RPT-UPDATE 2-S.Africa's Naspers turns again to China for growth

Tue Nov 27, 2012 11:42am EST
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* Core earnings up 15 pct to 1,062 cents per share

* Internet revenue jumps 70 percent

* Shares up 50 percent this year

By Helen Nyambura-Mwaura

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 27 (Reuters) - China's massive but increasingly competitive Internet market was the main driver of 15 percent first-half earnings growth for Naspers, prompting questions over how long the company can keep growing at such speed.

From its origins as a newspaper publisher in apartheid South Africa, Cape Town-based Naspers has morphed into a global multimedia business acquiring stakes in emerging-market Internet companies including China's Tencent.

Naspers' shares have risen over 50 percent this year, boosting its market capitalisation to $25 billion and making it more valuable than better known media firms such as Britain's Pearson Plc and Thomson Reuters.

But much of the growth has been driven by its 34 percent stake in Tencent, and some analysts say the company has become too reliant on China to fatten its bottom line - and too expensive.

"It's a wonderful business, very well run but you are effectively investing in Chinese internet stock Tencent by buying Naspers," said Nic Norman-Smith, chief investment officer at Lentus Asset Management in Johannesburg.   Continued...