Cape Town - British Telecom South Africa (BTSA) managing director Bertrandt Delport, who was the company’s internal legal counsel in 2017, has confirmed during cross-examination that he did not have first-hand knowledge of matters discussed at board level in relation to the Public Investment Corporation’s (PIC’s) investment in AYO Technology Solutions (AYO), which has now landed in court.
The case is an attempt by the PIC to recover a R4.3 billion investment for a 29% stake in the ICT group it made when AYO listed on the JSE in 2017.
The public entity is pursuing the legal action despite benefiting from its investment through dividends of about R400 million.
In its papers dating back to 2019, the PIC wants the subscription agreement entered into with AYO declared unlawful and for it to be set aside.
But the same cannot be said about failed investments such as in Steinhoff on which the PIC has remained quiet.
The PIC also wants the court to order AYO to pay back the R4.3bn with interest from December 2017.
AYO is opposing the PIC’s application.
At the centre of the litigation is a claim by the PIC that AYO misrepresented facts, including that shareholding in BTSA owned by African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI) would be subscribed for by AYO on listing, and some of its clients would move to AYO.
Delport continued with his testimony, which began on Thursday when the matter was adjourned to on Monday.
The PIC’s legal counsel, advocate Duncan Wild, led his evidence about moving clients from BTSA to AYO and concluding further contracts, taking Delport through some documents including those that dealt with BEE and shareholding.
During cross-examination by AYO’s senior counsel, advocate Karrisha Pillay, Delport confirmed that he did not have first-hand knowledge of matters discussed at board level regarding the PIC and AYO investment.
He also confirmed that scrutiny of the investment with AYO was done following media reports that surfaced during 2018.
Quizzed about his previous statements regarding AYO’s excepted reseller gross profit margins, wherein he had testified that they would be in the region of 10% to 12%, whereas BTSA’s own document stated that margins should be 25%, Delport said he did not know why the first draft of an internal document might be wrong.
Delport also said the document would have gone through many hands at the company and an error could have been made.
The case continues.