PPC plays board games

2014-11-23 16:00

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Former PPC boss Ketso Gordhan’s corner has been dealt a further blow ahead of a crucial vote that may hand him his job back. On Friday, Darryll Castle, one of the people nominated for the proposed new board, withdrew his name from the list.

Castle joined the current board last month. A spokesperson for PPC said he did not provide reasons for withdrawing his nomination.

He joins Nompumelelo Siswana, who pulled out of the race last week.

Siswana was under the impression her nomination to the PPC board was intended to bolster the current board. But when she learnt shareholders wanted to replace the board, she withdrew her name from the list of proposed new members.

After the cement producer’s annual results presentation this week, executive chairman Bheki Sibiya told City Press when shareholders asked Siswana to serve on the board, they briefed her, saying she would “reinforce” the current board.

Instead, the shareholders want to remove and replace the board in a special meeting on December?8. Former CEO Ketso Gordhan – who quit and unsuccessfully tried to take back his resignation in September – is on the list of new board members.

“That’s why Siswana withdrew her nomination,” Sibiya said.

This brings the proposed list of board members to nine, three of whom are black.

During PPC’s results presentation, Gregory Mofokeng, the secretary-general of the Black Business Council in the Built Environment, raised concerns about the implications this would have on PPC’s transformation efforts.

Speaking to City Press afterwards, Mofokeng said the council had watched Gordhan’s dispute with the board evolve from a disagreement about delegations of authority to one about an ineffective board.

“Following careful analysis of the literature on this matter, inference can be confidently drawn that

because of the demographic make-up of the board – which is overwhelmingly majority black – there is a deliberate ploy to undermine one of the most transformed boards of companies listed on the JSE,” he said.

“This is a serious affront on transformation and black economic empowerment.

“It is interesting that these board members, with impeccable credentials, are now considered useless by some, including the former CEO,” he said.

Foord Asset Management and Visio Capital Management – which along with Nedbank Private Capital own 10.36% of PPC – demanded the special meeting to overhaul the board after a campaign by Gordhan, saying the board lacked cement industry experience.

PPC’s board has come a long way since the company’s unbundling from industrial conglomerate Barloworld in 2007.

Sibiya said the board had made a conscious decision over the years, in partnership with its chief executives, to appoint black directors. According to him, the proposed board would be reversing this work.

Shareholders want to go back in time by changing the majority black board

The CFO office debate

In September, PPC accused Gordhan of trying to terminate finance chief Tryphosa Ramano’s services for having a bigger office than he did, among other reasons. This week, Gordhan denied this, explaining he wanted an open-plan office structure to improve access to executives and reduce head office costs.

“The executive in question refused to give up her office,” he said.

“The executive demonstrated that perks mattered more than creating an equitable and cost-conscious corporate culture.”

City Press asked other companies in the sector if they would consider open-plan offices for their finance bosses.

Andries van Heerden

Afrimat CEO

No, Afrimat would not. He [financial director Hendrik Verreynne] needs privacy so he can focus and concentrate.

Sakhile Ndlovu

Investor relations officer at Sephaku Holdings In the interests of confidentiality of proprietary stakeholder information – that is often commercially and share price sensitive – we ensure key executives are able to work in the privacy of their offices.

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