ANC shock over Watson death; Bell Pottinger man dies; SA tax revolt risk; Northam profit soars; Naspers’ Prosus worth $100bn

By Jackie Cameron

  • The ANC has expressed its shock at the death of corruption-accused Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson. Watson died in a car accident near OR Tambo International Airport on Monday. A case of culpable homicide has been opened by the police. ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe detailed Watson’s history as an “anti-apartheid activist” who, together with his brothers, “associated themselves with the struggle for liberation at an early age and fought side by side with many compatriots against apartheid”. Watson was due to testify at an inquiry into his tax affairs on Tuesday, News24 reported. His testimony would have been about an investigation by SARS into his tax compliance. The inquiry flowed from the testimony at the commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture that implicated him. For more about Watson from his brother, Valence, see Biznews.com.
  • Lord Tim Bell, the spin doctor linked to the Gupta family’s white monopoly capital smear campaign against white South African business players, has died. Bell, who founded PR firm Bell Pottinger, died after a prolonged illness, says the BBC. While kind words about him poured in to the BBC and other UK media outlets, he will be best remembered in South Africa for his company’s race hate campaign. Bell Pottinger worked for Oakbay, a company owned by the Gupta family who allegedly pulled Jacob Zuma’s strings in order to extract funds from state entities. Bell Pottinger collapsed under pressure from South Africans. Lord Bell was described as a PR evangelist who once advised Margaret Thatcher but also worked with autocrats from General Pinochet to the Saudi government.
  • On the JSE, the Northam share price shot up about 10% on Monday on the back of its financial results released on Friday. It announced record operating profit of R2.4bn and headline earnings per share up more than 200%. The platinum producer enjoyed record production and also chopped billions off its capital expenditure as major project milestones were completed, it said on SENS. “Despite the difficult economic circumstances prevailing during the period under review, both of Northam’s mining operations posted an operating profit. Zondereinde achieved an operating profit of R1.3bn (F2018: R355.4m) and Booysendal achieved an operating profit of R985.7m (F2018: R525.4m).
  • There is the risk of a tax revolt, new South African Revenue Service Commissioner Edward Kieswetter warned on Monday. Kieswetter, hired in March, told a tax conference in Johannesburg that falling trust in the collector by individuals and companies had led to rising levels of tax avoidance and fraud, bleeding billions from government, reports Reuters. “When public trust wanes, as is the current case, then tax payers feel morally justified to withhold or manipulate their taxes,” Kieswetter said. “When revenue collection is undermined it traps us in vicious cycle of revenue decline, as we’ve experienced, and consequently the need to go with begging bowls to borrow money, which effectively mortgages our future,” he is reported as saying.
  • Naspers has said a newly created entity containing assets including a stake in Chinese internet giant Tencent will be valued at about $100bn, reports Bloomberg. A value of $100bn would make only Royal Dutch Shell and consumer-goods giant Unilever bigger in Amsterdam by market capitalisation. Naspers, Africa’s largest company by market value, received shareholder backing last week to proceed with the listing of Prosus in Amsterdam next month. Alongside the Tencent stake, the new company will hold businesses from Brazil to Germany in industries such as online food delivery and classified advertising. The company would overtake ASML Holding NV, a semiconductor gear-maker priced at about €80bn ($89bn). Naspers opted to spin off Prosus – in which it will keep a 73% stake – to ease its dominance of Johannesburg’s stock exchange and help reduce a valuation gap between the Cape Town-based company and its stake in Tencent, says Bloomberg. Naspers shares erased gains after the publication of the anticipated market value of Prosus, and traded 0.1% higher at R3,421.11 at 11:52 in Johannesburg.