Naspers eyes big investments in months to come – CFO

JOHANNESBURG — Having a $10bn war chest is making life that much easier for Naspers when it comes to going out there into the world and hunting for the next Tencent-like success story (or something even remotely close it). In doing this, Naspers is also increasingly shifting its attention away from its home base of South Africa. Already, over 80% of Naspers’ revenues come from outside of the country. And when you further consider the unbundling of the likes of MultiChoice, one has to wonder what Naspers’ South African presence will actually look like in 5-10 years’ time… – Gareth van Zyl

By Loni Prinsloo

(Bloomberg) – Naspers Ltd. has its sights set on acquisitions as Africa’s largest company by market value targets “significant investments” for its $10bn cash pile in the next couple of months, Chief Financial Officer Basil Sgourdos said.

“In the first half of this year we have done about $750m in deals, and there are some near-term opportunities coming up,” Sgourdos said by phone on Friday. “With markets correcting and valuations coming down, that favours companies with strong balance sheets, and that’s what Naspers has.”

Naspers CFO Basil Sgourdos and CEO Bob van Dijk.

Naspers is working to reduce its exposure to Johannesburg’s stock exchange as it seeks to narrow a valuation gap with flagship asset Tencent Holdings Ltd. The media and Internet company owns about 31% of the Chinese technology giant, yet the market values the stake at some $28bn more than Naspers as a whole.

Reducing the deficit has long been a priority for executives as they scour the globe for investment opportunities and work to turn more of its businesses profitable.

Every year, Naspers looks at about 700 deals, and completes 10 to 15, said Sgourdos. “Those are the ones that makes sense for a Naspers,” he said.

Naspers favours investing in classifieds, online retail and payments businesses. More recently it has started to put a lot of money into food delivery, where it sees “lots of runway.” The company’s cash pile has grown this year due to the sale of shares in Tencent and India’s Flipkart.

“Our plan is to quickly and aggressively expand our reach, we are increasing our investment in the sector,” said Sgourdos. This month, the company allocated another $400m into building its position in Brazil and broader Latin America.

Sgourdos was speaking after Naspers reported first-half earnings that missed analyst estimates. The company’s shares closed 2% down on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on Friday to trade at R2,763 a share, valuing the company at more than R1.2trn.