The South African Press Association’s board has approved Sekunjalo Investment Holding’s (SIH) bid for Sapa’s assets. These include content and photographic archives, the Sapa ‘brand’ and its physical assets. The deal includes Sapa’s liabilities, too.
Chris Borain, CEO of the African News Agency (ANA), of which also SIH is the founding investor, said in a statement that the agency had received confirmation from the Sapa board’s chairperson, Minette Ferreira.
“Our bid for the Sapa assets was extremely important and we are very happy that it has now been approved by the Sapa board,” Borain said. “We want to make it clear that Sekunjalo’s intention was always to protect and safeguard the Sapa brand and the important role it played in South Africa’s media history.
“We also want to place it on record that we reached out to Gallo and KMMR, the other companies who had made a bid for Sapa, and extended a hand of partnership with them to see how we could work together to save Sapa and ensure that it was commercially sustainable,” said Borain, who is also Sekunjalo’s head of digital.
Ferreira announced in February that Sapa would file its last story at midnight on 31 March. The board appointed Nkonki Incorporated, an independent firm of auditors and financial advisers, to help Sapa shut down. “The board has confirmed the sale but the legal sales agreement has not been signed. Once it has been signed I can give you further comment and detail pertaining to your questions. This will take place in the next few days,” Ferreira told The Media Online.
Borain said Sekunjalo had tried to save Sapa, going as far as approaching Media24 to partner with them to keep it afloat. But, he added, the group “opted to rather have SAPA shut down and see over 70 people lose their jobs, than to work with us”.
“At a time when competition and hostility amongst media houses is at its most intense, we at Sekunjalo were completely open about our intention to work together with our competitors to keep Sapa afloat, for the benefit of the broader South African media industry, but it was not to be. We will now evaluate how best to utilise the Sapa assets going forward,” he said.
A number of current Sapa employees including its news editor, Fienie Grobler, have joined Media24’s new service, News24Wire. ANA, said Borain, had secured the services of more Sapa staffers in its efforts to build “a strong team of journalists to deliver a quality, neutral news agency product at ANA”. He said the launch of ANA had created employment in the media sector, despite it being a difficult time for media owners.
ANA and its competitors – News24Wire and Times Media Group’s Rand Daily Mail News Wire – will have a tough battle ahead to secure this hotly contested space. But Borain said he looked forward to “comparing our service with theirs in South Africa, but our objectives are far broader and continental in nature as we establish ANA globally as the African continent’s first multimedia content syndication agency”.
Borain said Independent Media – of which Sekunjalo Independent Media consortium is the major shareholder – has signed on as ANA’s first subscriber. But the agency has “been engaging with and are in the process of, signing up many of Sapa’s long-time clients and subscribers”.
Note: The Media Online has asked further questions of Borain and the Sapa board and will update this story shortly.
IMAGE: The Sapa newsroom
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