Believe it or not: JSE 83% white-owned

2011-10-09 10:00 The latest figures on black economic ownership mean that it will take blacks 34 years before they own half of the South African economy, says businessman Sandile Zungu.

Zungu, who is sceptical of the numbers released by the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) this week, added: “Even if the numbers were true, then the inverse means 83% of the JSE is actually owned by white people and that’s frightening.

“By the JSE’s account, every year since 1994 blacks have been taking ownership of an additional 1% of the economy. At this rate, this means it is going to take us another 34 years for black people to achieve 51% ownership of the economy.

That is simply unacceptable,” said Zungu.

Empowerment experts are split on the latest study.

Two experts think that the JSE’s research findings are not a true reflection of ownership of South African companies by blacks, while three backed the results.

The study looked at black ownership of the top-100 JSE-listed companies, which represent 85% of the bourse’s total market capitalisation.

It shows that black South Africans, at last year, held 8% of the top-100 companies through direct investment and a further 9% was held through mandated investments like pension funds.

Trevor Chandler of Chandler and Associates, who headed the research team appointed by the JSE, said more black South Africans own shares through mandated investments than through BEE deals.

He said: “By number, middle-class black South Africans are the main beneficiaries of mandated investment.

“This is achieved with no gearing – pension funds, life insurance policies and collective investment schemes do not carry debt.”

Chris van Wyk of AQRate said the results mean that the market complies with generic codes targeted for 2017, in aggregate.

He said: “The BEE Codes require 25% black ownership by 2017. Currently black people own at least 28% (using the trade and industry calculation).

“Moreover, with 32% of total market yet to be analysed, the actual black ownership figure is likely to be higher,” he said.

Alana Bond, the managing director of ratings firm Bravura Consulting, said there was no reason to doubt the research as it was done in a methodical fashion that followed the principles laid out in the black economic empowerment (BEE) codes of good practice and checked by an accredited verification agent.

She said: “For all of this ‘wealth’ transferred into black hands, much of it has gone into broad-based groupings.”

Bond said further that collective investments like pension funds were effective ways of investing for blacks because the shares were bought with cash instead of on credit.

“Ultimately, it is the investment in mandated investments – particularly pension and provident funds – which is likely to be the most sustainable for our country,” said Bond.

“This is cash investment into the economy without debt, which is typically the vehicle through which the majority of people save for retirement.

“This means that the funds are largely left untouched, allowing wealth to build rather than cashing in for consumption,” she added.

Thabo Masombuka, the executive director of transformation services at Siyakha Consulting, disputed the report’s findings.

He said: “Like the previous report released last year, and no matter what methodology that has been used, the latest report cannot be the true reflection of the progress of BEE deals in the past 12 months.

“The fact that only 8% between 2010 and 2011 was directly held by black people shows the lack of progress in the extent of black ownership.

“It is also difficult to understand what measurement methodology was applied in determining what constitutes direct ownership,” he said.

“This is so especially in view of the fact that the share register validation used include ‘foreign operations verified against company annual reports’ and ‘mandated ownership records checked against pension fund records’.

“This certainly cannot be an accurate way of measuring the level and the extent of direct interests held by black people,” said Masombuka.