Although best known nowadays for his investment prowess, Corion co-founder David Bacher also possesses a deep cricketing pedigree. In this month’s analysis of the markets, he applies analogies from the sport – and concludes by posing pointed questions to Cricket South Africa’s hierarchy over its “firing” of national Under19 captain David Teeger, because of threats from local activists linked to the Israel/Hamas war.
Edited transcript of the inteview
Alec Hogg: Every month, we enjoy exploring the Corion Report, but with the ongoing buzz in the cricket world, we have David Bacher, the author of the Corion Report, joining us today. David, with your extensive history in cricket, let’s dive into the Corion Report cricket-style.
David: Thanks, Alec. At Corion, we aim to innovate in our investment decisions and reporting on the markets. We have a deep passion for cricket and believe it’s our responsibility to address issues that go against fair play. In this month’s report, we’ve taken a unique approach, merging investment updates with cricket terminology, addressing the controversies in South African cricket.
Alec Hogg: Your background in cricket is certainly noteworthy. Could you share a bit about the Bacher family’s connection to the sport?
David: Certainly, Alec. While I share a love for the game with my father, it’s essential to note that my views are my own. I haven’t consulted my father on this matter. Being a Bacher may add significance, but this perspective is solely mine. My father, Ali, has put forth his own statement. I’m also a distant relative to David Teeger, but that’s not pertinent here. This is about accountability.
Alec Hogg: For those unfamiliar, your father, Ali Bacher, has played a significant role in South African cricket. Now, let’s delve into the content. Talk us through the slides, David.
David: Certainly, Alec. In line with the cricket theme, we’ve labeled global markets as a “subdued innings.” Global equities were up by less than a percent, with the US markets outperforming. The S&P rose by 1.7%, while emerging markets faced challenges, with China experiencing a 6% decline. In the US, it’s been a good time for investors, reaching record highs.
Alec Hogg: South Africa seems to be out of form in the markets. How do you interpret the Piet versus Magnus challenge, and what’s happening in our stock market?
David: Indeed, Alec. Last month’s underperformance in the South African markets is attributed to the struggling resources sector, facing issues like weak commodity prices and production challenges. Our stock market, with significant weightings in basic materials, faced another downturn.
Alec Hogg: Your use of cricket analogies is quite impressive. Now, let’s discuss currencies. How did they fare?
David: The dollar had a remarkable start to the year, leading all major rivals. This strong performance was fueled by a bullish stance from the Fed, diminishing the likelihood of an early interest rate cut in March. Positive US data and optimistic remarks from Fed officials further strengthened the dollar.
Alec Hogg: Let’s discuss the standout performers globally and locally, David.
David: Certainly, Alec. On the next page of our report, we showcase the top order, highlighting countries and selected shares. Notably, the market dynamics reveal interesting insights. For instance, Japan’s stock market is almost equivalent in size to Apple. Similarly, Microsoft’s weight in the MSCI is 4.2%, while the UK market is at 3.5%. Big companies are dominating the global stage, akin to developed market economies.
Alec Hogg: The comparison between Japan’s entire market and Apple is striking. Any concerns about the valuation of these large companies?
David: Last year, we rang the bell on this one. Despite our view that these companies may be overvalued, they continue to thrive for now.
Alec Hogg: Amazon’s recent 7% surge contrasts with the challenges in the property sector. How is global property faring?
David: Global property faced a tough month, but locally, South African property shares performed well, up around 4% last month and 15-16% over the last three months. Despite its small weighting, local property anchored the innings for our market.
Alec Hogg: Interesting contrast between global and local property performance. Now, let’s dive into the top performers in the South African market.
David: In slide six, we present the top performers among larger caps in our all-share market. Retailers like Mr. Price and Rand Head shares, especially Richemont, stood out. There’s speculation about a Richemont and LVMH merger, but hurdles in the luxury market might complicate the deal.
Alec Hogg: The potential merger raises eyebrows. Any thoughts on the return of mergers and acquisitions, considering Canal Plus’s move with MultiChoice?
David: Certainly in the South African context, with some stocks trading at compelling valuations, we anticipate more M&A activity. Whether through management buyouts or external companies, shareholders are likely to seek value realisation.
Alec Hogg: Now, let’s shift focus to the underperformers on the JSC Top 40.
David: In this familiar scenario, resource shares, including Implats and Anglo-American, faced significant challenges again. Pressures on commodity prices, particularly in the diamond and beer stable, are impacting results. The resource sector as a whole continues to underperform.
Alec Hogg: Let’s discuss MTN’s recent decline and its potential ties to the chief rabbi’s allegations. Is there a connection, and how do you interpret it?
David: I don’t believe the allegations helped MTN’s cause. While any corporate facing accusations or demands for transparency can impact the share price, in this case, it’s compounded by Nigerian macro headwinds and foreign exchange concerns. The Nigerian market, crucial for MTN, continues to pose challenges.
Alec Hogg: Now, shifting gears to Cricket South Africa, David. This seems to be a focus area for you. What’s your perspective on the recent developments?
David: Absolutely, Alec. It might be risky to speak out, but we believe it’s the right thing to do. Two main issues stand out for us. Firstly, yielding to threats of violence sets a dangerous precedent. It undermines the rule of law and suggests decisions can be dictated by force. Our concern is with the decision to remove David Teeger as captain, which, in our view, lacks democratic reasoning.
Alec Hogg: You’re calling for transparency from Cricket South Africa. What specific questions are you posing to them?
David: We’ve captioned it a bit edgy, urging Cricket South Africa to show some “cricket balls.” Transparency is crucial, especially for a non-profit institution. We pose three questions, emphasising the importance of disclosing details around the decision-making process. The first question revolves around the security report. Cricket South Africa received an alarm from NetJoints, a government agency. We want them to disclose the contents and assess whether there was a genuine threat. The second question involves Cricket South Africa’s security advisor, Rory Steyn. We want to see both reports – NetJoints’ and Steyn’s – to understand the nature of the threat and the ongoing investigation. Transparency is key, and these questions need clear answers.
Alec Hogg: Your call for transparency raises valid points. What are you hoping to achieve by taking this stance?
David: My aim is to enhance credibility in Cricket South Africa, its leadership, and its franchise. I have personal connections to the game through friends and family, including a son who aspires to play for South Africa. I genuinely want the organisation to thrive. Board members have a fiduciary duty to address these questions, and journalists like you, Alec, can play a crucial role by seeking responses from Cricket South Africa’s Chairman. Sponsors should also raise these questions to ensure the strength of Cricket South Africa. The current actions and explanations provided are not reassuring.
Alec Hogg: Absolutely, David. It’s time for cricket to follow in the footsteps of successful sports like soccer and rugby. Your bold stance will prompt us to reach out to Cricket South Africa. Graham Smith, a respected figure, might have valuable insights. However, I find it perplexing that credible board members, like Andrew Hudson, aren’t addressing these straightforward questions. It shouldn’t be challenging for them to provide answers.
David: Indeed, Alec. It’s essential to get these questions answered for the sake of Cricket South Africa’s integrity and the sport’s future.
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