HARARE – Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) listed technology giant, Naspers maintained the top spot as Africa’s biggest company by market capitalisation in a ranking of the continent’s top 250 firms, according to an annual survey released by the United Kingdom based African Business.

In ranking Africa’s Top 250 biggest companies, the report looked at the market capitalisation of shares listed on a stock exchange.

This was then expressed in United States dollars as at March 31, 2019, according to the report released early this month.

It said Naspers, which has been reviewing its business to enhance shareholder value, has a US$104 billion market capitalisation at the end of March, although this value was down by US$3 billion on the previous year’s survey of US$107 billion.

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Naspers was ahead of second placed Switzerland-based Richemont, which was placed second with a US$35 billion market capitalisation.

Richemont controls several of the world’s leading luxury goods companies, with particular strengths in jewellery, watches and writing instruments.

However, its origin lies in South Africa’s Rembrandt Group, where it is also listed on the JSE.

The report said Richemont’s market cap leapt by 17 percent on the previous

survey last year, with its global sales and a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange galvanising it from an erosion of the South African rand’s value.

Mining giant, Anglo American, was ranked third, up from fourth position last year, after “productivity improvements in the underlying operations and better than expected prices for many of our products” helped its climb, the report quoted Richemont chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Cutifani, as saying.

South Africa based financial services group, Firstrand was in fourth place, with a market capitalisation of US$26 billion.

This represented a 19 percent fall from the previous year, according to the report.

“Although the South African economy remains sluggish, the group has boosted cross-selling at its retail arm First National Bank, where a banking mobile app can also buy insurance and even locate a plumber,” the report noted.

“FNB contributes 63 percent of earnings, while corporate and investment banking arm RMB Holdings, which is also listed, boosted its Top 250 companies ranking from 23 to 21 for a market capitalisation of US$7,8 billion and contributes 23 percent of Firstrand earnings,” noted the report.

Standard Bank, owned 20 percent by the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, was ranked fifth despite a fall from its previous market capitalisation to US$21,9 billion.

Standard Bank has been the most-Africa facing of the South African banks.

In March, CEO, Sim Tshabalala reported that the share of Standard Bank’s Africa regions’ contribution to banking headline earnings grew to 31 percent, from 28 percent during the same period in 2017.

Standard Bank’s operations in Angola, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria and Uganda were among the top contributors to headline earnings.

But it was Naspers’ dominants of Africa’s corporate landscape that impressed authors of the report.

“On 25 March it (Naspers) announced that it will bundle its international internet businesses and list them on Euronext Amsterdam Exchange in the second half of 2019, creating Europe’s largest listed consumer internet company by value,” said the report.

“Naspers will sell 25 percent by offering shares to its existing shareholders, and the new company will include online classifieds, food delivery, payments, online retail, travel, education, and social and internet platforms and global brands such as Tencent, mail.ru, OLX, Avito, letgo, PayU, iFood, Swiggy, DeliveryHero and Udemy,” said the report.

“The listing (in Europe) will present an appealing new opportunity for international tech investors to have access to our unique portfolio of international internet assets. It will comprise some of the world’s leading and fastest-growing internet companies that are playing an increasingly important role in helping people improve their daily lives in some of the most exciting markets on the planet,” said Naspers CEO, Bob van Dijk.

The new company – whose name will be revealed soon – will also apply for dual-listing on the JSE and Naspers will retain 75 percent of the shares.

Earlier in March, Naspers had unbundled pay-TV, Multichoice Group to shareholders.

“With an initial market capitalisation of US$3,5 billion which has since climbed strongly, it is our top new entrant at 36 on the list. Naspers’ slimming efforts also included selling some of its valuable stake in China’s Tencent and exiting businesses including Flipkart,” it noted.

South African companies dominated this year’s rankings.

However, the report showed that firms from Africa’s most attractive growth regions increased their presence in the 2019 rankings.

The report showed that African business was changing, with new companies in entertainment, health, construction and food making inroads into the continent’s top 250 listed firms.

“Although mining, financial services and telecoms still take most of the top spots in Africa’s Top 250 Companies 2019, measured by value, Africa’s biggest company is a forward-facing global media giant which just announced plans to spin off some holdings this year and create Europe’s largest listed consumer internet company. Another trend is that companies in several of the fast-growing African economies are eating into the number of South African firms in the top ranking, which although they are still dominant, make up a little under half the companies featured. Biggest gains go to Egyptian companies whose number in the top 250 ranking rises to 39, from 34 last year,” noted the report.