The South African Press Association’s constitution as a Section 21 company means it will have to be dissolved in its current format in order to be “reconstituted” to take on its new role as a commercial venture as it cannot be bought or sold.
New chairwoman of the board, Minette Ferreira, says the association’s board, when it decided that in order to save Sapa it needed to restructure the 76-year-old news organisation, part of the process would that it would “invite interested parties, which are the current ones: Gallo, Sekunjalo and KMMR, to discuss future shareholding. It will also be open to other parties. The old structure must be dissolved to make way for the a commercial venture,” Ferreira told The Media Online.
She said the news business model was “now in development with the assistance of outside consultants and more details will only be available over the next months”.
Ferreira says the board is only in the starting phase right now, and that it would engage with each interested party to agree on next steps and any future involvement in the new body.
Because Sapa is a Section 21 operation it has no real monetary value. Earlier this year former chairman, Tim du Plessis, said its “biggest value lies in the brand, its network and operations, including the archives. These can only be sustained if a new model for ‘ownership’ and operations is found”.
One of the interested parties, Gallo Images, said its interests and those of Sapa’s were aligned. CEO Bruce Stewart told The Media Online, “Both are wholesale licensors of IP to the publishing industry. We share common ground on a number of fronts. Text is a natural extension of our editorial video, multimedia and image offering. We also service and sell to largely the same customer base”.
Sekunjalo, in its bid as an interested party, said it was interested in turning Sapa into a multi-platform Africa-wide organisation. Sekunjalo already has substantial investments on the continent, in sectors such as technology, consumer industries, and health services. We intend to take Sapa into territory we understand very well, and intend to make it part of the wider African growth story. Apart from continuing the Sapa traditions of quality local content, the plan will be to expand the operation to become a major provider of content and other news services covering Africa,” Sekunjalo chairman, Dr Iqbal Survé said.
Ferreira said the process of winding up Sapa in its current form would be finalised within the current fiscal, which ends March 2015 but that it would be business as usual in the meantime, with Sapa continuing to provide content to its subscribers and shareholders.
Details such as how the new ownership be constituted in terms of shareholdings are still being finalised. Asked what a new board would look like, Ferreira said, “This will only be clear once the new business development process is concluded.” She also couldn’t comment if there would be an African element or what kind of investment would be made.
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