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By John Helmer, Moscow

Nemascore, the South African buyer of Evraz Highveld, the loss-making steel and vanadium producer, is run by a part-time lawyer, a part-time entrepreneur, and the part-time executive of Fire Check, a Durban-based company specializing for the past twenty years in installing home and office fire alarms around that east coast city.

One of this trio has acknowledged that to find $320 million — the price Nemascore has agreed to pay Evraz for the loss-making Highveld — it is negotiating with the South African government’s Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to guarantee repayment of a loan for the transaction amount. That loan, according to other SA sources, is to be issued by Russia’s state-controlled bank, VTB. Why everything else is secret about a deal which (apparently) repatriates to South African ownership a well-known steelmaking company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, is a deep-six mystery. Read the story so far here.

Evraz, which is loss-making itself at the moment, announced yesterday in its financial report for 2012 that it has “executed non-binding term sheet for potential sale of EVRAZ Highveld in March 2013”. If that sounded tentative towards the outcome of the deal, during a conference call with analysts yesterday afternoon, Evraz claimed the transaction is with a consortium of investors and has a high probability of completion.

How this is possible with Nemascore, which is declining to make public details of its business, assets, accounts, and personnel is suggested by a Russian banking source, who believes the consortium must include a related party or guarantor of the debt financing which either has the cashflow to secure repayment of $320 million, or can issue sovereign South African guarantees. Asked what VTB is likely to require for its part in the deal, the source said: “It cannot be non-recourse or recourse to Nemascore assets – [they are] presumably only Highveld, which is loss-making. No Russian bank would take on that risk.”

Three directors of Nemascore have now been identified, the chief of which is Linda Makatini. She is a lawyer by training and a state employee engaged until recently as chairman of the board at the South African government’s State Diamond Trader in Johannesburg. That organization’s corporate secretary, Desiree Fisher, insists on keeping secret the circumstances of Makatini’s recent departure as chairman, and though she remains a board member, Makatini’s current contact details.

A second director of Nemascore, Pathmananthan Alwar, confirmed from his Durban office today that he works with Nemascore, and that he is familiar with the transaction for Highveld. He also deferred concrete questions about the financing by VTB and the participation of IDC until he could get clearance from Makatini, whom Alwar described as his “leader”.

South African company records show Alwar has been a director of property investment companies in the KwaZulu-Natal region around Durban. Their names are True Red Investments, Melody Six Investments, Four Rhapsody Investments, H J Nel Properties, and Chelsea Mall. Alwar is also registered as a significant shareholder in Fire Check. Alwar was asked what repayment guarantees are being provided in support of Nemascore’s acquisition of Highveld for $320 million? Who is associated with Nemascore as co-investor or participants in the acquisition of Highveld? And what expertise in steel and vanadium he and his colleagues in Nemascore have in managing the acquisition? By telephone he responded he “can’t say more on these issues”. He did not respond to the emailed questions.

A third director identified at Nemascore is named Patrick Bruce Manuel. Company records reveal that in his career so far Manuel has been employed by the J&J Group, the holding company of Jayaseelan and Jayendra Naidoo, two well-known businessmen connected to the South African government, the trade union movement, the state development banks, and to the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party. Two other Naidoo family members, Rajen and Savendra, appear in Alwar’s company records as a co-director and as a company auditor.

Manuel’s companies include MFG Health Solutions, Ngwe Vending, PMB Health and Safety Services, PMB United, and Manuel & Du Plessis Business Development.

Evraz spokesman, Tatiana Drachuk, was asked to clarify the parties in the Highveld transaction with Nemascore. She claims: “We are negotiating only with Nemascore.”

In Moscow VTB is neither denying nor confirming details of its participation in the deal. It says: “We do not comment on this information.”

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