Buyers are circling around pillars of South African media such as The
Star, the Cape Argus, The Mercury and The Sunday Independent, writes Lynley Donnelly in the Mail & Guardian.

The financial plight of the overseas parent of these newspapers, the Independent News and Media (INM) group, has sparked a flurry of interest in the company's South African assets.

Local media giant Avusa, which publishes The Sunday Times, and businessman Moeletsi Mbeki, are among those putting out feelers.

INM has been in trouble for some time. The company recorded a loss of €159,4-million last year. The group's revenue from advertising, sales, distribution and commercial printing activities fell from €1,67-billion in 2007 to €1,47-billion.

The local company publishes stalwarts such as The Star in Gauteng, the Cape Argus in the Western Cape, The Mercury in KwaZulu-Natal and The Sunday Independent nationally.

The Mail & Guardian understands that a local consortium led by Mbeki has approached publishing giant Caxton to partner it in a potential purchase of the group's South African assets. Mbeki, who owns a stake in television production company Endemol South Africa through publishing company KMM Review Publishing, refused to comment.

Avusa has apparently approached INM's Irish owners in a bid to buy the South African assets. The Mvelaphanda Group, founded by Minister of Human Settlement Tokyo Sexwale, owns a 25% stake in Avusa.

Avusa chief executive Prakash Desai told the M&G: "We are not aware of any assets that have been put up for sale." Asked if Avusa would consider buying local INM assets, he said: "We believe that they have excellent assets, but they would have to be up for sale before we could discuss any interest that Avusa might have."

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