Several international companies have recently left South Africa or are planning to leave it, with public servants at risk of deterring other foreign investors.


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Several international companies have recently left South Africa or are planning to leave it, with public servants at risk of deterring other foreign investors.

The world’s sixth-largest bank, BNP Paribas, which has €415 billion (R8.2 trillion) in assets under management, had its licence to conduct the business of a bank via a branch withdrawn from the Prudential Authority with the group scaling back from its non-core operations in Africa.

In addition, BHP has posted two rejected offers to acquire Anglo American, but the offers require the latter two to complete separate secession of its entire shareholding in South Africa’s Anglo American Platinum Limited (Amplats) and Kumba Iron Ore Limited.

However, it sent top executives to South Africa to ensure that senior government officials understood that the move was not an indictment of South Africa, but rather because of its own portfolio and commodity needs.

The group also said that Amplats, Kumba and himself will continue to be listed on the JSE. Another bid for Anglo-American is expected in the near future.

In addition, Shell sold its shareholding in Shell Downstream South Africa, which includes a network of 600 petrol stations nationwide. That said, the group still plans to run its upstream business.

This aforementioned retirement was only announced in the last few weeks, contributing to the many other prominent international companies that have left or cut back on their operations in South Africa.

For example, after selling its assets in South Africa in 2020, AngloGold Ashanti moved its corporate domicile to the UK and its primary listing from Johannesburg to New York last year.

The group, like BHP, said the move was not an indictment of South Africa, but rather the increased cost of mining gold in South Africa.

Also, Fitbit products ceased sales in South Africa in 2023 after its parent company, Google, withdrew the brand from several markets. Petroleum group BP has also stopped supplying aviation fuel amid a change in global business strategy.

A year earlier, Barclays had completed his second ever retirement from South Africa after selling his remaining stake in Absa. Despite re-entering the South African market in 2005, Barclays made a global retreat after being hit hard by the financial crisis.

Like Shell’s planned exit, mining giant Glencore has taken over the assets of US energy company Chevron after it left South Africa last decade. As per the move, Caltex is now in the process of being rebranded to Astron Energy.

In 2017, General Motors (GM), the maker of Chevrolet and GMC, announced that it was leaving South Africa due to a global restructuring and its plan to leave unprofitable markets. Isuzu eventually bought out GM’s operations in South Africa.

While regulatory and socio-economic challenges may have added pain to these companies, the only company that has ceased operations in South Africa due to direct government conflicts is the Israeli EL AL Israel.

The airline suspended its twice-weekly flight between Israel and Johannesburg amid a decline in demand after South Africa took Israel to the International Court of Justice over genocide claims in the Gaza strip, which the court said has prima facie evidence.

Although the recent withdrawals were mainly due to the needs of these companies, Busisiwe Mavuso, CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, said these decisions, especially Shell’s, could have been reversed if the country had a more predictable regulatory environment and stronger economic growth.

“People vote with their feet, capital has a lot of addresses, and if we’re not going to make it easy to invest here, it’s going to land somewhere else,” Mavuso said.

Positives and negatives

However, it should be noted that South Africa is still regarded as an attractive destination for international investors.

PwC recently stated that South Africa has seen net foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows (inflows minus outflows) for most years since the global financial crisis of 2008.

Mavuso acknowledged the R30 billion of Amazon Web Services’ plans to invest in South Africa over the next ten years. The broader Amazon Group is also building a R4.5 billion head office in Cape Town and recently launched its online marketplace in South Africa.

However, Amazon’s move to South Africa highlights that while the services industry is growing, the mining and manufacturing industries have seen the opposite.

“This is true over the past 20 years, reflecting global conditions and the rise of cheaper manufacturing bases, but also the impact of policy uncertainty and the collapse of key economic infrastructure, especially electricity supply and logistics,” Mavuso said.

“Service companies are less exposed to the efficient operation of ports, and many can create their own power sources as they are not particularly power intensive. There is less regulatory risk, as it is difficult to threaten service companies about licenses and other bureaucratic interventions on their businesses.”

Mavuso said in order to attract new companies that make long-term investments in fixed infrastructure, the country needs to create an investor-friendly environment.

She said that ministers, such as Gwede Mantashe, who publicly threaten investors, would only add to fears.

Although some commentators have said that this international exit is good if local or other foreign investors step in, this is not necessarily the case.

These other investors will also keep their money on the sidelines if they see that the potential returns are low relative to the risks.

“Foreign investors are also important in bringing international expertise to our economy, driving competition and ultimately improving the quality of service that end consumers receive.”

“Thanks to our low domestic savings rate, there is simply too little domestic capital to be able to provide all the investment the economy needs.”

“The fewer foreign investors come, the poorer we are.”

Despite Cyril Ramaphosa stating that the country is keen to attract investors, Mavuso said sentiment must be met with action through structural reforms that boost the economy.

SOURCE:https://volkskrag.co.za/wp/2024/05/14/groot-besighede-uit-suid-afrika-na-shell-se-besluit/



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