Journal and some jobs set to get lifeline

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 15/10/2013

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A Wellington company is understood to have won the contract to publish the School Journal series, as part of the breakup of loss-making Learning Media.

Last month, the Government confirmed it would "wind down" Learning Media, a state-owned enterprise, "because it is apparent the company is not financially viable".

While Finance Minister Bill English and Education Minister Hekia Parata insisted the School Journal would be protected in the process, the announcement caused fears that up to 100 jobs were under threat.

A source said it was now hoped that as many as two-thirds of the employees could be transferred with the sale of business units or contract transfers.

Sources say the contract to publish School Journal, read by generations of schoolchildren, has been awarded to Lift Education, part of South Pacific Press.

Paul Babbage, publishing manager for Lift Education, said he was hoping to be able to make a comment shortly "but not right now".

Established in 1907 and believed to be the longest-running serial publication for children in the world, the School Journal has featured works by famous authors, including James K Baxter, Margaret Mahy and Witi Ihimaera.

Other parts of Learning Media are being sold.

The international division, which exports books and has been developing teaching tools designed to be rolled out into the United States, is said to have been sold to Modern Teaching Aids (MTA), an education company based in Sydney.

Learning Media already supplies hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of books to MTA, but one source said it was less interested in its new products which could be worth "several million" in sales if nurtured.

It remains unclear what will happen to Learning Media's Maori division, known for its top-quality service translating educational books into Maori.

While the Government is said to have rejected an offer which would have taken on all of Learning Media's operations, the process is said to be running within budget.

Documents on the Companies Office website show that the company issued shares worth $710,000 to the Government in September, with the proceeds used for working capital, as the company was close to running out of cash at the time.

It is unclear whether Learning Media's three key debtors - its landlord, the former directors of a company it bought, and bankers Westpac - will face losses in the wind-down.

A spokesman for Mr English would only say that negotiations for the wind-down were "continuing" and that "commitments made to staff and with respect to the ongoing future of the School Journal remain".

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- The Dominion Post

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