The South African media group Naspers wants to sell around $10.6 billion worth of its shares in the Chinese tech giant Tencent, which operates the valuable WeChat and QQ online platforms.
That’s equivalent to 2% of Tencent’s total issued share capital—and only 6% of Naspers’s 33.2% stake in Tencent, a conglomerate with its fingers in every pie from ecommerce to AI. The share sale will be run by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley. It’s the first time Naspers has sold any of the Tencent shares it bought 17 years ago, in a deal that worked out extraordinarily well for the firm.
Naspers is a Cape Town-based company with a dark history as the publishing house that for a long time supported South Africa’s racist National Party and its Apartheid policy (Naspers has since apologized for its role in that era). The company moved into broadcasting in the 1980s with the establishment of what is today the MultiChoice platform that operates across much of Africa. And more recently it’s become a prolific tech investor, with stakes in the likes of India’s Flipkart and Russia’s Mail.ru.
But it was Naspers’s $32 million investment in Tencent, back in 2001, that really made the company what it is today. Indeed, as Bloomberg noted on Thursday, Naspers’s stake in Tencent is today worth $175 billion, while Naspers itself is only worth around $125.5 billion—Naspers’s value is pretty much entirely tied up in its Tencent holdings.
So now it’s cashing in, just a bit. In a Thursday statement, Naspers said it would use the proceeds of the sale to prop up its balance sheet and make some more investments, in areas such as online food delivery and financial technology.
The news came just after Tencent’s shares fell 5%, an event prompted by the company’s warning to investors that it was going to increase spending on content and technology in order to boost growth—investments that will likely cut its short-term profitability.
Naspers, which promised not to sell any more of its Tencent shares for the next three years, saw its own share price fall 8.6% on Thursday.