Africa’s Biggest Fund Manager CEO Elias Masilela Resigns

May 30, 2014 10:23 am ET

(Updates with attempts to contact Masilela in final paragraph.)

May 30 (Bloomberg) -- Elias Masilela resigned as the chief executive officer of South Africa’s Public Investment Corp., Africa’s biggest fund manager and the largest shareholder on the Johannesburg stock exchange.

Masilela, 50, will take outstanding leave immediately and officially step down on June 30 after more than three years in the job, the Pretoria-based PIC, which manages 1.6 trillion rand ($153 billion) in assets, said in an e-mailed statement today. Chief Financial Officer Matshepo More will be acting head of the manager of the pension funds of South African state workers.

The PIC has used its shareholding to prevent foreign takeovers of South African companies including pharmaceuticals maker Adcock Ingram Holdings Ltd. and to force the departure of the chief executive officer of Togo’s Ecobank Transnational Inc.

The PIC holds 11 percent of the value on Johannesburg’s stock exchange, including 13.6 percent of Naspers Ltd., South Africa’s biggest company by market value, and 14.1 percent of MTN Group Ltd., the second-biggest. It has invested in four African companies outside of the country.

“This adds to uncertainty and there must be transparency as soon as possible as to why he’s moving,” David Couldridge, an investment analyst at Element Investment Managers in Cape Town, said by phone. “A move to appoint a new leader needs to happen quickly.”

Leadership Pivotal

As well as increasing the PIC’s assets to 1.6 trillion rand from 1 trillion rand in 2010, Masilela sought to back development projects to underpin economic growth and fought for local control of companies.

“The leadership role at the PIC is pivotal, especially in the spiritual direction the entity provides to listed-corporate South Africa,” Standard Bank Group Ltd. Chief Economist Goolam Ballim said by phone from Johannesburg. “Mr. Masilela injected clinical and extensive understanding of investment markets and risk.”

The PIC last year opposed CFR Pharmaceuticals SA’s 12.8 billion-rand offer for Adcock. Ecobank’s board in March replaced CEO Thierry Tanoh after the PIC called for him to quit amid allegations of mismanagement, which he denied.

“When you talk of growing an economy and empowering your people it is important that as you grow the economy you keep your people in control of the economy,” Masilela said in an April 1 interview. “The logic is, you’ve built up this investment and if you can run it, why don’t you run it yourself.”

Masilela didn’t immediately respond to text and voice messages seeking comment.