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


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

Cape Town to feature on German TV

Shortly after ten on Thursday night (14 August) the spotlight will fall on Cape Town on German television.

It'll be a full-length feature on the Mother City - the third and final feature in a short summer series on the ZDF station called "Dream Cities of the World". The other cities featured were Vancouver and Paris.

It promises to be a feature not to be missed - even in the Olympic week.

Afterthought: ZDF issued a short summary today of what we can expect on Thursday night. It made me think of my student friend, who once said (when I asked how the "blind date" was) she was "kinderlik naief en spontaan idioties".

The ZDF expose says, in all seriousness, "the feature also shows the borders between black and white, rich and poor, still exist 14 years after the end of apartheid".

Isn't that sweet? So "kinderlik naief", one must smile. I wonder whether ZDF will ever marvel that, "after four decades the Turks and the Germans still live as two nations in one country"? No. Then why should South Africa be different?
12.8.08 21:52

BAT and Reinet to list on JSE

This article just for the record. It comes from website, where it was published today:

Swiss-based luxury goods firm Compagnie Financière Richemont and local investment firm Remgro have announced plans to dispose of the majority of their holdings in British American Tobacco (BAT), which will see the multinational tobacco company gain a secondary listing on the JSE.

According to a statement by BAT issued last week, Richemont and Remgro presently hold 19.4% and 10.7% of issued shares in BAT respectively, in both cases through Luxembourg-based company R&R Holdings.

As per the restructuring announced by the two groups, both controlled by South African billionaire industrialist Johann Rupert, 90% of their combined shareholding - or around 27% of the issued share capital of BAT - will be distributed directly to Richemont's and Remgro's shareholders.

The remaining 10% of the combined shareholding, or around three percent of BAT, will be retained by the two companies and then transferred to Reinet Investments, an investment company that will soon be listed in both Luxembourg and South Africa.

"The board welcomes these proposals, which should result in the group having a more widely distributed shareholding and a broader range of both institutional and private shareholders," BAT chairman Jan du Plessis said in the statement.

The distributions will be followed by a rights issue by Reinet, which can be subscribed to by using British American Tobacco shares, which is expected to take place in early November. The Reinet rights issue is likely to be complete by the middle of December.

"Based on information provided by Richemont and Remgro in their announcements, following completion of the distributions and the rights issue, the residual Reinet shareholding in British American Tobacco is likely to be less than 10%," the statement said.

BAT had earlier agreed to a request from the two shareholders to obtain a secondary listing on the JSE, and was now taking the necessary steps to facilitate the listing, including seeking the approval of the JSE.

BAT expects the listing to take place around the end of October this year, subject to Richemont and Remgro receiving the necessary approvals for their proposed restructuring.

Once listed, BAT, which has a market capitalisation of around R560-billion, will be among the three largest companies on the JSE, vying for the top spot with global miners like BHP Billiton and Anglo American.

"R&R have been highly committed and supportive shareholders since the merger of British American Tobacco and Rothmans International in 1999 and these proposals resolve the potential uncertainty over the long-term ownership of their shares," Du Plessis said.
12.8.08 18:22

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