Naspers has bil­lions to spend on tech in­vest­ments, says CEO

Business Day - - COMPANIES - Agency Staff

Naspers is keen to con­tinue its search for e-com­merce and tech­nol­ogy in­vest­ments and is happy to de­ploy a size­able war chest in its hunt for deals.

“We have sev­eral bil­lion in cash and un­der­utilised credit fa­cil­i­ties,” Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk said. “We have room to in­vest in the fu­ture.”

Naspers has be­come one of the world’s largest in­vestors in e-com­merce ven­tures, as well as Africa’s largest pay-TV provider, as it tries to build on the suc­cess of its early-stage in­vest­ment in Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy gi­ant Ten­cent — a com­pany now worth $472bn.

“In time, Naspers could be­come an even bet­ter in­vest­ment al­ter­na­tive than Ten­cent,” said Ger­rit Smit, head of Stone­hage Flem­ing Eq­uity Man­age­ment. Naspers was in “a heavy in­vest­ment cy­cle” and was spend­ing money on build­ing sub­stance in emerg­ing mar­ket e-com­merce, and other on­line busi­nesses, he said.

Van Dijk has been ac­cu­mu­lat­ing in­ter­net tech­nol­ogy ac­qui­si­tions since tak­ing the helm from chair­man Koos Bekker in 2014. Over two rounds in May and Septem­ber, the com­pany in­vested €1.05bn in Ger­many’s De­liv­ery Hero, and has been in­volved in 14 deals worth $1.94bn in 2017 alone, ac­cord­ing to data com­piled by Bloomberg.

Much of this deal spree has been funded by the sale of Pol­ish on­line auc­tion site Al­le­gro for $3.25bn in 2016. Al­though Van Dijk said fu­ture in­vest­ments would be “op­por­tunis­tic”, there is no in­di­ca­tion spend­ing will slow down.

“We’ve tra­di­tion­ally been fo­cused on growth mar­kets. That’s still true. But on the other hand, we are look­ing at growth op­por­tu­ni­ties re­gard­ing ge­og­ra­phy,” he said.

Naspers’s ven­tures arm, with of­fices in Am­s­ter­dam, Delhi and San Fran­cisco, has been busy col­lect­ing e-com­merce com­pa­nies. Deals in 2017 in­clude lead­ing an $80m in­vest­ment in In­dian food-or­der­ing and -de­liv­ery plat­form Swiggy in May, and in Jan­uary lead­ing the $175m fund­ing round in Letgo, the US on­line used-goods mar­ket­place.

Al­though in dif­fer­ent ge­ogra­phies, many of Naspers’s in­vest­ments fo­cus on sim­i­lar sec­tors, such as Letgo and De­liv­ery Hero. Van Dijk said he might look at con­sol­i­dat­ing some of these in­vest­ments, if the “op­por­tu­nity came up”.

Along­side e-com­merce, Van Dijk flagged fin­tech as aa area of fo­cus. In Oc­to­ber, Naspers an­nounced that its fin­tech in­vest­ment di­vi­sion, PayU, had led a $115m in­vest­ment round in Remitly, a dig­i­tal re­mit­tance start-up in the US.

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