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Naspers set to go on Eastern European buying spree

Emerging markets internet giant Naspers has some serious expansion plans, with an eye on Eastern Europe in particular.

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Naspers CEO Koos Bekker told Bloomberg that the US$18-billion company was hoping to add between 10 and 20 companies to it’s already extensive portfolio of internet businesses.

“We see some investment opportunities in the ecommerce space, although opportunities are lower than we’ve had in the past,” Bekker said, adding that the company would take its pick from 100-200 potential acquisitions. That’s down from the nearly 300 the company had looked at every year for the past two years.

In its earnings report Naspers said that the internet segment of its business grew 59%. It claims however that “increased focus on organic expansion” and covering the cost of its growth meant that trading profits increased at a slower rate of 9% to R3.8-billion.

That kind of growth is, apparently, not enough to make any big-name buy outs and the company will look at making smaller deals. No repeats of the of the 46.5% stake it bought in Chinese social giant Tencent back in 2001 then.

“There isn’t much to buy with the cash,” said Bekker.

Naspers already has a strong presence in Eastern Europe, where it owns classifieds site Slando. In October 2007, the $18-billion media giant bought out Gadu-Gadu, a listed Polish instant messaging business with an estimated 8-million registered accounts (of a population of 38-million).

Shortly after this, Naspers acquired Tradus (formerly QXL and listed on the London Stock Exchange), which provides an online auction platform and internet portals in Eastern Europe. The company owns, which is the leading online auction site in Poland.

It also owns and 80% stake Turkey’s Vipindirim Electronic Services Plc.

The South African-based company has never been shy when it comes to making offshore investments and has properties in Sub-Saharan Africa, Greece, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the United States, Thailand, Brazil, Poland, Ukraine, Russia,India, Turkey and China.

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