If directors’ dealings were any guide on which sector to invest in, the past week would have seen investors piling into the industrial goods and services side of the JSE.
Leaders of businesses across the sector bought into their own companies, albeit in thin volumes.
Marius Swanepoel, the chief executive officer of Imperial’s logistics division in the rest of Africa, dug deep into his pockets to acquire 10,000 shares in the industrial conglomerate.
At the R165/share mark, that set Swanepoel back R1.65m.
Under Imperial’s deferred bonus plan in which the stock is bound, the company will match Swanepoel’s investment. The total lot will vest to him after three years.
For Swanepoel (and his colleagues participating in the bonus scheme) to qualify to receive the matching stock, Imperial’s net profit would need to grow by at least 20% every year.
This way the incentive performance scheme puts the management and investors in the company in the same boat.
Imperial, an importer of vehicles, has not had the best of times enduring the volatility of the rand.
The stock is 27% lower than its high of R224.85/share, clocked three years ago.
The depressed local economy, coupled with the currency fluctuations precipitated by the seismic political shifts in the form of the Brexit referendum decision and SA’s "own goals", resulted in an accelerated decline in new vehicle sales. The 17% drop in sales over the past year shows that cash-strapped SA consumers held onto their vehicles for longer.
Despite the tough times, Swanepoel was not alone in putting his money where his mouth is.
Barloworld chief executive Clive Thomson and finance director Donald Wilson exercised their options and purchased stock that was granted to them five years ago under the share appreciation rights scheme. The grant vested in 2014, after "achievement of a prescribed performance condition", says Barloworld — without disclosing the condition.
The non disclosure flies in the face of recommended good governance principles.
Barloworld, which is otherwise highly regarded in terms of good governance, is being as transparent as a black refuse bag on this one.
Without the company disclosing the performance conditions, how are investors able to gauge for themselves whether any of the performance targets were met? How stringent was this performance target?
Barloworld investors are left to guess not only what the performance target was, but also at what price — if any — were the shares granted to the executives. What is the secrecy about?
Whatever the missing detail is, what Barloworld could not hide from the market is its own performance. On the day the share appreciation rights were granted in February 2011, the share traded at R70.70. This week it was just above R85.
That kind of performance is hardly surprising in this environment. Barloworld sells its heavy equipment into markets that have borne the brunt of the depressed commodity environment.
Russia, where Barloworld has a large Caterpillar business in Siberia, has been in a recession for more than two years. Mining in SA has also been in decline for two years, while the pace of Mozambique’s slide into civil war was matched only by its economic slide, lowering demand for the heavy equipment it needs to dig up coal in the Tete province.
But none of that provides enough of an excuse for any company to hide important information on the remuneration of its executives.