Insider implicates Iqbal Survé in Ayo’s “doctored” valuation

CAPE TOWN — Newspaper and technology company baron, Dr Iqbal Survé, is either the victim of a well co-ordinated conspiracy operating seamlessly within and outside Ayo Technology, or he’s lied outright to the PIC inquiry to justify some very shady dealing. The latest calumny was committed by one of his former Ayo board members, Malick Salie, who testified this week that Survé personally drove the overvaluation of Ayo’s worth by some R11bn via non-negotiable instructions to sometimes-reluctant senior staff. Survé has testified to the commission in unambiguous terms that he was not directly involved in the preparation of Ayo’s listing on the JSE, nor it’s valuation. Something else he never did, was get into a huddle with former PIC chief and friend Dan Matjila about Ayo’s listing, valuation or a potential PIC investment, he testified. Little wonder he’s furious with remedy-seeking PIC chair, Mondli Gungubele, (not to mention the Commission’s evidence leader, Advocate Jannie Lubbe who is also casting nasty aspersions). The R4.3bn PIC investment which bought a mere 29% stake in Ayo, raised some serious eyebrows in the industry over how expensive the shares were at the time. Story courtesy of the Daily Maverick. – Chris Bateman

Former Ayo board member implicates Iqbal Survé directly in bogus valuation of company

By Rebecca Davis

When the PIC invested R4.3bn of public servants’ money in Iqbal Survé’s IT company, Ayo Technology, in 2017, it was on the back of the company being valued at a whopping R14.8bn.

The PIC inquiry has already heard that this valuation was absurdly inflated, with the company share price since plummeting from R43 a share to just under R11 a share.

Now testimony before the PIC inquiry suggests that Survé himself was not only aware of the number-fiddling that went into the bogus valuation, but was allegedly directly involved in instructing employees to manipulate the figures.

Testifying on the second day of the commission’s resumption after a fortnight’s break, former Ayo board member Malick Salie told the inquiry that the numbers involved in the valuation were “not real”.

Salie said that Survé had been insistent that the valuation of Ayo should fall between the R10bn to R15bn range.

In Survé’s view, said Salie, “based on all the plans and the vision for Ayo, anything below R10bn is unacceptable”.

This was despite the fact that the verifiable numbers involved would not in reality amount to much above R2.3bn, Salie said. This could be stretched to R5bn based on estimates involving clients of British Telecoms South Africa (BT-SA), which Ayo was planning to target.

Evidence leader advocate Jannie Lubbe suggested, however, that even this R5bn figure was a “thumbsuck”.

Salie agreed.

But the R5bn valuation was deemed unsatisfactory by Survé, who pushed for the valuation to be increased to R13bn and ultimately to R14.8bn.

Lubbe told the inquiry that Salie’s testimony directly contradicted that of Survé, who had previously told the commissioners that he was not involved in either the preparation for the listing of Ayo on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), or the valuation of the company.

Salie was emphatic, however, that Survé had been closely involved.

The alleged funny business around Ayo’s JSE listing in December 2017 did not stop with its valuation.

Iqbal Survé, Zapiro
Fantasy Man. More of Zapiro’s magic available at www.zapiro.com.

Lubbe said that he possessed evidence to the effect that Survé and former PIC CEO Dan Matjila had a “discussion” around Ayo, its valuation, its listing and potential PIC investment, well before Ayo’s listing was made public.

Salie confirmed that a conference call had taken place between “Dr Dan” and Survé some months in advance of the listing with the aim of “sort of getting [the PIC] ready”.

Lubbe clarified: “Even before there was any finalisation of [Ayo’s] valuation […] Dr Survé was in discussion with Dr Matjila from the PIC?”

“I think that is correct,” Salie responded.

When Ayo’s listing went public, the PIC was the only external party to invest in the technology company – receiving only a 29% stake in exchange for a hefty R4.3bn investment. Even at the time, eyebrows were raised over the PIC’s appetite for such expensive shares.

Salie’s testimony that Survé and Matjila may have colluded ahead of time on the PIC’s Ayo deal again contradicts Survé’s previous testimony to the inquiry.

In April 2019, Survé told the commission that the sole negotiations which took place were between Ayo’s board and the PIC’s asset managers, and did not involve him and Matjila.

Three months earlier, however, the inquiry had heard from PIC assistant portfolio manager Victor Seanie how Matjila was insistent in driving through the PIC investment in Ayo within an inadequate timeframe, despite objections from Seanie and his colleague that the price they were paying was excessive.

Survé has been adamant that the valuation of Ayo was sound and that there is no reason for the PIC to seek to recoup its investment in the technology company. He has also accused PIC chair Mondli Gungubele of aiming to “crush” Ayo.

Although the PIC commission has been on a two-week break over the election period, Survé is never far from the headlines.

The businessman’s very public last-minute donation of R1m to the ANC in the Western Cape on the eve of elections devolved into humiliation for both parties after the ANC announced its intention to return Survé’s donation after initially having accepted it.

Survé has since claimed that the ANC did not actually return the money because it had already been spent – and once again accused his nemesis Gungubele of a political vendetta. DM