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It’s official – Motibhai Group buys out the Fiji Times

Fiji Times newspaper vendor Salesh Chand in downtown Suva today. Photo: David Robie/PMC

Pacific Scoop
Report – By Pacific Media Watch in Suva

Australian-based News Limited today confirmed it is selling Pacific Publications (Fiji) Limited, parent company of the publisher of the Fiji Times, to a prominent Suva-based trading company two weeks before the “sell up” deadline imposed by the military-backed regime.

Motibhai and Company Limited is buying the newspaper company for an undisclosed sum, News Ltd announced in a statement.

The sale is subject to final regulatory approval by the Fiji Commerce Commission with the expected closing date for the sale due on September 22.

This follows a report in today’s Fiji Sun saying that Fiji Times publisher Anne Fussell had briefed senior staff about the planned sale.

But the Sun said the sale did not include News Ltd’s “valuable property” in the heart of Suva.

The Motibhai Group is headed by Mahendra Motibhai Patel, a leading Fiji businessman who has previously served on the board of the Fiji Times as a non-executive director.

News Limited’s chairman and chief executive John Hartigan said: “The sale to Motibhai represents the best possible outcome for the staff, advertisers and readers of the Fiji Times.”

Leading group
Under the Media Industry Development Decree imposed in June, News Limited was given until September 28 to divest all but 10 percent of its interest in the Fiji Times, the country’s leading newspaper group.

“We are reluctant sellers of the Fiji Times, but I am delighted that we have been able to find a buyer who will take over the business as a going concern, respect its heritage and invest in its future,” Hartigan said in the News Limited statement.

“I have known Mahendra Patel for many years. His past contribution as a director of the Fiji Times has been invaluable. I am therefore very pleased that the Motibhai Group has decided to purchase the business.

“Motibhai will be very good custodians of the newspaper and as shareholders they will be committed to the future of the Fiji Times.

Hartigan also thanked the directors and staff of the Fiji Times for their “hard work and loyalty” and for their “personal as well as professional commitment to the organisation”.

A Motibhai Group statement said: “We are delighted to have been successful in our bid.”

“This purchase expresses our confidence in the future of Fiji. We will ensure that Fiji Times will operate as an independent unit within the Motibhai Group.

‘New levels’
“We understand the importance of history. The Fiji Times is 141 years old and Motibhai has been operating for 80 years.

“Together we will take the Fiji Times to new levels of success as we have done with our other major investments.

“We will ensure that the Fiji Times continues to be the preferred daily newspaper by the vast majority of Fiji’s population and live by the adage ‘the day is not complete until you have read the Fiji Times‘.”

Fiji Times columnist calls for survival of newspaper

Cafe Pacific comment