the commissioners staying on.
“We will not always agree on how to get that prosperous society as government and the media or with other sectors… but we are closer to consensus because of the National Development Plan (NDP), which is one of the achievements of the fourth democratic administration,” he enthused.
It had now been decided that the NDP would be driven within the government.
“We may differ… on the implementation of the NDP and many other things,” he said, “but that does not constitute a crisis of a problem“.
The media did, however, have the responsibility “as well in a young democracy and a developing country like ours, to promote hope, nation building, development and unity”. His government appreciated the role the media “is playing in our country already in this regard”.
He pointed to the LeadSA initiative founded by Primedia Broadcasting and supported by Independent Newspapers “to create an active citizenry which is in line with our National Development Plan”. This included the Stop Rape, Drug Watch and rhino conservation campaigns.
All this jolly hockeysticks interaction disguised the fact that National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel’s commission may in future be sidelined. Manuel himself protested: “This is not an axing: there is going to be some kind of bridge”, between the current and succeeding commission.
One would hate to suggest that the Cosatu delegation may have won the day.
Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Ann Crotty and Donwald Pressly.