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Sasol met with fund managers as Lake Charles costs climbed

Problems at Sasol’s project in the US have hampered its ability to expand internationally.
The company's market value has halved to R169 billion over the past 12 months. Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Sasol, South Africa’s biggest company by revenue, said it’s held meetings with shareholders as dissatisfaction grows with cost overruns at the $13 billion Lake Charles chemical project in the US.

The meetings began after Sasol raised the estimated cost of the project by $1 billion in May, having increased it only three months earlier, the company said in a response to questions. On August 16 Sasol, delayed its annual results, saying it hasn’t completed a review of the problems at the project. That prompted its shares to fall the most in 20 years on an intraday basis in Johannesburg.

Read: The funds most exposed to Sasol

“The chairman of the Sasol board of directors together with management has held meetings with a number of shareholders to hear their views, concerns and expectations,” the company said on Monday. “With regard to the specifics of the shareholder meetings, it would not be appropriate for Sasol to comment on behalf of our shareholders on their expectations.”

Problems at Lake Charles, in Louisiana, have hampered Sasol’s plans to expand internationally and to increase chemicals manufacturing alongside its core fuel-production business. The company’s market value has halved to R169 billion over the past 12 months, making it the third-worst performer on an index of Johannesburg’s 40 biggest stocks.

Representatives of Allan Gray, which owns 3.4% of Sasol’s stock according to data compiled by Bloomberg, have met with Sasol’s board about the Lake Charles project, said Andrew Lapping, the chief investment officer of the Cape Town-based fund manager. He declined to comment on the talks.

Coronation Asset Management, South Africa’s second-biggest money manager by assets under management which owns Sasol stock, declined to comment.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.


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Fund Managers need to monitor Sasol closely going forward,as all is not above board. The Company is responding reactively and defensively to the concerns raised by its shareholders,which is dusturbing.The company’s leadership and performances over the past 10 yrs or so, have been extremely disappointing to say the least.

Can you imagine the size of the disaster if interest rates in the USA were at the levels they are in South Africa at the moment? If it was not for the deflationary spiral after the Great Financial Crisis, Sasol would have been history like Steinhoff. When interest rates are near zero, it is really difficult to go bankrupt.

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