Naspers Limited is a South African multinational consumer Internet company headquartered in South Africa. Its principal operations include online classified advertising, fintech, payments, and food delivery.
Founded in 1915 by Jannie Marais of Coetsenburg and attorney W.A. Hofmeyr; the company launched with the support of Jan Christiaan Smuts, Louis Botha, and National Party founding president J.B.M. Hertzog.
Naspers owns, or has controlling interest in, various businesses, including Prosus, Media24, and Takealot. In 2001, Naspers made an early, successful investment of US$32 million, in Tencent. As of 2018, Naspers had approximately a 31 percent stake in Tencent, becoming its largest shareholder, and Africa's biggest public company. In recent years, Naspers has continued to build substantial holdings in consumer internet companies around the world, with a particular focus on India.
De Nasionale Pers Beperkt
Naspers was founded, in 1915, as De Nasionale Pers Beperkt (National Press Ltd) as a publisher and printer of newspapers and magazines. A group of prominent Cape Afrikaners decided, in December 1914, at a meeting in Stellenbosch, to form a publishing company that would support Afrikaner nationalism, in the wake of the Boer Wars. It therefore also supported the Nationalist Party (NP). It was founded by W. A. Hofmeyr, a well-known Cape lawyer and National Party organizer; Jannie Marais, a prominent Stellenbosch farmer, purchased a quarter of the 20,000 issued £1 shares in the new company. Naspers first published the Afrikaans language daily De Burger (later renamed Die Burger) in June 1915, which was followed by its first magazine, De Huisgenoot (later Die Huisgenoot), in 1916.
In 1918, the company added book publishing to its portfolio, making it one of Africa's most significant media hubs. In 1985, the company launched the first pay-TV system, evolving from publisher to media company. Documents collected by non-profit Open Secrets revealed how Naspers funded the National Party (NP) during apartheid, and that the NP also held 74,000 shares in Naspers in 1984.
In a letter written to F.W. de Klerk, on 17 August 1989, Naspers then managing director Ton Vosloo reaffirmed the company's support of the NP. Vosloo reminded de Klerk of its donation of R150,000 (approximately R1-million today), made to the NP before the 1987 elections. The company had then also pledged a further R220,000 in support of the NP ahead of South Africa's last race-based general elections, in September 1989. Vosloo ended his letter, promising funding to the NP in Transvaal, by adding that "our newspaper Beeld in the Transvaal is your ally and we trust that this formidable combination will wipe out the competition."
In 1997, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission requested that Naspers make a submission about the years between 1960 and 1994 (thus, broadly, between the Sharpeville tragedy, in March 1960, and the first democratic elections of April 1994), specifically, the media's role during this period. Naspers refused to comply, which led to 127 Naspers employees each making an individual submission to the TRC, apologising for their role in the apartheid years. They said Naspers newspapers had formed an integral part of the power structure which implemented and maintained apartheid through, for instance, supporting the NP in elections and referendums. Nasionale Pers officially changed its name to Naspers in 1998.
In 2015, Media24 CEO Esmare Weideman apologised for Naspers's role in supporting apartheid.
Since 1994, the company has been listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in South Africa, and has been designated as part of the Top 10 index over the past several years. It also has a Level I American Depository Receipt programme (ADR programme) listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), with an over-the-counter (OTC) trade.
Naspers purchased 46.5 percent of Chinese internet company Tencent, owner of WeChat, and an array of fintech apps and mobile games, from early investors including PCCW and IDG Capital (then a start-up) in 2001. The investment paid off for Naspers in dramatic fashion, boosting Naspers stock price over time, and making it the most valuable publicly traded business in Africa by 2017. It sold a part of its stake in March 2018, raising some $10 billion. At that time, its initial investment of $32 million was valued at over $175 billion. Notably, the market value of its Tencent holdings was greater than the market capitalization of the firm itself. The move has been referred to as one of the most successful venture capital investments of all time.
Subsidiaries and investments include Prosus, Media24 and Takealot. Naspers, via Prosus, also holds a minority investment in listed, social-network platforms Tencent and Mail.Ru. Naspers acquired global fintech firm PayU, consolidating online payment companies under one brand, now owned by Prosus. Myriad International Holdings, a subsidiary of Prosus, owns a 28.7 percent stake in Digital Sky Technologies (DST), the Russian firm behind investments in Internet companies like Facebook, Groupon, and Zynga. In March 2014, Souq.com raised $75 million from Naspers.
In 2014, Naspers acquired 95% of OLX, a global online marketplace. It was included in the Prosus spin-off in 2019.
In May 2017, former Naspers subsidiary DStv admitted to price fixing and contravening the Competition Act. It agreed to pay R22 million in penalty fees as well as R8 million to the Economic Development Fund. Over two rounds in May and September 2017, Naspers invested 1.05 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in Germany's Delivery Hero AG, and was involved in 14 deals worth $1.94 billion in 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
In October 2018, Naspers launched its business start-up funding initiative Foundry in South Africa. Naspers has long had a focus on India, investing more than $4 billion since 2014, across multiple sectors, including into Byju and ibibo and, in December 2018, it invested $1 billion into online food ordering and delivery service Swiggy of India; adding to its iFood investment in Brazil and Delivery Hero. Naspers foodtech services serve 4 billion people in 40 countries.
In January 2019, Naspers completed its $190 million acquisition of Dubizzle, a classifieds website targeting the UAE. Naspers’ video entertainment business was spun off as MultiChoice Group, on 27 February 2019, represented as MCG on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Its venture investment arm, Naspers Ventures, was renamed Prosus Ventures in 2019, and partners with entrepreneurs to build technology companies. Naspers Labs, a partnership with RLabs and its founder, Marlon Parker, was also launched in 2019, as an economic initiative for unemployed youth in South Africa.
Prosus IPO listing
In 2019, Naspers listed its international internet assets on Euronext Amsterdam, as Prosus, becoming Europe's largest consumer internet company. Share values gained over 25 percent during its IPO, with Prosus designated a market value exceeding 125 billion pounds ($138 billion USD). Prosus reported profits of $4.2 billion for its fiscal year ending 31 March 2019.
Brands and subsidiaries
Major brands owned by Naspers include:
- Consumer internet companies: Prosus (PayU, ibibo, Multiply, Buscapé, Movile, AutoTraderZA, Property24, SimilarWeb, Avito.ru, OLX, eMAG, Takealot.com, etc.)
- Online and print media: Media24 (News24, Die Burger, City Press, You, etc.)
Through Prosus, it also has minority investments in listed social-network platforms: