New license conditions loosen e.tv shareholding

Midi merges in Sabido Investments

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Media and black empowerment companies in South Africa are expected to scramble for shares in the country’s free-to-air commercial station, e.tv, after changes to its license conditions granted Monday by the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA).

One of the amendments allows e.tv’s parent company, Midi Television, greater flexibility in changing its share-holding arrangement after many minor stockholders failed to raise the funds they had committed themselves to when the channel was launched in October 1998.

Midi stock merger

The IBA, the country’s audiovisual regulatory body, allowed Midi to merge all minor share holdings into one vehicle, Sabido Investments, which will have an 80% stake in Midi. The remaining 20% is held by U.S. media giant Time Warner.

Midi had complained that it had suffered financially because minority shareholders — many of them representing trade unions, disabled people and women’s groups — had failed to meet their financial commitments since the launch of e.tv.

Under the amendment, shareholder changes can now take place within Sabido provided they do not dilute the black empowerment share holding of Midi.

IBA OK

In the past, shareholder changes in Midi had to be approved each time by the IBA, a lengthy and expensive process.

Industry analysts said a number of media and empowerment companies are lining up for a stake in the channel, including media powerhouses Africa Media Entertainment, New Africa Investments and Primedia.

Acting chief executive officer of e.tv Marcel Golding said this week that the granting of the shareholding amendment “paves the way for us to bring in additional funding to contribute to strengthening e.tv as a successful commercial television station.”

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