Oliver Samwer has new plans

Düsseldorf, Hamburg In October 2014 there was at least a small ceremony on the floor. Oliver Samwer proposed the IPO of his start-up group Rocket Internet the bell – and had to explain the first price slide shortly afterwards. The withdrawal from the stock market this Friday, however, is completely silent. The share simply disappears from the price list in the evening. There are no explanations.

The balance sheet for almost exactly six years on the stock exchange is mixed. Especially the younger rocket start-ups that have grown up are not really convincing. The future of the parent company itself is unclear outside of the stock exchange. In any case, Oliver Samwer and his two brothers Alexander and Marc are increasingly active in other business areas: in addition to real estate, also in the energy sector.

By the evening, shareholders can still accept the Group’s buyback offer of EUR 18.57. After that, the shares can only be traded outside of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. For most long-term investors, Rocket Internet has been a disappointing investment.

At the extraordinary general meeting at the end of September, the main shareholder Samwer defended his course against the critics. The delisting gives the group, whose business model is to found start-ups, more leeway. He made no concessions to the other shareholders – after all, he is not obliged to do so.

The Rocket founder had already given himself more leeway at previous shareholder meetings. Among other things, he had the company’s purpose expanded to include real estate. This sparked suspicions that the previous business with start-ups is becoming less important.

In fact, so far little has been seen of fresh ideas. The great successes date back a long time. Samwer’s most successful e-commerce clone Zalando went public a day before Rocket Internet. The Kochbox mailer Hello Fresh has been developing well since the corona crisis at the latest. However, Rocket Internet got out too early to take the price gains.

Instead, the name Samwer is increasingly appearing in real estate in Berlin. Rental activists therefore appeared at the 2019 Annual General Meeting. The Samwer company Figura Capital is also advertising for real estate in Berlin. Objective: Houses close to the subway with potential at a price of eight to 120 million euros.

“Thanks to a close network with the largest venture capital funds in Europe, we rely on technology-supported operator models in our properties. We want to be pioneers in the next evolutionary step, ”advertises the company. Well-known Berlin properties such as the Ullsteinhaus already belong to Samwer companies.

An “RWE of the wind”

The Samwers apparently see another future field in the energy sector. For some time, word got around that the brothers had found a new project. More precisely one of them: Alexander Samwer. The youngest member of the bustling investor trio has set itself no smaller goal than to create the “RWE des Windes”. At least the foundation has already been laid for this.

Alexander Samwer and his business partner Jeremias Heinrich started this four years ago. At that time they founded the project developer Pacifico Energy Partners, later the company Pacifico Renewable Yield, which then operates the planned wind and solar parks. The company based in Grünwald in Bavaria currently has a portfolio of 81 megawatts (MW), and by 2023 it should be four times as much. Samwers Pelion Capital Holding is the majority shareholder with over 70 percent.

With the holding company and the wholly owned subsidiary Pelion Green Future Alpha, the 45-year-old has been securing strategically important shares in several renewable energy companies for several months. Most recently, three percent of the project planner came in mid-September Energy office in addition, a veteran of the green industry.

Guenter Lammers and Bodo Wilkens founded the wind and solar park developer 30 years ago and have always held the majority of the listed company. There are already rumors that Alexander Samwer could incorporate the eco pioneer. Peter Alex, responsible for investor relations at Energiekontor, found clear words on this in response to a request from the Handelsblatt: “In the past there have been a large number of inquiries with the wish to take over larger blocks of shares from the founders. All of these inquiries were answered negatively. “

Two weeks ago, Heinrich, Alexander Samwer and Energiekontor boss Peter Szabo talked about the new investment in a video call. However, Energiekontor sought the contact and not Samwer.

There is currently no collaboration, but of course that cannot be ruled out in the future. And of course “Alexander Samwer, his brothers and any other investor can buy more Energiekontor shares on the stock exchange,” said Alex. However, Samwer has no influence on the operative business.

