Kinnevik Directors Exit Rocket Board in Sign of Divide

  • `Potential for conflicts of interest' increasing: Kinnevik
  • Swedish investor remains Rocket’s second-largest shareholder

Investment AB Kinnevik pulled its two directors from the supervisory board of Rocket Internet SE, the latest sign of growing friction between two companies that have co-invested in European and emerging market startups for several years.

Lorenzo Grabau, Kinnevik’s chief executive officer, and Erik Mitteregger, a board member of the Swedish investment company, will step down June 9, Rocket said in a statement Monday. They will be replaced by former Deutsche Bank AG finance chief Stefan Krause and Orange SA executive Pierre Louette. Grabau, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker, stepped down as Rocket chairman late last year.

Stefan Krause.
Stefan Krause.
Photographer: Martin Leissl/Bloomberg

The departures come less than a week after Kinnevik invested 200 million euros ($230 million) in a Rocket-backed startup, Global Fashion Group, at less than half its implied valuation a year ago. Differences between the partners have appeared recently, as Kinnevik assigns some of their investments a lower value than Rocket, and the Swedish investment company didn’t take part in the funding of a $420 million co-investment fund that Rocket unveiled in January.

While Kinnevik remains Rocket’s second-largest shareholder after the founding Samwer brothers, with a stake of 13.2 percent, it’s unusual for a large investor not to have board representation in a German listed company. Kinnevik has also been making its own bets on fintech and healthcare startups.

“Rocket and Kinnevik continue to have a significant overlap in companies, but Rocket Internet has also an increasing number of investments outside of that group of companies,” Kinnevik spokeswoman Torun Litzen said in an e-mailed comment. “The potential for conflicts of interest are increasing, and we feel that it is more prudent not to have board representation at Rocket.”

Rocket is under pressure to prove its investments are paying off after showing little progress with reducing losses in several of its startups last year. That’s because many of them were still in the growth phase and needed investments, CEO Oliver Samwer said last month, vowing to show "significant" improvements in profitability this year and next.

Rocket declined 4.4 percent to 20.07 euros late Monday in Frankfurt. The stock is down by more than half since its October 2014 initial public offering and has lost 29 percent this year.

(Corrects percentage stock decline Monday in final paragraph.)
Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE