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Most of Shenzhen’s 300 skyscrapers were yet to be built when, 20 years ago, Hans Hawinkels visited a modest set of offices in the Chinese city. He was chasing a lead on a possible investment opportunity.

That, after all, was his job. He’d been there since 1998, when Naspers boss Koos Bekker asked him to relocate to Hong Kong shortly after Britain handed the island back to the People’s Republic of China. And as CEO of MIH Asia, a Naspers subsidiary, Hawinkels was instructed to scour the Far East for investment opportunities, with a clear focus on pay television and the internet...

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