Naspers has billions to spend on tech investments, says CEO
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.