Koos Bekker off to search for the next big thing

Port Elizabeth - After a year of quiet planning and preparation Naspers [JSE:NPN] CEO Koos Bekker is set to go and search the globe for the next big development in the world of mass communication.

While most of Naspers’ interests in internet-related businesses are still growing strongly, he is off to seek for the next big opportunity, he indicated in an interview with Fin24 on Saturday.

Naspers announced early on Saturday that Bekker will stand down as CEO and as a member of the board of directors at the end of its financial year in March this year.  

Bob van Dijk, currently Naspers’ most senior e-commerce manager, will take over the helm at the start of the new financial year on April 1.

Naspers also announced that its chairperson, Ton Vosloo, will resign at the end of March 2015. The plan is that Bekker will then take up the reign as chairperson.

For the next year, Bekker plans to travel the world: Firstly, to give the new CEO space and time to do his thing. Secondly, to seek the “new big wave”.

“Currently, e-commerce is the segment of our internet businesses which is growing the fastest and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

"Naspers has made huge investments in e-commerce during the last few years, some of which is still developing to its fullest potential,” says Bekker.

He says that Naspers was fortunate to identify changes and trends in the media world during the last few decades and was successful in taking advantage of opportunities.

During the early 1980s, Naspers followed the development of pay-television in the US and pioneered subscription television channels in South Africa when it established M-Net. At the time M-Net was one of only a few pay-television services outside the US.

Naspers’ first step into the electronic media grew fast and M-Net now operates pay-TV across 48 countries in Africa and collects monthly subscriptions from 7 million subscribers.

When growth in pay-television started to slow after 10 years, Naspers acquired a taste and an interest in the then most exciting thing – cellular phones. Naspers was a founder member of MTN when it listed M-Cell on the JSE.

At the time it also listed M-Web, long before investment in internet companies became fashionable. In fact, M-Web was delisted within a few years as it attracted very little attention from investors. It seems that Bekker and Naspers were a few years ahead of the pack.

The internet and internet businesses took off from around 1995 and remains the fastest-growing industry in the world. “It is still huge,” says Bekker, “but time to look forward.”

Bekker told Fin24 that he plans to travel as much as possible in the next 12 months and will specifically spend as much time as possible speaking and listening to the younger generation. “I want to find out how they are thinking, what they want, what they are looking for…”

One of the first stops will be Korea. “Korea has developed into the world leader of internet gaming and applications for cellular telephones. I want to find out what the trends are.”

Berlin is also on the list because it has quietly developed into the most important and most advanced internet centre in Europe. Bekker will also spend a lot of time in New York.

“San Fransisco is usually seen as the international hub of the internet and related technological businesses, but I sense that the real changes are happening in New York.”

- Fin24

* Fin24 is part of Media24, a subsidiary of Naspers.

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