United Media Services (UMS), the five-year-old media conglomerate whose activities span media production, advertising, and newspaper publishing, unveiled its future plans during a press conference early this week.
In addition to overhauling its management structure, the company, which started to make profits only this year, is planning to offer a minority stake of 20 to 30 per cent of its shares on the local stock exchange to finance expansion. The offering is planned for 2024.
“Offering shares on the stock market obliges the company to abide by all the rules of disclosure and transparency, and requires the periodic announcement of financial results,” stock exchange expert Rania Yacoub told Sada Al-Balad TV.
The company’s accumulated losses during its first three years of operation came in at LE400 million. This year, however, it was able to crawl into the black thanks to its successful Ramadan TV productions, earning LE260 million.
With over 30 subsidiaries, UMS group is among the largest media conglomerates in Egypt and the MENA region. Its affiliated media outlets include ON TV Network, Al-Hayah TV Network, DMC TV Network, CBC TV Network, Extra News channel, On Time Sports TV channel, Al-Youm7, Al-Watan, Sout Al-Omma and Amwal Al-Ghad newspapers, Ain magazine, DotMsr news portal, Egypt Today and Business Today magazines, and six radio channels.
UMS also controls the PR agency POD, media production firm Synergy, and the sports agency Presentation.
A central plank of the group’s future plans is the launch of a regional news channel targeting Arabs, but also Arabic speakers in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Media consultant Yasser Abdel-Aziz said the launch was “an important and necessary step, and long overdue”.
Egypt’s once dominant presence in regional news media has been declining for years. “Had it not been for the support of a select band of Arab news media outlets in recent years it would have been impossible to show the rest of the world political events from an Egyptian perspective,” says Abdel-Aziz.
The news channel is slated to begin broadcasting from the Media Production City in the first quarter of 2022. It will, says UMS, be “a modern regional news channel based on the latest technical systems, presenting Egypt’s regional and local vision through public debate, criticism and analysis”.
Abdel-Aziz argues the new channel “must move away from mobilisation and propaganda it is to help Egypt recover influence in regional news media”.
During the press conference, Hassan Abdallah, an Egyptian banker with over 30 years of experience in the financial industry, was named the new managing director of UMS. Abdallah, a former vice chairman and managing director of the Arab African International Bank, succeeds Tamer Morsi, who remains on the UMS board alongside Mohamed Samir, Mohamed Al-Saadi, Ashraf Salman, and Amr Al-Fiqi.
Head of the Supreme Council for Media Regulation Karam Gabr said UMS had played an important role in the last five years and the series it has produced have made a great impact on viewers.
UMS dismissed criticism that it had monopolised the market, saying “this year we have cooperated with five production companies.”
On Sunday the group signed two memoranda of understanding (MoU), one with Al-Arabia Outdoor Advertising, the second with MBC Group. The first will see UMS work with Al-Arabia to develop its advertising activities while the second aims to jointly confront video piracy, facilitate cooperation in the production of major dramas, and allow MBC to distribute selected UMS productions across all its platforms outside Egypt.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 June, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly