Asha Speckman

TIMES Media Group (TMG), whose financial performance for the six months to December last year was boosted by profits from one-off items, is concluding further acquisitions in Africa, where it has ambitions to build a strong television presence.

The company, which publishes the Sowetan, Sunday Times and Business Day newspapers, said yesterday that the business environment in South Africa was difficult, with selected opportunities.

It said there were broadcast opportunities offering double-digit growth in other African markets.

It will create a new broadcast and content division from which it will operate its broadcasting operations, which include eight radio stations, its African Business Channel TV unit and Times Media Mobile.

The company said it was investing in new studios and production facilities at its headquarters in Rosebank to cater for increased programming and throughput at African Business Channel and Ochre.

Andrew Bonamour, the chief executive of TMG, said he was not available for comment.

Group profit for the period was R478 million, the bulk of which was R257m from discontinued operations. It gained R233m profit from the disposal of non-core assets, which included book publisher Random House Struik and Nu Metro cinemas. It realised R24m in profit from trading.

TMG’s shares shed 5.2 percent to R21.32 following the results announcement at midday. However, they ended 2.27 percent higher than Tuesday’s close at the day’s best level of R23.

An interim dividend of 25c a share was declared.

Revenue for the period rose 0.23 percent to R2.14 billion from R2.13bn in the comparable period a year earlier. Operating costs at continuing operations fell 18 percent to R357m following aggressive cost cutting, which included retrenchments.

Profit from the media division, which includes Business Day newspaper and online news platform Times Live, rose to R112m from R100m previously, but revenue from the newspaper business was flat. Circulation of the newspaper titles was steady. Retrenchment costs amounted to R5m.

Retail Solutions, which comprises printing interests in Uniprint as well as Hirt and Carter, reported profit of R76m. The company said the results were not comparable with R93m previously because it closed the web printing division in December 2012.

The unit acquired Bates Printing in Cape Town and Typesetting and Repro Services in Johannesburg to gain critical mass.

Earnings a share from continuing and discontinued operations were R3.75 compared with a loss of 17c a share for the same period previously.

Meanwhile, last Friday McGregor BFA, a financial data and analysis company, announced the completion of its acquisition of I-Net Bridge from TMG.

McGregor is owned by competing media firm Naspers.

I-Net Bridge is a financial data vendor that specialises in southern African markets.

“The new entity will have a financial database covering African markets and companies that is unmatched,” Andrew Philbrick, the chief executive of McGregor, said.

Details of the new joint leadership team would be announced in the next few weeks.