Title page for ETD etd-09172012-144336

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Scott, Tobias Johannes
URN etd-09172012-144336
Document Title The acquisition by a company of its own shares in terms of section 48 of the Companies Act 71 of 2008
Degree LLM
Department Mercantile Law
Advisor Name Title
Prof P A Delport Supervisor
  • director’s liability
  • capital gains tax
  • secondary tax on companies
  • “round-tripping”
  • dividend in specie
  • dissenting shareholder appraisal rights
  • solvency
  • share repurchase
  • capital maintenance
  • distributions
  • liquidity
  • subsidiary acquisition
  • redeemable securities
Date 2012-04-11
Availability unrestricted
The capital maintenance rules stem from the English company law and were primarily aimed at protecting the rights of a company’s creditors. Before the introduction of the Companies Amendment Act 37 of 1998, a company was prohibited from purchasing its own shares. After this legislation was passed, a company was able to do so, provided that it satisfied the solvency and liquidity test and also complied with the new statutory provisions set out by sections 85 to 89 of the Companies Act 61 of 1973.

Section 48 of the Companies Act 71 of 2008 now regulates the acquisition by a company of its own shares, as well as the acquisition of shares in its holding company by a subsidiary company. The above actions also fall under the ambit of a “distribution” as defined in the Act and therefore need to satisfy the requirements of section 46 of the Act as well. Unlike its predecessor, the provisions in the new Act are very broad and devoid of guidelines. The emphasis is placed on companies satisfying the principles of solvency and liquidity. Non-adherence to these provisions gives rise to the personal liability of the company’s directors.

The provisions of section 48 do not apply where a dissenting shareholder exercises his appraisal rights in terms of section 164 of the new Act, or where a company redeems redeemable securities. These exceptions do, however, still amount to “distributions” and will accordingly need to satisfy the requirements contained in section 46 of the Act.

Redeemable securities were initially not exempted from the provisions of section 48. This would potentially have given rise to a situation where a company could approach a court in terms of section 48(6) to reverse a redemption of its securities. It would have had dire consequences for financing by way of redeemable securities. In terms of the Companies Amendment Act 3 of 2011 redeemable securities are now specifically exempted from the provisions of section 48.

In terms of the new Act a subsidiary company is allowed to purchase shares in its holding company to a maximum of 10% in the aggregate of the issued shares of any share class, provided that no voting rights attached to such shares may be exercised. The new Act fails to properly address some of the issues regarding the “round-tripping” of dividends and the declaration of a dividend in specie that were already identified as far back as 2001.

Where the consideration for a repurchase constitutes a “dividend” as defined in the Income Tax Act 58 of 1962, the company will be liable to pay secondary tax on companies in respect thereof. If a distribution does not constitute a dividend, capital gains tax is payable with regard to it.

Share repurchases are allowed in terms of Canadian corporate law after the legislative reform which occurred in that country during the 1970’s. The Canadian Business Corporations Act contains provisions that bear a striking resemblance to the provisions of the new Act adopted in South Africa.

Whilst the basis and rationale behind the new corporate legislation cannot be faulted, a host of issues and concerns still remain. The unfortunate consequence is that the new Act lacks transparency and is fraught with clumsy errors.

Copyright © 2011, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria

Please cite as follows:

Scott, TJ 2011, The acquisition by a company of its own shares in terms of section 48 of the Companies Act 71 of 2008, LLM dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-09172012-144336


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