There is merit in Piet Mouton’s open letter on vaccination – Steven Nathan

Steven Nathan is Tuesday’s BizNews Power Hour co-host, with the 10X founder sharing his rational opinion on a number of controversial issues making the headlines in South Africa today. First, Piet Mouton’s open letter is discussed at length, with the PSG chief executive outlining that the burden of lockdowns should only be faced by the unvaccinated. Nathan sided with Mouton, stating that all the data is pointing towards vaccines being effective in protecting against illness and death, which is its primary role. The Steinhoff settlement saga is also discussed, with the embroiled retailer having sold R7.3bn worth of Pepkor shares in an accelerated bookbuild to qualified investors over the last 24 hours. – Justin Rowe-Roberts

Steven Nathan on Piet Mouton’s open letter: 

We know that vaccines are a very hot topic and very, very strong opinions. Personally, I tend to side with Piet. I think that the data shows us that if you are vaccinated, the probability that you are going to be hospitalised and need ventilators, drops dramatically. It’s interesting. I don’t know if you saw there was something going around from Groote Schuur, where on the 6th of September they said that 156 people had been hospitalised with Covid – of a 156 – 3 were vaccinated and 153 were unvaccinated. They had 66 in high care, all 66 were unvaccinated. They had 32 on ventilators and all 32 were unvaccinated. It seems unequivocal. The data we’re getting from Discovery, from the UK, from Israel, from all over the world – vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of severe illness. We know the various ways to address the issue such as herd immunity but vaccines seem to to work. I think it was the IMF, where they looked at forecasts for economic growth and they basically said that the countries that are recovering the fastest are those that are vaccinated. So the higher your vaccine rate, the better your economy does. So it does seem unequivocal but there are always risks with vaccines. I’m not an expert here, but it seems to be a very, very small risk. It does seem to be overblown. It’s a bit like a plane crash – when it goes down there is an enormous amount of news and we all worry whether flying is safe. But it’s an exception, not the norm. I would tend to agree with that because the less vaccinated South Africa is as a country, it’s just going to be difficult for us to get back to normal. Our borders aren’t going to open. We’re going to remain on the red list of countries. It’s going to impact tourism. And there’s so many knock effects. I know it’s incredibly emotional and I think people have very, very strong views one way or the other. But from what I saw, I would support that.

On Steinhoff selling 10% of its Pepkor stake: 

If you look at Steinhoff, Pepkor is one of their best assets. They did a lot of things wrong and a lot of things off the books that they shouldn’t have done, but they are very fortunate that they have Pepkor. They own about 68% of Pepkor. Pepkor’s market capitalisation is about R80bn. Steinhoff’s stake is worth about R54bn because they own about 68%. Steinhoff’s market capitalisation is just over R12bn. That just shows you the enormous debt that Steinhoff has. Steinhoff has a debt burden of around R160bn and they’ve got this litigation as well. That’s the problem they’ve got. So they’ve got to sell off the crown jewels. They’ve got to sell-off the good performing businesses. Unfortunately what happens is when you sell a reasonably large minority stake (in this case 10%) but it’s not big enough to trigger control – when you give up control (over 50%), you can get a premium to the market price. But when you sell a minority stake you get a discount, so you actually suffer.

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