One of 2oceansvibe’s favourite South Africans and former guest, Koos Bekker, conducted an interview with Summit TV and featured on BDlive. Click through to see what Koos has to say about newspapers, digital media, Naspers, their operations in China, and acquisitions.
KOOS Bekker is CEO of newspaper publishing house and pay-TV channel owner Naspers, which also owns an interest in Chinese internet portal Tencent QQ.
SUMMIT TV: A standout performance by its internet businesses helped Naspers post a 15% rise in headline earnings for the six months to September and consolidated revenue grew 22%. Internet is now almost as big as pay TV, certainly as far as revenue goes, given the 70% growth leap over the period — is that looking to overtake the TV side of the business in both revenue and profits any time soon?
KOOS BEKKER: I think that will probably happen this year with the internet growing so much faster — the e-commerce part is growing at around 61% and total internet around 70% and pay TV around 19%.
STV: There is a lot of nervousness that Tencent growth can’t continue at the breakneck pace it’s been growing over the past few years…
KB: I think when one runs into large numbers, the bigger one is, the less likely one is to grow at breakneck speed because one is constrained purely by the size of the economy. The Chinese economy is enormous and it’s still growing at around 7%. I was there three weeks ago and one does not feel like there is a recession — it feels like a vigorous economy with many salary increases of around 15% and 20% — so Tencent isn’t feeling a boost of 7% but rather 15%, which is congruous with salaries in the economy.
STV: Would you say, given your experience travelling through China, that you don’t see any slowdown from Tencent?
KB: I don’t think so in the short term. I’m very impressed with the way that economy has been managed and has come through the recession so well. If we consider China is the factory of the world, and when Europe and the US got into problems they cut back on consumption (and) China had to adjust. One of the things they did was stimulate local demand and that’s been very good for services like Tencent, with locals having more money and spending on things Tencent provides like games and communications products.
STV: There are analysts that are worried about barriers to entry in businesses like Tencent. Do you think Tencent has built up enough of a brand and customer base to be immune to other operators?
KB: I think “immune” would be too ambitious. What’s helped Tencent is its sheer size — they employ about 20,000 people and about half of those are engineers so they employ more engineers than any other internet business outside the US. That helps because in the end when a new service emerges they put five engineers on and when that shows traction they will put 15 and then 50 and in the end out-engineer the competition. What our business is about is good quality engineers and very fast response times and constantly adapting to fit in with the latest moves.
STV: You also have Mail.ru but what a lot of people want to know is what’s the next Tencent going to be for Naspers? What are you putting your money on?
KB: I would say e-commerce. If you look at our history we started with pay TV and that went through a few iterations and now it’s the internet where we started with Tencent and Mail.ru and we are now moving strongly onto the internet with e-commerce. Ten years from now I expect that e-commerce will be our strongest single unit.
STV: Does that mean you will be making more acquisitions? You’ve been quite acquisitive but you’ve said before that acquisitions are getting more expensive — what is your thinking?
KB: Five years ago when we moved into e-commerce we couldn’t do anything but buy — we had nothing to grow. Some of those acquisitions are now starting to look promising and we are putting more money behind them. There are still some markets where our services are still patchy so we’d like to augment that with acquisitions we can plug into our systems as bolt-on acquisitions, which works well for us.
STV: How much will you be spending on bolt-on acquisitions in the e-commerce sphere?
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If you missed Koos Bekker’s interview on 2oceansvibe Radio, CLICK HERE.
Did you know, Koos Bekker has never drawn a salary? Click here for more about that as Koos enters the Forbes list..
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