The chairperson of Independent Media, Iqbal Survé, on Tuesday claimed that bad press from rival media houses scuppered the listing of Sagarmatha Technologies on the JSE.
He compared the company to Uber, saying if it had listed on the JSE and then on the NYSE he had "no doubt" it would have reached a market capitalisation of $10bn (R141bn at current exchange rates).
Survé, the head of investment holding group Sekunjalo, was giving evidence before the judicial commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation.
The inquiry, which started its work in January, is investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the asset manager, including in its internal governance and how it made controversial investment decisions.
The commission had previously heard testimony about how three companies linked to Survé - AYO Technology Solutions, Independent Media and Sagarmatha - sought billions in funding from the state-run asset manager.
Sagarmatha was not successful in securing funding, and failed to list on the JSE in April 2018. It had hoped to secure R3bn in funding from the PIC, out of a total investment of R4.5bn.
He said the fact that the PIC did not invest in Sagarmatha was a "missed opportunity".
"For the first time a (technology) unicorn would emerge from the African continent."
Survé told the commission that this was the fault of media competitors who sabotaged the listing and "blatantly put negative propaganda in the public space".
He did not provide any evidence of how this happened.
He also blamed the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission for scuppering the listing by "raising an issue with one of the subsidiary companies".
"There was no basis for them to do it," he said.
In April 2018, the JSE cancelled Sagarmatha’s listing, saying the company had not submitted its annual financial statements to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission in time for the listing to go ahead. Survé said the group had submitted its statement.
He also said some analysts did not understand how to value multi-sided platforms, like Sagarmatha, and compared it to the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Amazon.
Inflated asking price
Lebohang Molebatsi, General Manager for Listed Equities at the PIC, previously told the commission that engagements with Sagarmatha revealed that its valuation was significantly lower than the company's requested initial public offering, but Sagarmatha was not willing to lower their expectations. In mid-March, Molebatsi said that a fair value was R7.06 per share, compared to the IPO asking price of R39.62 per share.
As Fin24 previously reported, Sagarmatha was also aiming to buy all the shares in Sekunjalo Independent Media, the holding company that owns a 55% stake in newspaper publisher Independent Media.
Molebatsi said the PIC's deal team was further concerned that cash raised from the IPO would be used to buy Independent Media shares from the PIC. "This would effect mean that the exit of PIC would be funded by the PIC," he said.