Naspers Strengthens Online Presence In South African Real Estate Market

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Africa’s largest company, media giant Naspers, is strengthening its online presence in the real estate market by buying a rival site — a move that will consolidate the South African online real estate search market, Independent Online reported.

Naspers-owned Property24.com, South Africa’s largest property search portal, has bought rival Private Property in a deal confirmed Friday by Meloy Horn, Naspers’ investment relations officer.

Private Property claims to have 1 million-plus monthly visitors. Property24 offers information and services to home buyers and sellers with links to estate agents, lenders and mortgage companies.

Naspers started building its presence in online classifieds when it acquired a majority stake in OLX in 2010 and 95 percent of the company in 2014. Property24 listings are now available on OLX.

Available in more than 45 countries, OLX allows people buying, selling and exchanging used goods to post a listing on their cellphone.

Founded in Stellenbosch in 1915, Naspers has transformed itself from a local publisher to a global media giant valued at $76.5 billion.

In 2001, the firm invested $34 million to buy a stake in Tencent Holdings Ltd., now China’s No. 1 internet-service with nearly 1 billion active instant-messenger users per month and a market capitalization of $256.7 billion.

Naspers owes its fortune to that one great investment, Wall Street Journal reported. Naspers’s 34-percent stake in Tencent is worth more than Naspers itself.

Now Naspers is making inroads into the U.S. and hoping to better Craigslist, the country’s most recognizable name for online classifieds including housing, jobs, and items for sale.

Naspers wants to replicate successes in online classified platforms in Russia as well as with OLX, the biggest classifieds site in India and Brazil, by dethroning Craigslist, the industry’s most recognizable brand, WSJ reported.

In May, Naspers opened a venture-capital operation in San Francisco to be closer to the Silicon Valley tech-innovation hub and get early access to tech and internet companies it can help to scale on a global basis. In 2015, Naspers invested $100 million investment in mobile-classifieds app Letgo.

“The U.S. as a market is obviously extremely interesting; it’s also very crowded,” Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk said in a WSJ interview.

Naspers has more than 40 businesses in 130-plus countries, including pay TV, print and online retail. It owns 29 percent of Mail.ru Group, a Russian internet company that runs two of the country’s three largest social-networking sites.

More than three quarters of Naspers’ business — 77 percent — comes from outside South Africa. Its media segment, which includes print, is by far its smallest.

Naspers’s e-commerce division, which includes classifieds and online retail, still has not turned a profit despite some profitable assets such as Russian online classifieds platform Avito. Naspers bought a controlling stake valued at $1.2 billion in Avito, where business was booming as Russians hit by an economic downturn buy and sell used items online.

Investors aren’t impressed with Naspers’s operations in pay-TV, newspapers and e-commerce in countries including South Africa, Russia and India, Bloomberg reported.

Naspers has launched an aggressive push to sell some assets, buy others and expand operations such as classified advertising into new markets.

In october, Naspers said it would merge Ibibo, an Indian travel business, with competitor MakeMyTrip Ltd. Naspers also said it would sell Allegro, a Polish online auction site, for $3.25 billion, in keeping with the group’s “strategy to find and unlock value for shareholders,” Bloomberg reported:

“The key to Naspers doing more than merely tracking Tencent’s performance will be the extent to which they can successfully monetize these e-commerce assets,” said Sean Ashton, chief investment officer of Johannesburg-based Anchor Capital.

Tencent accounts for almost all Naspers’ earnings and half of its revenue, but the South African company does have some successful operations, according to Bloomberg. These include its pay-TV business, Multichoice, with almost 10 million subscribers in 49 sub-Saharan African countries. It broadcasts international sports and drama hits like “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead.”

Naspers owns stakes in about 45 tech and media companies around the world, including U.S. online-learning provider Udemy and Souq.com, known as the Amazon.com of the Middle East, Bloomberg reported.

Naspers launched storia.ro, a new real estate platform in Romania dedicated exclusively to real estate, Romania Insider reported in August.