Oceana Group Limited has just been awarded a double ‘A’ rating by the national BEE empowerment ratings agency, Empowerdex, for its blue-chip BEE credentials.

Of the 2 000 companies – both listed and unlisted – that have been rated thus far by Empowerdex, only about 38 have scored AA ratings for their BEE compliance.

The highest BEE ranking that one can attain is a triple ‘A’ rating – and only a handful of companies have achieved that status.

Oceana scored extremely high – an ‘A’ – in the black ownership category. As at December this year an effective 30.16% of the company was in black hands. But it also scored high marks in many other categories – including Affirmative Procurement; Enterprise Development; Social Development and Operational Capacity.

Says Empowerdex’s Lonwabo Mboniswa:

“Many companies think of BEE compliance only in terms of equity ownership. But there are a host of other categories that contribute to one’s overall BEE rating. Oceana’s rating scorecard was noteworthy in that it has instituted BEE programme and initiatives in many of these other categories.”

Oceana’s empowerment status was classified by Empowerdex as “good, broad-based empowerment” which is the most desirable classification that one can attain.

This is largely due to the formation recently of the company’s “Khula,” which means to grow, share trust. The Oceana Group Black Employee Share Trust is made up entirely of permanent and permanent seasonal “black” employees, and currently directly owns 12.4% of the company.

In terms of the trust rules, all 2 300 employees who qualify are given shares in the company, or rather the “right to participate in the share trust,” in accordance with their seniority. The shares are managed by the Khula Board of Trustees for ten years, after which they vest with the employees and may be retained or freely traded.

In terms of Oceana’s 30.16% black ownership profile, 12,4% is in the hands of the Oceana Group Black Employee Share Trust; 10% is held by black empowerment group, Brimstone Investment Corporation, and the balance comes from the empowerment status of Oceana’s other major investors.

Says Lea Conrad, Oceana’s Transformation Manager:

“Oceana has adopted a proactive and focused strategy on transformation within the company over a number of years. The principal of black economic empowerment is integrated into all our business processes – it has to be in order for us to achieve such a high BEE rating. We are putting an enormous amount of effort into it for the right reasons because we believe it makes good business sense.”

In addition to equity ownership, Oceana’s transformation achievements include a board of directors that is 44% black; 15% black people in senior management positions and 46% in middle management positions; procurement policies which ensure that almost 70% of purchases are obtained from affirmative suppliers; 22 joint venture and over 100 strategic supply partnership agreements; a major emphasis on skills development including the complete transfer of skills on the deep sea trawler, Desert Diamond, from a foreign to South African crew, and a hefty corporate social investment programme that extends to educational programmes, community and rural development, HIV Aids relief, health, welfare and environmental conservation.

Says Oceana’s CEO, Andrew Marshall:

“This commitment to black empowerment is not a stance that we have taken because of the pressure of government regulations. It is one that we have held for some time because we believe it is the right thing to do.

“We recognise that the objectives of BEE cannot properly be achieved through a narrow focus on ownership and management, but rather that an integrated and co-ordinated approach is required. Oceana sees BEE as an opportunity to normalise the South African economy, rather than a constraint.”

Marshall says Oceana wants to demonstrate that it believes in its workforce, it believes in the future of the country and it believes that the country’s wealth needs to be more evenly distributed among all of its people.

“Khula is our way of doing that – and making Oceana a much better place for employees to work in the process. I am confident that Khula, which is intended for the benefit of both current and future black employees, will assist with the continued transformation of the group and in creating a dynamic and effective workforce by more closely aligning the interests of employees with those of shareholders.”

Graham Fiford Tel: (011) 305 – 7312/083 391 2459

ANDREW MARSHALL: (021) 419 5911