Wescoal CEO to exit after mediation fails
A MEDIATION process to bring stability to the fractious board of Wescoal, SA’s largest trader of domestic coal, appears to have failed, with CEO and founding member Andre Boje agreeing to leave the company after 18 years.
A slow-burning power struggle between Wescoal chairman (and its single-largest shareholder) Robinson Ramaite and Mr Boje has been smouldering since at least November last year. The fight has been for control of the group, which is also a function of the path the company is on to meet a threshold of 50%-plus-one empowerment shareholding. Wescoal supplies most of its coal to Eskom, which has a policy requiring suppliers to have 50%-plus-one black shareholding.
“Shareholders are advised … Andre Boje has, by mutual agreement, resigned as CEO and director of Wescoal with effect from 14 April 2015,” the company said on Tuesday.
Last month it emerged a mediator had been hired to broker a boardroom peace deal. In addition, a group of shareholders, concerned about their investment at Wescoal, had formally requested the appointment of an additional two nonexecutive directors.
Their concerns centred on two botched bids for control, made in November and December respectively. The first bid was by Mr Ramaite, to increase his stake to more than 30%, which would have taken the black shareholding beyond 50%. He was rebuffed. The second was a bid for 100% of the company by French coal trading group Unico, which was championed by Mr Boje.
Brendon Hubbard, an asset manager with ClucasGray, which holds about 3.5% of Wescoal’s shares, was relieved the issues with the CEO had been dealt with, but said he remained concerned about the lack of representation of minority shareholder interests on the board.
“The reason we are pushing this is (because) there is activity out there and we want to be sure all shareholders are looked after,” he said. “The chairman has been buying all the way through — literally every day he buys shares — and that tells you the share is undervalued … there are definitely other parties scratching around.”
Waheed Sulaiman, director of commercial and strategy, had been appointed as acting CEO, Wescoal said. The board will meet on Wednesday to begin the process of identifying a new CEO.