Investors think holistically when searching for great companies

Jonathan Ratner
Displayed with permission from Financial Post

Buy & Sell: As financial analysis becomes more industrialised, time has been freed up for investors to focus more on non-financial factors…

For a long time, most investors assumed everything they needed to know about a company was in the numbers. They’d comb through the past five years of annual reports to determine whether or not it was a great business.

But the reality today is much different, as financial analysis becomes more industrialised through computers, common reporting and accounting standards, and automation. That has freed up time for investors to focus more on non-financial factors like human and social capital – the way businesses discharge their environmental, social and civic obligations.

“Those sorts of things define whether a business is great or not,” said Habib Subjally, head of global equities for RBC Global Asset Management (U.K.), during a recent visit to Toronto.

The portfolio manager of the $2.3 billion RBC Global Equity Focus Fund never had to audit customer satisfaction or employee engagement in during his previous career as a chartered accountant. But when he talks to successful entrepreneurs and asks what makes their businesses valuable, nobody mentions factories, buildings, working capital or inventory. Instead, they typically single out customer loyalty, brand value, people and know-how in developing new products.

“Those are not typically found in annual reports,” Subjally said. “Investors need to spend much more time looking at those types of things.”

Investing in great businesses at expensive valuations is an “elegant way to lose money,” so Subjally and his team of 11 experts take a much more forward-looking approach to find value. They try to understand what businesses and management teams are doing, and project where they will be in five, 10 and 15 years. These includes tracking competitive dynamics and sustainable business models, execution and market share, and management’s attention to environmental, social and governance issues.

“If management is not focused on the long term, it often ends up being a poor investment,” Subjally said, noting that executives are frequently evaluated on very short time periods.

A chief executive could cut training and development budgets – savings that would translate directly to a stronger bottom line, but employees may be unhappy. Similarly, they can borrow from clients by cutting customer service staff, but there won’t be anyone to answer the phones.

“This sort of borrowing creates contingent liabilities that sooner or later become financial liabilities,” Subjally said.

That’s why he considers it important to find management teams that have an ownership mindset, and are prepared to invest in people, customers, suppliers, communities and the environment.

“This costs money, and does lead to lower profits in the short term, but it does lead to better long-term value creation,” he said.

One of the fund’s largest holdings, Fortive Corp. (FTV/NYSE), fits these requirements. The diversified industrial firm that was spun out from Danaher Corp. roughly a year ago, acquires businesses and implements a methodology for making them more efficient.

“They want to use less space, fewer resources, make businesses faster and better, and the process goes all the way up and down the organisation,” Subjally said. “They measure everything, and it’s all about selling more, so there is both a growth element and a people element.”

“They are very good at buying businesses and improving them dramatically,” he added. “They are taking market share, the end markets are growing, and management is able to execute.”

Another top holding, HDFC Bank Ltd. (India), has a technology-focused business model that Subjally believes makes it one of the best-managed banks in the world. He highlighted the country’s largest private-sector bank’s ability to use branches – sometimes with just one employee – to service small villages.

“In a country like India, where the economy and financial services are still growing, they are able to move fast and deal with the huge volumes,” Subjally said.

He highlighted HDFC’s roughly US$1 billion in micro finance: family-based loans that are primarily for women, as well as the bank’s market share gains in areas like credit and debit cards.

“We really like the management team,” Subjally said. “They have not only run the business very well with great transparency, but they also develop their people.”

Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. (EL/NYSE) is an example of a portfolio holding that has professionalised its management team in recent years. The skin care and beauty giant still has William Lauder as chairman, and continues to have a long-term focus, but by purchasing small brands, investing in them, and taking them around the world, that’s allowed the company to grow successfully.

Subjally pointed to Estée Lauder’s very rapid growth in China, India, the Middle East and Latin America, along with the addition of new brands such as Glamglow, Tom Ford and Joe Malone.

“There is much more coming,” he said. “So we can see that it is a great business, and why it is going to be much more valuable in 10 years.”

-Repubhub/Financial Post

BRICS bank loans favour technological innovation projects: VP

Displayed with permission from China Daily

The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) is interested in lending to technological innovation projects, the bank’s vice president Zhu Xian said Saturday at a financing forum held in east Chinese city of Xiamen.

Established to meet emerging economies’ funding needs, the multilateral lender approved loans worth $1.5 billion last year, mainly to finance clean energy and infrastructure developments in BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

The BRICS share of the world economy shot up from 8.2 percent in 2002 to 22.2 percent in 2015. The BRICS now represents two thirds of the developing world’s economy.

Zhu said the bank aims to foster technological innovation in developing nations through its financing, capability building, and knowledge sharing.

He said such lending priority will set the bank on a new path different from the one taken by traditional multilateral financial institutions.

The developing nations account for more than 35 percent of the world economy, but lacks an equal share of deciding power in traditional multilateral lenders, Zhu said. Trillions of fund is needed every year as the developing world strives to upgrade industries and develop new energy sector.

“That will be the priority of BRICS NDB and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB),” Zhu said.

He said China has accumulated rich experience in technological innovation on infrastructure projects and is open to share such experience with other developing nations.

“We will frame the BRICS NDB as a knowledge bank, through its project financing and knowledge sharing,” Zhu said.

The BRICS NDB was established in 2014 with an initial fund of $100 billion pooled from five BRICS countries. The bank was launched in Shanghai in July 2015 and issued its first loan in April 2016.


What does the BRICS Bank’s Leslie Maasdorp say about Trump’s policies?

The Vice President of the BRICS Bank (New Development Bank), Lesley Maasdorp shared his thoughts on newly-elected President Donald Trump’s ‘inward-looking policies’, hoping that he is open to reviewing.



Clip courtesy of SABC Digital News YouTube

In conversation with the NIHSS’ Prof. Sarah Mosoetsa

BRICS Journal is proud to announce its partnership with the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS), the custodian of the South African BRICS Think Tank (SABTT). We caught up with Prof. Sarah Mosoetsa, the Institute’s CEO.

How did the SABTT come about?
The South African cabinet approved the establishment of a dedicated SABTT, which would serve as a national focal point for the country on BRICS-related matters. Initially, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) took overall responsibility for the co-ordination of the BRICS Think Tank Council (BTTC) and Academic Forum activities.

Following that, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) was appointed – on an interim basis – to serve as the SABTT host from 2013 to 2015, with the mandate of incubating the BRICS Think Tank on behalf of South Africa. After a ministerial committee report had identified the frameworks for the SABTT and the location of the SABTT, the DHET concluded that the SABTT should be located at the NIHSS.

Tell us more about the mandate and objectives of the NIHSS
The NIHSS is a statutory body distinctly set up with a purpose of building and dynamising the humanities and social sciences (HSS). Our mandate is to develop and structure the institutional and logistical framework for the envisioned higher education institution for the HSS.

Our strategic objectives include fostering international research collaborations between South Africa, Africa, countries of the Global South, including Brazil, India and China; to act as a dynamic broker between the worlds of knowledge and policy action on behalf of South Africa as the South African BRICS Think Tank; as well as manage all BRICS Think Tank-related activities on behalf of South Africa.

On 8 March 2016 NIHSS hosted its first SABTT Academic Forum. What came out of that initiative?
This event is one of the many BRICS-related initiatives outlined in the SABTT business plan. The hosting of the academic forum cluster workshops pay special attention to the five pillars of the Long-Term Strategy of BRICS (2030), thereby ensuring that SABTT implements the ideals of the BRICS Long Term Strategy.
The SABTT’s thematic areas of focus are in line with that of the BTTC which are: promoting co-operation for economic growth and development; peace and security; social justice, sustainable development and quality of life; political and economic governance; and progress through knowledge and innovation sharing.

The Academic Forum is about building a network of academics and researchers around the country who are working on areas aligned to the BRICS agenda.

Share your thoughts on the significance of the Institute’s partnership with BRICS Journal.
Shaping a particular agenda requires positive story-telling that is compelling, so it was absolutely a no-brainer for us to form this partnership with the BRICS Journal team, which prides itself on offering clearly focused content on economics, politics, arts and culture across the BRICS countries.

Why the corporate sector is critical to Africa

January 8, 2017
The Citizen (Tanzania)
Content provided by Asianet-Pakistan
There is indeed a corporate sector in Africa and it is thriving. According to a report by McKinsey, there are 400 companies on the continent with annual revenue of $1 billion or more.

Another 700 enterprises have revenues of more than $500 million. Yet these numbers only tell part of the story. For Africa to continue its progress, Africa’s large companies need to expand, and small companies need to get bigger.

Large companies constitute the main drivers of economic growth. They tend to pay higher wages and taxes, as well as foster innovation and the use of technology.

They also drive productivity, tend to attract greater amounts of capital, and facilitate the creation and growth of vendors and small businesses that work with them.

For these reasons, the corporate sector is critical to Africa. And the indicators remain extremely positive. Africa’s large companies are growing faster, and are more profitable, than their global peers.

Half of the largest companies are African-owned and 40 per cent are publicly traded. Companies are flourishing in a variety of diverse sectors beyond natural resources, including financial services, food and agricultural processing, manufacturing, telecommunications and retail.

But there are gaps where Africa lags behind other emerging markets. No African-owned company has made the Fortune 500. Brazil and India have GDPs similar to that of Africa and each has seven Fortune 500 companies, and China nearly 100.

But Africa has only 60 per cent of large firms as compared with peer regions, with average annual revenue half that of large companies in Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia.

Africa also has fewer family-owned businesses than other regions, presenting a growth opportunity. Family businesses comprise 10 per cent to 20 per cent by revenue of Africa’s locally-owned companies, compared to 50 per cent to 60 per cent in Latin America, 35 per cent to 45 per cent in Western Europe and 15 per cent to 25 per cent in China and Southeast Asia, according to McKinsey data.

How can Africa’s corporate sector develop? One key area, which applies to all companies, no matter where they’re based, is to leverage innovation.

