Sapa to become fully commercial

The SA Press Association (Sapa) will be reconstituted and commercially revamped which will include an expanded shareholder base, its board announced on Monday.

“The intentions are that the independent domestic wire service’s 76-year-old non-profit business model will be replaced with a commercial entity which will be capitalised and briefed to become a modern fully multimedia provider of news coverage of and to South Africa and the African continent,” the board said in a statement.

“[The new company] will include original member newspaper companies of the current association, as well as investment and participation by other media-based companies who see value in the project and especially in the benefits of a vibrant, cost-effective and autonomous South African and African multi-platform news agency.”

Interested parties in the new company were Gallo Images, of which current Sapa member Media24 is a substantial shareholder, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, which has a substantial holding in Independent Newspapers, and KMM Review Publishers.

The Citizen newspaper also confirmed at a recent board meeting, that it would return to Sapa as a full member.

“The Sapa board has communicated its approach to each of the interested parties, and anticipates discussions, soon, on further detail,” it said.

“The board noted that misperceptions that the company would be sold to the highest bidder are incorrect. Sapa is a Section 21 non-profit company and as such cannot be simply sold.”

The board said the dissolution of the Section 21 non-profit structure and the establishment of the new entity would go through full legal processes with complete transparency.

“Particular attention will be paid throughout this process to ensuring the interests of all employees of Sapa are meticulously and correctly attended to, as well as seeking where possible to maximise opportunities for these staffers within the new company.

“Independent external experts will be engaged to carry out the complex brief of reconstituting Sapa, with an instruction to start work without delay,” the board said.

The latest development comes after Gallo Images expressed interest in Sapa’s operations.

In July, Gallo Images announced that it was conducting a due diligence process into the possibility of acquiring Sapa and commercialising it from the current non-profit business model.

Gallo Images made a presentation to the Sapa board in August on how the news agency could become part of its operations.

Times Media Group withdrew its membership from Sapa last year, with Caxton following suit in July, and Independent Newspapers planning to withdraw from November this year.

“This left the current operational model needing revision. The board then decided it needed to try to find a new home for Sapa, with the board receiving enquiries from other organisations, with some of them being based overseas,” the Sapa board said in a statement in July.

Media24 remained a Sapa board member.

The withdrawal of the membership by the other three media houses did not mean withdrawal as subscribers to the Sapa service.

Independent Newspapers and Caxton remained as Sapa subscribers. TMG’s digital platforms also remained subscribers.

A month after Gallo’s announcement, Sekunjalo Investment Holdings and KMM Review Publishing expressed interest in acquiring the news agency.

The Sapa board on Monday said it held a meeting on September 2, where Media24 general manager Minette Ferreira was elected chairwoman.

Media24’s Fergus Sampson and Independent Newspapers’ Dave Tiffin were elected to the board at the meeting. The Citizen’s Piet Greyling was appointed as a director.

The new appointments joined the existing directors Tony Howard of Independent Newspapers and Adriaan Basson of Media24.

“The principal decisions to secure Sapa’s future have been confirmed,” Ferreira said.

“We expect the implementation phase to start very soon and will issue further statements in due course.”

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Sapa to become fully commercial