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Exclusive: Naspers nears full control of Russian classified platform Avito - sources

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Exclusive: Naspers nears full control of Russian classified platform Avito - sources
FILE PHOTO: Satellite dishes connect township residents to South Africa's DSTV television network, owned by telecommunications giant Naspers, in Khayelitsha township, Cape Town, May 19, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings   -   Copyright  Mike Hutchings(Reuters)
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By Esha Vaish and Arno Schuetze

STOCKHOLM/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – South African media and e-commerce group Naspers is nearing a deal to take full control of Russia’s largest classified advertising platform Avito by buying the remaining 32 percent it does not already own, two sources told Reuters.

The deal could be announced as soon as Monday but details of the buyout were still being negotiated on Friday, the people close to the situation said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the talks were confidential.

One of the sources said that the deal could see Avito valued at more than $4 billion, indicating that Naspers might spend over $1.3 billion buying out minority investors.

Avito was launched by Swedish entrepreneurs Jonas Nordlander and Filip Engelbert in 2007 as Russia’s answer to Craigslist and today owns and operates the country’s largest online classifieds website

Avito was not immediately available to comment.

Over the past couple of years online marketplaces in Russia have grown rapidly, offering anything from food delivery and cleaning to private house construction services.

Since Naspers invested in Avito in 2013, it has expanded across a range of classified categories including autos and real estate. Its marketplace today attracts over 32 million unique visitors a month, according to its website.

Cape Town-based Naspers bumped up its holding in Avito to 67.9 percent from 17.4 percent in 2015, valuing the company at about $2.4 billion then.

One of Avito’s minority shareholders, Vostok New Venture, pegged the value of its 13.2 percent stake at about $600 million as of June 30, 2018, valuing the entire company at about $4.55 billion. Other minority shareholders include the founders and another fund called Barin Vostok.

At interim results for the six months to end-September 2018, Naspers said it had $8.7 billion in cash.

The company has transformed itself from a newspaper publisher into an $96 billion media empire by pushing into websites and e-commerce, holding stakes in Russian internet group Mail.Ru and Chinese social network and online entertainment firm Tencent.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Stockholm and Arno Schuetze in Frankfurt, additional reporting by Ekaterina Golubkova, editing by Louise Heavens)

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