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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  01 Feb 2012

VENTURES: Going Full Steam Ahead At 65

 



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WHAT does 2012 hold for Jan Mouton, chairman of PSG Group?

We met in his office on the first floor of a picturesque old building in central Stellenbosch to talk, in the main, about the book on his life and remarkable business career, written by Carié Maas.

I am not saying “picturesque old building” because it sounds nice; it’s a fact, as confirmed by the throng of Dutch tourists outside who were taking pictures. I had to engage in a light version of “Crouch; Touch; Pause; Engage!” to get through. So if first impressions count, that building in Church Street passes the test.

And best of all, as peak-hourly disadvantaged city commuters will agree, the drive to work takes a leisurely 10 minutes. That is one of the perks Mouton designed into the package when he started his second life in business at the age of 50 – the move from Johannesburg and the JSE to the Western Cape and the JSE.

Yes, make no mistake, Mouton left South Africa’s economic capital and the firm of stockbrokers he co-founded and led, but he never left the Stock Exchange. After all, PSG is first and foremost an investment group.

In October 1982, coinciding with his 36th birthday, Jan Mouton and two partners put together a stock-broking firm and took on the financial markets. They were Senekal, Mouton and Kitshoff and ranked 42nd in size. By 1995 SMK ranked 5th or 6th with some oversized feathers in their cap, including the listings of Rand Merchant Bank, Richemont and Naspers. Jan Mouton was managing director.

That was when seven of his fellow directors, the majority, executed a coup d’etat and asked him to resign. It was less than two months before his 49th birthday, the time of life when most successful businessmen enjoy the personal dividends of their success, security being not the least of those. But the “M” of SMK was now unemployed.

The rest, as they say, is history, in this instance the birth and growth of PSG. There is a book in that (and Carié Maas has written it: Jannie Mouton “and then they fired me”, published by Tafelberg and retailing at R195), but the bottom line is that the group is an ever-growing success that has offered exceptional returns to investors who bought its shares over the past 15 years.

So what is next for Jan Mouton? He turned 65 last October, but the word “retirement” did not feature in his reply. His focus will remain on PSG Group and its opportunities. These include:

Capitec, already a glowing success in banking and evidently keen to grow on its short but strong track record.

Zeder, with its focus on agribusiness, is well placed to play a growing role in Africa. Mouton is well aware of the political difficulties, but says they can be overcome with the necessary homework. Opportunity is beckoning on our own continent, he believes.

Curro, a business based on the large and often unsatisfied demand for good school education in South Africa. Mouton is excited about the potential and PSG has also taken an interest in distance learning and home schooling. Curro Holdings develops private schools, backed by good management and proven experience. The schools are parallel medium with a Christian grounding, positive discipline and a balance between academic, sport and cultural activities. Costs are R2 500 to R3 000 per month, whereas the older private schools may charge four times that.

For the doubters, consider this piece of information: When a new Curro campus in Pretoria was looking for a rector, the principals of the top four Pretoria schools applied.

Why? It’s a good guess that they were looking for nothing more than the freedom to go for excellence.

PSG remains on the outlook for opportunities among the smaller, unlisted enterprises. As Mouton is quoted in the book, the idea is to do the acquisition at a discount and apply the PSG expertise to add value. Being the buyers, they want the price to remain low initially and many investors don’t have the stamina for that. But for those with the necessary patience, here is some advice: Take note when PSG buys into an unlisted business. Then do the same.


 
 
 
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