Deon Fredericks has been appointed as struggling SAA’s interim chief financial officer (CFO) effective from 15 October.
Fredericks is on secondment from Telkom – Africa’s largest integrated communications firm – to the national carrier for a 12-month period.
He takes over from Robert (Bob) Head, whose contract as SAA Interim CFO ended on 30 September.
So who is Deon Fredericks?
He is Telkom’s chief investment officer and prior to that, he was the chief financial officer at the integrated communications firm for four years.
Fredericks joined the then state-owned Telkom in 1993 as a senior manager in the internal audit division and has worked himself up to the finance ladder in an admirable fashion.
Born in Kuilsrivier in Cape Town, he is a strong defender of sustainable entities. Fredericks a leader who has built up valuable experience in finance at Telkom for decades.
He has been part of finance team that has helped Telkom transform from being a monopoly into a competitor against thriving rivals – mobile phone operators, Internet Service Providers, fibre players and content players such as Netflix (remember he was once at Telkom Media which was aimed at competing with Africa’s largest Pay-TV operator Multichoice).
When Telkom appointed Fredericks to the position of CFO in 2014 the big boss Sipho Maseko stated:
“We have been on a determined path to appointing the industry’s best to lead Telkom – I am pleased that with Deon’s appointment our Exco structure is complete and ready to take Telkom forward.”
Fredericks, who has held senior positions at Telkom since 1993 including the position of deputy CFO since in 2011, is regarded as one of the best CFOs in the country and has assisted Maseko to reinvent the telecoms firm.
In the past, he has acted as Telkom CFO, which culminated in his appointment to the position full time.
With his expertise and valuable experience, Fredericks has ensured that Telkom’s pursuit of stakeholder wealth creation is paramount.
He has managed to ensure that Telkom has a strong balance sheet with enough capacity to raise capital investments.
As part of the successful reinvigoration, Telkom has its own subsidiaries – Openserve, Gyro, and Telkom Mobile.
In achieving the feat, Fredericks and Maseko were ably guided chairman Jabu Mabuza into making Telkom a model for running an efficient state-owned enterprise.
By all indications, Fredericks is a very good CFO and his skills are much needed at struggling SAA.
The airline is one of 11 government department and state-owned entities that did not meet Parliament’s deadline for the submission of annual financial statements for the year ending 31 March 2018.
Missing the deadline, which is six months after the end of the financial year, is normally an indicator of going concern issues.
So enter the no-nonsense, humble and soft-spoken Fredericks, who helped Telkom to be lean and compete with cash-flush mobile phone operators – Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Rain plus mobile virtual mobile network operators backed by FNB, Mr Price, etc.
Let’s take a step back to see why Fredericks could be a trump card for SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana.
When Jarana was Chief Officer: Enterprise Business at Vodacom he reported to Maseko – the current Telkom boss, who at the time was Managing Director of Vodacom South Africa.
Maseko, himself, has delivered as Telkom CEO and gained the respect of not only government officials, but also investors and shareholders.
Telkom is now a sustainable company and not a burden to the state like many other state-owned enterprises such as Eskom, SABC and Denel.
Telkom’s share price has jumped more than 96% in the past five years with Maseko at the helm.
During this time, Fredericks has been instrumental in stabilising Telkom.
Given Fredericks background and experience it is clear Maseko and Jarana are deploying one of Telkom’s top financial gurus to SAA.
Although Fredericks is yet to announce the finance team it seems SAA’s ailing finances are in the care of very good hands.