‘Sekunjalo gunning for INMSA’

By Wiseman Khuzwayo. Time of article published Aug 8, 2012

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The Irish owners of Independent Newspapers, publishers of Business Report, The Star and the Cape Times, had received a R2.4 billion bid for the South African operations from a consortium led by Iqbal Survé, the executive chairman of Sekunjalo Holdings, a source familiar with the matter said yesterday.

Sources inside the group said an announcement on the outcome of a review process to weigh options for Independent News & Media South Africa (INMSA) was expected within a month.

The announcement would most likely dovetail with an extraordinary meeting of the parent company, INM, in Dublin, on August 27, to appoint four new non-executive directors to the board.

The company is weighing the prospect of a sale, but it is also engaged in talks with its lenders to restructure its debt. Last month, INM appointed Investec and Canaccord Genuity Hawkpoint to explore a range of strategic options for its South African operations.

“The (Sekunjalo) offer has money and is bankable and it’s underwritten by a global investment bank,” a source said.

But Survé, responding to enquiries by Business Report, refused to confirm or deny that his consortium had made the R2.4bn offer. “We do not respond to media speculation,” Survé said.

When INM announced the hiring of its advisers in July, the company said further updates on the process would be made as appropriate.

But so far the company has not commented on how the process is progressing.

Pat Walsh, a spokesman for INM, said that any announcement would be made within the formalities of the Irish Stock Exchange.

James Morrissey, a spokesman for Denis O’Brien, a 29 percent shareholder of INM, referred enquiries about the bid to the company.

Even so, a source familiar with the group’s bidding process said that Sekunjalo had submitted its bid almost two weeks ago, and at R2.4bn, the bid was in line with what O’Brien had indicated the South African media company was valued at.

South African business heavyweight Lazarus Zim was also rumoured to have formed a consortium with the Gupta brothers, the owners of The New Age newspaper, to make an offer.

But when contacted yesterday, Zim said: “Lies, lies, lies. I have not been approached by anybody and I have not met with anyone about that.

“I parted ways with the Guptas long time ago.”

Staff at the South African company are setting up a staff trust to buy a 25 percent stake in the operation in the event of a sale so that they may have a say in how it is run.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is the patron of the trust.

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