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PIC fires investment manager implicated in AYO deal

Oct 24 2019 14:14
Lameez Omarjee and Jan Cronje

The Public Investment Corporation has dismissed a portfolio manager involved in the R4.3bn investment in JSE-listed IT group AYO Technology Solutions.

The state asset manager on Thursday confirmed to Fin24 by email that Victor Seanie, an assistant portfolio manager of listed equities, had been dismissed following the conclusion of a disciplinary hearing.

Seanie was suspended in January this year, along with the corporation's executive head of listed investments Fidelis Madavo, Fin24 previously reported. This followed an internal probe into the controversial R4.3bn AYO investment, which the PIC had underwritten despite internal concerns that the company was overvalued. AYO has defended the investment, saying the asset manager's funds are not at risk. 

A preliminary report on the probe, in January, stated there was "blatant flouting of governance and approval processes of the PIC". The PIC said at the time that employees were implicated in the irregularities, and for that reason suspended Madavo and Seanie. 

Deon Botha, head of corporate affairs at the PIC, said in a statement to Fin24 that Seanie's disicplinary process was headed by an independent chairperson. He said Seanie had been dismissed after being found guilty of the charges levelled against him. He did not specify what the charges were, beyond saying they included "charges of breaching the PIC's internal policies in investment decisions".

"Mr Seanie is one of several senior investment professionals who went through, or are undergoing, internal disciplinary proceedings, at this stage," Botha said. "The PIC board is fully appraised of disciplinary proceedings against several implicated PIC officials and, like the PIC Commission of Inquiry, concurs with the view that these should proceed."

Fin24 reached out to Seanie, but he did not want to comment.   

PIC commission

Seanie had appeared before the PIC commission of inquiry in January, shortly after his suspension, where he testified on the AYO deal. He told the commission that his suspension was unfair, and he was only a small player in the transaction. 

AYO is an information technology company in Cape Town businessman Iqbal Survé's Sekunjalo stable. The PIC invested R4.3bn in AYO in late 2017 ahead of its listing on the local bourse. It's share price has since fallen from R43 a share at listing to R5.60 a share. 

The PIC has instituted a court case against AYO to compel it to return the full investment plus interest. AYO is opposing the matter, and has denied that any of the asset manager's funds are at risk. 

Earlier in October, meanwhile, the financial regulator the Financial Sector Conduct Authority raided the offices Sekunjalo. Surve referred to the raid as a "classic intimidation tactic" by an "increasingly desperate cohort of politically entrenched cronies" and threatened to sue the FSCA, saying it was on a fishing expedition to find information for the PIC's court case against AYO. 

The FSCA, in response, said the raid was legal and it would oppose any court case. 

pic  |  pic commission of inquiry
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