Sep 17 2008

eBay/Naspers showdown looms in Europe

Published by at 5:51 pm under Companies

Six months ago Naspers, South Africa and Africa’s biggest media company, bought Swiss-based Tradus, an auction site operator with a strong presence in Eastern Europe and (not so strong) in Scandinavia.

Today global auction platform eBay announced plans to step up its effort in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, by buying “a fair number of classified portals in the next six months, or so”.

The first announcement will be made “within weeks”, eBay said. Read the article in Wall Street Journal. **

Given the investment made in Tradus (€1.7 billion), Naspers is not likely to stand by passively as eBay challenges it on its “home ground”, so to speak. Here you can see which portals Naspers operates in Eastern Europe and here and here you can see what they have in Denmark and Norway.  

No, they are much more likely to go on the attack. In fact, it is my contention they have already launched that attack, without anyone noticing. The attack started with a take-over in Austria, where the second biggest auction platform (OneTwoSold.at) was bought and the site migrated to Ricardo.at, turning this Naspers portal into a proper competitor for eBay.at, the front-runner in Austria. 

In Switzerland Ricardo.ch already occupies the top position. There eBay has to play catch-up.  

So, step one was to get a proper competitor in place in Austria. Step two will be Germany, where eBay is the uncontested and very successful leader and Naspers has nothing to throw against it. I won’t be surprised if Naspers changes this situation with an acquisition in the near future. When they do, the site will be migrated to the domain they already own, namely Ricardo.de. 

On 1 July Heiner Kroke was poached from Kijiji (an eBay platform, where he was CEO) and installed as boss of Ricardo.ch and boss of all internet assets in western Europe of Amsterdam-based MIH Internet Europe. (MIH is a Naspers subsidiary.)

Perhaps that was really the first step in the attack…  

Another sign that Naspers has gone on the attack: Information is kept to a minimum. The Tradus site has vanished; there is no MIH site; and no press statement is to be found anywhere on the OneTwoSold.at take-over. Not on the Naspers site, neither on Ricardo.ch, nor on Ricardo.at (apart from the necessary admin arrangements to bring OneTwoSold clients over to Ricardo.at). Co-incidence? I don’t think so.   

But, even if my “gut feel” lets me down (unlikely…I worked for Naspers for 16 years), and Naspers isn’t in “attack mode”, blows will still be exchanged for market share in Eastern Europe in coming months.

** Only subscribers can see the full article. E-mail me, for a copy.

One response so far

One Response to “eBay/Naspers showdown looms in Europe”

  1. adminon 31 Oct 2008 at 10:59 pm

    On the point that MIH quietly bought OneTwoSold.at in Austria:

    Now I know who they bought it from – Dorotheum, a local auction house.

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