when the tide turned
How shareholders forced out Serge Belamant
Allan Gray suddenly found it had an investee company that had gone feral — and it had to tame it without killing it
By some accounts, Serge Belamant’s days were numbered as soon as Allan Gray woke up to the reality that his version of the joys of the financial inclusion that Net1 provided to social grant recipients was dramatically at odds with the recipients’ own accounts. The fund manager’s initial response to criticism about its 16% stake in Net1 was to issue a clinical defence of the company’s "reliable and robust payment technology". Demonstrating a remarkably tin ear, in early March it went on to describe the R1.8bn paid by the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) to Net1 subsidiary CPS as "small" in the context of the value of the grants distributed. It intimated the mounting public anger was the creation of an overly imaginative media. The International Finance Corp (IFC), a part of the World Bank Group, seemed even more smitten by Belamant’s grand financial inclusion plans. The Net1 CEO wasn’t merely aiming to financially include the poor of SA, he was aiming for the world’s poor. The IFC l...