Naspers investors want big deals, share buyback after Tencent windfall - TechCentral

Naspers investors want big deals, share buyback after Tencent windfall

Tencent’s Chinese headquarters

Investors in Naspers said on Thursday they want proceeds from a US$14.7-billion stake sale in its Tencent Holdings investment to go towards blockbuster acquisitions or a share buyback.

Naspers’s Dutch-listed subsidiary Prosus sold a 2% stake in the Chinese gaming and social media giant on Thursday, reducing its stake to 28.9%. Prosus’s portfolio is dominated by Tencent, which owns China’s biggest messaging app, WeChat.

Bob van Dijk, CEO of both Naspers and Prosus, said on Thursday the stake sale created the financial flexibility to go for mergers and acquisitions, continue its ongoing share buyback programme and explore other ways to create shareholder value.

A major acquisition could give one of Prosus’s other business segments — classifieds, food delivery, fintech, payments or online education — a welcome boost, analysts said.

“We might see some deal announcements again in the next six months or the rest of this year,” said Jean Pierre Verster, CEO of the South African hedge fund management firm Protea Capital Management, which holds shares in Naspers and Prosus.

Discipline

Aside from acquisitions, Verster, who said Prosus had shown discipline in capital deployment after an earlier Tencent stake sale in 2018, said it could put Thursday’s windfall towards another share buyback.

“That in my mind is very efficient capital allocation and that should decrease the discount because shareholders would gain a lot of comfort that management is allocating capital efficiently,” he said.

Naspers spun off its international assets into Prosus and listed it in Amsterdam in 2019 to try to reduce a yawning discount its shares traded on the JSE to the value of its stake in Tencent.

Naspers head office in Cape Town

And in October, Prosus announced it planned to buy back $1.37-billion worth of Prosus shares and $3.63-billion worth of Naspers shares. That, however, has yet to reduce the discount.

At current share prices, Naspers is trading at a discount of 26% to the value of its roughly 73% stake in Prosus. Prosus, in turn, trades at a 22% discount to its stake in Tencent.

Peter Takaendesa, head of equities at Mergence Investment Managers, which also holds Naspers and Prosus shares, said he favoured another buyback over acquisitions, given that, aside from Tencent and its online classifieds, Prosus’s other businesses are loss-making.

“Some of the proceeds should go to buy back shares, which may be a better way to deploy those proceeds instead of assets that we don’t know how they’re going to play out,” he said.  — Reported by Promit Mukherjee, (c) 2021 Reuters

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