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Why all the hype about the launch of Sagarmatha Technologies?

Editorial by Roi Simpson (As heard on “the Lunchtime News Wrap” 11 April 2018)

There’s a media story we haven’t touched on yet – but you might have been wondering about it after Tuesday’s print media display. Cape Town newspapers were peppered with lead stories and opinion pieces about a company called Sagarmatha Technologies, along with several pictures of Iqbal Survé.

Sagarmatha is a planned media and commerce giant, that sees the whole of the Independent Media group – including IOL (Independent Online) and IOL Property – being rolled into a company that’ll include ANA (the Africa News Agency), and Loot.co.za.

The launch is controversial, most especially around how they’ve valued themselves.

The name Sagarmatha is taken from the Nepalese word for Mount Everest, obviously meant to signify its status as a world leader. There’s a down-side to that, though, because a direct translation of Sagarmatha is “Forehead in the Sky” and several journalists have accused its key player, Iqbal Survé, of having his head in the clouds on this one.

So a lot of what you’ve seen in print has been a PR exercise to stave off that criticism and encourage investors to buy into the dream.

The reason it’s worth talking about is that quite a lot hangs on the success of this venture.

According to investigative journalism house, Amabhungane, and others, the media component of the new company is very financially shaky. That’s primarily Sekunjalo, which owns Independent Media, including the Cape Times, the Cape Argus, the Weekend Argus, and the Daily Voice. Sekunjalo according to these articles, has a negative financial position that reflects an over R500-million shortfall.

So, in some respects, Sagarmatha is a bid to save all those print titles.

But it’s worth noting that the Black Business Council has endorsed the new company, and accepted the valuation that the company has pegged. It bought R240-million in shares pre-listing.

In a parallel story, don’t forget that we’ve been reporting that the staff of ANN7 and The New Age have been paid late the last two months – and ANN7 will exit the DSTV bouquet in August.

Basically, there’s solid concern that both those media outlets are doomed.

Sagarmatha is due to list on the JSE on Friday. With the future of so many other publications tied into this launch; it’s a story well worth keeping an eye on.