Ann Crotty Writer-at-large

Right now Investec should be, but probably isn’t, feeling very happy that its analyst Anthony Geard suggested that Tongaat Hulett’s then CEO, Peter Staude, resign. Geard was prompted to gently make the suggestion (in what he thought would be a tightly circulated note) by the "appalling" financial 2018 results released in late May last year. Apparently, he was particularly irked by the 37% slump in headline earnings, which didn’t quite gel with the positive earnings and cash flow promised by management a few months earlier. In the context of the prolonged destruction of shareholder value, Geard’s comment — "We think it is time for the CEO since 2002 to step aside" — was equivalent to suggesting Jacob Zuma’s presidency was not conducive to the development of a vibrant democracy. That’s not quite how Investec saw it. In less time than it takes to down a sugar-loaded soft drink, one of the country’s largest investment managers apologised to Staude: "To the extent to which it has caused ...

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