Seek, the Australia-based recruitment giant, has completed the sale of part of its stake in Chinese recruitment site Zhaopin for A$697 million ($540 million U.S.) in gross profits. Seek now holds a 23.5% stake in the company, down from a 61.1% controlling stake.
A consortium of investors led by China-based private equity firm Primavera acquired a 76.5% stake in Zhaopin, which included a partial share rollover and additional investment from existing investors.
Around $71 million from the sale will be returned to shareholders via a 20 cent dividend. The transaction values Seek’s remaining stake at A$515 million.
“Completion of the Zhaopin transaction and receipt of funds is an important milestone. A portion of the Seek proceeds will be returned to shareholders as a dividend, which reflects our confidence in Seek’s outlook and ongoing cash generation,” co-founder and CEO Andrew Bassat said in a statement.
Rumours that Seek would sell down its stake in Zhaopin began to swirl late last year. That’s despite Zhaopin generating around 60% of the company’s overall revenue, far exceeding the revenue at its Australian site.
But the market is challenging and highly competitive. With a reduced shareholding, Seek now benefits from continued economic exposure, without the significant investment and operational requirements of a controlling stake.
The transaction means Seek will now shift focus to its assets in Southeast Asia, which the company said more closely resemble the Australian business. This enables more technology developed in Australia to be deployed to Southeast Asia, as the markets continue to develop.
Seek provided an updated valuation of its Early Stage Ventures portfolio of around A$739 million, up from A$652 in December. Its Online Education Services business is now valued at A$525 million (Seek holds an 80% stake, worth around A$420 million).
Excluding Zhaopin, the company’s FY21 guidance has been revised to just under A$1.6 billion in revenue and A$480 million EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization).
Bassat said revenue growth has largely been driven by improving macroeconomic conditions in Australia and Asia. In particular, the Australian business has benefited from “record high levels” of SME hiring activity and increased usage of depth products.
“We are pleased to upgrade our FY21 guidance,” Bassat said. “Our willingness to invest through the cycle has meant our key businesses, in particular Seek ANZ and Seek Asia now capitalizing on improving macro conditions.”