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Posted in the category: Insight

Why a new free float index for the JSE?

By Craig Pheiffer

The introduction of the FTSE/JSE Africa Index series on June 24 brings SA into line with global best practice in terms of market index construction.

The new series is based on FTSE’s global classification system and a system of free float. No less an index than the German Dax coincidentally underwent a similar free-float revision to its indices on June 24. The use of the global classification system means that investors will have to get used to possibly finding their favourites stocks housed in new sectors.

Sasol and Sappi, for example, will no longer be found in the Resources sector (now called an economic group) but rather in the economic group called Basic Industries. There are now ten economic groups divided up into 37 sectors which are further divided into 103 sub-sectors.

The system of free float will also impact the new indices in that the weightings of each index will be based on the number of freely tradable shares in each index’s constituent stocks. A stock’s free float is reduced by cross holdings, tightly held family control and shares locked up in employee incentive schemes, for example.

In the case of Impala, where Gencor holds over 40% of Impala’s issued shares, the low free float will result in Impala’s weighting in the new indices being reduced. Should Gencor unbundle those shares then Impala would qualify for greater participation in the FTSE/JSE Africa Index Series.

The shares with the greater free float will therefore have the greater part of their market capitalisation included in the new indices. There is a fixed scale dictating how free float percentage translates into participation in the new indices but constituent stocks with free float percentages greater than 75% will have their entire market capitalisation included in the new indices.

While the introduction of the new system is to be applauded, it does raise some problems for asset managers who use the indices for benchmarking the performance of their funds.

Under the new regime Anglo American with its high free float, for example, will see its weighting in the All Share index rise above 20%. This raises problems for asset managers of retirement funds given local prudential guidelines.

The JSE is aware of that problem, however, and will look into the construction of a more appropriate benchmark once the new indices have been bedded down.

  • Craig Pheiffer is Chief Investment Strategist at Sasfin Frankel Pollak Securities. he can be contavted on tel. (011) 883 2337 or by e-mail on mailto:cpheiffer@sasfin.com

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Posted in the category: News

South African web design couldn't in Cannes

by Arthur Goldstuck

The best of South African interactive advertising has fallen far behind the best in the world…

At the Cannes International Advertising Festival in France last month, not a single South African web site entry or online advert was considered for the Cyber Lions, the award given for online or interactive advertising.

It was clear that the South African advertising industry has fallen dramatically behind current trends in both web design and Internet marketing strategy.

The jury scrutinised 1343 entries from 41 countries, including 22 from South Africa. However, only one South African entry made a large short list of 280, and that entry did not come into contention for an award.

The main honours went to the USA and Denmark, each of which earned a Grand Prix, the premier award at the Cannes Lions. The USA and Brazil each won two Gold Lions, while Canada, Denmark, Japan and Sweden each picked up one Gold. Spain won three Silver Lions, followed by Australia, the USA and Brazil with two silvers each. Germany, Korea and Sweden each earned one silver.

The clear favourite was the Grand Prix-winning Nike Football site from Denmark, one of a large batch of Nike entries from around the world. The South African entry on the shortlist was in fact a local Nike production, but it was not selected for the final awards vote.

The second Grand Prix award, for the BMW “Hire” film campaign, was described as “the most controversial decision in the four-year history of the Cyber Lions”. The campaign consisted of a series of five-to-six minute films that were intended to be downloaded from the Web. While a majority of jury members felt the campaign web site itself was a disappointment, and refused to give it even a gold award, there was consensus on the achievement of the campaign as a whole, both in online and in mainstream advertising.

Cyber Lions jury president George Gallate, CEO of Euro RSCG Interaction, argued: “The innovation that it has introduced may help the International Advertising Festival recategorise its awards in the future.”

Gallate described the 17-member jury, which represented 14 countries, as “the most senior jury I have ever worked with”. This contributed to a remarkable level of consensus on what constituted good online advertising.

Gallate told a press conference on the eve of the awards that the jury was “incredibly heartened by the standards we saw”.

“Some of the work showed great creativity and exceptional guts in this tough economy. We all came out of it thinking we have a spectacular future in this industry.”

He offered no room for excuses from countries that did not score in the awards stakes, pointing out that there was no link between resources and awards.

