Commission recommends Media24 divest majority stake in Novus

Johannesburg - The Competition Commission on Monday recommended that Media24 divest its majority shareholding of printing group Novus Holdings to Naspers shareholders and retain a non-controlling 19% stake in the company.

“The Competition Commission has decided to recommend the merger filing for approval to the Competition Tribunal subject to the condition that Media24 divest itself of the majority of its shareholding in Novus; permitting Media24 to retain a non-controlling minority stake in Novus of 19%,” Media24 said in a statement on Monday.

“The merger condition, including the proposed 19%, remains subject to the final approval of the Competition Tribunal.

“If the Competition Tribunal approves the merger condition, Media24 will unbundle the majority of its shareholding in Novus to the shareholders of Naspers, its ultimate holding company,” Media24 said.

“The timing of this next part of the process is dependent on the Competition Tribunal processes and we will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the process is concluded as soon as possible to end this period of legal uncertainty,” Media24 said.  

Despite the proposed unbundling, Media24 said it remains committed to its print media operations. “Print media is and will remain a core part of Media24’s portfolio.

“We are excited about the future of Media24, and the conclusion of this process enables us to focus on our objective of enriching the lives of our consumers through our strong portfolio of digital and print media products, efashion, ecommerce services and online job classifieds," Media24 said.

Listing of Novus on JSE

In February 2015, Media24 announced its intention to list Novus on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

An urgent application which sought to stop the listing was dismissed by the Competition Tribunal on 23 March 2015. An appeal was lodged against the Competition Tribunal’s ruling.

On 25 November 2015 the Competition Appeal Court ruled that the implementation of the restated management agreement leading up to the listing gave rise to a change in control over Novus.

The Competition Appeal Court required that Media24 notify the competition authorities of the transaction by way of a merger filing. The merger was filed with the Competition Commission in February 2016.  

A merger between Media24, Novus Holdings - formerly Paarl Media Group - and the Natal Witness was approved by the Competition Tribunal in 2012.

Prior to the merger, the Competition Commission and Caxton publishers and printers had provided submissions on potential competition and public interest concerns with the merger.

Former Novus chairperson Lambert Retief, who passed away in January this year, decided against his decision to retire and sell the minority shares under his control 2014, of which Media24 now owns the majority share.

Retief had built up Novus (previously Paarl Media) from a family business in Paarl and began trading on the JSE in 2015.

Novus Holdings posted a revenue increase of 4.5% in the six months ended September 30 2016, despite tough trading conditions.

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