Johannesburg – Shareholders of embattled Midi TV, the owners of free-to-air television station e-tv, said yesterday they had “reached a common understanding” on the restructuring of the group`s shareholding structure.

Consensus, primarily reached by Hosken Consolidated Investments (HCI) and Vula Communications, the two main local shareholders in Midi, came prior to the Independent Broadcasting Authority`s (IBA) hearings on the group`s application for amending certain licence conditions.

The hearings start today and will run until tomorrow.

“We have, at this stage, tried very hard to find a common position with HCI,” said Mark Headbush, the executive director of Vula, adding that this was “good for the station”.

However, Kanthan Pillay, the head of corporate communications at Midi, said it would be “pre-emptive” to say there had been agreements reached, because their effectiveness was subject to the IBA`s approval of the proposed amendments. He conceded there had been discussions between shareholders that produced viable “plans” to be presented to the IBA.

“We`re looking at a proposal that will allow minorities to fund their stakes adequately,” said Pillay. Midi`s application to the IBA proposes a transfer of local shareholders` interests into a new grouped structure called Sabido Investments that would hold 80 percent of Midi.

Warner Brothers, the US media group, would retain its 20 percent stake, the maximum foreign partners can hold.

Thlalefang Sekano, the chairman of Vula said the new structure`s design would allow minorities to recapitalise their stakes, and accommodate “new strategic partners to inject more money”. The minorities had earlier opposed the application. They claimed they were not consulted or informed by the Midi board of the application and its contents.

The Midi hearing was expected to bring into the open the crux of internal squabbles that led to the top level resignations of Jonathan Procter, e-tv`s chief executive, and Nomazizi Mtshotshisa, the former chairman.

It would also result in the station`s management, led by Marcel Golding, the acting chief executive, unpacking its plans for turning e-tv into a viable commercial operation and shed some light into a string of “damaging allegations” about the station.

“Our presentations to the IBA will be comprehensive and will address all of the issues raised by the media in recent weeks including that of shareholder funding,” said Pillay.

Source: Business Report – Nathi Sukazi