DeadlocK between multinational computer giants and their local counterparts could delay the long-awaited information technology and computer (ICT) charter beyond its June deadline.

The third draft charter stipulates that technology companies must sell between 25% and 35% of their equity to black investors by 2009 to get scorecard points far beyond existing levels for black ownership of 2,9%.

Some foreign groups, including Microsoft, IBM and Hewlett Packard, contend they should be exempted from this requirement, but have faced heated opposition mainly from local companies.

Charter working group chairman Dali Mpofu said yesterday the sector might not meet its own deadline to hand the charter to government by the end of June.

Luanne Grant, director of the American Chamber of Commerce in SA, which is representing the foreign groups, said the multinationals were still prepared to negotiate, and they "did not want to lay any threats on the table". She said it was "not impossible" some foreign companies may withdraw from SA if they were not granted certain exemptions.

Patrick Makhubedu, the Gauteng chair of the South African Communications Forum, insisted yesterday that "all the targets are reasonable", and "we believe no exemptions will be given".

But Mpofu said that if the foreign companies were to actually withdraw from SA, "it will be a sad day for SA business".

Business Day