Asha Speckman

 

Independent News & Media (INM) confirmed last night that Investec and Hawpoint had been appointed to investigate the sale of the company’s South African operations, Independent News & Media South Africa (INMSA).

The sale was being considered as one of the options facing the heavily indebted parent company, it said.

A media analyst said other options included a rights issue and a debt-for-equity swop, but controlling shareholder Denis O’Brien was unlikely to be keen on these as they would dilute his 29.9 percent holding.

According to recent reports, O’Brien has indicated that he wanted to sell the South African operations.

The Financial Times stated that the advisers had been appointed by INM to “work towards a sale”, which it said could value INMSA at about E250 million (R2.5 billion).

There was speculation that INM had issued the confirmation as a denial of reports that the South African business had actually been sold. INM spokesman Pat Walsh said yesterday: “Certainly no decision has been taken regarding this investment… the company is assessing all its options.

“My understanding is that Hawpoint has been conducting a review for some months now but to my knowledge there is no formal process and no board decision has been taken.”

The Financial Times reported that likely buyers could include Shanduka Investment Holdings, run by Cyril Ramaphosa, and Sekunjalo Investment Holdings. Sekunjalo chief executive Iqbal Survé was reportedly sighted at the INM annual general meeting in Dublin early last month.

It is also understood that the Guptas, who own The New Age newspaper, have expressed an interest in acquiring INMSA.

Survé said he did not respond to speculation but said while listed Sekunjalo Investments was not involved, it did “not exclude the rest of the Sekunjalo group”.

Maureen Phatsoe, a spokeswoman for Shanduka Group, said the company had not expressed an interest in INMSA.

Tony Howard, managing director of INMSA referred enquiries to the parent company, saying he was not in a position to comment. “Our total focus as management is on running the business. As far as I understand they are doing investigations into refinance.”