“Times Media’s collusion claim is scurrilous”

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TimeMediaGroupHQ Independent Newspapers. Times Media Group head offices in Rosebank in Johannesburg. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi.

Johannesburg - The chief executive of Sekunjalo Investments, Khalid Abdulla, rejected the “scurrilous attempt” by the Sunday Times and its owner, Times Media Group (TMG), to smear his company’s reputation and good name, he said yesterday.

The newspaper reported this week that Premier Fishing, a subsidiary of listed Sekunjalo Investments, could face a multimillion-rand fine over allegations of price collusion between it and other fishing companies.

This follows a complaint lodged almost six years ago against big fishing companies. It was alleged that the companies were colluding to set uniform prices for skippers, crew and private boat owners, according to the newspaper.

Abdulla said in a statement that his company had been subjected to defamatory remarks by TMG over the past few months since Sekunjalo Holdings, a sister company to the listed vehicle, led a consortium that acquired TMG’s rival, Independent News and Media South Africa (INMSA).

INMSA publishes Business Report and its carrier papers.

“It is well known that Premier Fishing is in discussion with the Competition Commission around an investigation into the small pelagic [fishing] industry and this is yet another attempt by the Sunday Times to portray Premier Fishing in a bad light,” he said.

Commission spokesman Themba Mathebula said yesterday that the case had not been referred to the Competition Tribunal for final adjudication yet.

“The commission only confirmed that its legal service division was finalising the referral process,” he said.

Abdulla said Premier Fishing and Sekunjalo were hesitant to comment on the Sunday Times allegations as they respected the authority of the Competition Commission during this process.

However, Sekunjalo had been forced to defend its public reputation due to the malicious campaign by the Sunday Times to defame the company.

Abdulla said this was the second time in as many months that the newspaper had completely disregarded and disrespected regulatory authorities and their processes by publishing incomplete information and using it to create the impression that the company had committed a transgression.

He said: “While Premier Fishing has been engaged in a settlement with the commission to deal with the matter, taking into account the legal costs and management time, it does not believe that it has been guilty of contravening the Competition Act in relation to any matter involving the pelagic industry.”

He added that TMG papers and online sites had published almost 60 articles on Sekunjalo since the INMSA acquisition.

“In almost all instances, the articles are defamatory and an attempt to paint a negative picture of Sekunjalo in the eyes of the public, readers and advertisers.

“This shameful attack by the Sunday Times and TMG’s associated newspapers and online sites is a desperate attempt to undermine INMSA in the marketplace,” Abdulla said. - Business Report



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