Tencent's top holder Prosus to sell up to US$14.6b stake

Published Thu, Apr 8, 2021 · 05:50 AM

Amsterdam

PROSUS NV plans to raise as much as US$14.6 billion from the sale of shares in Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings, further growing its war chest for new e-commerce deals.

The Amsterdam-listed firm will sell a 2 per cent stake in Tencent, reducing its holding to just under 29 per cent while remaining the biggest shareholder, according to a statement on Wednesday. The price range was set at HK$575.00 to HK$595.00, a discount to the last trading price of HK$629.50.

The sale helps to boost Prosus's coffers at a time when e-commerce is booming, with the coronavirus pandemic increasing online demand for everything from shopping and food delivery to education. The company already has assets in those sectors alongside the likes of payment services, and has long been on the hunt for further acquisitions.

"The group has some really interesting investments in India's e-commerce space, so perhaps that is where some of the capital will go," said Nick Kunze, a senior portfolio manager at Sanlam Private Wealth. "They now have the war chest to implement on the opportunities."

The fundraising may also give Prosus another shot at securing a mega deal, having missed out on two high-profile takeovers over the last 18 months. The company lost an US$8 billion battle to buy UK food group Just Eat to Takeaway.com at the start of last year, and in July was beaten in a US$9 billion auction for EBay Inc's classifieds business by Norwegian rival Adevinta ASA.

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By selling the Tencent shares at a discount, the Chinese company's stock is likely to fall when trading in Hong Kong opens on Thursday. That is having a knock-on effect on Prosus, according to Roy Topol, a portfolio manager at Johannesburg-based Cratos Capital.

Prosus is cashing in on one of the all-time great venture-capital deals. Naspers, the company's Cape-Town-based parent, invested just US$32 million in Tencent in 2001, when it was an obscure Internet firm. The shares are now worth about US$239 billion.

While the decision has made Naspers the most valuable company in Africa, its market capitalisation of about US$109 billion lags well behind the value of the Tencent holding.

The creation of Prosus was partly designed to narrow that discount, but the Amsterdam-based company too is dwarfed by the size of the stake in the WeChat creator.

Prosus has committed not to sell any further Tencent shares for at least the next three years, the company said. Naspers sold a similar size stake in 2018, a year before spinning off the shareholding and most of its other businesses into what is now Prosus. BLOOMBERG

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