MTN chairperson could make billions from the massive Brulpadda gas find – and e.tv’s owner could also benefit
Phuthuma Nhleko, one of SA’s top dealmakers, is the only South African with a direct stake in the massive new gas find off the coast of South Africa.
There is one other South African company with indirect exposure – e.tv owner HCI.
Nhleko bought President Cyril Ramaphosa’s assets when he returned to politics.
MTN chairperson Phuthuma Nhleko may have hit it big after the French energy giant Total discovered a large gas field off the South African coast.
Total owns 45% of the exploration rights to the Brulpadda block, an area of 19,000 km² some 275km south of Mossel Bay.
These are the other shareholders:
25% Qatar Petroleum
20% Canadian Natural Resources
10% Main Street 1549
The Canadian company Africa Energy holds 49% of Main Street, while Nhleko’s company Afrostyle Investments owns 51%.
This gives his company an effective 5.1% interest in an asset that could yield $1 trillion according to the most optimistic estimates – potentially valuing his stake at more than $50 billion – a cool R685 billion.
Apart from Nhleko, there is only one other South African business interest in Brulpadda: HCI, which owns e.tv (through its 63% stake in eMedia Holdings) and Tsogo Sun.
Its exposure is, however, indirect, and a bit complicated:
An HCI subsidiary, Deepkloof, owns 49% of a UK-based company called Impact Oil and Gas. Last year, Impact gave Nhleko’s Arostyle a loan.
“The funding from Impact supported Arostyle’s share of Main Street’s initial, up-coming, exploration commitments including the Brulpadda-1AX well,” an Impact spokesperson said.
If it proves successful, Impact – which has other African oil assets and has partnered with Total in Namibia and South Africa – will fund further expansion.
The spokesperson didn’t want to give information on how the loan is structured – apart from saying that “the return is commensurate with the risk associated with exploration, therefore Impact hopes to share in the upside”. In a statement, Impact said Arostyle’s aggregate share of the Main Street transactions totalled $17.2 million (R237 million) so far.
It’s not clear why the 58-year old Nhleko – who famously earned R72 million in a single year as MTN CEO and is one of South Africa’s top dealmakers – would turn to Impact for funding.
In 2014, President Cyril Ramaphosa sold most of his business interests to Phembani, a company led by Nhleko. This created a group with more than R9bn in assets. Phembani holds stakes in Engen, Afric Oil, the coal company Exxaro, and the cement group AfriSam among others. Ramaphosa has no interest in Phembani.
In 2015, Nhleko and Richemont chair Johann Rupert established the $435 million Phembani Remgro Infrastructure Fund, So far, the fund invested in the fibre group Octotel, the internet service provider RSAWeb as well as solar power, rail and agricultural groups.
Nhleko served as MTN CEO while Ramaphosa was the company’s chairperson. Nhleko replaced him as MTN chairman when Ramaphosa stepped down to return to politics.
Ramaphosa also has ties with HCI, but it’s not as harmonious.
In 2005, Ramaphosa had to resign as Johnnic chairperson after HCI took control of the company against his will. Ramaphosa urged Johnnic shareholders to vote against HCI’s “hostile” bid, but he didn’t prevail.
-Businness Insider SA