PIC’s R3bn Nigerian oil investment under fire

PHOTO: AFP.

President Jacob Zuma had no space to interfere in the mandate of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) when investing on behalf of the Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF), his spokesperson Mac Maharaj said after news it had bought a $270bn (nearly R3bn) stake in a controversial oil company drilling in Nigeria.

Maharaj referred enquiries to the PIC about the investment in the American oil and gas exploration company CAMAC Energy Incorporated that is due to list on the JSE on 24 February.

The Corporation could not immediately comment.

The Mail & Guardian (M&G) on Friday alleged that CAMAC is on the verge of bankruptcy and that the investment has more to do with links between Zuma and Kase Lawal, the American who heads up CAMAC.

The listing is not immediately aimed securing investments from the public, but purely to facilitate the private placement of a 30% stake in the company by the PIC.

In a Sens announcement on Friday CAMAC with a primary listing on the NYSE MKT, the NYSE Euronext’s US market for small-cap growth companies, said it has a pre-listing market capitalisation of R2.7bn. It head office is in Houston, Texas.

Camac focuses on oil and gas exploration is Sub-Saharan Africa and has entered into an agreement with Allied Energy to increase its 40% stake in a production sharing agreement contract relating to Oil Mining Leases 120 and 121 in the Oyo field in Nigeria to 100%. That is expected to boost cash flow to boost Camac’s exploration and development operations.

It also has operations in Kenya and Gambia, CAMAC says.

The M&G describes the investment as extremely risky and says it saves CAMAC from going under and that Lawal and his family will benefit hugely.

In 2003 M&G wrote an exposè about government-to-government crude-oil allocations that Nigeria gave to South Africa, but allegedly landed in Lawal’s pocket. Other controversies surrounding him are listed by M&G.

It implies that Lawal has close ties with president Jacob Zuma and has reportedly made big contributions to Zuma’s education trust.

Danny Adonis, representative of the Public Servants Association of South Africa (PSA) said allegations of risky dealings with public servants’ pension money will be investigated. “We will ask our representatives at the GEPF to get answers”, he said.

Concerns about political agendas at the PIC are not new. Last year questions were asked when the Corporation took a stake in the buy-out of the Independent News Media Group that put the Sekunjalo Consortium under the leadership of ANC crony dr. Iqbal Survè in control. The ANC frustration with what it considers unfair criticism by the media is well known.

The PIC does however also hold large stakes in Times Media Group and Naspers.

Further back the PIC facilitated big empowerment deals, including the controversial buy-out of Holcim to AfriSam, a deal that many said did not make financial sense and left the company with debt it later barely survived.

The PIC has always maintained that it has a developmental agenda that it exercises without compromising sound investment principles.

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