Only about a quarter of the top 100 African companies have expanded by adopting innovative new technology or business models. Compare that scenario with Asia, where half of all companies make innovation in technology, business models or products a priority. Mobile technology has allowed Africans to “leapfrog” poor landline infrastructure, according to Deloitte.

Uber has taken advantage of minimal public transportation and the difficulties of car ownership to delivered a million rides on the African continent.

African companies can explore and embrace “disruptive” technologies to make up for gaps in traditional supply chains, distribution networks and infrastructure, both to expand their own operations and to serve burgeoning consumer demand.

Talent is another key component for companies’ growth. By mid-century, Africa will have the world’s largest and youngest workforce.

Companies that have the resources need to invest in education and training so they have the skilled workers they need to succeed.

As an investor in African companies, I can say that it is necessary to have a long view.

But the picture is bright for Africa’s corporate sector. Africa’s large companies have real potential for growth as we progress in the 21st century. (The Huffington Post)

Zandre Campos is chairman and CEO of ABO Capital, an international investment firm that invests in companies in the healthcare, energy, transportation, hospitality, technology and real estate sectors throughout Africa. ABO’s mission is to create global value for developing countries in Africa, while contributing to their economic development.

When retail meets innovation

Self-service shopping is no longer a concept of the future. Early last month, an image of a self-service check-out machine at a Pick n Pay  (the second largest supermarket retail chain store in South Africa) was circulated on social media and sparked widespread debate.

Concerns were raised by the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. They expressed that the implementation of self-service tills could lead to tremendous job cuts for South African retail workers.

According to Statistics South Africa, the current unemployment rate in South Africa is 26.6%.

Pick n Pay has however come out to dismiss these claims, saying that the self-service machines are being put to the test at a single store in Ottery, Cape Town and will operate in addition to cashier-manned check-out counters as we know it, thus not negatively impacting on employment.

Pick n Pay’s Group Executive: Retail Office at Pick n Pay, Cobus Barnard said that the trial could take up to six months to produce consumer insights worth measuring.

He said: “We’re always looking for new ways to help our customers make their shopping easier and more convenient, so yes, we’re testing it out in one of our stores to see how customers would react. Customers are time-strapped, so this is a nice way to help them when they are in hurry.”


These technological advancements are part of the many that form part of the 4th Industrial Revolution, which is extensively uncovered in the second edition of BRICS Journal.

-Bizcommunity; Primedia Podcast

BRICS Bank prioritises raising funds for infrastructure

SABC News reports that the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS members) New Development Bank (NDB) has its sights on raising 2.5 billion US Dollars within the next year, to put money behind infrastructure projects.

The 8th BRICS Leaders Summit took place at the Indian south west resort of Goa this past weekend (12-14 October) where President Jacob Zuma joined leaders of India (Prime Minister Narendra Modi), Brazil (President Dilma Rousseff), Russia (President Vladimir Putin) and China (President Xi Jinping) for the gathering.

The main aim behind the establishment of The BRICS New Development Bank was to assemble resources that would enable infrastructure for development projects in BRICS member countries.

The BRICS New Development Bank has been described by economists as a “game changer” in the evolution of financing, as well as a tool to “rebalance the global order with respect to development finance”.  The bank’s founding members have pledged to sow 100 billion US dollar capital base into the bank, China being the single largest contributor.

While many eyebrows have been raised about its existence, the bank believes that it is not  a substitute for the established multinational institutions, e.g the World Bank, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank or the Development Bank of Latin America. Instead, Leslie Maasdorp, Deputy Chairperson of the New Development Bank says the NDB will work hand in hand with institutions already established.

“So we have got structured partnership with multinational banks and there is so much we can learn from these institutions. We were not set up to compete with these institutions but we can learn from them. It has been an exciting year but there are challenges ahead,” Maasdorp told SABC News.

The bank (headquartered in Shanghai, China) has already secured a rating from local rating agencies in addition to raising capital through the bond market and will also look to the private sector for resources into infrastructure development. The Chairperson of the Indian Chapter of the BRICS Business Council, Onkar Kanwar said: “Agriculture and energy are priority area of cooperation of our economies.  We should also collaborate in developing energy efficiency technologies.”

The bank’s Africa Regional Centre will be headquartered in Johannesburg within the first quarter of 2017. “Our Africa Regional Centre is expected to open this quarter and I assure President Zuma that it will work with the objectives he articulated. We are targeting lending of about 2-point-5 billion US dollars for the next year.  Providing local currency financing minimises currency risk for our members,” says President of the BRICS New Development Bank Kundapur Kamath.

All the BRICS leaders are in full support of the bank, looking at it as a reliable tool to strengthen business opportunities, build investments and promote innovation and growth.

-SABC News

BRICS Journal TV: In Conversation With Brian Molefe

BRICS Journal Managing Editor, Vuyo Dlamini caught up with BRICS Business Council Chair of South Africa, Mr Brian Molefe to chat about the role of media within BRICS.