Naspers chairman Ton Vosloo said: "Many of our businesses are mature and we do not expect this level of growth in profitability to be sustainable going forward."
Operating profit grew to R1 289 million and core headline earnings to R534 million, compared to a loss of R100 million in the previous period. The group generated R1 637million of cash from operating activities. On 31 March 2004, the group had net consolidated cash of R1.9 billion.
Naspers managing director Koos Bekker said: "A feature of the past year was the strength of the rand, which had a mixed impact on the group. On the positive side, our foreign currency input costs were reduced by a robust rand. On the negative side, a strong rand diminished the value of our offshore revenues and earnings when these are translated and reported in rand."
A highlight of the year was that Tencent, the real-time communications company that operates the QQ platform in China, continued to show good growth and was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in June.
In the pay television sector revenues were flat, a consequence of the strong rand and a mature South African subscriber base. Due to good cost control and organic growth, operating profit grew to R1 336 million.
M-Net and SuperSport experienced a challenging year. Both were delisted in April 2004 following a request by minority shareholders, especially the Phuthuma Futhi share scheme participants.
The internet segment in the aggregate reported a net operating profit, with revenues at R1 047 million, up from R913 million. The stagnation of the South African dial-up market and the lack of local broadband services due to regulatory limitations on fixed-line telephony are causing concern.
The technology businesses remain strategic assets for the group as they ensure the security of the pay televisions' subscriber base. At present the encryption technology market is extremely competitive and price sensitive requiring differentiation through value added services. The group has been investing in new generation technology. As a result the technology segment in the aggregate reported an operating loss of R23 million.
The newspaper and magazine businesses in South Africa operate in a mature market, but succeeded in growing revenues 14% to R2 820 million and operating profit 34% to R388 million. The four regional Daily Sun tabloids achieved aggregate circulation of close to 300 000. New magazine titles Bicycling SA, Heat, Seventeen and Wegbreek were launched.
The book publishing and private education business, Via Afrika, implemented its turnaround strategy and was restored to profitability. The segment reported operating profit of R61 million.
Most recently, the Welkom economic empowerment scheme was extended for a further three years. "We believe this will benefit the 17 000 individuals who participate in this empowerment drive", Vosloo said.
Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on any forward- looking statements contained herein. Investors will be able to obtain any documents filed with the SEC from the SEC's Public Reference Room at 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20549. Telephone: (202) 942-8090, Fax: (202) 628-9001. E-mail: email@example.com. Documents filed with or furnished to the SEC by Naspers (other than certain exhibits) are also available free of charge from The Company Secretary, Naspers Limited, 40 Heerengracht, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa, Telephone No: +27 21 406 2121.