TheBigPond - spotlight on what South African business and business people have been up to in Europe. Edited by South African journalist Christo Volschenk from Stuttgart, Germany. Note: This blog has migrated to a new home at
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State of play

The new site is up and running (at and I'm in the process of importing a selection of articles from this blog into the new blog. I hope to have this process completed in the next day or two and then I'll get down to some serious "reporting".

I'm looking forward to that, because a number of very interesting things have happened here in the last weeks - all of which have not been reported in the SA media to date.

In fact, I regularly find "unreported" stuff. So, it'll be worth your while to return to my new blog every now and then.
9.9.08 10:02


New round of speculation against rand threatens

SA Reserve Bank boss Tito Mboweni's attempt (yesterday in Pretoria) to kill off speculation over who will be at the helm of the bank after August next year (when his second 5-year term runs out), has failed dismally.

Instead, it has opened the door for a new wave of speculation - and the beginning of another round of downward pressure on the rand.

Remember, you heard it first on this blog!

Any government with a leadership just half in control, would have issued a "calming and clarifying statement" on the issue of central bank leadership (under the same circumstances).

But, the differences between the lefties and the middle-of-the-roadies are clearly too deep-seated, and the fight for power too intense, to make such a statement possible in SA today.

After Tito's press conference, it will now not take the markets long to latch on to the fact that the defences are down (in disarray). And that a "new era" of slacker monetary policy is staring us in the face.

Once this has dawned, the speculation against the rand will start in all seriousness. Not long now...

When it happens, don't blame Tito. Blame Mbeki and Zuma, who can't bury their differences for the sake of the country.

For the record: The rand stood at 11.28 to the Euro at the time I wrote this.
3.9.08 08:29

Away for a while

I'll be away from my desk from 15 August to 1 September.

Early in September I'll finally migrate to my new blog at See you there. I'm looking forward to a new growth phase!
14.8.08 16:28

SA weapons boost German firm's bottom line

Last night I wrote about Denel and it's successful boss Shaun Liebenberg, who recently joined German firm Rheinmetall as head of international business development (see article below), and this morning the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) reported on Rheinmetall's financial results (first 6 months of this year).

The message in the FTD: The weapons and ammunition side of the Rheinmetall business put in a solid performance, while the other side (car parts manufacturing) disappointed. To the point, where the non-weapons and munition side of the business had to cut 250 jobs.

As I wrote below, Rheinmetall holds 51% in the weapons and munition firm Denel Munitions.

So, let it not be said the South African/German economic relationship is a one-directional one.

The other observation: Interesting that the world's number one machine-building nation found SA's weapons manufacturer worth having...
13.8.08 10:53

Denel makes it into Top 100

Denel made it onto international magazine Flight Global's list of Top 100 aerospace manufacturers in the world, based on the previous year's turnover. But only just - in 100th position.

Once again, all the familiar names are at the top of this year's list: Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Cessna and Gulfstream.

Journalist Niall O'Keeffe interviewed outgoing CEO of Denel Shaun Liebenberg about the achievement. Here is what was said, and published on the website:

"Hit hard by cuts in defence spending, South African equipment manufacturer Denel is pursuing a long-term recovery plan focused on rationalisation and industry collaboration. Its appearance in the Top 100 (aerospace manufacturers in the world) - albeit at number 100 - suggests these measures are bearing fruit.

The state-owned company was created in April 1992 as part of a major defence industry restructuring. It inherited most of the manufacturing and research facilities of the Armaments Development and Production Corporation. It also inherited the South African National Defence Force as a major customer.

However, a less fortunate inheritance lay in what former chief executive Shaun Liebenberg has termed "a subsidy culture". Efforts to transform this into a "commercial" culture are ongoing.

According to Liebenberg, Denel's strategy has five pillars:

* to secure privileged access to a minimum portion of South Africa's defence spend
* to partner state agencies on business planning and export marketing
* to grow viable businesses based on technological leadership
* to secure equity business partnerships with global players and
* to raise capabilities and productivity to "world-class levels".

Stand-alone business units include:

* Denel Aviation
* Denel Saab Aerostructures
* missile manufacturer Denel Dynamics Defence Land Systems
* Denel Munitions and
* Mechem, which provides landmine removal and contraband detection services.

In 2001 a 51% stake in Denel's aero-engines business was sold to Safran. A subsequent collaboration drive saw Denel sell a 40% stake in its unmanned air vehicle business to Advanced Technologies & Engineering, a 51% stake in Denel Munitions to Rheinmetall Defence and a 70% stake in its optronics business to Carl Zeiss. The aerostructures business rebranded after Saab took a 20% stake.

Aero-engines apart, these divestments were led by Liebenberg, who on 1 July became Rheinmetall Defence's head of international business development.

Having cut losses by more than 60% between fiscal year 2006 and FY2007, he leaves new chief executive Talib Sadik with a tough act to follow."
13.8.08 00:33

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