(Recasts with flotation delay, adds CEO quote)
By Nqobile Dludla
JOHANNESBURG, June 21 (Reuters) - South Africa’s Naspers has been forced to delay the multi-billion euro flotation of its international internet assets, including its lucrative stake in China’s Tencent, after an admin error by a third party involved in the float.
The company said a shareholders’ meeting in Cape Town on June 28 to approve the flotation on Euronext Amsterdam, with a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), had been cancelled and reconvened for Aug. 23.
The listing of the new company, to be called Prosus, has been moved to September from July 17.
Naspers said the third-party error meant some postal copies of the resolution for the meeting had been wrongly addressed. It did not name the provider involved or say if any compensation would be sought.
“It was outside our control but still unfortunate”, Naspers Chief Executive Bob Van Dijk told reporters on a conference call. “We think from a governance point of view it’s extremely important we treat and inform our shareholders well, and we felt with this mistake, maybe people are still informed, but we wanted to take no chance.”
The flotation of the business, with assets valued at more than 100 billion euros ($112 billion), is motivated by the value of its 31.2 percent Tencent stake, worth around 100 billion Hong Kong dollars, and which has made Naspers’ valuation account for more than 25 percent of the JSE’s Top 40 share index.
That makes it problematic for South African pension funds and other investors in Africa to buy Naspers shares or South African indexes without disproportionate exposure to Tencent, one of China’s biggest social media and gaming groups.
Naspers plans to retain a 73% stake in the new company, which will hold assets also including its OLX classified businesses in India and Brazil, and its U.S. business letgo.
Naspers also on Friday reported a 25% rise in annual core headline earnings per share, thanks to reduced losses at its e-commerce business.
The company, whose e-commerce holdings cover areas such as food delivery, classified ads and online retail, said core headline earnings per share from continuing operations reached 694 cents in the year through March, compared with 553 cents the year before.
Core headline EPS is Naspers’ main profit measure that strips out non-operational and one-off items. Headline earnings rose 26% to $3 billion.
Naspers said its e-commerce division which houses assets such as OLX narrowed its trading loss (at the EBITDA level) by 14%, or 15% in local currency and adjusted for acquisitions and disposals, to $556 million.
“Trading losses in e-commerce reduced significantly with the classifieds business continuing its margin improvement to become profitable in the aggregate for the year ended 31 March 2019,” it said in a statement.
Other e-commerce assets also continued to expand, with online retail trading losses almost halving and the Payments and Fintech business narrowing its trading loss margin to 12% from 22% last year.
The internet business, which houses Tencent, saw trading profit rise 11% as many e-commerce units boosted profitability and Tencent delivered a stable performance, it said.
Shares in Naspers closed 1.1% weaker at 3,441 rand.
($1 = 14.3200 rand)
$1 = 7.8097 Hong Kong dollars Reporting by Nqobile Dludla Additional reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam Editing by Susan Fenton and David Holmes