China Issues Monopoly Regulations for Internet Sector
Shares of Tencent Holdings Ltd. edged lower in Hong Kong after Prosus NV priced its placement of the Chinese internet giant’s stock at the top end of a marketed range, raising HK$114.2 billion (US$14.7 billion) in the world’s second-biggest block trade on record.
Tencent fell as much as 2.5 per cent in early trading before paring losses to trade 1.3 per cent lower as of 10:20 a.m. in Hong Kong. Amsterdam-listed Prosus priced the deal at HK$595 per share, which represents a 5.5 per cent discount to Tencent’s last close of HK$629.50, according to terms of the deal obtained by Bloomberg News. The selldown is the second-biggest block trade in data compiled by Bloomberg, smaller only than the U.S. Treasury Department’s US$20.7 billion sale of American International Group Inc. shares in 2012.
E-commerce group Prosus’ sale of a 2 per cent stake in Tencent will reduce its holding to just under 29 per cent while remaining the biggest shareholder of the Chinese firm, it said in a statement earlier Wednesday. It was marketing 191.89 million Tencent shares at HK$575 to HK$595 apiece.
“The sale could provide a very good opportunity for long-term investors to buy Tencent,” said Louis Tse, Hong Kong-based managing director at VC Asset Management Ltd. “The anti-trust law in China, whether it would be very stringent, is a key to its future performance. But being able to price the shares at the high end reflects market confidence.”
The deal will more than quadruple Prosus’s cash reserves from US$4.6 billion as of the end of September. It 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. Prosus 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 U.K. food group Just Eat Plc 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.
Prosus shares were down 4.6 per cent at the close Wednesday in Amsterdam. The company is cashing in on one of the all-time great venture-capital deals. Naspers Ltd., 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 capitalization of about US$105 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 US$9.8 billion worth of Tencent stake in 2018, a year before spinning off the shareholding and most of its other businesses into what is now Prosus.
“The market has already expected that every three years Naspers would want to trim down its holdings to take out the heavy gains from Tencent to invest somewhere else,” said Tse of VC Asset. “So this placement itself is not very surprising.”
That perhaps explains the muted reaction in Tencent’s stock on Thursday. The 2018 stake sale by Naspers had contributed to a loss of more than 9 per cent in Tencent’s shares over two days, wiping out US$48 billion in market value.
--With assistance from Natalia Drozdiak, Kat Van Hoof, Loni Prinsloo, Prinesha Naidoo, Ksenia Galouchko and Jeanny Yu.