FSB probes trades in Gupta-linked Oakbay, Steinhoff and others

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Johannesburg - The Financial Services Board is investigating trades in Oakbay Resources and Energy, a company linked to the politically connected Gupta family, to determine whether share prices were manipulated over a five-month period.

The financial regulator said in a statement on Tuesday it will probe share moves from when Oakbay listed in November 2014 through April 2015. The stock rose almost 11% over that period, on higher average volumes than in the months leading up to its delisting in July this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The investigation comes a month after Bloomberg News reported that Oakbay’s share price was inflated by the Guptas, who lent money to a Singapore firm to be used to trade the equities. The Indian-born family are friends with President Jacob Zuma and have been accused of using the relationship to win lucrative state contracts and influence the appointment of cabinet ministers. The Guptas and Zuma deny wrongdoing.

In March 2015, Oakbay’s 15-day simple moving average was more than 5 100 shares. By the time its listing was terminated, that had dropped to 280 shares.

Insider trading

The FSB said it’s also investigating new possible insider-trading cases linked to shares of retailer Steinhoff International Holdings, wireless carrier Vodacom Group, Famous Brands, Super Group and WG Wearne.

The Vodacom probe covers trading in October. It was in that month that South Africa’s Competition Commission announced it had started an investigation into possible abuse of dominance after Vodacom secured an exclusive contract with the National Treasury.

Vodacom’s stock declined for two consecutive days prior to that announcement and had dropped more than 1% on October 4 before the antitrust body’s statement.

The FSB’s Steinhoff probe is for trading in August. That was the month in which the retailer was accused of dishonesty in a Manager-Magazin report about Chief Executive Officer Markus Jooste being among employees under investigation by German prosecutors in a 2015 case linked to possible accounting fraud. Jooste resigned on Tuesday after Steinhoff reported irregularities in its accounts that require further investigation.

There are also two fines pending. The FSB said there will be enforcement action taken for trading in 2014 in what was Times Media Group stock, now Tiso Blackstar Group, and for a case of false or misleading reporting for the December 2015 white maize futures contracts.

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