A SOUTH African consortium of three empowerment groups will know in three weeks' time whether it can buy the local operations of the struggling media giant Independent News & Media (INM), writes Simpiwe Piliso in Business Times.

Businessman Barend Hendricks, one of the consortium's shareholders, said the Dublin-based media group was buckling under financial strain.

"Should they not be able to secure a financial injection and meet their financial obligations to several financial institutions, they will be forced to sell their South African assets," he said.

Earlier this year, INM said it was focusing "on eliminating any loss-making businesses" after being hit hard by an advertising collapse due to the recession.

Hendricks said that the assets his consortium might acquire included IMN's newspaper operation – which publishes about 17 weekly and daily newspapers throughout the country.

The titles include The Star, The Argus and the Pretoria News.

The media group also publishes lifestyle magazines and has significant interests in outdoor advertising.

"INM's South African operation is the only major profitable asset in the [Dublin-based] group," said Hendricks.

Last month Business Times reported that Hendricks was in London for talks with INM.

At the time he declined to comment.

But on Friday Hendricks said the negotiations were, at the time, at a "sensitive" stage.

The consortium, which was facing a possible bidding war with several other local empowerment groupings, has already secured the necessary funding.

"We do have the money," said Hendricks, who has facilitated a number of empowerment deals.

The Cape Town-based businessman helped Koni Media Holdings, an empowerment company belonging to senior government officials, raise money to try to acquire Avusa, which owns the Sunday Times.

Click here to read the full report, posted on timeslive.co.za.