Johannesburg - Women's Investment Portfolio Holdings (Wiphold), the women's investment group, made a quiet debut on the JSE yesterday, with the share price going down to R5,74 at the close of markets, after having opened at R6,50.

Wiphold, which is the first company controlled by women to be listed on the JSE, remained optimistic despite its muted debut, saying that this was "a long-term game, and not a short term one".

The company's listing on the JSE's Investment Trust sector, primarily aimed at increasing the tradeability of Wiphold's shares, was the culmination of five years' of efforts made primarily by four women, Wendy Luhabe, Louisa Mojela, Nomhle Canca and Gloria Serobe, to mobilise the buying power of South African women.

After managing to encourage hundreds of black women to back them, the Wiphold four managed to turn an initial R500 000 investment into a R1 billion rand enterprise in four years.

Wiphold then went on to trade its shares on the over-the-counter market in January 1998 after a public placement in May 1997. Trade in stock was poor, however, with an average of only 142 000 shares changing hands every month.

The stock traded at R5,50 a share during this time, a 22,3 percent discount to its net asset value (NAV) of R7,08, compared with yesterday's closing price of R5,74 a share, which was still a discount to the company's NAV of R7,78.

Wiphold's listing received a mixed response from analysts, with the more cautious ones saying it would fail to unlock shareholder value.

"The perception is that the demand for a company's shares increases once it goes public, but since Wiphold was already trading publicly over the counter, this is unlikely to happen in this case," said one analyst.

George Bennett, an analyst from HSBC, however, said demand for Wiphold's shares depended mostly on its underlying investments.

"The company has some good investments, and it's quite normal for investment companies to trade at a discount to NAV.

"I think the share price will recover as soon as the underlying stocks recover," he said.

He said a good acquisition by Wiphold, which has cash resources of R300 million, would have a positive effect on its share price.

Wiphold has investments both in the retail and financial sectors, where it has stakes in such listed firms as Africa Media Entertainment, Capital Alliance, Forbes and the Theta Group.

The company's share price closed at R5,74 yesterday.