Naspers is looking to invest in machine learning as Africa’s largest company seeks to expand following an Amsterdam listing of assets including a stake in Tencent Holdings.
The South African Internet and technology group spent about US$3-billion on its various ventures around the world last year, including Indian food-delivery service Swiggy and Russian classifieds site Avito. Machine learning — a subset of artificial intelligence — is another area of interest, as is online education, executives said on Friday.
“We are interested in investing in machine learning,” CEO Bob van Dijk told shareholders at the AGM in Cape Town. “The amount of data is exploding — last year we collected more data in the world than ever before.”
Naspers has taken stakes in myriad businesses around the world to try and replicate its success with Chinese Internet giant Tencent, which it backed as a start-up 18 years ago. The growth of that company has helped transform Naspers from its roots as a publisher of South African newspapers, which now makes up about 0.5% of the business.
The spin-off and listing of assets into a new entity known as Prosus is partly to help narrow a valuation gap between the Tencent stake and Naspers as a whole, which is about $125-billion vs $99-billion at current prices. The move is also intended to ease Naspers’s dominance of Johannesburg’s stock exchange and attract new investors, particularly in Europe.
Shareholders voted to support the move immediately after Friday’s AGM. Naspers will retain a 73% stake in the new company, which will also be headed by Van Dijk.
“Since the announcement, the discount has already been closing,” the CEO said in an interview after the vote. “Shareholders have been overwhelmingly supportive of the Prosus listing. It will not solve every problem but it’s a positive step.”
Naspers shares declined 0.4% to R3 416.71 as of 4.49pm in Johannesburg. The listing is scheduled for 11 September. — (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP
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