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EDITIONS
Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Investors want South African Aids reports
Aids patient
Almost five million South Africans have HIV/Aids
Foreign investors are putting pressure on South African firms to report on the impact of HIV/Aids in the country, according to a consultancy firm.

South Africa has 4.7 million people living with HIV/Aids, the highest number in the world.

"Aids is the single biggest factor affecting South African businesses and will remain so for the next decade," said the chief executive of NMG-Levy consultants, Andrew Sykes.

"Foreign investors know very well the size of the problem and don't believe it one bit when we say Aids is levelling off.

"They want to be convinced that our business is viable."

Relocating

HIV/Aids poses a threat to South Africa's role as the continent's leading economy because it could send labour costs higher and reduce the size of the local markets.

Such concerns could convince foreign firms that they would be better off if they were to relocate to other countries in Africa or beyond.

Mr Sykes expects anyone doing business in South Africa to be reporting on the HIV/Aids impact by the end of next year in order to mollify foreign investors.

HIV/AIDS audit

One proposal being put forward is to force companies to disclose the prevalence of the infection among their workforce if they are listed on the Johannesburg stock exchange.

Such disclosures - effectively an audit - would become part of the standard company reporting practice.

Not all investors think a statutory declaration is necessary however.

Jeff Chowdary, joint head of emerging markets at F&C Management which has $200m invested in South Africa, told the BBC's World Business Report that the listing requirement was "a bit far fetched".

But he admitted that the number of potentially infected workers did put him off.

"About one third of the mining workforce is HIV positive which clearly is to some extent the backbone of the economy," he said.

"When we're making strategic allocations to the stock market we have to take into account that this is a time bomb," he added.

Tough challenge

Only 1% of South Africa's firms have assessed the impact of HIV/Aids so far even though nine in 10 firms will have been affected by the disease, Mr Sykes explained.

In the future, Aids reporting should include statistics on the number of people suffering from HIV/Aids in a company, according to NMG-Levy.

There should also be details about the direct and indirect costs of the disease on the company.

In addition, companies should inform investors about any HIV/Aids programs in place and any savings to the firm.

And the impact on consumers should be assessed.

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 ON THIS STORY
Jeff Chowdery, Head of F&C Emerging Markets
When investing we have to take into account this timebomb

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12 Aug 02 | Health
08 Aug 02 | Business
06 Aug 02 | Business
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