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Murdoch to sell off 'Fiji Times', coup leader remains recalcitrant

News Limited has owned and operated the Fiji Times for 23 years, but the military government has now ruled that media organisations must be 90 per cent locally owned.

Fiji’s main daily newspaper, the Fiji Times, is up for sale following the military regime’s declaration of a media decree requiring all media outlets be owned 90 per cent by locals. The Times is wholly owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited.

All Fiji media have been under martial law censorship for the last year but the Times has incurred the wrath of coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama, in part by refusing to use his self-declared title of prime minister.

The Fiji Times on July 30 announced PricewaterhouseCoopers had called for expressions of interest from parties wanting to acquire News Limited's interests. A number of enquiries have been received from parties interested in purchasing Fiji Times Limited, according to Jenny Seeto, the PwC project leader for the sale of the newspaper company.

She told the Fiji Times that the identities of those interested could not be divulged because of confidentiality reasons. She said a process was currently under way in which calls for expressions of interest had been put out, which would follow through to a bidding process.

When asked what would happen if no one put in an offer to buy Fiji Times Ltd, Seeto said that would be a decision for News Ltd to make. But she said "based on interests received so far, it is extremely unlikely that no one will put in an offer to buy Fiji Times Ltd. Fiji Times is a very successful and profitable business with an excellent long-term outlook".

She said normally a sale process for a business could take up to six to 12 months to complete "provided that the sales process flows smoothly and issues are resolved quickly to enable a sale value to be negotiated and agreed upon. In Fiji, the timing is also dependent on regulatory clearances and approvals".

Asked whether she would seek a time extension if she was not able to complete the process by the deadline, Seeto said they were optimistic the sale would be completed within the time frame available. "Should for some reason the process not progress as anticipated, we will consider the options available to us and to News Ltd," she said.

Meanwhile, Bainimarama has said he regretted the jobs that may be lost if the Fiji Times newspaper is forced to shut down, but he insisted the company brought it on itself. September 28 is the deadline for media outlets to only have 10 per cent foreign shares under the interim regime’s media decree.

Bainimarama told the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent, "Because there will be a lot of job losses, but as I have continuously said, that’s not my doing. That was the doing of the management. They’ve never acknowledged me as Prime Minister of this nation, even though I’ve been Prime Minister for the last 4 years. It’s really not that, but what I am saying is that they are not doing the right thing by the people of this nation.”

Date posted: August 4, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 230