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By Chris Spillane
(Bloomberg) — Naspers Ltd. Chairman Koos Bekker has reduced his stake by selling stock options valued at about 20.4 billion rand ($1.5 billion) at current prices after stepping down as chief executive officer of Africa’s biggest company by market value last year, according to its annual report.
The South African billionaire had 4.69 million shares as of June 26, the Cape Town-based media and technology company said in its annual report on July 24. He had held direct and indirect interest of 16.38 million shares as of March 2014, according to the previous year’s publication. The difference between the two holdings is valued at about 20.4 billion rand at current prices.
Bekker stepped down as CEO in April 2014 to take a yearlong break before becoming chairman earlier this year. Under his leadership, the newspaper publisher grew into the biggest emerging market media company, owning Africa’s largest pay-TV network and stakes in Hong Kong-based Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Mail.ru Group Ltd. of Russia.
Naspers has complied with disclosure rules as Bekker didn’t hold a position at the company when he exercised his options, according to Meloy Horn, Naspers’ head of investor relations. The company had no obligation to issue a stock exchange announcement, she said in an e-mailed response to questions.
“He remains a top 20 shareholder in the company,” Horn said. “Upon retiring as CEO last year, Koos exercised these options and raised cash.”
Bekker, 62, said in an e-mailed response that a local media report had failed to distinguish between options and shares, declining to comment further. Johannesburg’s Talk702 reported Thursday that Bekker had exercised share options.
Shares of Naspers declined 0.4 percent to 1,739 rand as of 10:16 a.m. in Johannesburg.
Bekker had 11.7 million vested share options in March 2014, disclosed in the annual report as a direct interest, according to Horn.