All Berger directors must go

Trading in shares of Berger Paints were suspended from October 5 to 13 as the takeover offer to buy out minority shareholders entered the final stage. Trading resumed on Tuesday this week, without one word being said as to the outcome of the take up.
Considering the very strong recommendations made by directors for shareholders to take up the offer, it would be logical if the investing public was informed about the results. Trading is taking place with investors being in the dark.
This is no way to run a capital market. The Stock Exchange has information but has so far done nothing to get investors promptly informed as to the status of the company remaining listed. The Financial Securities Commission that is there to protect investors seems completely dead. With directors putting out highly questionable information in support of their ill-advised recommendation to sell, these regulators left investors completely exposed to improper information.
IC Insider.com gathers that around 6 million units were surrendered by investors. What is known by this publication, is that the larger minority shareholders with more than 31 percent of the shares, were never influenced by the recommendation to accept the offer and did not sell. That left smaller investors who unfortunately have given up their chance to reap a huge pay day in 2018 when the price is likely to be in the $40-50 range. Very sad indeed.
The stock exchange needs to get information out to the public and fast. And while the Jamaica Stock Exchange should do so, the Trinidad and Tobago Exchange needs to do the same as the Ansa Coatings parent, is listed on that exchange and should be informing their shareholders of the outcome of the offer as well.
Apart from what would be expected of Ansa to advice of the added acquisition. Under the Jamaica Stock Exchange rules, each listed company is required to report connected party transactions. The directors’ recommendation stated that all directors who owned shares directly and their connected parties, as well as two senior managers intended to accept the offer, accounting for over 500,000 units. These are connected parties and Berger is required to inform the Stock Exchange of these transactions along with the major shareholder buying, as a part of insider trading information.
With such poor judgement, minority shareholders need to demand that all directors resign from the board with immediate effect as no confidence can be placed in them to protect the interest of minority. One hopes it does not get down to that and that all will resign forthwith without having to be pushed.

Do you really know your adviser?

Berger Paints is worth more than $20 per share.

The directors of Berger Paints should have their resignation letters ready for signing after in early October, as their continuing service will be in conflict with the recommendation they gave minority shareholders who seem set to rebuff it.
Investors need to be adequately informed as there are wolves out there to help snatch valuables from them. Salada Foods is a very profitable entity after the broker to a takeover offer and audit firm recommended shareholders to sell their shares for an undervalued amount back in the 1980s. According to the auditor, the plant was obsolete and coffee powder was no longer accepted by consumers. The broker suggested that minority shareholders will have to eat their shares for their stupidity in not accepting the offer. Three decades on and the company remains profitable and debt free and those shareholders who held their shares have done extremely well by doing so. I wrote at the time of the offer that it was unfair. I gathered that the chairman Mr. Charles Ransom at the time, on a flight back to Jamaica, dammed John Jackson for killing the offer, when he saw the story that was highly critical of the offer. That was a few days before the vote that rejected the offer.
In 2010 the first Junior Market listing IPO was condemned outright by a featured article in the Friday Business Observer, followed by a series of comments by doomsayers. The arguments against the offer were so uninformed that I wrote an article defending it fully.
One of the critics wrote, “I looked over their prospectus the very day it was released and came to the very same conclusion that this price is pie in the sky!! I have a degree in Finance and I invest in companies on the JSE, including Mayberry and I think this is a sad day in IPO valuation. They had the opportunity to set the standard for the Jr. JSE and they are muggin it up. The conclusion I draw from their pricing is that they take the Jamaican investor for idiots, like so many companies in Jamaica. And they are playing on peoples’ greed. I would love to invest in this company and if it hits the market I will wait for the price to realign to it’s proper valuation before buying.”
And yet another investors comments, “Mr. Jackson everyone has a right to his or her opinion, you Sir should have done your homework. I am not a stock broker, but I was interested in the offer and did my research, after reading the Prospectus I decided not to take up the offer.”
“Look at likely future earnings, the future of Access Financial looks BAD. WHAT IS THEIR BUSINESS??? SUB-PRIME LOANS. In the USA a company such as this would be called a predatory Lender. The business model looked okay 3 to 4 years ago, but now it just looks dismal. Most of the clients the forward looking statement alludes to are people who live paycheck to paycheck. With all the talk of layoffs and cutback in the Jamaican economy, how does the principal of Access expect their business to grow?”
“One point made in the prospectus is that Government does not regulate this particular company, and therefore they can keep their interest rate on their products higher. Look at the percentage of bad loans recorded for 2008, and then compare that to the 9.09% projected non-performing loans in the prospectus. Come now Mr. Jackson, does this sound right to you?”
In response to my article saying the market is huge the reader had this to say,“How is the market huge when this company’s business model caters to small and micro business sector? Take an informal survey on how many micro business have pulled down their shutter since the year started. If I did not have access to information I might have called you for guidance as a stockbroker, what a disappointment that would have been.”
My current response, they made a big mistake in reading the prospectus first, as they would have done far better had they done the right thing. One investors who was advised to buy, did just that and enjoyed wonderful returns.
Earlier this year, a brokerage house was recommending Cargo Handlers as a buy in the $20 range when the PE ratio was in the 50 region. Another last year recommended investors sell Barita Investments, saying the stock was not worth much more than just over $2. Where are these two stocks at presently? One is much lower than the recommendation and one much higher? And for naysayers in Access Financial who cause a number of persons to stay out of Access, they may have learnt from the experience, hopefully as the stock now trades at the equivalent of $460 per share and never fell below the issued price once. In addition investors have reaped a large amount in dividends and the growth goes on. The Berger Paints recommendation to sell is just another of those poor valuations done by persons who don’t really know how to value listed companies. The market will speak in a few weeks on this.