“In assessing the final list of winners, it was notable that the quality of the work submitted by the networks was not as high as that from the smaller independent shops,” Gallate told the press conference. “This is an important message for the big agencies to take away.”

The key differentiators for the jury were, firstly, great ideas and, secondly, great execution.

The element that came across most often in deciding to give an award was the emotional factor. This points the way to the future of interactive advertising: it is not only technical brilliance that will win on the Web, but the extent to which a site or ad connects with a visitor.

Arthur Goldstuck is managing director of World Wide Worx and editor of The Big Change. He represented South Africa on the Cyber Lions jury after being nominated as a judge by Cinemark, which represents the Cannes Lions in South Africa.

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Posted in the category: Trends

Investment trends: Time to rebalance portfolios

by Bryan Hirsch

Given the 55% rise in the resource-heavy JSE ALSI 40 index since the market bottom on 21 September 2001, it is time to take some profits and rebalance portfolios and adjust asset allocations.

One effect of the extraordinary run in resources shares relative to other asset classes is that most portfolios are now overweight in equities, and resources stocks in particular.

To illustrate the point, take a R1 million portfolio invested a year ago with a 10% weighting in property, 10% in cash, 60% in equities and 20% in bonds. With no adjustments in the portfolio, the current weightings are about 8% in property, 65% in equities, 9% in cash and 17% in bonds.

The equities weighting jumped from 60% to 65% due largely to the sharp appreciation in resources shares, pushing down the weightings in other asset classes.

Is this necessarily a bad thing, given the fact that equities have delivered a handsome return to shareholders over the last year, way ahead of the other asset classes?

It’s important to remember that as much as 80% of investment returns are attributable to asset allocation. When asset allocation is out of kilter, it heightens portfolio risk and imperils performance. Hence, it is important to rebalance portfolios from time to time to ensure asset allocations remain in balance.

Returning to the above example, let’s assume that the equities portfolio a year ago was weighted 35% in resources, 15% in financial and 50% in industrials. After the strong appreciation in resources stocks over the last year, the current weightings are 45% resources, 13% financials and 42% industrials. To bring the sector allocations back to equilibrium, we must reduce our resources holdings by 15% (bringing us back to a 35% weighting) and increase financial weightings by 2% and industrials by 8%.

The concept of buying low and selling high is at the key to all successful investment. I remain optimistic about the equity markets this year, but believe now is the time to take some resources profits as a way to rebalance portfolios and asset allocations.

The recent strengthening in the rand to around R10 to the dollar was the trigger for a correction in resources stocks, most of which have delivered outstanding returns to investors over the last year.

Take Harmony and Gold Fields, for example, both of which shot up roughly three-fold from their September 2001 levels. Anglogold more than doubled over the same period, as did Anglo American, though the latter has shed nearly 20% of its value since peaking at R215 in February.

The run in resources stocks has been exceptional in light of the preceding several years of indifferent returns on the JSE. But the party cannot last forever, and strong rallies such as we have just witnessed are always followed by a correction.

There is a tendency in South Africa to believe that rising equity markets will continue indefinitely, but history suggests otherwise. Investors poured billions of rands into over-priced small cap stocks in the mid-1990s in the belief that these would continue to deliver above average returns well into the future. Then came the market crash of 1998, destroying billions of rands in equity value. Most hurt were investors in small cap shares.

Let’s not forget that just a few years ago Anglo American traded at a price-earnings (PE) multiple of five, while new technology listings with little or no track record commanded multiples of 10 or even 12 – a clear example of “irrational exuberance”, in the words of Federal Reserve governor Alan Greenspan in reference to the US equity markets.

When the technology bubble burst, there followed a wholesale swing back to value investment.

The recent run in resources stocks cannot be characterised as a bubble, but these have captured a huge proportion of new funds flowing into the JSE over the last seven months. Consequently, other sectors – notably the industrial and financial sectors – have started to look attractive relative to resources.

A strong case can therefore be made for taking some profits in resources stocks and switching into selected financial, retail and industrial shares.

Several retail shares offer good value, among them Pick ‘n Pay holding company Pikwik, which trades at a discount to Pick ‘n Pay, Shoprite (on a price-earnings ratio of 12.6 against Pikwik’s 14.7) and Nuclicks (12.5). Food companies Tiger Brands (10.8) and Tongaat (7.9) are also attractive, while Aveng has probably tested bottom and should recover from here.

