IPO-Bound E-Commerce Giant Rocket Internet Consolidates, Holtzbrink Takes 2.5% Stake

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More shareholder activity over at Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based e-commerce incubator and investor that is widely expected to go public. Holtzbrinck Ventures, a firm that has been a longtime investor in Rocket Internet portfolio companies around the world, is exchanging the shares it has in those companies for a 2.5% share in Rocket Internet.

No cash is changing hands here: this is a stock for stock deal, which the companies say is “valued on the basis of the last external funding round of the respective companies.”

I have reached out to Holtzbrinck and Rocket Internet to clarify what those valuations are right now. The last that we heard, Rocket Internet sold a 10.7% stake in itself to United Internet for €435 million, giving Rocket Internet a valuation of €4 billion. Without considering the valuation of those individual portfolio companies, that would make today’s 2.5% stake, based on the last valuation of Rocket Internet, valued around €102 million.

Also comment on any IPO plans as part of this announcement, just a move to consolidating ownership. “This transaction allows Rocket to progress its declared strategic objective of owning larger stakes in its network of companies,” the company said in a statement.

There is some clear rationale here to Holtzbrinck buying the stake: when you think about it, the whole structure of Rocket Internet up to now has been based around the idea of creating as many different entities as it can, almost with independent profiles, so that they may potentially be more primed for making exits — and selling — to other companies. (That’s been the route that Rocket Internet took especially in its early years, as it sold companies to eBay, Groupon and others.)

In more recent years, though, Rocket has been holding on to those properties and integrating them at the backend in individual markets, to achieve better economies of scale. It’s also been positioning itself as more than an incubator and as a bigger entity in for the long haul. That’s where Holzbrinck becoming a shareholder of the main company, rather than of individual startups within it, makes sense. It’s also a lot clearer and a lot less messy to potential investors who may be looking at Rocket Internet shares in the IPO.

“Rocket’s platform allows us to build and scale online businesses in fast growing markets all around the world. Holtzbrinck Ventures has been an early and long term supporter of many Rocket companies built on this platform, and has invested in more Rocket companies than any other external investor,” Rocket Internet’s Oliver Samwer said in a statement. “This transaction helps Rocket pursue its strategic objective of owning larger stakes in its companies and we welcome HV’s support at the group level. We look forward to continuing our successful partnership.”

The shareholding now stands as follows: AB Kinnevik has 18.1%; Access Industries has 8.3%; PLDT 8.4% and United Internet 10.4%, with Rocket Internet founders, the Samwer Brothers, holding 52.3% via their Global Founders Fund; and now Holtzbrinck holding 2.5%.

“Following the recent investments by PLDT and United Internet, we are delighted to welcome Holtzbrinck Ventures, one of Europe’s most successful venture capital firms, as a new shareholder in Rocket Internet. This acquisition allows Rocket to progress on its strategic objective of owning larger stakes in the most established companies it has founded over the last five years,” Kinnevik CEO Lorenzo Grabau, whose firm is the second-largest shareholder after the Samwers, said in a statement on the news.

Holtzbrinck has been a long-time partner in Rocket Internet’s ventures in Europe and further afield, e-commerce operations that some describe as clones but are often breaking new ground by setting up shop where other e-commerce players like Amazon or Groupon have yet to go.

Many (but not all) of Holtzbrinck’s investments in Rocket Internet companies were listed in the announcement today. They include fashion portals Lamoda, Dafiti, Jabong and Namshi, held through the holding companies BigFoot and BigCommerce; and direct stakes in home & living businesses Home24 and Westwing, as well as in HelloFresh, a food delivery company.

In all, Holtzbrinck Ventures has invested in more than 120 companies.

“We are excited to become a direct shareholder in Rocket and build on our long term cooperation. We are pleased to have made many successful investments alongside Rocket and have tremendous respect for their track record and ability to create successful online companies. We look forward to working with Oliver Samwer and the Rocket team directly as the company continues to grow around the world,” says Martin Weber, GP of Holtzbrinck Ventures.