No more secrets for Sekunjalo

May 30 2013 18:05

Wits journalism professor Anton Harber wrote in a column that SIM consortium head Iqbal Surve was being secretive about the purchase of INM. (Shutterstock)

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Johannesburg - Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM), which is buying Independent News and Media (INM), will reveal its consortium members next month, it said on Thursday.

"The Sekunjalo Independent Media Consortium today announced that it will release the details of its consortium members and funding partners on the June 20 2013," it said in a statement.

The announcement was necessary after "much speculation" on the deal and its funding partners.

"Whilst SIM has previously stated that the consortium and funding partners would be disclosed after the extraordinary general meeting of the sellers (INM) convened on June 17, this has been deliberately ignored and misrepresented in the media, especially by competitors of INM.

"SIM and the sellers have a specific commercial transaction, with confidentiality agreements and transaction timetable, which must be respected, as in all such commercial transactions."

On May 22, Wits journalism professor Anton Harber wrote in a column that SIM consortium head Iqbal Surve was being secretive about the purchase.

"There is also no clarity on how the R2bn purchase is being funded, since this amount appears to be beyond the scope of his existing companies and assets," Harber wrote.

There was major public interest in who owned and funded the group, at a time when the Print Media Transformation Task Group was looking into diversity of print media ownership. The African National Congress had expressed concerns about monopolies in the industry.

"And since this is a company that has been suffocated by the debt of its parent company, the terms of the loan may be crucial," Harber said.

INM, whose titles include Isolezwe, The Star and the Cape Times, was being sold by its Irish owner.

Harber later added to his online column that Surve had contacted him and told him a report on BDLive Harber had referred to, that the Government Employees Pension Fund was a 25% shareholder for R500m, was not true. He would not give the correct figure.

Surve also took umbrage at a column by Sunday Times Business editor Rob Rose, who called the deal "curiouser and curiouser".

SIM said it was concerned that competitors had used a version of documents provided to the Competition Commission to "misrepresent" the SIM consortium in the media.

"SIM wants to reiterate that it has provided the Competition Commission with the necessary information relating to the consortium. SIM will not be persuaded by competitors to change its timetable of the announcement of the consortium and its funding partners."

It wanted a stop to speculation and allegations made without evidence.

"Furthermore, SIM wishes to state its concern that it is being subjected to unusual scrutiny in some public quarters in relation to this transaction, when there has been no such scrutiny when others have acquired competitor media groups, or as to who the owners or funders are of such competitor media groups," it said.

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