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Prosus nets $14.6 billion from sale of Tencent stake

* Prosus sells 2% Tencent stake at top of pricing range

* Has agreed not to further reduce stake for three years

* One of largest ever block trades -Refinitiv data

* Buyers included hedge funds, sovereign wealth -source (Updates with details on buyers)

By Toby Sterling and Scott Murdoch

AMSTERDAM, April 8 (Reuters) – Amsterdam-based technology investor Prosus NV said on Thursday it netted $14.6 billion from its overnight sale of a 2% stake in Chinese gaming and social media giant Tencent in one of the world’s largest ever block trades.

“Our belief in Tencent and its management team is steadfast, but we also need to fund continued growth in our core business lines and emerging sectors,” Prosus Chairman Koos Bekker said in a statement after the completion of the deal on Thursday.

In a Hong Kong Stock Exchange filing, Tencent said Prosus sold 191.89 million shares for HK$595.00 each, reducing its stake to 28.9%.

The price was a 5.5% discount to Tencent’s Wednesday close of HK$629.50. Tencent stock, which is up 10% this year, closed 1.5% lower in Hong Kong at HK$620.00 on Thursday.

Tencent Chairman Pony Ma said in a statement that he viewed Prosus, which was spun off from Naspers of South Africa in a 2019 IPO, as a “committed strategic partner over a great many years”.

“Tencent respects and understands the (stake sale) decision,” he said.

Naspers bought the Tencent stake Prosus now holds in 2001.

Prosus has committed to not reducing its remaining stake further for the coming three years.

The block trade was the world’s largest since 2018, when Naspers sold 2% of the group for $9.8 billion, Refinitiv data shows.

Among the 400 buyers in the heavily-subscribed placement were a mix of sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds and major long-only investors, according to a person familiar with the deal.

“For good quality companies, there is still huge cash available,” the person said. “Investor appetite for growth stocks and tech stocks is still powerful.”

Prosus owns interests in online food delivery platforms, classified marketplaces and digital payments businesses.

Chief Executive Bob van Dijk said the company has a “healthy set” of potential acquisition targets.

“Food delivery, you know, is an important focus for us,” he told reporters on a call. “Edtech (education software) is an important segment for us and fintech is as well, so we see quite a few opportunities.”

For the half-year to Sept. 30, 2020, Prosus reported a 29% increase in core earnings to $2.2 billion, with proceeds from its Tencent stake offsetting losses from other investments.

The sale of the Tencent stake slightly closed a gap between the valuation of Prosus itself, with a market capitalisation of 153 billion euros, and the value of its remaining Tencent stake, worth about 186 billion euros on Thursday.

“When the discount moves in the right direction we’re obviously happy, but we’re not happy with where it is,” Van Dijk said.

He said growth at the company’s other businesses would “alleviate the discount over time”.

Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs were joint global coordinators for the sale. ($1 = 0.8425 euros) ($1 = 7.7849 Hong Kong dollars) (Reporting by Toby Sterling, Scott Murdoch and Abhinav Ramnarayan Editing by Jan Harvey, David Goodman, Steve Orlofsky and Susan Fenton)

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