Iqbal Survé: Gupta-owned Oakbay's R1bn lawsuit 'frivolous and ludicrous'

Investment group Sekunjalo will oppose a R1bn lawsuit Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments has lodged against it, said Iqbal Survé.

Daily Maverick reported on Thursday that Oakbay lodged the lawsuit against Survé and ex-head of the PIC Dan Matjila for allegedly blocking Oakbay from acquiring a 50% stake in Independent Media, which owns newspapers The Star, the Cape Times and I’solezwe lesiXhosa.

In a summons issued on July 24, 2015, Oakbay says Survé, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and Sekunjalo Independent Media, of which Survé is executive chair, had colluded with Matjila – while he was still at the PIC – on more than one occasion to block a call-option agreement that would give Oakbay a stake in Independent.

The damages of having the transaction blocked by Matjila, who acted on behalf of the PIC, amount to R1bn which represent the option shares if the agreement was implemented, Daily Maverick reported.

"The claim by Oakbay against the company is without merit and we strongly repudiate any suggestion of collusion," Survé said in an emailed response to questions from Fin24.

"Sekunjalo will contest the court action, which it finds to be frivolous and ludicrous. It is also not the first time that the Gupta company has tried its luck and we will therefore oppose their actions, as we have always done, and look forward to seeing them in court to put an end to the matter, once and for all," said Survé.

Matjila's lawyers will be opposing the claim too, Daily Maverick reported.

Independent was bought by Sekunjalo Independent Media in 2013. The deal was partly funded by a Chinese consortium called Interacom Investment Holdings and partly by the Government Employee Pension Fund through the PIC.

READ: PIC inquiry wraps public hearings, commission to prepare final report

It has been revealed in the public hearings of the PIC Commission of Inquiry that the corporation's investment into Independent was regarded as risky.

The commission was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year to probe allegations of impropriety related to the PIC's investment deals. It wrapped up its public hearings on Wednesday. Over a period of eight months, the commission, led by Justice Lex Mpati, heard from 77 witnesses, including Matjila and Survé.

The PIC has since started a process to exit its investment in Independent and has refused to recapitalise the media company which is in a dire financial position, according to Survé's testimony before the commission.

*For the original story go to Daily Maverick

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