September 20, 2018 / 6:26 AM / a year ago

Cash-flush Rocket Internet lifted by $175 million buyback plan

Rocket Internet CEO Oliver Samwer attends an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, January 10, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - German ecommerce company Rocket Internet responded to investor calls to use some of its 2.1 billion euro cash pile on Thursday with a plan to buy back shares worth up to 150 million euros ($175 million), 3.6 percent of its outstanding stock.

Shares in Rocket, which had a shaky start after listing in 2014 but have risen by more than a third this year after the IPOs of start-ups Delivery Hero, HelloFresh and Home24, were up by 3.3 percent at 0716 GMT.

Rocket’s online furniture retailer Westwing also announced plans for a listing in Frankfurt last week.

However at around 28 euros, Rocket shares are still well under the 42.5 euros price when it listed, putting pressure on Chief Executive Oliver Samwer, who wants to be ready to invest in new companies, to return some cash to shareholders.

“We are looking at a number of opportunities where we potentially will deploy several dozens or several hundreds of millions,” Samwer told journalists on Thursday.

Sectors of interest include in fintech, software, artificial intelligence and online market places, Samwer added.

Samwer reiterated that Rocket’s loss-making African ecommerce group Jumia, also a possible candidate for a listing, would seek to raise capital over the next 24 months.

Rocket said Jumia saw gross merchandise volume - the value of goods sold via the site - rise 62 percent to 163 million euros in the second quarter, a slight deceleration from the 71 percent growth it saw in the first quarter.

Rocket’s other major holdings - Delivery Hero, HelloFresh, Home24, Westwing and Global Fashion Group (GFG) - had already reported quarterly figures.

Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Alexander Smith

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