Naspers in the process of buying AutoTrader in SA

19 Sep 2017

Naspers has confirmed that it is in the process of acquiring AutoTrader.co.za, South Africa’s leading auto vertical. The transaction is currently at the Competition Commission of SA for its approval. If approved, it may well be one of the biggest classified deals – if not the biggest – to date in South Africa.

Naspers head of investor relations Meloy Horn confirmed that the company has filed an application with the Competition Commission of SA. “Classifieds is a core segment for Naspers and auto verticals is part of our strategy,” she said.  Because the transaction is subject to approval, Horn said Naspers would not be adding additional commentary at this time. 

AutoTrader South Africa also confirmed that an application for its acquisition has been filed by Naspers.

The owners (and probably also the sellers – we don’t know whether Naspers acquired 100 percent) are Stockdale Street, which represents the Oppenheimer family’s South African private equity interests, RMB Corvest, a private equity company and member of the FirstRand Group, Bopa Moruo, a South African black-run, mid-market private equity firm and fourthly, members of the management team of AutoTrader.

Naspers subsidiary Media24 may well be involved in the deal. It has a strong (but not exclusive) focus on South Africa and has been working closely with AutoTrader.co.za for some time. AutoTrader was built into Wheels24.co.za, the auto news and reviews site of Media24, to enable Wheels24 users to search the roughly 71,000 listings of AutoTrader from the Wheels24 site.

Until now, Media24 and OLX Group, another Naspers subsidiary, has been playing second fiddle with autos in South Africa. Apart from the AutoTrader cooperation, it hasn’t had a presence in the auto vertical. Its horizontal OLX has had a tough time competing with Gumtree, the leading horizontal, and Gumtree Autos. Traffic stats site SimilarWeb measured 20 million visits to Gumtree.co.za in August and only 6.3 million visits to OLX.co.za.

The deal, if approved, will change the competitive situation materially for the Naspers contenders. According to SimilarWeb, AutoTrader.co.za received 3.8 million visits in August, which was almost three times as many as the 1.3 million visits counted on Wheels24.

A reputable source from a leading classifieds website in South Africa confirmed that he was contacted by the Competition Commission of South Africa for comment on the deal about a month ago.

He added that this was also when other classifieds sites in the country started ramping up their auto efforts. The EBay-owned Gumtree South Africa announced its intention to launch South Africa’s first Pre-Owned Car Awards in mid-August, for example.

The AIM Group has confirmation from another leading auto classified site, which has also been contacted by the Competition Commission, but both sources have asked to stay anonymous.

AutoTrader traded under the name The Car Trader (Pty) Ltd until 2013.   

AutoTrader accepts listings for new, used and classic cars, motorbikes, commercial and leisure vehicles (SUVs). Private and professional sellers pay to list. Recently, AutoTrader added “assisted selling” as an alternative to “self-selling”. A separate, so-called “safe marketplace” was launched at AutoTraderMarketplace.co.za, where private buyers and sellers can buy and sell with the help of a “personal deal manager”.

For a single, upfront payment of R1,249 ($96 U.S.), a private seller can have his “personal deal manager” sell his car for him. Here is the list of services he gets for R1,249. (For instance, included is a free listing on AutoTrader for as long as it takes to sell the car).

News of the deal reached our ears just four months after Media24 had assembled a team of foreign digital experts to help it speed up its digital transformation. This may well be the first fruit from that initiative.

One of these experts is Sverre Munck who’s been co-responsible for the growth of many classified sites, including Compraventa.com and Leboncoin.fr. In an interview with Whiteboard Mag, Munck explained his strategy for growth when working with Finn.no. For the Norwegian, paid classified site, he took on one vertical after the other, he said.

(Note: We amended this article on Sept. 20 to correctly list the owners and probable sellers – editor.) 

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Louisa Steyl

I'm a former Media24 journalist and editor with almost nine years of experience in a community newspaper newsroom. I now write news articles, features, press releases, biographies and SEO content.