More than 38% of printing group Novus Holdings’s shares have been placed with institutions following implementation of the unbundling of Naspers’s controlling stake on September 26.

Print and publishing group Caxton has emerged as one of the buyers with a stake of about 5%.

The Competition Tribunal confirmed the Competition Commission’s decision that Naspers had to reduce its holding in Novus to 19% from 66%. The tribunal ruled the unbundling had to be completed by around November.

Ironically, the commission’s ruling was prompted by Caxton, which secured intervention status during the competition authorities’ consideration of Novus’s listing in 2015.

Caxton argued that the listing constituted a change of control and had to be approved by the competition authorities.

One institutional adviser said Investec stepped in to ensure an orderly placement of the shares in a bid to avoid heavy selling pressure, which would knock the Novus share price.

The majority of Naspers’s international shareholders are invested in the company to get access to Tencent and have little interest in any of its other businesses. "The expectation was that they would just dump the Novus shares as soon as they received them," said the adviser.

Investec organised a placement of the shares at R6.15 each. The list of institutional buyers includes Allan Gray 5.06%, Value Capital 5.75%, Prudential 6.4%, Investec 5.8%, Public Investment Corporation 7.53% and Peregrine 7.9%. Caxton’s stake is apparently included in Peregrine’s block.

The Novus share price is trading ahead of the placement price. On Thursday, it closed at R6.80, down on the R15 level at which it traded when it was listed in March 2015.

The printing group has had a tough time since it listed. Not only were there changes to its leadership during 2016, but chairman Lambert Retief died in January 2017, prompting an announcement by Media24, Naspers’s wholly owned subsidiary, that its printing agreement with Novus would be terminated within six months.

After JSE intervention, this termination notice was withdrawn. However, on October 3, Media24 again announced the printing agreement would be terminated in March 2018. The two companies will discuss the possibility of a new contract.


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