INVESTMENT giant Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI), headed by canny deal maker and former trade unionist Johnny Copelyn, has taken a swipe at “regulatory inhibitions” hindering growth and expansion of the group’s underlying subsidiaries.

In comments accompanying HCI’s interim report released on Thursday, Mr Copelyn highlighted impediments to its investments in gaming, broadcasting, leisure, and the oil and gas sector. HCI, which has a market capitalisation of about R13bn, holds its major investment in gaming group Tsogo Sun.

It also owns significant stakes in e-Media Holdings (, eNCA and OpenView), alternative gaming and liquor group Niveus, and industrial company Deneb, as well as holding interests in property, coal mining as well as oil and gas exploration.

In contextualising the group’s gripes, Mr Copelyn explained that HCI had found most of its opportunities in businesses with significant “political risk” as they were dependent on licences, subsidies or government-controlled contracts.

“As such, bemoaning the regulatory inhibitions on our businesses is really a statement of how much more could be achieved if political risk could be more successfully managed, rather than a simple statement of criticism.” But Mr Copelyn specifically referred to “endless difficulties” with gaming licences — where regulators had imposed unacceptable inhibitions on the progress of rolling out businesses that they had licensed.

Niveus has been frustrated in its efforts to roll out its electronic bingo terminals (EBTs) in KwaZulu-Natal. The Niveus interim report noted that problems in KwaZulu-Natal had not been resolved and numerous court cases were under way to set aside the potential revocation of the EBT licences.

Niveus said it was operating three sites in the province, but no EBTs were operational there as the gaming board had not issued it with the necessary certificate.

At the same time, there was a growing illegal gambling sector being re-established with virtually no enforcement of any laws prohibiting it.

“As a result, it is largely left to the legal gambling industry to try to resist such unlawful competition, which is disappointing to say the least.”

Mr Copelyn expressed frustration at regulations around free digital television where HCI subsidiary e-Media Holdings has seen setbacks in rolling out its free-to-air OpenView multichannel bouquet. In June, a High Court ruling stipulated that government-subsidised set-top boxes did not require encryption to receive digital terrestrial television.

OpenView has argued that encryption would ensure a reliable viewer experience as well as the ability to broadcast premium and high-definition content.

Mr Copelyn also weighed in on the delays in separating issues affecting prospecting for offshore oil and gas from those affecting the regulation of mining. “These have taken an unduly long time to resolve,” he said.

“Though there don’t necessarily seem to be any disagreements between industry and the state, just getting the legislation to reflect the common purpose established, and releasing the industry to move forward, has proven impossible to date.”

Mr Copelyn argued that the offshore oil and gas industry could transform several key aspects of the country’s economy. “The fact that it is held up by red tape is seriously undesirable.”

Opportune Investments CEO Chris Logan commended Mr Copelyn on his remarks. “These are spot on. He is bravely speaking out … articulating issues that most other executives remain silent about.”

Source: BDLive – Mark Hasenfuss