Naspers eyes Zim mobile firms

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HARARE – Africa’s most valuable company, Naspers, has set its eyes on partnering with Zimbabwe’s mobile telephone firms to boost its video-on-demand business.


This comes as the south Africa-headquartered firm, which is valued at over $70 billion, is seeking strategic alliances on the continent to help compete with United States giant Netflix Incorporation.


Naspers chief executive Bob Van Dijk said his company is planning to build on a joint venture agreed last year with Kenya’s largest company, Safaricom, to roll out online service Showmax at more affordable data prices.


“We will be targeting the whole of sub-Saharan Africa for mobile partnerships. Working together with telcos will be a big part of what we do. We are live in Kenya and there are several others,” Van Dijk said.


Zimbabwe currently has three major mobile telecommunication companies; Econet, NetOne and Telecel.


Market experts said while the Cape Town-based company’s satellite pay-TV business has long dominated the sub-Saharan African market, it would be interesting to see how it will compete with Econet Global which recently launched its own data-based television platform — Kwese Tv.


Kwese Tv — currently on a television channels buying spree across the continent — can be broadcast from a number of devices, bringing viewers entertainment anywhere, anytime.


Naspers is seeking to maintain its market-leading position with online products like Showmax, which offers movies and TV shows such as Game of Thrones and Vikings.


“There’s not a lot of cable on the continent and never will be. The video-on-demand business will have to be a mobile play through affordable data,” Van Dijk added.


Naspers has evolved from a South African newspaper publisher into a global investor in technology companies, with its most successful venture to date being an early-stage investment in the Chinese creator of WeChat, Tencent.


The shares have increased 8,6 percent this month, valuing the company at $71 billion.


The company posted a 31 percent rise in its first-half profit as strength of its e-commerce businesses and stake in Tencent outweighed slumping earnings at the pay-TV service. So-called headline earnings were $914 million in the six months through September.


Naspers plans to harness artificial intelligence to enable growth across its businesses, said Van Dijk. Other Naspers companies include Indian travel operator Ibibo and Russian social media provider Mail.ru Group Ltd.


“We want to get people on board and build our AI capacity internally rather than investing in an AI business. We want to bring in the skills. We plan to push this very hard,” he said.

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