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Alex Webb

Rocket Internet Has Made a $3.1 Billion Damp Squib

Shareholders in the internet investor are being given the chance to sell out for the equivalent of half the company’s cash. It’s not a great deal.

Not much of a display.

Not much of a display.

Photographer: Chaloner Woods/Hulton Archive

Imagine you and I own half each of a $100,000 sports car that has another $50,000 locked in the trunk. The problem is that I have the car keys, so you can neither drive it nor access that money. I offer to buy you out for about $50,000. Fair deal?

You’d doubtless feel hard done by. Yet Oliver Samwer, chief executive officer and founder of Germany’s Rocket Internet SE, is making a similar proposition to his fellow shareholders. He wants to take the web-investment company private again, and he’s offering to buy out other investors in a way that would let him and his family keep that nice little stash in the trunk.