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Naspers group

Overview

This profile deals with Naspers, the South African print and broadcasting conglomerate.


It covers -

  • introduction
  • evolution
  • scope and shape
  • Media24
  • studies

Introduction

Capetown-based Naspers operates in electronic media (pay television and internet subscriber platforms, and related technologies) and print media (newspapers, magazines, printing, book publishing and private education).

The group's most significant operations are located in South Africa, where it generates around 72% of its revenue, but over the past three decades it has expanded into sub-saharan Africa, Greece, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the United States, Thailand and China.

Evolution

Naspers traces its origins to Nasionale Pers, incorporated in Cape Town in 1915 by a group of Afrikaans nationalists that included Pieter Malan, Fred Dormehl and Willie Hofmeyr.

The group began as a printer and publisher of the Burger daily newspaper (initially edited by DF Malan, later Prime Minister of South Africa), expanded into magazine publishing in 1916 and into book publishing in 1918. For most of its history it was closely aligned with the business wing of the National Party (Malan, Dormehl and Hofmeyr co-founded what became the Sanlam financial services giant). National Party leaders HF Verwoerd and PW Botha sat on the company's board.

With the loosening of apartheid and advent of electronic media in the 1980s (and low growth in print) Naspers expanded its activities to incorporate pay-television and later online media. In 1985 Naspers and other South African media groups such as Perskor formed an electronic pay-media business, M-Net.

M-Net was listed on the JSE Securities Exchange in 1990 before being split in 1993 into two companies. Its subscriber management, signal distribution and cellular telephone businesses, together with a holding in FilmNet (a pay-television operator in Europe) became a new company called MultiChoice Ltd (later named MIH Holdings) and in 1995 Richemont S. and MultiChoice merged their global pay-television operations, including the interest in FilmNet, MultiChoice's operations in Africa, and Richemont's interest in Telepiu, into a single venture called NetHold B.V., which MultiChoice held through its subsidiary, MIH Limited.

During 1997 MIH Limited and Richemont merged most of NetHold's assets with Canal+, the French based pay-television operator, later part of the Vivendi Universal conglomerate. MIH retained NetHold's African, Mediterranean and Middle East pay-television businesses and acquired 49% of Irdeto Access from Canal+. MIH also received a small interest in Canal+ (subsequently sold to fund expansion plans such as purchase of the remainder of Irdeto Access from Canal+, acquisition of a 31.1% interest in Thai pay-television operator UBC and purchase of a 44.5% interest in OpenTV).

OpenTV and MIH were listed on Nasdaq in 1999. In 2002 MIH sold its stake in OpenTV to Liberty.

In 1997 MIH created internet service provider M-Web Holdings, spun off as a listed entity on the JSE Securities Exchange South Africa the following year. It was subsequently delisted: Naspers now holds 100%.

In 2000 Naspers merged its existing private education business with another leading South African private education service provider, forming Educor Holdings Limited, which is one of the leading private education providers in South Africa. At the same time it reorganised its print media businesses under the Media24 umbrella before absorbing the minority interests in MIH Holdings and MIH Limited.

In 2001 the group acquired a 46.5% interest in Tencent Holdings , operator of the QQ instant messaging platform (China's counterpart to MSN Messenger). Tencent listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2004.

Naspers acquired an additional interest in M-Net and SuperSport, which were delisted from the JSE Securities Exchange in 2004.

Scope and shape

Naspers is structured as two units: print and electronic media

Print media comprises two segments: Media24 and Book Publishing & Private Education.

Media24 is the largest South African publisher of magazines, one of the largest publishers of newspapers and the largest printer and distributor of magazines and related products in Africa. Media24 operations include newspapers, magazines, internet ventures, distribution companies and printing works. The group boasts four dailies, two weeklies, three Sunday newspapers and 37 community newspapers. Its magazine division includes over 33 magazines. The internet arm has leading brands in the news, motoring, property, health and food categories.

Book publishing activities are conducted through Via Afrika (formerly Nasboek). The private education business is conducted through Educor.

The electronic media unit (accounting for around 67.4% of total revenue) comprises pay-television, internet and related technology activities. It centres on MIH Holdings, which owns or operates pay-television and internet subscriber platforms in Africa, Greece, Cyprus, Thailand and China.

Media24

Media24 operations include newspapers, magazines, internet ventures, distribution companies and printing works. The group boasts four dailies, two weeklies, three Sunday newspapers and 37 community newspapers. Its magazine division includes over 33 magazines. The internet arm has leading brands in the news, motoring, property, health and food categories

Media24 Magazines is the dominant player in the South African magazine industry, with over 60% of the country's total circulation and more than 30 titles. Some of Media24's magazines, such as YOU, Fairlady, Drum and True Love, are sold across subsaharan Africa.

Studies

For an introduction to the group's history see Johan Muller's 'Press Houses at War: A Brief History of Nasionale Pers and Perskor' in The Press in South Africa (London: John Currey 1987) edited by Keyan Tomaselli, Ruth Tomaselli & Johan Muller