Naspers chief Bob van Dijk to step down

Naspers chief Bob van Dijk to step down

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Bob van Dijk is stepping down as chief executive of Naspers, the South African internet company and the single-biggest shareholder in China’s Tencent through its Prosus investment arm.

Van Dijk, who has been in charge of Naspers since 2014, will leave as head of the group effective on September 18, the Johannesburg-listed company said on Monday.

He will also depart as head of Prosus, the Amsterdam-listed investment vehicle through which Naspers controls an array of global internet assets from Indian payments to Brazilian food delivery businesses.

Ervin Tu, chief investment officer of both companies, will take over as interim chief executive of the two entities.

Van Dijk “has agreed to assist with the transition . . . and will remain as a consultant to the group until 30 September 2024,” Naspers said.

He leaves the top post after a long tenure during which Naspers grappled with the surging value of its Tencent stake, which overshadowed its other investments and ultimately led it to outgrow its home stock market.

Van Dijk led the 2019 listing of Prosus to rehouse the Tencent stake in response and took other measures to tackle a big gap between the value of Naspers and its stake in Tencent. These included buybacks funded by the gradual selldown of shares in the Chinese company.

He oversaw both the creation and unwinding of a cross-shareholding structure between Prosus and its parent, which was launched to further reduce Naspers’ weighting on the Johannesburg stock exchange. Investors, however, criticised it as complex and confusing.

Tu joined Naspers in 2021 from SoftBank, where he was a managing partner at the Japanese conglomerate’s Vision Fund investment vehicle.

As Naspers chief, Van Dijk succeeded current chair Koos Bekker, the media mogul who turned a publisher and pay-TV operator with a dark apartheid past into a global internet investor with his 2001 bet on Tencent, then a small start-up.

Van Dijk oversaw international expansion including billions of dollars of investment by Naspers in businesses in India such as delivery app Swiggy and online learning group Byju’s.

“During this time, substantial businesses were established in classifieds, food delivery and payments, while we also entered several new fields,” Bekker said.

Under van Dijk, Naspers also spun off MultiChoice, Africa’s biggest pay-TV company, and Prosus made a big foray into the US tech market in 2021 with the $1.8bn acquisition of Stack Overflow, the software developer Q&A site.

Naspers remains under investor pressure to find more solutions to the gap between its share price and assets, including its 26 per cent stake in Tencent, which Naspers has said remains of strategic value.

Prosus has been seeking to increase returns and profitability in its other assets. It has also had to manage the souring of its investment in Byju’s, where Prosus recently said that management “regularly disregarded” its advice.

On Monday, Naspers and Prosus also completed the removal of the cross-shareholding structure, which was instituted in 2021.