Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Shell’s SA stakeholders uncovered


Geraldine Bennett** |

13 April 2011 13:03

Karoo series: Shell’s SA stakeholders uncovered

Geraldine Bennett asks them to respond to Shell’s Karoo plans.

Next to Pugh we can touch the fire*
Lewis Gordon Pugh, human polar bear, maritime lawyer, dives into the freezing Arctic wearing a “speedo”, cap and goggles.  Most of us can’t deal with a cold shower. 
Pugh has ‘butterfly-ed’ where no one else has been.  Close to naked in humanly uninhabitable waters Pugh has “touched his fire”.
Between the lines of a “sustained standing ovation” speech in Mother City, Cape Town, Pugh calls for solidarity.  He stresses a “call to arms”.
Is the Shell boycott now public participation?
We will take this fight to every one of your shareholders:Lewis Pugh
By default, this is Old Mutual (JSE:OML), Sanlam (JSE:SLM),BKBFamous Brands (JSE:FBR) (Steers, Wimpy, Milky Lane, Juicy Lucy, Keg and McGinty’s, and more).  And alleged ANC and Sanlam “indirect” investment partner - Thebe InvestmentsThebe Mining and Thebe Energy;
Standard Bank (JSE:SBK) puts in an appearance and there are others but one has to dig deep to find the links.  Stick at it long enough and you’ll find the answers though.  It’s amazing how many moles pop up to a chorus of whistles.    
Stakeholder Activism
Once referred to as “shareholder action” it is now about “stakeholder activism”.  
Every person who feeds the constant thirst of industry and the financial sector is a stakeholder: and protection of the environment starts with personal responsibility. 
It’s about standing up for what you believe in against a backdrop that gives you the power with the constituent duty and obligation.   
Best Practice – Famous Brands (JSE:FBR)
Famous Brands CEO, Kevin Hedderwick calls it straight.  After checking out the background to the enquiry he acknowledged the Shell relationship as an approved supplier and an alliance partner.
“In summary our association with Shell is one whereby we provide to their dealers by way of a franchise agreement, signed directly with the dealers, to provide to their forecourt customers a food service solution.”
“By implication then we are an approved supplier and an alliance partner to the Shell group regarding this type of solution.”
Famous Brands …Steers’ “Whacky Wednesday”, Wimpy breakfasts, coffee at Mugg & Bean …have a “total of 93 franchised outlets spread across four of our brands on Shell forecourts.”
Hedderwick plays an open hand.  He copied Shell’s Klaas Mantel on his response.
Salt of the Earth
Coming in at #2 is Karoo agribusiness BKB.  MD, Wolf Edmayr, unused to investigative attention was a little taken aback but recovered to take second place. 
For BKB this is troubling as it has had a long relationship with Shell and income is largely derived from Karoo farmers via livestock auctions and farm sales.BKB is prominently represented in the Karoo.
Edmayr and his team are “very aware of the proposed actions of Shell”. 
“Shell is one of BKB’s suppliers they are not the sole supplier”.  They do however own a large number of the fuel pumps located at BKB trading branches. 
Edmayr concludes:  “The matter is extremely important and is receiving urgent attention by the Board and Executive of BKB Limited.  We at BKB will get all the necessary information (in addition to what we already have) to enable us to formulate appropriate responses.”
BKB’s supply contract with Shell is on a month-to-month basis.  Moneyweb first made contact on March 21, and follow up correspondence on what BKB plans to do has been placed on hold as Edmayr is “on leave”.
Sanlam surprises (JSE:SLM)
Perhaps the most surprising response was received from conservatively viewed Sanlam. 
Sanlam communications team is vast with no less than four different names entering into correspondence, but Sanlam told the truth even though it was necessary to nudge it out.  It said it had no “direct” link to Shell, and when asked, it confirmed that it had an “indirect” link. 
The financial services giant has been approached to answer to whether this is Thebe.  There is a holding mail asking for some time.
Bad practice to beyond practice
Standard Bank Group (JSE:SBK) with its Chinese link and its push into Africa is the most notable newcomer to this category. 
The bank answered the enquiry in an autocratic fashion which broached no debate and were it not for an almost imperceptible slip contained in internal information the matter may have come to rest: 
I have copied the relevant relationship team for Shell.  Do we have to answer to this request and if so I would assume this will have to go through your office?”  [emphasis added].
Insider tip-offs and many hours of research unearthed links via Stanlib and Fidelity to Royal Dutch Shell; unlisted RDS Deepwater; and a recent press release which although it doesn’t mention Shell it speaks volumes:  SBSA-Presser-February2011
Eventually Stanbic, Stanlib and SBSA merged into a blur, not that it matters when the dead give-away was in the internal mail.
No response from Old Mutual; and zero acknowledgment from Thebe.  The latter’s most informative website scuttling with proverbs like: “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him” Abraham Lincoln
The internet as a revolutionary tool
Lewis Pugh’s stirring statement has made its mark on South Africans and beyond.  Herein is the power of the information age.
In just one of the hundreds of copies of Pugh’s indictment against Shell that has been sent this way there were 716 addresses in four days.  Its point of solidarity was the sedate Midlands of Natal.     
In the US Dr Stanley R Scobie (comments) has added his voice in support of the Great Karoo; from out of Canada, Graham Hutchinson, has added the Karoo story under "World Protests".
Corporate strategies of the past don’t work when information dissemination is accelerated and access to information is just a Google enquiry away.  
Within hours of Pugh’s speech the People of this country, the Rainbow Nation, started to feel the heat pumping in their veins.  Pugh has lit a fire.
“…and I have no doubt that in the end Good will triumph over evil” Lewis Pugh
**Geraldine Bennett, a former high profile television anchor and energy sector executive, keeps an eye on environmental issues for Moneyweb. She can be reached via
Disclaimer: Part of Bennett’s fuel is being sponsored by Craig Elstob; accommodation by Peet & Hannah van Heerden; Roland & Lizelle du Toit, and Dr Peter Baker.  The TKAG (Treasure the Karoo Action Group) donated R1 000 towards her costs of covering this series.

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