Linklaters advises Investec on SA ‘black empowerment’ deals

Linklaters has advised the first South African financial services company to divest its stock to black empowerment investors. The magic circle firm hopes it will get a series of black empowerment deals from South African clients, in what is otherwise a quiet market.

Investec, advised by Linklaters, completed an innovative dual listing last year and the bank has continued to be at the forefront of developments in South Africa’s business community.

Last month, Investec sold 25 per cent of its Johannesburg-listed stock to several black investors and an employee fund. Linklaters, led by corporate partner Charlie Jacobs, worked alongside domestic firm Jowell Glyn Marais.

After almost 10 years of post-apartheid government, very little has changed in the demographics of the country’s business ownership.

Last year, the South African government introduced a law that forced businesses in the mining sector to sell off 25 per cent of their stock to wholly-owned black companies within five years. Linklaters, which represents a number of South African mining companies, has picked up a considerable amount of work because of the law.

The mining sector is politically sensitive because it exploits natural resources and employs large numbers of poorly paid black South Africans.

Financial services is a less obvious target, but is nevertheless the country’s second biggest sector. There has been speculation for some time that the government would introduce black empowerment quotas in financial services, but Investec has jumped the gun.

Jacobs said: “For a lot of work South African companies pitch for, you have to have empowerment credentials. Investec feels the move will open up opportunities in black South Africa, particularly for government work.”

He added: “We see a pipeline of work down in South Africa. There’s a lot of pressure on companies to do empowerment deals.”