The South African government’s employee pension fund will get a 25 per cent stake in Independent News and Media’s operation there if the sale of the print media company to an investment consortium is finalised.
INM South Africa has been bought from its Irish owners for two billion Rand (€170 million) by Sekunjalo Independent Media, a company set up by Dr Iqbal Survé to purchase the country's largest English-language print outlet.
Both parties signed a binding agreement in February, but this is subject to regulatory approval from the South African Reserve Bank and the Competition Commission and the Irish Stock Exchange.
INMSA owns 15 of the country's most widely read English-language titles, including daily newspapers the Star in Johannesburg, the Mercury in Durban and the Cape Times in Cape Town.
Until now it has been unclear who all the Sekunjalo Independent Media shareholders were, but Business Day newspaper yesterday outlined those involved.
In addition to the government employees fund, Sekunjalo’s shareholders include Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, and businessman Sandile Zungu.
Dr Survé, the company's chief executive officer, served in the ANC during the struggle against apartheid and was former president Nelson Mandela's medical doctor for a time.
The Competition Commission received official notice of the deal between INM and Sekunjalo on April 30th and has up to 60 working days to make its ruling. It can approve the deal, grant a conditional approval or reject it outright.
The government’s 25 per cent stake in INMSA would significantly increase its overall stake in South Africa’s media and is likely to raise concerns regarding excessive state influence in the sector.
In recent times, President Jacob Zuma's government has also been accused of keeping the New Age newspaper afloat through the provision of state advertising deals.
Pension fund spokesperson Khanya Buthelezi told the Business Day the purchase of the stake in INMSA was in line with its government mandate.
“In terms of our development investment policy, to which we have allocated 50 per cent [about R60bn] of total assets under management, we seek to invest in commercially viable projects that deliver both financial and social returns,” he was quoted as saying. “In addition, we seek to promote black economic empowerment . . .”