24 June 2019

South Africa: Naspers Approaches Its Existential Crisis

analysis

Naspers faces a pivotal moment; can it graduate from being a wild, somewhat haphazard, occasionally inspired tech investor to being a focused operator?

For such a huge company, Naspers has a peculiar problem similar to someone who just arrived at a new school from out to town. Who are they? Are they important? Who are their friends going to be? Should we just ignore them? Could they make the first team?

You could call it a self-recognition problem on steroids. Naspers is now SA's largest company and not just by a little bit. Naspers is now the same size from a market capitalisation perspective to Anglo American, Standard Bank, Sasol, MTN and Vodacom combined. It's been an amazing run.

Yet ask ordinary people in South Africans about Naspers, they would almost certainly regard it as a newspaper company, the now tiny portion of the company's business the European managers absolutely despise. Even among the cognoscenti, there is little real knowledge of what the company really does or actually is.

Well, all this is about to change, and arguably that process began on Friday with the company's annual results. The results were pretty good, verging on excellent. Revenue was up 29%...

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