Business

The stories our readers couldn’t get enough of in 2022

Saving and investing for the future is important, and it’s comforting that people see it as such. During a difficult year, Moneyweb readers seem to have focused more on their personal finances than usual.

The most popular story published on our site during 2022 followed an enquiry from a reader asking: Where should a pensioner invest R1 million to receive a R20 000 monthly income?

The reader said their aunt, aged 73, had recently sold her house and was living with her son and his family. She wanted to invest the proceeds of around R1 million, wishing to receive income of R20 000 per month.

People were obviously interested to know if this was possible, but financial advisor Jonathan Braans from NFB Private Wealth Management had bad news. He said drawing R20 000 in income per month from a capital amount of R1 million was difficult and would erode the capital quite quickly. Nevertheless, he listed a few options to get as close to the desired income as possible. One was to invest in a regular unit trust; another was to invest in a life annuity.

A similar reader question was the 10th best-read article of the year – How can I invest R5 million to generate R20 000 monthly income for 22 years? – and saw Elke Brink from PSG Wealth suggesting a balanced portfolio as the investor was rather young at only 37 years, still working, and investing in other retirement funds too.

Number two

The second most popular story was the news that restaurant group Spur was facing a claim of R183 million from a Cape Town businessman after an agreement to jointly establish a meat processing plant went awry.

“GPS Foods Group RSA has served a summons on Spur for alleged damages of R183.3 million related to the establishment of a so-called joint venture for a rib supply and processing facility in Cape Town. It is believed the intention was that the facility would be an exclusive supplier to Spur Corporation and its franchised outlets,” wrote Moneyweb journalist Roy Cokayne.

GPS alleged that an oral agreement was concluded between itself and the Spur group in 2017, in terms of which the parties would establish a joint venture to acquire, develop and manage a rib processing facility. However, Spur said no written agreement was ever executed with GPS.

The matter has been complicated by the death of former Spur CEO Pierre van Tonder, who shot himself at his home in Cape Town in May 2021 (you can read that story here).

Canning factory

A proposal by Tiger Brands to shut down its Langeberg and Ashton Foods fruit canning factory in the Western Cape was number three on the best-read list.

In Looming shutdown of Tiger Brands’s canning factory ‘disastrous’ – Agri SA Moneyweb journalist Akhona Matshoba shared the bad news that thousands of jobs were on the line unless potential investors could find financing to acquire the factory and keep it open.

Agricultural association Agri SA warned that the factory’s closure would have disastrous implications for the province’s farming communities, threatening more than 4 500 jobs and disrupting crucial value chains.

The story made headlines all over the country in June and July, with employees, politicians and community organisations lamenting the situation.

Tiger Brands had already decided to close the factory in 2020, but after receiving an influx of interest from potential buyers, said in July that the factory would stay open for the 2022/23 season. A consortium of 160 producers expressed interest in buying the business. However, with the factory’s price tag reportedly set at above R200 million, raising the funds has been a challenge.

An avid Moneyweb reader and popular commentator responded to this story by providing an interesting perspective.

“If a combination of communist labour unions plus a communist government causes the cost of labour to rise faster than the price of apricots, they will inevitably create unemployment,” wrote Sensei. “If a socialist dispensation allows municipal rates and taxes and other administered inputs like electricity to rise faster than the price of pears, it will lead to unemployment.”

More disinvestment

That Massmart started to shut the worst of its Game stores, adding to SA’s unemployment figures, was also of much interest to readers – most of whom have probably been watching the deterioration of the once popular Game over the last few years.

In December 2021, Massmart announced that it had identified an “initial” 15 stores that would be shut. It announced the first closures in September 2022.

It was a real fire sale with discounts of up to 40% on certain goods. Shop fittings were put up for sale too.

(US retail giant Walmart has since concluded a R6.4 billion deal to acquire full ownership of Massmart, which was delisted from the JSE on 22 November.)

A sick medical aid

In October 2022, the Council for Medical Schemes (CMS) released its 2021 industry report, which warned that the Transmed Medical Scheme’s solvency ratio had dropped to below the 25% legal requirement, falling to just 19.7% in 2021 (2020: 22.4%). The solvency ratio of a medical aid scheme refers to the scheme’s accumulated funds as a percentage of its gross annual contributions.

Transmed is a closed medical scheme, serving current and retired staff of several state-owned enterprises namely Transnet, South African Airways and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and their respective subsidiaries.

