Tiso Blackstar Group has announced the sale of its media, broadcast and content businesses to Lebashe Investment Group for R1,05 billion. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA).
CAPE TOWN - Lebashe Investment Group’s (LIG) acquisition of the media, broadcasting and content business of Tiso Blackstar Holdings (Tiso), including its publications such as Sunday Times and Business Day, would significantly transform the media landscape in South Africa, Lebashe chairperson Tshepo Mahloele said on Friday.

The acquisition was in line with LIG’s growth trajectory and complemented the group's financial services and technology assets, he said in a statement.

Tiso’s investors reacted positively to the sale, with the share price rising by 17.85percent on Friday to close at R3.83.

The Black Business Council (BBC) also congratulated LIG on its acquisition. “The BBC has long called for diversity of ownership in all sectors of the economy and this transaction augurs well for socio-economic transformation in this important sector of the economy, media,” said BBC president Sandile Zungu.

However, Thabang Mothelo, the Information Communication Technology Union media officer and chief union negotiator with Tiso on its recent restructuring, said the union had “mixed feelings” about the deal and was worried about possible additional job losses at Tiso in the months ahead.

On the one hand, the deal would put major media services under effective black control and was certainly a step in the right direction towards transformation in the sector, said Mothelo.

However, on Friday, which was the final day of the retrenchment process, Tiso had announced a new management structure comprising no women and no blacks, said Mothelo.

In addition, the fact that Tiso had not disclosed to the union that it had been involved in other negotiations with Lebashe, which might materially effect the outcome of the number of those employed at Tiso Blackstar was “discourteous and has left a sour taste on our tongues”, he said.

Tiso, struggling with falling circulation and advertising revenues, had initially identified 80 potential job losses, but the number was reduced to 19 through negotiations, said Mothelo.

However, it was possible the new owner might cut jobs further to rationalise costs, he said.

Mahloele said: “We believe Lebashe provides a compelling growth opportunity for the media, broadcasting and content business in Tiso Blackstar.

"Our combination of specialist pan-African expertise, technological and financial acumen, make us the ideal partners to take this business to the next level.”

Lebashe chief executive Warren Wheatley said they intend to adopt a hands-off strategy on the content creation and media interests, except when it came to new strategies to use technology in Lebashe’s investments, for the aggregation and distribution of content.

Wheatley said now was the right time, right close to the bottom of the business cycle, to make new investments.

Lebashe’s investment portfolio, according to its website, has a net asset value of R3billion, making the Tiso assets one of its biggest investments.

It has stakes in other companies including in Capitec Bank, Rainfin, Aluwani Capital, 4Africa Exchange, Texmex and the Repaid Group.

Mahloele appeared before the PIC Commission of Inquiry in Pretoria this year, where he rejected allegations by United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, who had told the commission that Lebashe, headed by former deputy finance minister Jabu Moleketi, PIC director Sibusisiwe Zulu, and Mahloele, had benefited unfairly from the Government Employee Pension Fund funding Lebashe’s investment in EOH over the six months to end January.

Lebashe is also the major empowerment partner in technology services group EOH, which is facing financial difficulties.

In April, EOH reported a loss of R3.3bn for the six months to end-January compared with last year’s profit of R67.5million.

Mahloele acknowledged that the media industry has been experiencing significant challenges due to dwindling readership and advertising revenues.

“As long-term investors we are of the view that the assets in this acquisition possess the requisite brand equity, great heritage and potential for growth into the future,” said Mahloele.

Tiso said it would use the R1.05bn received for its media, broadcast and content businesses in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya to repay debt.

Tiso said it had helped to stabilise and grow the media, broadcasting and content assets since the acquisition of an initial stake in the then Times Media Group in 2012 and the subsequent outright purchase in 2015.

It has successfully integrated BDFM following the acquisition of the 50percent of the business it did not own, cleared out a significant number of under-performing and non-core businesses and had significantly grown its audience.

The deal would also allow Tiso to focus on its remaining businesses and investments, specifically marketing and communication business Hirt & Carter. Tiso would retain Gallo Music Group and develop it further.

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