WHAT do the Guptas own? In a two-hour interview on Wednesday the family went to some effort to explain. Oldest brother Ajay Gupta, second brother and Sahara Holdings MD Atul Gupta, close associate and MD of the family's investment vehicle Jagdish Parekh, and Duduzane Zuma, eldest son of President Jacob Zuma, sat down with Business Day.
Gupta family business interests are divided into two main groups - Sahara Holdings, which houses the family's IT interests, and Oakbay Investments, which operates a range of businesses related to mining.
The company, which started in 1997 and took on the name Sahara in 2000, is the best-known part of the family's business. The group's turnover was about R1bn in the financial year just ended and R500m-R600m of this came from Sahara Computers, which imports components and assembles laptops and PCs. The group sells IT consumables, such as toner cartridges, and distributes its own and imported branded products.
In the PC and laptop market, Sahara has a 30%-40% share of the dealer-based market and 10%- 12% of the retail market. It has "less than 1%" of the corporate market and less than 1% of the government market, says Ajay Gupta, described as the "final decision maker" by Mr Parekh.
Mr Gupta, while being the family spokesman and arbiter throughout the lengthy interview, has only one formal position. He is nonexecutive chairman of Vusizwe Media, the company through which former minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad publishes The Thinker journal.
It remains unclear how much money the Gupta family have or have brought into the country to build up to the position they have established today.
"They have brought money from their sources, the Indian sources, into the country," is all Mr Parekh says.
Mr Parekh boasts that Sahara - which has naming rights at Durban's Kingsmead oval and Cape Town's St George's Park - was the country's "number one" laptop brand in 2006, but Mr Gupta complains that the family's close association with President Jacob Zuma has cost, rather than made, them money.
"In 2007 . this company turnover was maybe about R2bn. So that's the influence we have in the government and the people, that our turnover dropped almost 30%-40%," he says. "It's nothing to do with the market."
The holdings paint a picture of a close-knit family business. The brothers' mother Angoori, Rajesh's wife Arti, Ajay's wife Shivani, Atul and his wife Chetali together own 73% of Sahara Holdings. Other entities with a shareholding are Afripalm Technology with 12,1%, Dunrose Investments 180 with 12,1%, and Pyramid Trading Eleven with a 2,8% stake.
The Guptas' Sahara Holdings has no formal link with Lucknow, India-based Sahara, sponsor of the Indian national cricket team and a company with interests including finance, media and entertainment, consumer products and IT, Mr Gupta says.
The two companies started a joint venture in India at the end of 2004, but in 2006 the Indian company "in effect" sold its stake and in 2007-08 - "recession time, it was not working", Mr Gupta says - the family sold its stake as well.
The Indian company could not be contacted yesterday.
The company's name takes the first six letters of the family hometown in India, Saharanpur. It combines their heritage with the Sahara Desert, Mr Gupta jokes.
Younger brother Atul, MD of Sahara Holdings, takes the analogy further. "The competition used to say to me I created a desert for the people in terms of the competition," he says. "We are very competitive."
President Zuma's son Duduzane is a director of subsidiary Sahara Computers. Duduzane's sister, Duduzile, was a director of Sahara Computers and other group companies, but held those positions for only about three months and has no further involvement with the group, Mr Parekh says.
The other main investment arm is Oakbay Investments Pty Ltd. This family-owned company is owned by Atul, Chetali, Rajesh and Arti Gupta. Oakbay is majority owner of Oakbay Resources and Energy Pty Ltd, which with an empowerment group, Islandsite Investments 255 Pty Ltd, owns Shiva Uranium Ltd, which operates the Dominion Mine it bought from Uranium One in May last year for 37,3m.
Shareholders in Islandsite Investments 255 include Duduzane Zuma's Mabengela, Lazarus Zim's Zim Holdings, the MK War Veterans Association, the MK War Veterans Association Women's Group, Aflease Workers Trust and management.
Duduzane Zuma and Rajesh Gupta, the directors of Mabengela, are also the directors of Islandsite Investments 255.
Oakbay Investments also owns a 60,74% stake in JIC, a mining services company whose customers include Impala Platinum, Bafokeng Platinum and Platinum Australia. Mr Parekh does not disclose JIC's turnover, but says he expects it to top R1,2bn in the year starting this month.
Oakbay also holds a 5% stake in Comair, the JSE-listed owner of budget airline kulula.com, and Atul is a nonexecutive director of Comair. Oakbay also holds the family interest in Tigeta Mining and Resources, a coal mining company.
The Guptas' stake in Mr Zim's Afripalm Holdings and Afripalm Resources is held through a separate family trust, Oakbay Trust. The beneficiaries are Atul, Chatali, Rajesh and Arti Gupta.
Through Sahara Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Oakbay Investments, the family owns a two-thirds stake in TNA, publisher of The New Age newspaper. Bennett Coleman, holding company of the Times of India newspaper, has a 7% stake. An empowerment consortium has a 26% stake.
There is also a stake in Clifftop Lodge in Welgevonden, a natural conservation area in Limpopo.
If steel giant ArcelorMittal SA's proposed empowerment deal with the Ayigobi consortium goes ahead, Ayigobi will own 21%, with staff holding another 5% of the steel maker.
Of Ayigobi's 21%, Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) will hold 10,5%. ICT is half-owned by Mr Parekh. A further 5,25% will be held by Oakbay Investments, Mabengela Investments, businessman Sandile Zungu and "others", Mr Parekh says . Within this grouping Mabengela will have 2,4% and Oakbay will have 1,3% of ArcelorMittal SA. Allocation of a further 5,25% remains up to the steel maker, Mr Parekh says.
ICT holds a prospecting right over a 21,4% stake in Kumba's Sishen mine that Mittal lost when it failed to meet a deadline to convert its right to a new-order mining right. Kumba has approached the high court to review the Department of Mineral Resources' grant of a prospecting right to ICT over 21,4% of Sishen instead of accepting Kumba's subsidiary's mining right application for the same property.
Whether the empowerment deal goes ahead is widely seen to hinge on the outcome of current legal action between ICT and Kumba Iron Ore.
"That could be one of the issues," says Mr Parekh.