Naspers, Heunis sell MXit stake

2011-09-22 11:57

Cape Town - Media holding group Naspers [JSE:NPN] along with MXit founder Herman Heunis have sold their shareholding in the social networking service to Alan Knott-Craig Jnr's World of Avatar for an undisclosed amount.

Stellenbosch-based MXit has become Africa's largest mobile social networking service with more than 43 million registered user accounts in more than 120 countries.

On Thursday MXit announced that World of Avatar, headed by Alan Knott-Craig Jnr, the son of the former Vodacom CEO, had signed a binding agreement to purchase 90% of MXit. The remainder would stay in a staff trust.

Herman Heunis founded MXit in 2001 when he developed a multiplayer game. The message service was officially launched in May 2005 and Naspers bought 30% of MXit in 2007.

Heunis has steered MXit from being solely a social networking site to one that offers a range of services and activities for its customers including a virtual currency called Moolah, classified advertisements, chat rooms, games and educational programs.

Knott-Craig Jnr said the deal just had one regulatory notification to meet before being finalised, and then he would take over as MXit CEO in early October.

"The deal is pretty much done. We have big plans in mind, but the first thing is to consolidate a little bit and make sure the ship is steady. Things are not going to change overnight, the idea is to grow MXit at 10% per month and to really go big into sub-Saharan Africa," he said.

Knott-Craig acknowledged that MXit was seeing increased competition from other mobile social networking services such as Whatsapp and BlackBerry Messenger, but that MXit would continue to evolve and grow.

"The main reason why we bought MXit is because it is the largest digital community in Africa. We will keep an eye on the competition and what we can learn from them," he said.

Heunis said that the deal had the full support of Naspers due to a pact made between the two to sell their shareholdings together.

* Fin24 is a Naspers publication.