Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Naspers shares tumble more than 4% on Tuesday on news that US law firm Pomerantz is investigating Naspers and could bring a possible class action law suit from Naspers investors.

Dr Jack & Curtis cartoon on Radio 702's EyewitnessNews (EWN) 

Naspers chairperson Koos Bekker is now branded a South African TV villain as an ongoing torrent of bad press continues to engulf the embattled Naspers leader and its pay-TV arm MultiChoice over a widening possible "State Capture" scandal swirling.

Naspers and MultiChoice are being dragged deeper and deeper into negative headlines inflicting serious damage to these brands and brand reputations over its alleged dubious dealings with, and massive payments to, the controversial Gupta family's ANN7 (DStv 405) TV channel and the SABC.

At issue is whether the mega-television behemoth is or was involved in undue pressure to get ANN7 and the SABC to exercise pressure in return for lucrative pay-for-play channel contracts on DStv, and got the South African government to change its encryption policy for set-top boxes (STBs) for the country's faltering switch from analogue to digital TV.

Explosive, leaked meeting transcripts between MultiChoice and the South African public broadcaster the SABC, as well as #GuptaLeaks contracts between MultiChoice and the controversial ANN7 D(Stv 405) channel showing massive payments from DStv to the Guptas, have raised multiple serious questions over corporate impropriety.

MultiChoice told the SABC it would pay the broadcaster R100 million for the SABC News channel but but only on the strict must-have contract clause condition that the SABC must support MultiChoice's stance on conditional access (CA) for digital television.

MultiChoice also dramatically upped its payments from R50 million per year to R100 million per year and then R141 million per year, as well as a questionable, additional R25 million payment to the Guptas for the low-rated, bad quality, mistake-filled and often criticised ANN7.

MultiChoice is paying ANN7 more despite its barely there low ratings than eNCA (DStv 403) that has more than 50% of the overall TV news audience share.

It's all created the perception that MultiChoice has paid kickbacks to both the SABC and ANN7 to use its influence to get set-top box (STB) encryption dropped from government-subsidised STBs in the switch to digital terrestrial television (DTT).

MultiChoice and Naspers that have denied the kickbacks allegations and have been very slow to respond to the public perception brand and reputation crisis, have been overly arrogant where it did respond and in instances where executives spoke publicly.

On Tuesday Naspers shares tumbled over 4% on news that the United States law firm, Pomerantz - specialising in class action securities law suits - has started its own investigation into possible Naspers securities fraud and other unlawful business practices.

On Tuesday Naspers caused the worst daily loss on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in two months since September as its share price sagged to R3 520.

Pomerantz said it is looking for Naspers investors who want to join a possible class action case against Naspers after Naspers' American Depositary Receipt price fell 5.58% on 1 December 2017.

The MultiChoice board on Friday announced that it is starting an internal investigation of itself; with parent Naspers that said it won't get involved as public and investor criticism over Naspers and MultiChoice's slow and insufficient response to the growing scandal keeps building.

Naspers issued a statement on Friday claiming it's being victimised and that persistent "baiting" by the media, the public, investors and political parties for Naspers to intervene in MultiChoice's affairs, should stop because it's allegedly "not conducive to an open democracy".

On Tuesday Naspers in a statement said that it had not been informed of any legal action from any of its investors and that it took allegations that it had engaged in business malpractice seriously.