By Christian Moess Laursen

Tencent Holdings top shareholder Prosus and its parent company Naspers named Fabricio Bloisi as their new chief executive as the tech investors seek to chart a new course for the age of artificial intelligence.

Naspers made a $34 million bet on Chinese tech giant Tencent more than twenty years ago that turned into a multibillion-dollar investment and made it the WeChat maker's biggest shareholder. However, it has grappled for years with a discount between its own market value and that of its stake in Tencent.

It spun off its international assets, including its Tencent shares, to form Prosus in 2019, but the valuation gap persisted.

Bloisi will take over from interim chief Ervin Tu, who ran the company since longtime boss Bob van Dijk stepped down in September after a tenure that was both helped and complicated by the company's stake in Tencent.

Prosus' stake in Tencent was valued at $117.3 billion as of Thursday, while the market capitalization of Prosus was around $105.86 billion and that of Naspers was about $40.35 billion.

Naspers, a 109-year-old company, had its origins as a newspaper publisher in South Africa, but its profile changed after it invested in Tencent more than two decades ago. That was before Tencent's WeChat messaging app took off and the company grew to become the world's biggest videogame company by revenue.

The appointment of Bloisi comes at a time when tech companies and investors are pouring money into AI in the wake of the popularity of apps like ChatGPT.

"A company like Prosus must play an important role in identifying new technologies, such as AI, that impact the world and specifically emerging markets," Bloisi said.

Prosus' investments are currently focused on five segments--classified ads, food delivery, payments and fintech, education technology and venture capital. It also owns stakes in companies such as food-delivery companies DoorDash and Meituan as well as online travel company

Bloisi is due to take the helm at the two companies at the beginning of July and said Friday that he would seek to balance innovation with disciplined investment to deliver better results for shareholders. Bloisi is currently CEO of Brazilian food-delivery company iFood, a Prosus investment.

Prosus said its strategic goals remain unchanged. It said it is still on track to deliver on its targets, which include achieving consolidated e-commerce trading profit during the half year to March, and the continuation of its share-buyback program.

The company's pick for the CEO role signals it is focused on investing in and scaling up large technology businesses, rather than on delivering cash returns to shareholders, analysts at Citi wrote in a note to clients.

Following Bloisi's appointment, Tu will become president and chief investment officer for the Prosus and Naspers group, the companies said. Before Tu took up the interim CEO role, he was investment chief.

Prosus and Naspers Chair Koos Bekker said Tu will continue to play an important role in shaping the group's future strategy, investments, and capital allocation in his new role.

Write to Christian Moess Laursen at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

05-17-24 0442ET