Where Copelyn leads, we hope timid SA business will follow 

In her masterful book Investing Between the Lines, LJ Rittenhouse explains a company’s reported numbers depend hugely on many assumptions and judgements made by those within the business. These subjective decisions, she says, are based on the values of leadership. So the key to investing is to study words and promises of company leaders.

What is contained in the annual report is critical. Rittenhouse says only trust companies whose letters to shareholders are written by the CEO and/or chairperson – never those who outsource to agencies. Ergo the Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon letters (Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos). Or, locally, PSG’s Jannie Mouton. Authenticity is easy to spot.

Another example of values shining through comes in HCI boss Johnny Copelyn’s letter to shareholders in the R25bn group’s latest annual report. He is forthright, uses powerful language and even a touch emotional. His message references SA realities on parts of the HCI business – strong-arm attempts in coal mines; armed robberies on busses, etc.

Describing the “astounding…level of depravity our country has descended into…from the disastrous practices of the Zuma years” Copelyn reckons “we absolutely must prevail against these forces.” He says HCI “fully intends to play a role in this resurrection.” Here’s hoping this former trade unionist is followed by a too-timid business community.

*There was a lot of interest in last week’s webinar with Johnny Rabie’s offshore development in Lisbon. For those who missed the event, click here for the recording.