South Africa's largest media company, plans to buy more internet
businesses outside its home market as newspaper advertising slumps, writes Mike Cohen for Moneyweb.

"We are looking at Southeast Asia, the rest of Latin America, Eastern Europe," CEO Koos Bekker said in a telephone interview last week. "I expect that one will invest there in years to come."

Naspers is the publisher of the Daily Sun, South Africa's biggest daily newspaper, and magazines including Finweek and You.

In the past two years, Naspers has bought 30% stakes in Grupo Abril, Brazil's second-biggest media company, local messaging service MXit Lifestyle and the owner of Russian website Mail.ru. The pace of acquisitions is likely to slow this year, Bekker said.

Bekker returned to work April 1 after a yearlong sabbatical, during which he visited 22 countries and evaluated changes in the media industry. In December, Naspers announced the purchase of London-based internet auctioneer Tradus Plc for £946m ($1,91bn). Tradus operates in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and eight other European countries.

The print media market will shrink as high-speed internet service prompts customers to obtain more material online, and newspapers will continue to lose advertising, said Bekker.

‘Dead' market

"The quality newspaper in a broadband market like the US is shot; they are dead," Bekker said. "You can buy the whole of the New York Times today for $2,5bn. We can buy it. We are not interested."

Naspers shares have lost 12% in the past year, including dividends, compared with an 18% drop in the Bloomberg World Media Index and a 12% gain in the JSE All Share Index. Of eight analysts who rate the stock, six recommend buying the shares and two have "hold" ratings.

Net income in the year through March probably climbed 80% to a record R3,59bn, according to the median estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The company acquired new businesses and signed up pay-television subscribers.

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