It has been nearly two months since MTN Zakhele, the much-lauded black economic empowerment scheme of MTN Group, expired and several shareholders are yet to receive the proceeds from their shares.
About 124 000 Zakhele investors were given three options when the scheme was terminated in November last year.
These options included shareholders accepting a combination of converting a portion of their Zakhele shares into MTN Group shares and taking cash, reinvest their shares into a newly launched BEE scheme called MTN Zakhele Futhi, or wholly taking cash for their shares.
Whichever option investors chose, the scheme has created value for black investors, who initially subscribed for shares at R20 when the scheme launched in 2010. The share price has since more than doubled to R51,70/share by 1 December. The share price appreciation implies a compounded annual growth of about 20%/annum.
However, shareholders that have elected to receive cash are not impressed, as they have complained about delays in the payout.
“To date, I haven’t been paid for the cash out option,” said a shareholder who opted to cash out 50% of his shares and converted the balance into MTN Group shares. “It has been more than a month now and I am concerned.”
According to a Zakhele circular, the majority of shareholders were supposed to be paid by 13 December. However, several shareholders are still waiting for what is due to them.
Another Zakhele shareholder, who elected to reinvest his shares into Zakhele Futhi, complained about the “tardiness of the disbursement process” that his wife also experienced. His wife is an MTN Zakhele shareholder who also opted for the cash-out option.
“MTN Zakhele seemed to be ill-prepared to deal with the disbursements despite having known about the volumes [of shareholders cashing in shares] approximately one month in advance of needing to make the first payment.”
After repeated calls to the Zakhele call centre, he was then told that outstanding payments would be finalised by 19 December . “It now seems that they have been told to not make any promises regarding the payment dates.”
Shareholders also complained about the poor communication channels with MTN when inquiring about their delayed payouts.
“When contacting the support [call centre], you end up waiting on hold forever… Now, my e-mails get no response at all. Considering that this is an empowerment scheme, I feel a lot of people do not have access [to MTN],” said another shareholder, who also opted for the payout option for his Zakhele shares.
MTN Group, which was 4% owned by the Zakhele scheme, announced in November that it has raised R2,3bn through the placement of 21m shares as part of the scheme’s expiry. The proceeds would be used to reward Zakhele shareholders, who have opted to cash-in their shares.
Sydney Mhlarhi, the director of investment holding firm Tamela, which is the advisor to MTN Zakhele, said 80% of shareholders that chose the cash option had been paid to date.
“The majority of MTN Zakhele shareholders were paid on or about 13 December, as was planned and communicated in the MTN Zakhele circular,” Mhlarhi said.
Outstanding payments would be made before the end of February 2017, he said. It’s not clear how many shareholders opted for the cash option to determine exactly how many of them are still awaiting payments based on Mhlarhi’s estimates.
Prior to making payments to shareholders, a bank account verification process was undertaken and only those shareholders whose bank accounts failed verification were not paid, he said.
“The decision to verify banking details was made entirely for the protection of shareholders who may have closed or changed their bank accounts during the life of the scheme. In certain cases, bank account numbers of previously closed accounts may have been assigned to other banking clients.”
Mhlarhi said shareholders whose accounts failed the verification process were required to provide documents to update their bank details including a stamped bank letter or a certified bank statement that is less than three months old (as part of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act) in order for payments to be processed into valid bank accounts. He added that the bank verification process was communicated to shareholders before the Zakhele scheme expired last year.
For now, more questions have been raised by shareholders. “It is disturbing to read that they [MTN] expect to conclude all payments by the end of February. What happens to the interest shareholders are owed on this money [since December]? Surely it will have been sitting in an account somewhere earning interest while waiting to be disbursed?” a shareholder asked.
- This article was originally published on Moneyweb and is used here with permission