The Public Investment Corporation has invested or loaned about R5.35bn* to companies in the stable of businessman Iqbal Survé over the years, including Premier Fishing, Sekunjalo Independent Media and IT group AYO Technology Solutions.
But the already-strained relationship between the state asset manager and the Cape Town businessman has soured further, with Survé threatening to sue the PIC if it does not retract a statement made by top executive earlier in the week.
Survé is the executive chair of Sekunjalo, and the chair of Independent Media, which owns titles such as The Star‚ Pretoria News and the Cape Times.
On Tuesday the PIC, which manages about R2.1bn on behalf of public servants, briefed Parliament's standing committee on finance regarding the group's financial results.
During questions, the corporation's acting head of legal services, Lindiwe Dlamini, told MPs the PIC was considering submitting an application to liquidate "Sekunjalo" for the non-repayment of a 2013 loan. Dlamini did not at the time specify which Sekunjalo she was referring to – Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, the umbrella company that houses the assets in the wider group, or Sekunjalo Independent Media, a special purpose vehicle set up in 2013 to buy out Independent Media SA from its Irish owners.
Survé previously said Dlamini could only have been referring to Sekunjalo Independent Media, calling her comments "deceitful" and "reckless". On Wednesday he ratcheted up the pressure by saying that if the PIC did not clarify its statement, his group would institute damage claims against the PIC as well as Dlamini in her personal capacity.
"While it may be that she mistakenly referred to the one instead of the other, the fact is that it is the Sekunjalo the Group that has been dragged through the media and whose reputation she and de facto the PIC, have significantly tarnished."
The PIC has not publicly commented on which company Dlamini was referring to. It said in a separate media statement on Wednesday that it would not make further public statements until "any anticipated and real legal proceedings – of whatever form or manner they may take - are instituted before court".
It did not respond to a Fin24 request for comment.
The asset manager also accused Survé making "misplaced, opportunistic, flawed and deceitful" arguments after he claimed in a statement that there were links between the PIC's remarks before Parliament, and a regulatory raid carried out at his Cape Town offices last week in a market abuse inquiry.
The raid was carried out by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, which had previously said it was probing AYO in a market abuse investigation.
"The correct position is that the PIC is not a party to any regulatory investigation by the FSCA into Dr Survé or his business entities that led to last week's search and seizure operation by the FSCA. An attempt to link the PIC’s response and anticipated actions in respect of its investment in Sekunjalo and AYO to last week’s raid at Sekunjalo’s Offices is factually misplaced, opportunistic, flawed and deceitful," said the PIC.
* According to Fin24 calculations, companies linked to Survé have received about R5.35bn in funding from the PIC. This includes a R200m investment in Premier Fishing, R4.3bn in AYO, and R850m in Sekunjalo Independent Media. Sagarmatha, also part of the Sekunjalo group, had hoped to receive R3bn from the PIC, but the deal fell through.