Naspers (together with its consolidated subsidiaries, the "Group") provides an update on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and outlines its actions to safeguard its employees, customers and businesses as well as to support the communities in which it operates. The Group is a global consumer Internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world.
The Group’s businesses serve customers in more than 90 markets. The Group estimates that approximately one-fifth of the world’s population use products and services of businesses that the Group has built, acquired or invested in. The Group's diversified portfolio comprises businesses in high-growth sectors, including food delivery, online classifieds, payments and fintech, etail, online education, and social and internet platforms.
Safeguarding its employees, customers and businesses
The Group has monitored COVID-19-related developments in its markets and has implemented measures to limit the potential spread of the virus among its employees, its customers and persons connected to its businesses. The Group early-on implemented work-from-home policies and travel restrictions for its employees to help protect the health of its employees and those around them. For those employees directly serving customers, the Group has implemented measures designed to safeguard both them and its customers. In addition, the Group has implemented measures to support the key partners of its businesses.
• Food delivery: the Group has implemented several initiatives, including iFood making available over R$50million in support to restaurants and couriers in Brazil affected by COVID-19. In some instances, the Group's businesses have also: waived commissions charged by it to restaurants; reduced restaurant payment cycles to boost restaurants' liquidity; provided masks, gloves and thermal checks for "delivery-only kitchen" staff; and provided best practice guidelines for the health and safety of restaurant staff and couriers.
• Classifieds: the Group has: extended payment and delivery services to more categories of users, where possible; offered cameras to users for virtual real estate tours; and piloted car inspections by video in some of its automotive businesses. To support sellers on some of its marketplaces, the Group has extended the duration of listings and provided financial relief to support their ongoing business viability.
• Payments and fintech: PayU has rolled out a number of initiatives to help merchant partners across its markets, including “Startups helping Startups”, which allows businesses to collaborate to support COVID-19 efforts. These initiatives include collecting donations for hospitals at points-of-sale, and rolling out free digital training webinars on how merchants can adapt to trading online.
• Etail: eMAG is offering customers alternative ways to receive their purchases. These include enabling customers to collect their goods from hundreds of conveniently located lockers, which are sanitised multiple times a day, and contactless delivery, where drivers deposit packages outside customers’ homes. eMAG is also adding new offline retailers to its marketplace to help drive business for them. Takealot has also put in place measures to safeguard its employees, partners, drivers and customers, including closing Takealot Pickup Points, providing contactless delivery and increasing hygiene procedures, guided by international best practice and the World Health Organisation (WHO), for all deliveries.
• Media: Media24 is committed to supporting South Africa’s response to COVID-19 by publishing accurate information and keeping the public informed, contributing to the spirit of solidarity, compassion and positivity by also telling stories of hope. Media24 has implemented additional safety measures and temperature screenings at its warehousing and distribution facilities that remain open. In addition, enhanced safety measures apply to its journalists working in the field, and its distribution employees will adhere to its own measures and the measures implemented by its retail partners.
The Group continues to respond to the developing situation, adhering to official guidance and applicable law and regulation to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.
Supporting the communities in which it operates
The Group is taking action at a group level and at a local company level to support its communities, particularly where it can use its technological expertise, global networks and resources to contribute to the response to COVID-19.
• Swiggy has launched a campaign to donate meals to persons in need in India. The public can also donate to this campaign. The campaign is currently donating approximately 35,000 meals per day, with a goal of distributing approximately 500,000 meals per day in the short-term.
• OLX is using its marketplace to help find homes for doctors and arrange transportation for the elderly, and is moderating fake advertisements.
• Codecademy has awarded 85,000 free scholarships to learners in more than 80 countries to the Pro version of its course catalogue, and BYJU’S has offered its learning platform for free in India.
Naspers is contributing ZAR1.5 billion in emergency aid to the South African government’s response to COVID-19. Naspers was founded in South Africa over 100 years ago and it is committed to working with the South African government and civil society to help overcome the impact of COVID-19 and make a difference in the country.
Naspers will contribute ZAR500 million to the Solidarity Response Fund and will buy ZAR1 billion worth of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies in China and fly these to South Africa. Media24 has pledged a contribution of ZAR1 million to the Fund.
The Group continues to encourage the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of its local teams to identify additional opportunities to put its capabilities and expertise to work across the world.
