SA consortium seals major media deal

2013-02-19 00:00

THE sale of Independent News and Media’s South African business to a local consortium has been met with optimism from insiders and experts.

Sekunjalo Independent Media Consortium, led by business mogul Iqbal Surve, offered R2 billion to clinch the deal.

Surve, who is chairperson of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, said the consortium had big plans for its new acquisition, including establishing new vernacular titles across the country as well as bringing the company up to speed with the digital age.

He said new vernacular titles had shown exceptional growth in countries such as China, India and Brazil.

He said they would also invest rigorously in journalists and bring the company up to speed with the digital times.

Insiders close to the transaction said the R2 billion price tag exceeded expectations, especially seeing that the company was selling off assets and using profit to service debt in Ireland.

Surve said there were various bids, some ranging from R2,4 billion to R2,8 billion and Sekunjalo was the lowest bidder at R2 billion.

“We did an extensive due diligence and we knew what we were doing. We got a good price and the business is highly profitable. This is 50% of what was paid for Avusa and two years ago we would have paid double,” Surve said.

Speculation was also rife about the future of the current management, but Surve said: “We will meet with them [management] and tell them that this is where we want the company to go. If they believe in that vision then they can remain,” he said.

Anton Harber, the director of journalism and media studies at Wits University, told The Witness that the move may not change the media landscape of SA that much, but a positive sign was that ownership was returning to SA.

The deal still has to get approval from the Competition Commission.

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