Remgro chairperson Johann Rupert talks tough on corporate governance and South Africa’s levels of corruption at annual general meeting. Photo: File
Remgro chairperson Johann Rupert talks tough on corporate governance and South Africa’s levels of corruption at annual general meeting. Photo: File

Johann Rupert offers frank views on SA

By Opinion Time of article published Dec 1, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG – REMGRO chairperson Johann Rupert has offered shareholders frank views about corporate governance and South Africa’s levels of corruption during the company’s annual general meeting.

Rupert, whose family has controlled Remgro and its predecessor Rembrandt for over seven decades, believed the criteria to assess the independence of directors needed to be revisited.

He said it was ironic that, on the one hand, business was called upon to get directors to buy more shares and, on the other hand, when they owned shares, they were not independent.

“It is total nonsense, of course. You either know whether somebody is independent of mind or is not, if he/ she is independent or not. It is again closing the gate long after the horses have bolted,” said Rupert.

He told shareholders that in 2014 he had raised concerns about the levels of corruption, but was castigated for his views.

“Now it is common knowledge. Everybody knows, and people can see what I cautioned against some six years ago. Luckily now I sense that the tide is turning. I think the general population, everybody was shocked about the rampant theft that occurred during the allocation of funds for the Covid-19. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Rupert. He said investors did not want to invest in places they viewed as corrupt.

“Without investments we will not have economic growth and without that economic growth we will not have job creation. At least it is trending in the right direction, the global economy is problematic, but we will remain cautious,” said Rupert.

Remgro, the ninth biggest publicly-traded firm in South Africa and 1 436th in the world, is an investment holding company with interests in banking, financial services, packaging, glass products, medical services, mining, petroleum, beverage, food and personal care products.

Speaking during the meeting, Remgro chief executive Jannie Durand described Rupert as the most formidable businessman and ethical leader of his generation.

“He is a passionate South African, but also a true international icon. Many South Africans simply do not understand or do not want to understand what a great asset he is to the country and the unheralded contribution he has made to it. My hope is that the country’s leaders will in future set aside their narrow political affiliations and tap into his wisdom and the international exposure that he can provide and that we so desperately need at this time,” said Durand.

Remgro’s intrinsic net asset value per share decreased by 33.7 percent to R154.47 at the end of June from R233.03 a year earlier, reflecting the impact of the RMB Holdings (RMH) unbundling and the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on market values of listed companies and fair values of underlying unlisted investee companies.

In March, Remgro announced that it would proceed with the full distribution of its 28.2 percent interest in RMH and retain its 3.9 percent direct interest in FirstRand.

During the year to June 30, 2020, total headline earnings decreased by 61.4 percent from R8.19 billion to R3.16bn, while total headline earnings per share fell by 61.3 percent from 1 448.9 cents to 560.6c.

Remgro shares closed 4.05 percent lower at R92.18 on the JSE yesterday.

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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