Naspers is selling its Swiss online retailer Ricardo in a deal potentially worth 300-400 million Swiss francs (R3.38 billion – R4,51 billion), as the South African firm focuses on emerging markets, two people familiar with the sale said.
Sell-side adviser Altium Capital is preparing information packs that will be sent to potential suitors before the end of the year, the two sources said.
Unlike in most countries, where Ebay is the go-to online market place for individuals, Ricardo is Switzerland’s largest Internet auctioneer by far. About 2.3 million people trade goods worth 660 million francs (R7.46 billion) over Ricardo each year, according to its website.
Swiss media groups such as Ringier, which cooperates with KKR in its online classifieds business, and Tamedia , will likely express an interest in Ricardo, as will Internet-focused buyout groups, the sources said.
Naspers, Ricardo, Tamedia and Altium declined to comment. A spokesman for Ringier said it would be a duty to look at a company like Ricardo if it were for sale.
Ricardo started out in Germany where it was founded by Internet entrepreneurs in 1998. It listed on Germany’s now defunct tech-focused Neuer Markt a year later and acquired Swiss site auktion24.ch, which was rebranded ricardo.ch. The company was bought by Britain’s QXL group at the height of the dotcom boom in 2000 and then taken private by Naspers in 2008.
A sale of Ricardo would allow Naspers to invest more in fast-growing emerging markets. It already holds stakes in Russian social network Mail.ru and Chinese Internet portal Tencent.
Earlier this month, Naspers joined up with Schibsted and Telenor in Norway and Singapore Press Holdings to accelerate their e-commerce businesses in four fast-growing emerging markets.
By focusing on e-commerce and media operations in emerging markets, Cape Town-based Naspers has transformed itself from an apartheid-era newspaper publisher into a $53 billion media and Internet giant.
( 1 Swiss franc = ZA R11.30)