Naspers' 946m bid agreed by Tradus

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The Independent Online

The online auctioneer Tradus, a former dotcom darling, agreed a 946m takeover by the South African media firm Naspers yesterday.

Tradus, previously known as QXL Ricardo, has backed an 18-a-share offer from Africa's largest media company, the owner of the Daily Sun newspaper and the pay-TV firm Multichoice, as part of its strategy for internet expansion. The deal represents a 19 per cent premium on Tradus's price of 1,510p a share, when the company first announced it was in takeover discussions on 6 November, and comes amid a renewed interest in online companies.

Tradus conducts internet auctions across 12 European countries. It was founded by a former Financial Times journalist, Tim Jackson, in 1997 and, after listing on the stock market in 1999, its value soared to 2bn in early 2000 on hopes it would become the European eBay. But just eight months later, it was worth only 62m as internet stocks crashed.

Naspers, which has internet operations in Africa, China and Russia and generates 73 per cent of its revenue in South Africa, said the buyout would help it expand in central and eastern Europe.

Cobus Stofberg, Naspers' chief executive, said: "The operations of the Naspers Group and Tradus complement each other perfectly, and significant advantages can be obtained by aligning Tradus's businesses with Naspers' other internet investments in central and eastern Europe."

The deal, due to be completed by March, requires approval from Tradus shareholders, but the board has recommended investors accept the offer. Shares in the FTSE 250-listed group rose 12 per cent to 18.15.

Tradus was the subject of a failed takeover battle in 2005 between members of its management team and the consortium Florissant, backed by the UK private equity firm Novator.

Tradus's pre-tax profits rose 28 per cent to 7.7m on revenues of 30.6m in the six months to the end of September.

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