Minority deserves better

SOS directors released June’s quarterly results even though the JSE rules require the first report to be relased for the September quarter.

The investing public seems not to be treated with the respect it deserves. It appears that many companies thing of investors last, not recognizing that they are shareholders just like the majority owners.
The last persons seen are the first to be remembered and is equivalent to out of sight out of mind. That seems to be the case with shareholders in the Caribbean. Newly listed Stationery & Office Supplies release of the June quarterly report although not required by the Jamaica Stock Exchange is an example of good corporate governance and is to be applauded.
In Trinidad for example, there is little liquidity in that market and the directors refuse to do anything about it. In Jamaica many companies tend to stick with the minimum regulations of the stock exchange, even when the recent examples in Jamaica say how important it is to ensure that there is adequate liquidity in the market.
The current regulation for listings in Jamaica, is for new listed companies to file their first quarterly report in the quarter ending after listing. The rule is inadequate to protect investors. Information is critical for the capital market to function properly, as such investors should not have to wait more than two quarters to get a quarterly report. In 2016, there was the very poor decision by Wentworth Graham the then head of the regulatory arm of the Jamaica Stock Exchange to permit 1834 Investments to wrongly withhold the December quarterly report from the public. This was based on improper interpretation of the rules relating to the release of financial information.

Main Event release their first report in June after their January IPO.

Earlier this year Main Event issued their IPO and included interim results to September 2016, with the year end of October. The IPO was in January but it was not until June that shareholders had information on the out turn of the operations for 2016 as well as for the first quarter this year. As it turned out, profit of $60 million at the 11 month period melted down to $56.5 million for the full year. The audited report was only signed on the June 5, more than 7 months after the year end while the first quarter results were never released but the second quarter to April was released within the deadline of June 15.
The management of Stationery & Office Supplies may have had a lot to shout about with pretax profit jumping 146 percent to $20.3 million for the June quarter this year and hence the release of the results to Jamaica Stock Exchange in less than a month of listing on the Junior Market.
Under the stock exchange rules it need not have put out the six months report having been listed in August. Some persons may see it as self interest in the release, but there is no evidence of that. The release provides the investing public with pertinent information in a timely manner, on which they can make their investment decisions. The hope is that the Jamaica Stock Exchange rules will be strengthened quickly to ensure that pertinent information is release on a timely basis to the public.

Is the end of king sugar nigh?

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What is happening to the local sugar industry is a disaster, one made worse by the Chinese taking over the country’s two largest factories.

To read that the already ridiculously low forecast of just 100,000 tons of sugar is being lowered to 91,000, says eloquently, that the industry is in a major crisis and in urgent need of major surgery.
Frome Sugar Factory the report states, closed the crop with only 20,451 tons of sugar from 247,000 of canes, that is a yield of 12 tonnes of cane to a ton of sugar which can be considered poor. In the late 1970s and very early 1980s, Frome produced over 70,000 tonnes of sugar and Monymusk around 50,000 tonnes.
What is really happening in the industry? Long Pond in Trelawny, use to produce around 15,000 tonnes per crop and Dunkenfield just under that. Canes that went to Bernard Lodge that use to produce over 40,000 tonnes of sugar was going to Monymusk. What the data is indicating is that the three smaller factories are producing close to their historical norm, so what exactly is happening why the two big factories are dying.
Pricing maybe a problem but it appears that weak management with lack of experience is the major reason. The reality is that even if Frome continued production to the end of the crop, they cannot be profitable at roughly a third of capacity. Whatever, the factors, the government needs to pay urgent attention to the two large factories. In reality there are just not enough canes in the fields to make for a viable factory operation at either Frome or Monymusk and there are no signs that this critical aspect of the industry is being addressed in the areas close to these factories.

Where are the Main Event figures?

Three directors of Main Event, including the mentor who is responsible to ensure compliance with the JSE rules.

Main Event went to the market in January this year in its Initial Public offering. The prospectus reported figures up to September 2016, one months ahead of the year end.
The stock was listed in February but investors have not yet seen the  April quarterly report which is due by the 15th of June, not to speak of those for January quarter this year and the audited accounts for 2016, that is far too long between reports.
Players in the capital market ought to know that markets thrive on credible and timely information. In the absence of new financial data that in a normal market should be released at least for the January quarter, investors have been trading in the dark, not knowing what is happening financially.  That is not good enough.

There are not quarterly no audit accounts and no disclosure as to when these will be made available, with the March quarter results passed due from May 15.
One take the view that the Stock Exchange requires report post listing, that would require the April quarterly report only, those rules are old fashioned. the fact is that the company got the go ahead for the IPO before the end of the first quarter of 2017. All new listings should be required to file all financials, that cover the period since the last one included in the prospectus so that investors are adequately informed.
A check with the Jamaica Stock Exchange have so far not disclosed that the first report is for the April quarter which is due by mid-June. Regardless of what the JSE rules require good corporate governance suggest that the company should have released both the audited report as well as the January quarterly, nevertheless it is time the Stock Exchange change the rules in the interest of investors.

Pulse split should be 4 not 2

I sometimes wonder who advises company management. The decisions they often make, while seeming to be well intentioned, raise critical questions about what they expect the out turn to be.
Pulse Investments is a case in point. The directors propose to consider the splitting of the issued shares of the company into two units for each one currently issued.
Last year, in a hurriedly called extra ordinary general meeting, the company approved an increase in its authorised share capital and sanctioned the board proceed with a rights issue of share. This was after a resolution was belated inserted on the agenda of at the 2016 Annual General Meeting to approve a rights issue which was forced by shareholders into a postponement.
The company currently has 271,789,674 issued shares, the split would put the total up to 543,579,348 units. The company’s stock last traded on the Jamaica Stock Exchange at $8.05 and carries a PE of 6 compared to 13 for the main market.
From all indications, with the company’s PE ratio well below the general market, the company must be awaiting a greater uptick in stock price before going back to shareholders for more funds, a two for one split is not likely to do the work to get the price more in line with the market.
The problem is that Pulse is not a very liquid stock with just 271 million units issued. From my estimation the board should be considering a split in the order of 4 to 1 that would raise the issued shares to over 1 billion shares. Such a split would most likely excite the market and help move the stock upwards in price. The proposed 2 to 1 is not going to do it. With the Board Meeting is set to be held on Monday, May 22, it is not late for the directors to change their minds.

Thanks NCB but go further

This publication applauds Jamaica’s NCB Financial Group, in following the practice of some of the listed companies in Trinidad & Tobago in publishing dates for the release of regular but important information during the course of a year.
After all, the more information investors have, the more transparent and better the market in which they operate will be. The recent disclosure that Jamaica’s NCB Group made, to publish the dates in 2017, of the announcement of dividends, is a positive move for the Jamaican market, one hopes that other listed companies will follow the NCB’s lead.
While historically, the dates of dividend announcements, have usually been the same dates on which their interim results are released, investors should not have to be wondering when those dates should be, accordingly, we wish they would have gone further and also state the dates of the release of their quarterly reports for all to see.
The announcement is an enhancement of good corporate governance and good investor relations. We would however, suggest that the group restates for clarity, its dividend payment policy as well in furtherance of good governance.

Mitchell packs in CFF chair for FSC

H Mitchel 08-16Howard Mitchell has resigned from the Board of Directors and as Chairman of Caribbean Flavours and Fragrances (CFF). The only regret is that it has taken so long to be effective in light of his appointment and acceptance of a seat on the board of the Financial Services Commission. But it’s better late than never.
The question still arises though and it has to do with a matter where an investor has complained to the FSC about certain matters pertaining to CFF and its shareholdings and treatment pertaining to control of CFF by Derrimon Trading. How will the FSC handle this matter, to ensure that no one accuses it of an unfair ruling.
Back in 2008, I was approached to sit on the board of Financial Services Commission, it did not take me long to turn it down as I saw the potential for conflict. I was recently talking to two senior brokers and the issue of my recent appointment to the FSC came up. I advised them that I was not a member due to conflicts. But they indicated that they were of that view too and wondered why I was listed as a member, they never indicated if they accepted what I said but we never went much further with the issue. Suffice to say, that is indicated once I understood that I was to be appointed that is could not accept same, due to possible conflicts.
I was concerned about the late Emile George being chairman of a number of listed company boards and also chairman of the FSC. I wrote about it hoping that good sense would prevail but that was never the case.
I am aware that the issue of conflict or perceived conflict has been raised about the present FSC chair. I now note that Howard Mitchell has advised the Jamaica Stock Exchange that he resigned from the Board of Directors and as Chairman effective August 11, 2016 of Caribbean Flavours and Fragrances Limited (CFF) because of his appointment as Chairman of the Financial Services Commission and the possibility for there to be perceived a conflict of interest.
As a country we need to move to a place where such appointments should be seriously consider by both those who proposed and those of us who are asked to serve and so ensure a higher standard of governance.

