Themba Mosai. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Themba Mosai. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Themba Mosai, Group Five’s new CEO, has his work cut out for him. But the electrical engineering graduate from the University of the Witwatersrand seems fairly sanguine about the task ahead.

The 13-year veteran of the company was confirmed in the position little more than a week ago. He had been interim CEO for three months after former CEO Eric Vemer suddenly left the group in late February. Vemer’s departure was followed by that of many other executives and directors, in circumstances shareholders are still trying to fathom.

For the past three years Mosai has been on the company’s executive committee as group executive, overseeing the finance, legal, engineering, human resources, safety, business development and operations portfolios. He has travelled extensively, developing business in sub-Saharan Africa.

"I was consultative but decisive, a contradiction which my colleagues appreciated. I encouraged debate and was always willing to change my mind if a better way was presented. I was never afraid to let someone shine," he says.

From 2007 to 2014 Mosai was MD of Intertoll Africa, a 100% subsidiary of Group Five, at a time that its African concessions business grew revenue fourfold. "Intertoll continues to implement the strategy set under my leadership — this has led to it winning a number of projects," he says.

Now, as CEO, it seems his first task will be to repair a loss of confidence in Group Five’s board. This comes after fund manager Allan Gray, which holds 25% of the company on behalf of clients, said it had "lost faith" in the board and called for an extraordinary general meeting.

There have been reports that people close to certain Group Five directors wanted to buy the company’s valuable international concessions business, then sell it for a large profit. Vemer and others in management and on the board did not like this — and left, or were pushed.

Mosai will instead bed down the group’s relationship with UK-based Aberdeen Infrastructure Fund, which has bought a 49.99% interest in the Intertoll Europe investment portfolio for about €43m. This houses Group Five’s key European investment and concession assets.

Meanwhile, Group Five will pursue the option of an equity transaction with a black-owned construction company as part of a settlement deal it signed with government to transform SA’s construction and engineering industry. It says it is receiving inquiries about equity-based transactions at group and subsidiary company level. But it is not yet in possession of a binding or nonbinding offer.

The board says Mosai has implemented "meaningful changes" since his appointment at the beginning of March. These aim to unlock shareholder value and address mainly the loss-making engineering and construction cluster.

This cluster has now been split into an SA construction business, one for the rest of Africa and an engineering, procurement and construction business.

In the interim, Group Five says it is taking steps to convene Allan Gray’s required meeting as soon as "reasonably possible".

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