JSE warns firms over results releases

JOHANNESBURG Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:15am EST

A man walks past the Johannesburg stock exchange offices in Sandton in this September 23, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

A man walks past the Johannesburg stock exchange offices in Sandton in this September 23, 2008 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The Johannesburg Stock Exchange has warned companies to tighten procedures around announcing results after Reuters reported FirstRand results a day early when they appeared on a publicly available page on the banking group's website.

Russel Loubser, chief executive of the JSE, told the Reuters Africa Investment Summit that the exchange was investigating trades around the FirstRand (FSRJ.J) results but did not expect to find evidence of insider dealing.

FirstRand published its results a day early on Monday after the Reuters report, based on a circular published on a page of the bank's website accessible to the public. FirstRand has also said it is investigating.

Loubser, chief executive of bourse operator JSE Ltd. (JSEJ.J), said listed companies had to be more careful in handling results.

"But you can't preach to them and say: 'You will do it exactly this way'. I mean that is taking regulation too far and we are not going to do it," he said at the summit held at the Reuters office in Johannesburg.

Last August Absa Group ASAJ.J, the South African bank majority owned by Barclays (BARC.L), had to release results ahead of time when they emerged in a newspaper advert before the official announcement.

Loubser said the JSE was investigating trades ahead of and after the release of the results of FirstRand, South Africa's second-largest bank by market value.

"Like I said to one guy: 'This has to be the stupidest and most ham-handed attempt to insider trade if they are doing it this way. Of course we are going to examine all transactions in the last few days and next few days of the FirstRand thing," he said.

"We are busy doing that now and I honestly don't expect it to deliver anything," he added.

The World Economic Forum Competiveness Report published last year ranked South Africa first out of 139 countries for its regulation of securities exchanges -- the only one it has being the JSE.

Loubser said the JSE itself, which is due to release its annual results on March 15, has tightened its own security around publication. The results will only be released on the group's website after an earnings release has been issued on the bourse's SENS regulatory news service.

"We are giving nobody nothing until the bloody SENS announcement goes out," Loubser said.

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Greg Mahlich)

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