Shareholders of Sechaba Holdings Limited will on next week Wednesday go into a decisive annual general meeting which, by the end of the day, could have seen six individuals making fresh appearances at the company’s board of directors.
This will be a historic development, for the firm that is facing challenges, ranging from regulation to declining market share. Sechaba, the country’s biggest brewer by any measure will also, for the first time, be forced to fill the space for one director who resigned from the company after having offered himself for re-election at the meeting which takes place at Poelo Pub. The modest Pub is located inside the company’s Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL) Coke Plant.
Brian Hirsch took the board by surprise when he tendered his resignation from the board last Wednesday. Company Secretary, Gorata Hlope has announced his resignation. The Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE) listed blue chip has remained silent on his sudden quit, days ahead of the make or break meeting. Surprisingly, the company which last week released modest interim results, was quick to make a hasty replacement of Hirsch with Wayne McCauley on the same day that he left the company, which produces Black Label and Mooka Mageu. The decision was taken during a board meeting that took place in the same day. Former boss, Hloni Matsela has also resigned. When shareholders took to their chairs on Wednesday afternoon, they will find new director Boyce Sebetela within their midst. It will now be their turn to confirm the current Vice Chairperson of the embattled Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST).
Investors of the blue-chip company will also have the task of agreeing to the appointment of Montle Phuthego to the board, which is currently chaired by Batlang Mmualefe. The latter took the hot seat after Edward Komanyane left unceremoniously. Phuthego was once acting Managing Director of government investment arm-Botswana Development Corporation (BDC). She is the corporation’s general manager-business development. Finance Director for Barclays Bank of Botswana, Lipalisa Makepe, is another director who will be meeting Sechaba shareholders for the very first time. If she gets the nod to sit in the board, she will become one of the few directors who are members of two boards for companies that are listed at the local bourse. Shareholders of Sechaba, which is facing uncertainty due to tough beer regulations, will also see, for the very first time the face of ex Botswana Tourism Board boss, Myra Sekgororoane.
She left the government tourism agency under a cloudy of controversy, local media has reported. Sechaba finance chief, Gert Nel will also be seeking the blessing of the shareholders to be part of the board, which has a lot at its plate. He was first introduced to the media during the year-end financial results presentation hosted by CEO Johan De Kok. Before his appointment, he was at parent company, SABMiller as Senior Manager-finance operations, Africa. Mike Baldachin is hoping for confirmation from shareholders during the Puelo meeting. He is also from SABMiller, one of the biggest brewers globally. Other board members such as Chairman Mmualefe and Kate Maphage are up for re-election.
At press time, it was not immediately clear how may shareholders have confirmed to took part in the meeting which is expected to be busiest for the brewer. Apart from re-elections and new appointments, shareholders will also approve interim dividends as well as adopting year-end financial statements. PricewaterhouseCoopers, a leading accounting and auditing firm is also waiting with bated breath for a possible approval for its services for the current financial year. Surprisingly, investors will not discuss anything related to Sechaba’s long run running cautionary note. The note was issued to sensitise investors that the board is reviewing some corporate changes proposals that might have impact on the company’s share price. The corporate change proposals include a possible delisting from BSE.
The note was first made public in December 2013. When the meeting takes place, hearts of directors both new and old, will be beating in possible anticipation of the alcohol levy, which has been increasing during the festive season in the past few years. Sitting at 50 percent, the levy has become a concern to the company’s profitability and its sustainability. Writing in the 2014 annual report, chairman Mmualefe said the business has continued to remain strong despite regulatory challenges, which among others include the traditional beer regulations. The regulations prohibit the sale of Chibuku and related products in homesteads. Last week, the company posted modest interim results that show profit after income tax has moved to P94, 5 million, up when compared to P88, 6 million in September 2013. Despite challenges, investors till scramble for the company’s shares, which has jumped to 2801 thebe, up when compared to 1820, recorded twelve months ago.