It’s beginning to look like a deal that was too clever by half. If the arrangement had gone according to plan, the architects behind the proposal of African Phoenix Investments (API) to buy back its 13.5-million preference shares at a hefty discount to face value would have scored considerable kudos — and, no doubt, substantial fees. It’s the sort of terribly smartly structured transaction that helps to make reputations and fortunes, when it works. And it might yet end up achieving much of the planned outcome. But right now it just looks too clever, and rather abusive. And you have to wonder how the JSE gave its stamp of approval to a transaction that is so tentative in what it is asking of shareholders as to be utterly dismissive of minority rights. Essentially, API wanted shareholders to approve a transaction it may, or may not, carry out through a process it had not decided upon until it was forced to do so in court papers last week. It’s difficult not to believe that the uncerta...

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