Former PIC CEO Dan Matjila. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA.
Former PIC CEO Dan Matjila. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

The former CEO of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) insists that the state-owned pension fund has not lost any money on its investment in Ayo Technology Solutions, an upstart tech outfit controlled by businessman Iqbal Survé that has slumped more than 80%.

Dan Matjila also told a commission investigating governance issues at the state-owned pension fund that the PIC’s decision not to invest in another Survé-backed company, Sagarmatha, was the reason the JSE listing of the company ultimately failed in April 2018.   

The PIC, which manages more than R2-trillion in government employee pension funds, has been under scrutiny at public hearings following allegations of governance failures after the UDM accused Matjila of misusing funds and making careless investment decisions. 

Matjila said the PIC’s R4.3bn investment in Ayo was still intact and earning interest at a bank. “I don't think the PIC has lost money,” he told the commission headed by Judge Lex Mpati. 

Shares in the Ayo have dropped more than 80% since going  public in December 2017. 

Matjila said it was still possible to recover the value by looking at the “intrinsic” value of the company and using the money to acquire shares in information and communication technology companies that would lead to resurgence in the share price.

The PIC has since sought to recover the money it invested by legal means.  

Months after the PIC invested in Ayo, Sagarmatha, another technology outfit backed by Survé, approached the PIC to be one of the investors in its initial public offering (IPO), which was later scrapped by the JSE because it “withheld critical information”. 

Matjila said the IPO was not going to go ahead anyway because the PIC had turned down an invitation to invest in the company.  

Victor Seanie, the PIC analyst assigned to assess the Sagarmatha transaction, testified in January that the deal advanced to the highest investment decision-making forum of the PIC for approval despite his reservations.

Matjila said the Ayo transaction was used by people with other agendas as a reason to get rid of him.

“At times I even think that the Ayo transaction upset a lot of people that thought they had better deals,” said Matjila, who served as CEO of the state-owned asset manager from December 2014 until his resignation in November 2018. Matjila had also been the chief investment officer since 2003.

“But, commissioner, they didn’t want me, they have the means and resources and the strategy to deal with me, and the headwinds were heavy, and I thought it was time to shift. But they took it as an opportunity to kick me out and say this is a letter of resignation,” he said.   

thompsonw@businesslive.co.za