Cape Town – Cape-based Golden Arrow Bus Services has accepted the R257 million buy-out offer by Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) after attempts by workers to form a co-operative to launch a counterbid produced nothing substantial. HCI Chairman Marcel Golding said this would place the company “under the control of a prominent black empowerment shareholder”. The takeover involves HCI taking over all the shares now owned by Golden Arrow Investment Holdings and the Golden Arrow Foundation, which is the group’s social responsibility arm run by trustees from the communities served by Golden Arrow. In terms of the offer, Golden Arrow Bus Services will continue to operate in its current form and all the existing employment conditions will remain in place. The foundation and Golden Arrow Investment Holdings will receive the same value for their shares. Golden Arrow Bus Services said that before accepting the offer, it “took careful account of an interest vigorously pursued on behalf of a worker’s co-operative to buy the company”. “However, given that nothing concrete or substantive was proposed in support of this interest, the board decided not to frustrate the positive offer from HCI, whose financial resources and impeccable black economic empowerment credentials clearly serve the long-term interests of all the Golden Arrow stakeholders.” The deal follows months of negotiations between HCI, its financial services subsidiary Mettle and the Golden Arrow group. Existing Golden Arrow executive directors will remain board members but Elias Mphande of HCI is the new chairman and Golding is his deputy. Other new board members are Virginia Engel and Reyburn Hendricks as non-executive directors. HCI is the investment arm of the SA Clothing and Textile Worker’s Union, which is its largest shareholder. The Golden Arrow Foundation has said that it hoped HCI “will maintain, if not enhance, the level of worker participation in the company”. Golding said that he was aware that one of the challenges HCI would face would be working with the government in its drive to transform and improve the transport industry. Golden Arrow previously announced that it had started work on franchising and subcontracting its services and helping to establish small business units and passenger forums to increase community and worker involvement. Golden Arrow relies heavily on a government subsidy but part of government’s plan is to move to a tendered contract system to allow small, medium and micro enterprises to play a role.

Source: Business Report : Star – Lynda Loxton