Investec Group’s decision to muzzle its securities arm came as a disappointment to some in the market. When Investec Securities said in a report it was time for Tongaat Hulett’s long-standing CEO, Peter Staude, to step aside, many in the investment community applauded the rare showing of activism. But Investec Group distanced itself from the report and apologised for the "embarrassment" it had caused Staude. On the one hand, the move is understandable since the group has close ties with Tongaat. It is a major shareholder and acts as the sugar producer’s sponsor on the JSE, among other interests. But on the other hand, it is concerning that stock researchers are expected to toe the line in their assessments of listed companies. It seems wrong that research houses are only able to speak freely about stocks if their parent companies have no corporate ties. And it is not outrageous to assert that a shake-up is needed at Tongaat, whose shares are trading at nine-year lows. Yes, the sugar...

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