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German clone factory Rocket Internet — which you should know and fear if you’re involved in international e-commerce — has taken a whopping €333 million ($446 million) investment from the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT).
If that sounds a bit odd, consider that Rocket is all about emerging markets, particularly Southeast Asia but also Latin America, Africa and elsewhere. It jumps in where big English-centric brands fear to tread, copying their business models and executing at lightning speed. The company has over 20,000 employees in more than 100 countries, and its aggregated revenues for 2013 were more than €700 million ($937 million).
Nobody internationalizes like this bunch, which is probably why the PLDT investment, for a 10 percent stake, gives Rocket a valuation of around $4.5 billion. Rocket and PLDT will work together on mobile and online payment technologies for emerging markets – PLDT already has a wireless subsidiary called Smart Communications that has been working in this field for years.
E-commerce aside, Rocket is very much into financial technology these days, as users of its Payleven mobile point-of-sale device will testify.
As the PLDT stake is based on new shares, it means some dilution of existing stakes. Global Founders, the vehicle of Rocket founders the Samwer brothers, has seen its stake fall from 65.2 percent to 58.7 percent. Sweden’s Kinnevik now owns 21.5 percent of Rocket rather than 23.9 percent, and Access’s stake is down from 10.9 percent to 9.8 percent.
Meanwhile, rumors continue to swirl about a Rocket IPO, and a separate IPO for Zalando, the hugely successful online fashion retail operation that began as a Rocket-incubated Zappos clone before taking on a life of its own. A Rocket spokesman declined to comment on the rumors on Thursday, but I must say that if they’re true and the IPO is imminent, the timing of this $4.5 billion valuation is fortuitous.