Business and financial impact
The Group's leadership team is in communication with its businesses to anticipate the impact of COVID-19 on operations. It is still too early to estimate the scope of any impact on the Group's operations and financial information, particularly in view of rising global infections and evolving government responses to the outbreak. The size of the impact on operations will vary across sector and geography. The Group intends to continue to invest in its businesses to position them for future recovery.
Importantly, the Group believes that it faces this challenging period from a position of relative financial strength and with sufficient liquidity to both navigate the changing environment and seek out new opportunities. The Group closed its financial year on 31 March 2020 with more than US$4 billion in net cash and a US$2.5 billion undrawn revolving credit facility in place. Prosus's bond offering in January 2020 successfully priced US$1.25 billion 3.680% notes (due 2030) to raise proceeds to redeem its US$1.0 billion 6.000% notes that are due in July 2020. The Group has no debt maturities due until 2025.
• The Group's largest investment, Tencent, continues to grow off a very large base and in a market, China, which appears to be emerging relatively well from the impact of COVID-19.
• In classifieds, the Group has seen a decline in traffic to its marketplaces. The Group, however, has taken a number of steps to assist customers and partners during this time. In the short-term, the Group expects to experience a negative impact on revenue and profitability in its Classifieds businesses.
• In payments and fintech, the Group's European businesses appear to be resilient. That, however, may change. It remains too early to estimate the impact of the recent lockdown in India on its Payments and Fintech business. India represents more than 50% of its Payments and Fintech business' transaction volume in payments and has initially seen a significant drop in transaction volume. In time, the payments and fintech business is expected to benefit across its markets from large sectoral trends, including more customers transacting online and more online transactions being executed through alternative forms of payment (rather than cash).
• In food delivery, while the Group is experiencing an increased demand for food delivery across its portfolio, it has not always been able to meet that demand due to supply issues as restaurants close. In India, Swiggy is permitted to continue to operate during the lockdown in India. The lockdown in India has, however, not been implemented uniformly across the country and Swiggy's service has been halted in some regions. Swiggy is engaging with the national and regional authorities in India to ensure the uniform implementation of the lockdown. In Brazil, iFood’s efforts to assist its restaurant and food delivery partners has helped mitigate some of the supply issues and, at this stage, order volume is holding up well. In South-Africa, although food delivery is allowed as an essential service, restaurants and their kitchens are barred from operating thereby limiting the items that Mr D Food can deliver. Mr D Food is, however, continuing to operate in a limited capacity through the delivery of essential goods, where it will use contactless delivery and hygiene protocols to ensure safety. In the longer-term, the Group believes that it is possible that the current environment may drive a structural shift in global consumption patterns in favour of food delivery.
• In etail, eMAG’s main market of operation, Romania, entered a lockdown on 26 March 2020, however, the business is holding up well at this stage. In South Africa, Takealot has been impacted by a restriction on certain categories of goods that it can sell. Takealot had ceased trading in compliance with the full lockdown. As of the 4 evening of Monday, 30 March 2020, Takealot.com, however, has reopened for the sale and delivery of essential goods. Takealot has put in place precautionary measures to prevent non-essential goods passing through the checkout process, and stock and price limitations on key essential goods. It is too early to estimate the size of the impact of such lockdown. Takealot has already enacted plans to broaden its offering into the non-restricted categories of goods, which are expected to mitigate such impact.
• In media, the South African government has included the majority of media formats as essential services that are allowed to continue operations during the full lockdown. As a leading media company in South Africa, Media24 continued with its 24/7 news coverage and its viewership has increased since the onset of COVID-19. Additionally, Media24 is expected to continue to publish a number of its print newspapers and magazines for as long as it is practical to do so. The distribution footprint of such newspapers and magazines, however, has been reduced to comply with the full lockdown.
• All of the Group's businesses have continuity plans in place. The Group is actively assessing potential impacts and supporting its businesses as they take appropriate, market-specific action as needed. The challenges of COVID-19 will vary by sector and geography, but the Group believes it has the teams, the resources and the experience required to navigate them successfully. The Group believes it will emerge from this period well-placed to continue to deliver long-term growth in the markets it serves.
To give further context to the impacts of COVID-19 on the Group's businesses, the Group invites stakeholders to attend a conference call tomorrow, Thursday, 9 April 2020 at 15:00 CET. To access the call please pre-register here.
Once registered, participants will be provided with the information needed to join the conference, including the dial-in numbers and a passcode. It is also recommended that participants dial-in 5 to 10 minutes prior to the start time to ensure sufficient opportunity for assistance, should it be required. The recording of the call will be made available on the website, www.naspers.com.Share this article via: