Gupta-owned Oakbay delivers (somewhat plagiarised) annual report in the nick of time

Oakbay Resources and Energy, the JSE-listed company majority owned by the Gupta family, on Wednesday delivered its annual report to shareholders just seven hours before its deadline to do so expired.

But what it delivered didn’t seem to be entirely the company’s own work.

Oakbay emailed shareholders its annual integrated report for the year ending February 2016 after close of business on Wednesday. By JSE rules, it must provide such a report within six months of its year-end – a deadline that expired at midnight that same day.

According to the report, it had been approved by the Oakbay board of directors and signed the same day. The letters from the chairperson, chief executive and chief financial officer were also dated the same day, August 31, indicating some haste in proceedings.

Oakbay was already in breach of listing requirements because it had been unable to find a new JSE sponsor after Sasfin Capital quit that position in June.

Late on Thursday morning, however, it told shareholders in a terse announcement that River Group had taken over the job. River also acts as sponsor for transport group Santova and Tanzania exploration company Kibo Mining.

The South African energy sector is very exciting for investors, Oakbay said, and it is uniquely positioned to take advantage of a coming boom in uranium prices while also profiting from coal mining. Raising capital would be a major priority for management in the coming period.

Oakbay, said chief executive Jacques Roux, “continues to search for further opencast contract mining opportunities in the coal sector, as well as the potential acquisition of well-priced, high-quality coal assets”.

The company would also require money to develop its largely mothballed uranium mine, it said.

In explaining why uranium is promising, Oakbay reproduced, verbatim, vast swaths of material from the website and American Securities Exchange Commission filings of Denison Mines, a Canadian uranium exploration company.

A section on the promise of the coal sector repeated the analysis of another competitor, the German-listed miner that operates in South Africa, Ichor Coal. Though Ichor itself did not rate a mention, one of its webpages was reproduced in the Oakbay report down to the use of the same graphics in the same places.

Other unacknowledged sources that contributed large sections of text to the Oakbay report included a three-year-old article by CNBC Africa on women in mining, and a paper from the Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry at the University of the Witwatersrand, published in 2007.

Oakbay also copied large sections verbatim from its 2015 annual report and earlier company documents.

“The report comprises an honest, measured account of the group’s approach to sustainability,” Oakbay said.

Oakbay did not immediately respond to questions on the apparent instances of plagiarism. But, 11 hours after the Mail & Guardian sent it questions, Oakbay reissued its annual report and apologised for a “clerical error” in which a note was omitted. All information in its section analysing the external environment, the note said, almost 3 000 words, had been “sourced and reproduced in entirety from” Denison and Ichor.

Only then did Oakbay respond to the M&G. “It was always the company’s intention to attribute this content to its original sources,” it said.

The company did not respond to other and further questions.

An Ichor representative said the companies had had no dealings with one another.

In March, Oakbay Investments, the holding company of the Gupta family’s businesses, published a double-page advertisement in The New Age, which it controls, headlined: “Gupta Family: The Inconvenient Truth”.

The spread explained the origin of various Gupta companies and answered “accusations” with “truth”.

The ad consisted almost entirely of a verbatim reproduction of information published by one Connor Mead on a website created in February,

No trace could be found of Mead beyond the website and associated social media accounts, all of which have since become inactive. Mead never responded to attempts to contact him over the course of several months. Representatives of the Gupta family also never responded directly to detailed questions about Mead, saying only that “there is no co-ordinated online or social media campaign by Oakbay Investments or the Gupta family”.

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Phillip De Wet
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