Banking shares have been primary beneficiaries of the resources sell-off and this trend is likely to continue, despite higher interest rates which eat into banking margins.

There’s no harm in holding a higher percentage of your portfolio in cash as a war chest for opportunities that arise later in the year.

Certainly, this is no time to be buying gold shares. Prices have run hard and fast and markets always give up some of their gains when this happens.

Having said this, I believe that those who try to time the market generally get it wrong. Consider the following: the S&P 500 index registered a 13% compound annual return since 1971, but excluding the best 18 months the return falls to 6.8%. Excluding the best 48 months, the return drops to zero. Try as they might, investors seldom correctly call the market tops and bottoms correctly.

Rather than trying to time the market, investors are better off commencing an orderly rebalancing of their portfolios with input from a professional advisor.

Bond yields shot up from about 9.3% in December last year to 12.9% in response to the sharp depreciation in the rand. With the recent increase in interest rates, bond yields have started improving again to under12%.

Bond yields are nevertheless expected to continue their descent once inflation is contained, so there will be good opportunities for profiting from bonds during the course of the year.

In terms of asset allocation, the closer you are to retirement, the less willing you are to accept risk and the greater your income needs. Bearing in mind that equity investment is more risky than other forms of investment, the equity component of your portfolio should probably not exceed 40%. The balance should be in secure, income-generating assets.

Younger investors still accumulating wealth can afford a much higher exposure to equities, up to about 75%.

Bryan Hirsch is chief executive of Sasfin Financial Advisory Services. he can be contacted on telephone +27 11 809 7500 or by e-mail on mailto:Bhirsch@sasfin.co.za

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Posted in the category: Trends

Strategy trends: Mid-size companies can lead the way

by Keith Mullan

Today’s marketplace is characterised by increased competitive pressure and rapid change. But the situation should be seen as an opportunity – especially for mid-sized manufacturers.

The market is ripe with opportunity for companies that are capable of responding swiftly to changing market conditions, and market pressure plays right into the hands of the mid-market. In a down economy, competitors will be looking inwards rather than exploiting new markets. Many mid-size manufacturers sell products that aren’t that expensive nor complex, which provides them with great opportunities if they play it smart.

To do this, companies need to gain control. They need greater visibility in order to find waste in their business processes. They need to be alert to customer’s needs, be aware when materials aren’t going to be available as originally planned, and measure where they’re making the greatest profit. In short, they need to manage their supply chain more efficiently.

While the Internet has served as a technological foundation for gaining greater visibility, it’s also one of the main catalysts for increased competitiveness in the market. The irony is that while e-business is making it easier to increase efficiency, at the same time it’s raising customer expectations and eroding traditional competitive advantages.

Before the Internet, it was difficult to compare prices against other suppliers so the customer often ended up paying more. On the web, however, it’s easy to look elsewhere, which means there’s increased pressure from end customers. The Internet gives them greater choice and greater visibility.

Customers want unique products and expect individual service. Consequently, they are less willing to accept mass-marketing and one-size-fits-all products. This means that manufacturers must adopt the make-to-order mentality to supply customised products and services designed to match individual customer profiles. The customer puts pressure on their supplier, and they in turn put pressure on their vendors’ suppliers.

Mid-size companies have the size and structure necessary to deliver the products that customers want with minimum time to market, and have the potential to reorganise in order to seize new opportunities. It requires, however, that they are geared for change and that they have a business solution that supports maximum efficiency of business processes. While technology can help increase visibility and sharpen competitive edge, it is wise to focus first and foremost on business processes. Technology can then be applied gradually as a means of achieving more business value throughout the supply chain.

Supply chain management is not just about moving product components. It’s everything we do, from the conception of products to their obsolescence. Everything that makes time-to-market or time-to-return on product as efficient as possible.

It’s always been healthy business to improve the processes that add value to your partners and customers. In today’s rapid and competitive market, it’s absolutely crucial to a manufacturer’s success.

Keith Mullan is managing director of Navision South Africa, a global provider of integrated business solutions. Visit their web site at http://www.navision.co.za or phone them on +27 11 315 2000

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Posted in the category: Trends

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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