Oakbay Investments will start setting up meetings with banks on Tuesday to try restore relations after the top four lenders cut links with the company amid speculation that its owners, the Gupta family, are wielding undue political influence.
Oakbay Investments CEO Nazeem Howa said the company was hoping, at the very least, to persuade one of the local banks to reinstate its business accounts.
“We will start setting up meetings with banks on Tuesday to try and restore those relations because the lives of 7 500 employees are at stake,” Howa told Reuters in an interview.
With no local banks willing to service the controversial family’s company accounts, doing business in the country has become virtually impossible.
Late last week Nedbank and Standard Bank followed FNB and Absa in closing the bank accounts of all Oakbay-related businesses.
Before that, global audit firm KPMG, as well as investment bank Sasfin withdrew its services with the group over risk association concerns in the wake of allegations of state capture levelled against the Gupta family.
“Absa used to be our main bank, they gave us notice in December and then we moved to FNB and they gave us notice two weeks ago now, and Standard [Bank] was our backup and it, along with Nedbank, gave us notice late last week,” he said, adding that the notices expire at the end of May.
Banking Association of SA head Cas Coovadia said there was no indication that the banks conspired among each other to close Gupta-linked accounts.
“It’s not at all a co-ordinated effort by the banks. It can’t be, that would be anti-competitive. These are individual banking decisions,” Coovadia was quoted saying in a Business Day report.
“For a major company, if you don’t have an auditor then you’re going to have some problems.”
Howa also denied weekend reports that brothers Ajay and Atul Gupta had ‘fled’ the country for Dubai amid the growing scrutiny and criticism of the family’s close ties to President Jacob Zuma and the alleged hand they played in appointing certain cabinet ministers.
“They are not in hiding. They’ve not fled the country,” Howa told Bloomberg TV.
The Gupta family was seen boarding their private jet at Lanseria Airport on Thursday evening, allegedly with a “mountain” of suitcases in tow.
The family’s departure came a day before Atul and Varun Gupta resigned from Oakbay Resources & Energy on Friday, the same day Zuma’s son Duduzane resigned as a director of the company’s Shiva Uranium business. Zuma also indicated that he would be divesting from the business.