Africa's Biggest Company to Start Funding Roadshow in U.S. and U.K.

  • Naspers spends about $500 million a year on M&A, CEO Says
  • Naspers pay-TV business able to add subscribers despite woes

Naspers Ltd. will approach investors in the U.S. and the U.K. next week about a bond issue as Africa’s biggest company by market value continues its acquisition-hungry quest to expand its internet businesses.

The proceeds for the bond will shore up the company’s balance sheet for future growth opportunities and will also be used to refinance some of its current debt, Naspers Chief Executive Officer Bob van Dijk said by phone on Saturday. While Naspers spends about $500 million on mergers and acquisitions a year there is no set target and decisions depend on finding the right businesses and opportunities, he said. The Cape Town-based company reported full-year earnings on Friday.

Bob Van Dijk

Photographer: Graeme Williams/Bloomberg

“We are focusing on building online businesses and bringing them to scale,” Van Dijk said. Naspers is looking to invest further in its classifieds, e-commerce and online payment businesses where revenue growth is accelerating, the CEO said.

Naspers, the market leader in classifieds in most of the emerging markets that it operates in, entered the U.S. last year and now competes with well-established businesses such as Craigslist. The company is seeking to grow outside of a 33 percent stake in Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd., which contributes the bulk of Naspers’s $1.8 billion profit and is worth more than the South African company’s market value of about $90 billion.

Naspers Focus on Online Units Pays Off as More Turn a Profit

“We are quite excited about our growth in our Letgo business in the U.S.,” Van Dijk said. “Since we consolidated with Wallapop, we have become the leader in the number of daily-active users in the mobile app space,” he said, referring to the merger of two of the company’s classifieds businesses.

The owner of Africa’s biggest pay-TV service has been able to add subscribers over the past year even as the business struggles with sluggish economic growth and the arrival of competitors including Netflix Inc.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has had a tough few years and our business there also had many challenges,” the CEO said. “So far it has turned out to be a viable business, whether that will change in a number of years we will have to see,” Van Dijk said. 

Naspers shares rose 2.6 percent to 2,638.61 rand on Friday, extending the year’s gain to 31 percent. The stock is the best performer on the FTSE/JSE Africa Top40 Index.

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