JOHANNESBURG - Lancaster 101, owned by businessman and former trade unionist Jayendra Naidoo, only comprised of Naidoo at the time the company approached the Public Investment Commission for R10.4billion.
This was revealed during the testimony of PIC senior market risk analyst Tshifhango Ndadza at the Commission of Inquiry into alleged improprieties at Africa’s largest asset manager, where Ndadza was responding to questions posed by assistant commissioner Gill Marcus.
Ndadza told the Judge Lex Mpati-led commission that the Lancaster transaction, dubbed Project Sierra, was not broad-based or major. “One individual exposed the PIC to a significant amount of risk,” he said.
He further said that the PIC had always been pro BEE, “but I think that we are more likely to be dealing with opportunists than proper investors If you look at the Steinhoff transaction, the media says it’s a significant BEE transaction but if you look at those call options or put options, whether it’s the puts or the calls that are being exercised, it’s the BEE party that will sell down its equity stake, meaning their percentage share of the company will reduce.”
Ndadza said because this was already understood from the onset it clearly made it not a BEE transaction.
Sekunjalo and Independent Media chairperson Dr Iqbal Survé earlier this year testified before the commission that the PIC’s investment strategy was in favour of white-owned and controlled companies at the expense of firms started and managed by black entrepreneurs.
A number of political parties concurred with Survé. They said the PIC was anti-transformational, declared its investment decisions to be racist and accused it of running its affairs in a clandestine manner.
ANC acting national spokesperson Dakota Legoete said the party agreed that the PIC had failed to transform the economy.
Ndadza also testified about his involvement in Project Spot where the PIC invested in Grindrod Bank, which he suggested was part of the Sassa scandal. He further talked about investments in Net1 UEPS, Karan Beef, Erin Energy, Sagarmatha and Independent Media as well as VBS Mutual Bank.
“As far as I know, the only time we said no to a transaction was to the VBS investment,” he said.
Ndadza’s submission delved into details related to his involvement in the Sagarmatha transaction, which is still rather curious, because the PIC never invested in Sagarmatha.
He claimed that the Sagarmatha listing would not have been successful, meanwhile Sagarmatha was able to raise more than R4billion from global investors.
Dr Survé, during his submission to the same inquiry, said the PIC had missed an opportunity by not investing in Sagarmatha.
The Sagarmatha listing would have provided an opportunity for thousands of Africans to be trained in IT-related skills and help support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s job creation drive as well as attract foreign direct investment to South Africa.