Historic news wire agency Sapa to close down

A Media24 general manager says the company is in the process of calling for bids for Sapa's assets. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

A Media24 general manager says the company is in the process of calling for bids for Sapa's assets. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The country’s only independent national wire service, the South African Press Association (Sapa), is to shut its doors at the end of March bringing to an end 76 years as a primary supplier of wire copy to media companies and broadcasters. 

The board, consisting of representatives from media companies which have funded the nonprofit wire service since its conception, have voted to wind up Sapa.

The company was set up in 1938 to facilitate the sharing of news with Reuters, then its biggest competitor. 

Minette Ferreira, Media24’s general manager of all English title publications as well as Beeld and Rapport, speaking in her capacity as chairperson of Sapa, said in a statement on Wednesday that they were in the process of calling for bids for Sapa’s assets.

Liquidated
“After the disposal of the assets the company will be liquidated and its operations will cease on March 31 2015,” she said.

Ferreira said that because Sapa was a special category of nonprofit company it could not be sold off. 

It appears that the wire service will be liquidated and Sapa staff members retrenched. 

Ferreira indicated that there were discussions about establishing a profit-driven wire service in the future. Staff would then have to reapply for their positions. 

Ferreira said that the board meeting “underlined its commitment to ensuring the interests of Sapa employees were correctly and meticulously attended to”. 

However, Sapa staff members have known for some time that the future of the company was in doubt. One staffer said he has seen adverts for jobs on Media24 that could only be for Sapa. This could not be confirmed by Media24, who have not replied to a request for comment. 

New structure
Subscribers are to be briefed on plans for the establishment of a new operation. Ferreira said they would be “approached directly by the operators of the new syndicate business”.

To answer questions from the Mail & Guardian regarding the new structure that will replace Sapa, Ferriera said: “The board has appointed financial advisors, Nkonki Incorporated, to handle the wind-up as well as the sale of Sapa’s assets to one of the three interested parties. 

“The future structure will be determined by the party that ultimately takes over the assets. This will not be determined by the board.”

According to Ferreira three companies have put forward proposals “for a commercial-based, content-generating and syndicating-service business”. 

Nkonki is evaluating these proposals, she said.

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