March 22, 2018 / 12:12 PM / a month ago

Naspers to raise up to $11 billion by trimming Tencent stake

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Naspers (NPNJn.J) is cutting its stake in lucrative Chinese investment Tencent (0700.HK) by as much as 2 percent in a deal that could net the South African media and e-commerce group up to $11 billion.

A Tencent sign is seen during the fourth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, China, December 4, 2017. REUTERS/Aly Song

Naspers said on Thursday it has no plans to reduce its holding further for the next three years, disappointing some investors who had called for it to spin off its 33 percent stake in China’s biggest internet firm to close the widening gap between its own market value and the investment.

Under the deal, Naspers plans to sell up to 190 million shares, or 2 percent, in Tencent via an accelerated bookbuild to raise money that would fund growth in its e-commerce unit.

Founded in 1915, Naspers has transformed itself from an apartheid-era newspaper publisher into a 1.5 trillion rand ($127 billion) multinational with private equity-style investments in e-commerce platforms that also include OLX, the biggest classified sites in India and Brazil, and Russia’s Mail.ru.

FILE PHOTO: Satellite dishes connect township residents to South Africa's DSTV television network, owned by telecommunications giant Naspers, in Khayelitsha township, Cape Town, May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

“We believe Tencent is one of the very best growth enterprises in any industry in the world, managed by an exceptionally able team. However, we also want to fund the further development of some of Naspers’ core business lines,” chairman Koos Bekker said.

“We have no intention to sell any more shares and have publicly stated that we will not sell further Tencent shares for at least the next three years.”

    SHARES FALL

    Shares in Naspers slumped more than 5 percent to 3,276 rand with some investors disappointed that the money would be plowed back into e-commerce businesses.

    “The market would take that negatively because the market does not apply any value to those businesses as they stand,” said an industry analyst, who declined be named because he is not allowed to speak to the media.

    Naspers owes much of its valuation to a $33 million bet in 2001 on a stake in Tencent, whose breakneck pace of growth has catapulted it into China’s biggest Internet company with a $561 billion market capitalization.

    As Naspers’s stake in Tencent is worth more than Naspers itself, this suggests the other assets — which include a de facto African pay TV monopoly MultiChoice — are not reflected in the valuation.

    “You get to a point where a 40 percent discount to your underlying NAV, or net asset value, is ridiculous so I think this is potentially a move by management to try and narrow that gap,” said Michael Treherne, a fund manager at Vestact, a boutique asset manager in Johannesburg.

    The transaction came hours after Tencent earlier said it lost almost $20 billion from its market value after the company missed quarterly revenue estimates and warned that planned investments may hurt margins.($1 = 11.7945 rand)

    Writing and additional reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by James Macharia/Keith Weir

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