CMS senior manager for financial supervision Julindi Scheepers told Moneyweb at the time that Transmed is a restricted scheme and scheme members’ employers subsidise the scheme to an extent. However, at the end of December 2021 the solvency ratio was still only almost 20%.

The article also mentioned the problems at another medical scheme, Health Squared, which was on the verge of liquidation. Its solvency ratio fell to 7% following allegations of fraud and corruption.

The scheme’s failure left nearly 30 000 members without medical cover.

Retailers

Our readers like to shop, keep tabs on retail trends, and hold retailer stocks if the popularity of stories about this sector is anything to go by.

In addition to the Massmart articles, our take on the refurbishment of stores by Pick n Pay was well received, as was an analysis comparing sales figures from Woolworths, Checkers and Pick n Pay.

“One really needs to walk around Pick n Pay’s very recently revamped Lonehill store to understand how it intends to compete with rivals Checkers and Woolworths for the wallets of more affluent consumers,” according to the article What took Pick n Pay so long?

The analysis of sales (Numbers show Checkers, PnP eating Woolies Food’s lunch) looked at how the three retailers competed for the wallets and credit cards of upper-income customers. It found that despite an aggressive push by Checkers for upper-income shoppers, Woolworths Food has been growing ahead of the market for almost a decade – but is now slipping.

A trading update from Woollies for the year ended 26 June 2022 illustrated a business under pressure, with the article stating that sales grew by 4.2% in the 52 weeks, but that inflation was 3.5%.

Rival Shoprite’s update for the same period showed that sales in Checkers and Shoprite stores in SA supermarkets grew by 12.6%.

Also read:
Pick n Pay’s secret weapon
Shoprite Q1 sales jump as shoppers look for discounts
Woolworths flags higher profit as Covid disruption eases
Market punishes Spar

Immigrants

Articles about immigrants, and especially the plight of those from Zimbabwe, were exceptionally well read.

The article SA visas may give ZEP holders the best chance of staying in SA by Xpatweb MD Marisa Jacobs explored the tricky question of legal and illegal immigrants in SA.

“Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders should take advantage of the six-month extension granted by the South African government to apply for a mainstream visa or exemption. The general, but mistaken, sentiment among ZEP holders seems to be that it is a pointless exercise because applicants will inevitably not be successful with their applications,” wrote Jacobs.

This followed reports that less than 10% of the approximate 180 000 ZEP holders had applied for SA visas, and that SA’s Department of Home Affairs has extended deadlines for applications.

Read the latest on ZEPs here.

Crooks

Moneyweb publishes countless articles every year about crooks, fraudsters and scammers, and Ciaran Ryan’s story Standard Bank ordered to freeze accounts of suspected Ponzi scheme proved particularly compelling to readers.

It provides a blow-by-blow account of the suspected Ponzi scheme Lyoness South Africa and how the high court had ordered Standard Bank to freeze Lyoness’s bank accounts.

The application was brought by Jianliu Lin and her husband Adriaan van den Bergh, both members of the multi-level marketing scheme.

Lyoness was founded in Austria in 2003, by Hubert Friedl, as a customer loyalty scheme offering discounts and cash back to participating merchants and customers. While it spread to some 40 countries, operating under a variety of names, including Lyconet and myWorld, the SA courts ruled that it was nothing more than a pyramid scheme. Lin claimed in her application that Lyoness and various related schemes were “being operated almost solely for illegal and/or fraudulent purposes”, admitting that she invested more than R6 million. She believes she has lost everything.

She said she didn’t fully understand the intricacies of the system she was investing in, but was carried away with the hype of what she saw as the “greatest opportunity ever”.

“I saw it as a way of saving money whilst shopping,” she said.

When the article was published in September, the scheme was reckoned to have 190 000 members in SA. If all of the 190 000 members paid only the minimum R25 000 investment, the scheme would have accumulated R4.75 billion in SA alone.

“What I have noticed is that seemingly Lyconet keeps on rebranding the different products,” Lin stated in her court documents. “Thus, as soon as I am entitled to a payout in respect of the points, there is a name change and the branded products no longer exists, and I received no payout.”

That’s not all, folks …

Moneyweb wishes readers a happy and relaxing holiday, and a blessed 2023. You can look forward to more interesting and entertaining articles next year.


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