Rocket CEO Samwer Seeks to Soothe Investors With Growth Promise

  • Rocket Internet seeking average sales growth of 25% to 40%
  • Profitability ‘very, very important,’ CEO tells shareholders

Rocket Internet SE Chief Executive Officer Oliver Samwer seeks double-digit sales growth at its startups while improving profitability, trying to soothe investors who have been concerned that his bets aren’t paying off.

The Berlin, Germany-based company, which backs companies including food delivery services Delivery Hero and HelloFresh, seeks to "on average" grow sales 25 percent to 40 percent in the coming years, Samwer told shareholders Thursday.

"Rocket is and remains a growth company,” he said, adding that the company still aims to make at least three of its businesses break-even by the fourth quarter of next year. Profitability, he said, is "very, very important.”

Rocket, a holding company that controls dozens of startups in Europe, Russia, Latin America and Africa, is trying to convince investors it can succeed with its strategy to sell in markets outside the U.S. and China. While it shrank first-quarter losses at some key investments, its HelloFresh business struggled in Germany. Analysts had also balked at tepid growth at some European holdings and the absence of profit numbers for Delivery Hero, complicating the valuation of that asset.

Shareholders grilled Samwer about the company’s share price, which has fallen 52 percent in the past year, and about the absence of IPOs of its biggest startups.

While Samwer declined to comment on which of his companies may IPO when, those with bigger sales are more likely to do so then smaller units, he said. Samwer and Chief Financial Officer Peter Kimpel said the current share price isn’t fair.

"We believe the potential is significantly greater than what’s reflected in the current share price,” Kimpel said.

Rocket will further raise the transparency of the company to make its businesses easier to understand, Samwer vowed at the shareholder meeting, without elaborating. It’s "very unlikely" that Rocket will pay a dividend in the coming years or issue special dividends from unit sales because it’s still growing, he said.

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