Ayo Technology Solutions is African Equity Empowerment Investments’ biggest investment. Picture: 123RF — GONGZSTUDIO
Ayo Technology Solutions is African Equity Empowerment Investments’ biggest investment. Picture: 123RF — GONGZSTUDIO

Ayo Technology Solutions has refuted claims by former executives that it misrepresented earnings, but says it will heed a call by the JSE to get an audit opinion from its external auditors.

Former Ayo CEO Kevin Hardy told the commission of inquiry into the affairs of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) on Monday that the company’s finance chief was instructed to tamper with its financials.

In December 2017, the PIC controversially invested R4.3bn into Ayo, acquiring a 29% stake in the process at R43 a share — a far higher valuation than it was worth, some analysts and former executives have said.

On Wednesday, the JSE said it had asked that Ayo engage with its external auditors “on an urgent basis” to obtain an audit opinion for its unaudited interim results for the six months to February 2018 and for the same period in 2019.

The JSE said Ayo should make the outcome public. The allegations by former executives “are of serious concern”, it said. 

The exchange said it had also “kept abreast of numerous other allegations against Ayo Technologies from various sources”. 

Ayo responded by saying it was “extremely perturbed by the serious allegations” but it “strongly refutes such claims”.

The company said it is co-operating with the JSE and complying with its request to have its external auditors examine its interim results.

“Ayo is deeply concerned that the claims from Mr Hardy and Mr [Siphiwe] Nodwele — both former executives who themselves did not wish to submit to a forensic investigation of their company dealings — have led to Ayo being tried in the media (again) and found guilty before being proven innocent,” said Ayo.

If Hardy and Nodwele “truly believed” the company’s results were being meddled with, they should have reported this at the time, Ayo said.

Nodwele, the former chief investment officer, told the PIC inquiry that the technology company had been grossly overvalued.

Rather than the initial valuation of R14.8bn, he said even a R1bn valuation “would have been extreme”. A maximum valuation of R700m was probably more realistic.

Independent Media chair Iqbal Survé, who owns a large portion of Ayo via Sekunjalo Group, told the Mpati commission last week the PIC’s investment in Ayo was “very legitimate”.

hedleyn@businesslive.co.za
gavazam@businesslive.co.za