South African racing gets lifeline

South Africa's biggest horse-racing company Phumelela Gaming & Leisure Ltd, which filed for business rescue last week, has been handed a lifeline.

It will receive 100 million rand (S$7.7 million) from Mary Oppenheimer, daughter of the late mining magnate Harry Oppenheimer.

The failure of Phumelela would have a devastating effect on the industry, and the funds are an attempt to save the sector, said Wehann Smith, a board member of Mary Oppenheimer Daughters Ltd and a director of the Racing Association.

Phumelela, which operates four racecourses, five training centres and over 200 tote outlets, has been unable to stage events since the government banned large gatherings in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The board took this decision with the knowledge of a deal with Mary Oppenheimer Daughters Ltd (MOD). The group is central to the racing industry and its failure would have a devastating impact," said a Phumelela statement.

"The injection of funds will allow the group to meet its financial obligations for the duration of the business rescue process, including the payment of stakes at levels agreed by the Racing Association.

"It must be stressed that the opportunity will be short-lived and will rely on all stakeholders having to make significant compromises. Government will be a crucial stakeholder in the future of racing, and while there has been positive engagement, a lot of work remains."