Bloomberg News

Naspers Chief Bekker Is Looking at 30 Potential Acquisitions

June 27, 2011

(Updates with finance director’s comment and closing price in last two paragraphs.)

June 27 (Bloomberg) -- Naspers Ltd., Africa’s largest media company, is in early talks with about 30 companies on potential acquisitions to expand its Internet and e-commerce businesses, Chief Executive Officer Koos Bekker said.

“Whether or not all of those, or any of those, will be successfully concluded, I don’t know,” Bekker said in a telephone interview from company headquarters in Cape Town today. Naspers, the largest shareholder in Tencent Holdings Ltd., China’s biggest Internet company, held talks last year with about 200 companies and ended up signing agreements with only 20, he said.

Naspers acquired a 28.7 percent stake in Russian Internet company Digital Sky Technologies Ltd. last year in a deal that included contributing its 39.3 percent in another Russian Internet company, Mail.ru, to DST and investing $388 million in cash. In Latin America, Naspers acquired 68 percent of classifieds business OLX.com for $144 million in August.

Bekker said he’s looking for similar opportunities, or to invest more in existing businesses. “We’ll continue to grow services in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.”

Naspers’s cash and equivalents increased 29 percent to 8.73 billion rand ($1.3 billion) in the 12 months through March, it said in today’s annual earnings statement. Fiscal-year net income rose to 5.26 billion rand from 3.26 billion rand a year earlier.

Investing in TV

In Africa, the company will continue to invest in its television-on-demand operations over the Internet, Bekker said. “There’s quite a bit of growth left in television,” he said.

Naspers’s pay-television business added 977,000 subscribers in the year ended March 31, taking the total to 4.9 million, including 3.5 million in South Africa.

Naspers is also considering whether it should build distribution centers for its Kalahari.net online store in Nigeria and Kenya, said Bekker.

The company won’t conduct any share buybacks, Finance Director Steve Pacak told analysts in a conference call. The company’s entrepreneurial nature means its priority is investing, and it won’t seek ways to return cash to shareholders, he said. “We’re still very focused on developing the business,” he said.

Naspers gained 0.2 percent to 369.10 rand at the 5 p.m. close of trading in Johannesburg, giving it a market capitalization of 149.9 billion rand.

--Editors: Jim Silver, David Risser.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sikonathi Mantshantsha in Johannesburg at smantshantsh@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vernon Wessels at vwessels@bloomberg.net


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