No new taxes for Jamaicans

Collector of Taxes office, Constant Spring, Kingston.

Collector of Taxes office, Constant Spring, Kingston.

Earlier this year I stated that government’s $1.5 billion tax plan could be funded from ongoing revenues but others thought otherwise. 2016 fiscal data showed savings on the cost side particularly interest cost reduction and increase revenues that were running above budget.
Based on developments on the fiscal operations this fiscal year, it seems that government was well on the way to enjoying a bumper reaping in 2016/17 fiscal year of higher revenues and lower interest cost that seemed adequate to meet the proposed tax break of the tax free $1.5 billion.
With the first quarter revenues and expenditure in the data is confirming what I was saying and is indicating that the naysayers are far from as informed as some would want the public to believe. What the early data is suggesting is that the economy seems to be performing better than in recent past and more importantly, that there was no need for any new taxes for this fiscal year and none will be needed to fund the rest of the personal tax break to be effected in 2017/18.
The simple reason is, savings on interest cost, with lower interest rates on government debt and an 11 percent rise in revenues over the 2015 intake, equal to an 8 percent increase above budget for the current fiscal year, will translate to $46 billion in added revenues and interest savings over the planned amounts. That will be more than enough to fund the increase tax break to come and to do without the NHT special payment. But that is not all if positive economic growth continues into 2017 revenues will rise some more probably with an additional $30 billion.
What the data is showing, is that the country has been failing from lack of thinking outside familiar territory.

High return on time investment

Participants at the JEF session, being addressed on the benefits of the equity market in Jamaica by John Jackson in May.

Participants at the JEF session, being addressed on the benefits of the equity market in Jamaica by John Jackson in May.

I spent years attentively observing financial markets, but more so the local stock market. Nonetheless, when asked to speak on developments and opportunities in the markets, I still have to spend considerable time preparing the presentation and infusing it with new and updated information as well as historical data from many years past, to help make a point clear.
During the preparation process, one also has to be mindful of mandated time constraints, as well as the attention span of audiences or participants and so choices have to be made as to what’s in and whats out.
When I was asked by the Jamaica Employers’ Federation, JEF, to present an outline of a paper for their annual convention, I decided to suggest a topic that covered the capital market as a place for investors and entities seeking to woo investors to part with their money for a time, in exchange for the promise of future gains. Having achieved consensus and presentation prepared, my concern was, what was the interest of the attendees? I had no idea really. The JEF convention posed the problem that the session ran concurrently with others and covering two aspect of the market was challenging without knowing the audience’s interest. I decided from the start of the presentation to find out where the interest of the group laid. So although I did quite a bit on what it means for companies to go public, the bulk of an estimated 200 or so participants were interested in investing in the stock market. Many were either new to it, or fairly new and they wanted the information I had to offer. At the end of my presentation there were many questions and still more, after the session ended.
While I had a fair idea of how attendees felt, it is not always possible to categorically define the collective response. So when I received the comments below from the JEF, I felt that the many hours spent in preparation, delivered a great return on my investment.
JEFRE: JEF CONVENTION 2016
The Executive of the Jamaica Employers’ Federation and the Convention Director, use this medium to express sincere appreciation to you for your contribution to the success of JEF’s Thirty- fourth (34th) Annual Business & Workplace Convention and Exhibition 2016, which was held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, in St. James, between May 26 and 29, 2016, under the theme: “Empower People …. Energize Business”.
From the feedback received, your presentation on the topic: “Personal & Business Enrichment: The Equity Capital way for a Richer Future”, at a Concurrent session, was very well received and from the feedback, your content, perspective and engaging delivery style enhanced our participants’ knowledge and surpassed their expectations.
Thank you for your invaluable support and we certainly hope that we will have the honour of working with you again in the staging of another World Class learning event.
Yours sincerely,
Brenda V. Cuthbert (Mrs.)
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER