The Public Investment Corporation has lodged an application to liquidate Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM), a special purpose holding company set up in 2013 to buy out Independent Media SA from its Irish owners.
SIM owns 55% of Independent Media*, the publisher of titles such The Star, the Cape Times and the Weekend Argus.
On Tuesday SIM spokesperson Takudzwa Hove, in a statement, said the group had received an application to liquidate the company from the PIC. He described the application as one in a series of "co-ordinated attacks on Independent Media, and ultimately, an attack on media freedom".
Sekunjalo Independent Media is a separate entity from Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, the investment holding company of Cape Town businessman Iqbal Survé. SIM does fall under Sekunjalo, and Survé is the chair of Independent Media.
"SIM is of the firm belief this action is designed as a further attempt to embarrass and undermine the Sekunjalo Group and Dr Survé personally and is aimed at provoking a run on SIM’s major subsidiary, Independent Media, which is fully operational," SIM said on Tuesday.
Fin24 has not yet seen a copy of the application.
The PIC, in a short statement on Wednesday, confirmed it had submitted the application in the Western Cape High Court.
"This is due to Sekunjalo [Independent Media's] failure to honour its loan repayment obligations for an outstanding loan advanced by the GEPF [Government Employee Pension Fund]. The above position is consistent with the PIC’s legal obligation and responsibility to ensure that appropriate action and interventions are undertaken to protect value of assets under its management for the benefit of its clients," it said.
"SIM has instructed its attorneys to oppose this frivolous application and seek the appropriate relief against those involved, which will include seeking a special costs order against the PIC and holding those responsible personally liable," SIM said.
The PIC, briefing Parliament in mid-October, said it would consider submitting an application for the liquidation of Sekunjalo - at the time it did not make the distinction between Sekunjalo and Sekunjalo Independent Media - due to the non-payment of interest on debt. This led to a war of words between the asset manager and Survé.
The asset manager also previously accused Survé of making "misplaced, opportunistic, flawed and deceitful" arguments after he claimed there were links between the PIC's remarks before Parliament and a regulatory raid carried out at his Cape Town offices in a market abuse inquiry.
Late last week Sekunjalo applied to have a court set aside the warrant that authorised the search and seizure raid. The FSCA, who carried out the raid, said it would be opposing the application.
* The minority shareholders in Independent Media, according to a 2018 regulatory filing, are Interacom Investment Holdings Proprietary Limited, which owns 20% of its shares, and the PIC - via the the Government Employees Pension Fund - which owns the remaining 25%. The shareholders of Interacom Investment Holdings Proprietary Limited are the China Africa Development Fund (25%) and China International Television Corporation (75%).
* This article was updated on Wednesday, November 13 to include comment by the PIC.