March 25, 2008 / 6:04 AM / 11 years ago

Sasol unveils South Africa's biggest empowerment deal

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Fuels and petrochemicals group Sasol (SOLJ.J) will sell a 10 percent stake in the company to black investors in South Africa’s biggest black economic empowerment transaction to date, worth 25.9 billion rand ($3.19 billion).

Sasol, the world’s top maker of oil from coal, said the deal involving 63.1 million shares will broaden and transform the group’s shareholder base. The group said in September last year it planned the transaction.

Black economic empowerment (BEE) is designed to widen ownership of the South African economy, which is still mainly in white hands 14 years after the end of apartheid.

“We will make a difference by creating significant economic opportunity for more than one million potential beneficiaries ranging from individuals to rural women’s groups who can invest in Sasol,” Sasol Chief Executive Officer Pat Davies said in a statement.

The transaction will have a positive impact on the group’s net asset value per share, Sasol said.

Shares in Sasol rose more than three percent on Tuesday. By 5:51 a.m. EDT, the stock was 2.85 percent higher at 390.99 rand compared to a 2.4 percent rise in the JSE Securities Exchange Top-40 index.

Abri du Plessis, Chief Investment Officer at Gryphon Asset Management, who owns Sasol shares, said the deal would be positive for Sasol.

“I don’t think one can find fault with it. Many groups have not included the broad public in their BEE deals. Sasol has been under tremendous pressure from shareholders to do an empowerment deal, I don’t think the transaction will be criticized,” Du Plessis said.

Some previous BEE deals have been criticized by unions and opposition politicians who say they benefit a small group of politically connected black businessmen to the exclusion of the vast majority of poor black South Africans.

Sasol said the transaction will also see the group launching a public investment scheme for black South Africans in which it will issue 18.9 million ordinary shares and broaden employee ownership to almost 27,000 employees.

The black public will acquire 3.0 percent, black investor groups 1.5 percent, Sasol employees 4.0 percent and the Sasol Inzalo foundation 1.5 percent.

The transaction will be funded mostly through the issue of preference shares, although the investors and black groups taking part will contribute some cash, including about 400 million rand which is estimated will be contributed by the black public.

The black investor groups selected to take part will have to contribute around 170 million rand, Sasol said.

Editing by Quentin Bryar

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