Prosus NV and Naspers Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Bob van Dijk stepped down as the head of the tech investing group after removing a complicated shareholder structure that he had set up.
(Bloomberg) — Prosus NV and Naspers Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Bob van Dijk stepped down as the head of the tech investing group after removing a complicated shareholder structure that he had set up.
Van Dijk will remain as a consultant to the board at Prosus and its parent company — Cape Town-based Naspers — until the end of September 2024, the firms said in a statement on Monday. Chief Investment Officer Ervin Tu will serve as interim boss for the companies.
In an unusual arrangement, Amsterdam-based Prosus owned nearly half of its Cape Town-headquartered parent company Naspers. The structure, which was introduced in 2021 as an attempt to address the distorting effect of the company’s large stake in Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., was criticized by some investors as complex and ineffective.
In June, South African regulators approved a plan to remove the structure and that process is now complete.
Shares of Prosus fell 2.4% to €28.90 at 12:01 p.m. Naspers shares fell 2.1% in Johannesburg.
Read More: Naspers and Prosus Shares Rise on Plan to Simplify Ownership
Van Dijk became Naspers CEO in 2014 and headed Prosus since its 2019 listing.
Naspers, which began more than a century ago as a South African newspaper business, invested $34 million for nearly half of Tencent in 2001 in what became one of the most successful bets ever.
During van Dijk’s tenure, Tencent’s market capitalization soared to a peak of nearly $1 trillion in 2021, pushing the company’s weighting on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to 23% and creating problems for local fund managers.
Van Dijk’s solution was for Prosus to own a chunk of its parent in order to transfer some of its economic interest to the larger Dutch market. However, the structure was poorly understood and helped contribute to a discount between the value of the company and the assets it holds.
What Bloomberg Intelligence Says
Management change at Prosus and Naspers could signal a more practical dealmaking phase, we believe, perhaps replacing complex moves like the recently unwound cross-shareholding with more-effective asset sales and demergers and a cohesive strategy. Ervin Tu, the interim CEO, has a background in M&A though the long-term direction of the companies will be clearer when a permanent replacement is confirmed – amping uncertainty in the shorter term.
— John Davies, BI media and telecoms analyst
Tu, who joined Naspers and Prosus from SoftBank Group Corp. two years ago, is known as a deal-maker. He previously also worked at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., where he focused on mergers and acquisitions.
“This is an important moment of transition. I will take a hard look at everything,” said Tu in an interview on Monday.
Tu said he will approach investing, mergers and acquisitions with a “great deal” of discipline.
Prosus will continue its share buy-back program, funded by the continued sell-down of its Tencent holding, according to Tu. The company owns about a quarter of the Chinese ecommerce giant.
“We want to compound value over the long term, not just invest and deploy capital,” Tu said.
(Updates with background starting in sixth paragraph.)
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