Oslo telco taking stake in 701Search

Telenor Communications II will purchase a one-third stake in 701Search, which will be owned equally by SPHI, Schibsted and Telenor. 701Search will continue with its business of offering online classifieds in the region.
Telenor Communications II will purchase a one-third stake in 701Search, which will be owned equally by SPHI, Schibsted and Telenor. 701Search will continue with its business of offering online classifieds in the region.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Telenor will own one-third of SPH-Schibsted joint venture

701SEARCH, a media company that specialises in building and growing online marketplaces in the region, has come under the radar of Norway's leading telecommunications operator, Telenor.

Oslo-listed Telenor will invest in a third of 701Search, which is owned equally by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and Norway's Schibsted Classified Media.

Telenor Communications II, its wholly owned subsidiary, will purchase the one-third stake at an enterprise value of ¤180 million (S$303 million) as at Sept 1.

It will pay SPH Interactive International (SPHI) $16.86 million for its share of the company.

701Search, which was established in 2006 with SPHI and Schibsted as equal partners, operates online classified companies Mudah.my in Malaysia, Berniaga.com in Indonesia, Ayosdito.ph in the Philippines and Chotot.vn in Vietnam.

With this strategic move, 701Search will be able to reap potential synergies by leveraging on Telenor's established Asian telecommunications network, mobile Internet capabilities and subscriber base, SPH said in a statement.

Telenor's mobile expertise is also useful as 701Search brings online classifieds into the mobile sphere. Together with Schibsted and SPH, 701Search will benefit greatly from the contributions of all three shareholders when the transactions are completed by the end of the year, it added.

On completion, 701Search will be owned equally by SPHI, Schibsted and Telenor.

701Search will continue with its business of offering online classifieds in the region.

Schibsted is regarded as one of the world's most successful media companies in terms of the profitability of its online businesses, while SPH is a leading media company in Singapore with expertise in print and online advertising.

"701Search has turned in a good performance since it started, achieving market dominance in some areas and growing rapidly in others," said SPH chief executive officer Alan Chan.

"With the participation of another strategic investor, and the different strengths and extensive knowledge of SPH, Schibsted and Telenor, we can work towards penetrating the online classifieds market in South-east Asia and beyond."

Schibsted CEO Rolv Erik Ryssdal said the partnerships will give even more financial and operational strength to pursue attractive No. 1 positions.

"We can do more, and we can move faster. This will improve our chance to succeed," he noted.

Mr Rolv-Erik Spilling, executive vice-president and head of Telenor Digital, said: "Being one of the largest mobile operators in the world with a strong footprint in emerging markets, it makes perfect sense for Telenor to team up with two world-class companies like Schibsted and SPH to create a leading online classifieds player."

Mr Chan, Mr Ryssdal and Mr Spilling said in the statement: "SPH, Schibsted and Telenor are a perfect match."

dennis@sph.com.sg