Africa’s e-commerce space is closing in on its first major IPO exit, with a billion-dollar valuation

Taking stock.
Taking stock.
Image: Reuters/Luc Gnago
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The murmurs of a possible exit by Rocket Internet from Jumia, its African conglomerate of internet companies, are getting louder.

The German-based firm best known for replicating the business models of US startups in emerging markets, is set to list online company Jumia on the New York Stock Exchange, Reuters reports. The listing which could value Jumia at $1 billion is reportedly set for the first quarter of 2019 with as much as $250 million worth of shares to be possibly sold.

It’s not the first time Rocket Internet has been reported to be interested in pursuing an initial price offering for Jumia. Back in March, an IPO for late 2018 or early 2019 either Frankfurt or London was also reported.

While Jumia did not respond to Quartz’s email inquiries regarding a possible IPO, Rocket Internet declined to comment.

If Rocket Internet goes ahead with the IPO however, it will be the latest in a flurry of stock market listings by its companies. This year, it scored the best ever share debut by one of its startups when furniture retailer Home24 was listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Similarly, in 2017, both Hello Fresh and Delivery Hero were listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange with the latter scoring the third biggest IPO in Germany at the time.

A possible IPO may offer Rocket Internet a full exit from Jumia, divesting its remaining 28% stake. Having been backed with over $700 million from investors including Swedish telecoms conglomerate Millicom, Africa’s largest mobile operator MTN and French insurance company AXA, Jumia has expanded operations to 14 African countries in Africa since its launch in 2012. It reached a billion-dollar valuation in 2016 following an $83 million investment from insurance company AXA for an 8% stake.

But the company was significantly reshaped in the same year. Following a string of staff layoffs and high level management firings at its various African companies, Rocket Internet’s Africa-based startups across classifieds, food delivery, real estate, job listings, payments, logistics, hotel and flight bookings were all reorganized under the singular Jumia brand making it the biggest online services platform on the continent.

But Jumia’s expansion and evolution has not led to profitability—yet. Indeed as it has invested in infrastructure, staff and marketing, adjusted losses have steadily widened to €120 million ($140 million) last year. However, as it caters to a market where online businesses are typically less than a decade old and are still convincing skeptical customers (e-commerce has proven particularly difficult to crack), the company’s investors are likely playing the long game. Naspers—Africa’s most valuable company—has also showed an enduring interest interest in betting on African e-commerce. Last year, it invested $74 million for a controlling stake in Takealot, South Africa’s biggest e-commerce platform.

Given growing smartphone and internet penetration across a young continent, online businesses are expected to become more ubiquitous in coming years. And in the event of an IPO next year, that’s the picture Rocket Internet will be hoping to paint for prospective shareholders. That, alongside data showing steadily growing merchandise sales as well as a more than twenty-fold increase in the number of annual orders since 2013.

Sign up to the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief here for news and analysis on African business, tech and innovation in your inbox