Woolies pulls Israeli couscous after threats

Woolworths has pulled Israeli-imported pearl couscous from its shelves, but has emphasised that the move was preemptive due to threats it received and not because it supported a boycott of the country’s products or was pro-Palestinian.

“Given the significant and credible threats we have received, and in order to do our best to safeguard our employees and customers, we took the decision to preemptively suspend the sale of the one product we had on our shelves that was imported from Israel,” the retailer said in a statement on Friday.

It added: “Despite reports commending us for taking a pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli position – we have not. Woolworths would like to explicitly affirm that we neither support nor boycott anyone. Woolworths has no political affiliations and does not support any political party, organisation or country.

NGO Africa4Palestine said it welcomed the decision of Woolworths to not stock Israeli products, demonstrating “its commitment to being a socially responsible corporate citizen”.

“This brings to an end the calls for a boycott of Woolworths. Africa4Palestine encourages other companies to follow Woolworths’ example and thus we will be engaging other retailers to follow the Woolworths example.”

Woolworths has, however, said it refused to “add to the division and divisiveness”.-Fin24

Sasol names new CEO to replace GroblerChemicals and energy group Sasol announced on Friday current vice president of energy operations and technology, Simon Baloyi, will take over as CEO with effect from April 2024.

Baloyi will succeed Fleetwood Grobler, who was appointed in November 2019, and will continue to serve in an executive advisor role until the end of December 2024.

Baloyi held various management positions at Sasol since joining it in 2022, and holds master’s degrees in both engineering management and chemical engineering.

The announcement comes just ahead of a scheduled annual general meeting on Friday, which may be contentious as some fund managers line up to vote against the group’s climate report.

He also takes over just days after chairman Sipho Nkosi quit amid concerns there was a conflict of interest because a company he is involved with, called Talent10, helped to fund Australian gas explorer Kinetiko Energy, which may be poised to become a supplier to Sasol.

Sasol chair Stephen Westwell said in a statement on Friday that Grobler’s leadership had put the company on track to be both resilient and innovative.-Fin24Investec punts R1.4bn tech saving Investec says the merger of its UK wealth and investment business with Rathbones Group will probably save the group about £60 million (R1.37 billion) in technology costs, even though the integration process may take three years to complete.

The two completed the tie-up in September, and under the agreement, Rathbones is moving to Investec’s London offices at 30 Gresham Street. The creation of the UK’s biggest discretionary wealth manager will allow the bank to refer its clients to its new partner and vice versa. Existing wealth and investment clients will also migrate onto the Rathbones digital platform, which Investec CEO Fani Titi says will result in massive savings.

He told News24: “If we were on our own, we probably would’ve had to invest around £50 million to £60 million into a new technology platform. As it happens, they had already made the investment in the platform that we were choosing to invest in, so the business doesn’t have to make an extra investment in the platform.” Discretionary fund management involves creating bespoke investment portfolios tailored specifically to the needs of clients, who are typically wealthier than those serviced by institutional asset managers, given that they offer one-size-fits-all unit trust offerings.-Fin24

Boeing hits back at Comair in R1.5bn US fight

Boeing has launched a counterclaim against Comair for breach of contract after the shuttered SA airline sued it for US$83 million (roughly R1.5 billion) in damages linked to a deal to buy eight 737 MAX aircraft.

Boeing has argued that Comair broke its obligations to buy four of the 737 MAX aircraft scheduled to be delivered between late 2021 and early 2024. “These damages include, but not are not limited to, the loss of profits associated with the sale of the Aircraft to Comair and additional costs and expense,” said Boeing in new court filings.

Comair, which operated the low-cost airline and regional flights for British Airways under a franchise agreement, was placed into business rescue in May 2020. It entered provisional liquidation in June last year.

The SA airline’s joint provisional liquidators lodged their suit for damages in a Seattle court in February.

Comair’s lawyers argued that Boeing had “placed profits over safety and led with a plan of deception” and cut corners in a “rush” to get its 737 MAX to market.

The airline said Boeing had acted fraudulently in omitting and misrepresenting material facts related to the 737 MAX’s similarity to prior models of the 737 aircraft.-Fin24Sasol AGM descends into chaosChemicals and energy group Sasol called off its AGM on Friday after it descended into chaos. The group tried for more than an hour on Friday to start its general meeting, which is meant to be followed by an annual general meeting, but for those who dialled in online, it started as a shambles.

At least two stakeholders in the room were yelling, forcing CEO Fleetwood Grobler to stop talking at times, while the visual feed was cut.

Earlier, after about two minutes of a video telling everyone how committed Sasol is to safety, the feed cut out entirely. It took more than 50 minutes for this technical difficulty to be resolved, only for the screen to still be just a generic slide.

An address by one of Sasol’s board members was inaudible because of line breaks, while technical difficulties resulted in the feed cutting entirely at times.

Nonetheless, Sasol carried on its meeting for another 10 minutes. This was despite shareholders and analysts complaining bitterly in the messaging service that the meeting should be stopped, that it was impossible for stakeholders to engage and that what was happening wasn’t compliant with the requirements for AGMs as set out by SA’s Companies Act.

With the AGM expected to be contentious because of the recent resignation of the company’s chair amid concerns about a conflict of interest and because a number of large shareholders are due to vote down Sasol’s climate policy, one stake-holder questioned whether the technical difficulties were “a tactic”.-Fin24