Denial of takeover rumors

The wind and solar park operator Abo Invest, in which Samwer already holds more than eleven percent, reports something similar. “Heinrich and Samwer understand the market and have a very clear vision of what they want to achieve,” says Petra Leue-Bahns, CEO of Abo Invest (in future Clearvice) in an interview with Handelsblatt. Leue-Bahns is positively surprised after a first meeting with the two. Not all investors have that much “understanding and foresight for the subject”.

Leue-Bahns denied the rumors that “Manager Magazin” reported last week, according to which Abo Invest could now be a takeover candidate for Samwer and his Pelion Group. There were no talks about a possible takeover. It is true that a capital increase will be issued in the foreseeable future, “but no investor will subscribe to us in full,” she is convinced.

The plans in the renewables sector could become the Samwers’ “next big thing” after years of deals in the internet business. After all, not only is the capital of countless investors flowing into green innovations, companies and bonds, but also that of politics.

With the European Green Deal and the increasing social awareness through the Fridays for Future movement, energy sources of the future such as wind, solar, biomass and hydrogen are currently experiencing momentum. And this is also clearly noticeable in the stock exchange price of the often still young companies.

In the energy sector, people have mixed feelings about the new interest of the world-famous family of investors. “It reminds me a bit of the New Market in the 2000s,” says an industry expert. Renewables were still small and Rocket Internet grew big. “Now we’re big and Rocket Internet is small. That’s how you meet. “

Mixed interim results from Rocket

In his own words, Oliver Samwer has not written off Rocket Internet for a long time. Even after the listing on the stock exchange, the Berlin group will remain a start-up founder. The construct also includes a venture capital fund that is well filled with 900 million euros. Rocket Internet is thus approaching the usual model of getting involved with founders instead of engaging them themselves. It is clear that buying back the shares will reduce your own cash reserve – after all, it will go to investors willing to sell.

So far, there is a lot of money in stocks. According to Samwer’s report at the extraordinary general meeting on delisting, these included shares in United Internet worth 361 million euros, AmazonShares for 215 million euros, Allianz– Papers worth 165 million euros. At the insurer Axa the group was involved with 165 million euros.

The two most important remaining participations in own start-ups are the Global Fashion Group (GFG) and Home24. At GFG, in which Rocket Internet still holds a good quarter of the shares, sales rose in the first half of 2020 by only 0.7 percent to 608 million euros. The loss margin before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (Ebitda) was two percent. The share is very volatile: the lowest price in the current year was 98 cents, the high was 8.84 euros.

The furniture mail order company Home24, which Rocket Internet still holds less than eight percent, is in a better position. The Berliners benefited from the home office trend in the first half of the year and increased sales by 31 percent to 222 million euros. The adjusted Ebitda margin increased from minus 13 percent to plus three percent compared to the same period of the previous year. The share increased more than fivefold in the course of the year. However, it is still almost half below the initial listing in June 2018.

Rocket Internet also has a large number of smaller subsidiaries and holdings. The group gives special attention to 20 of them in terms of communication – including the cleaning agent Helpling, the apartment agent Nestpick and the digital forwarding company Instafreight. In total, Rocket Internet reports more than 200 participations on six continents.

The balance of the investments from which Rocket Internet has withdrawn via the stock exchange in recent years is also mixed. Samwers stated vision of building online corporations for the emerging countries in South America, Africa and Asia with Rocket Internet has reached its limits.

The African mail order company Jumia is almost a restructuring case, Rocket has already left. In the first half of 2020, sales shrank by 8.6 percent to 64.2 million euros. The operating loss was 81.3 million euros. Strategically, the retailer is increasingly becoming a marketplace platform, and the business is shrinking for its own account.

The delivery service is currently the greatest success among the former Rocket holdings Delivery Herowhich is strong in Middle East, Asia and South America. The Berlin group, which has just been included in the leading index, is a special case: Rocket only bought into Delivery Hero a few years after it was founded – so it acted more like a financial investor than a founder.

Insights into the new rocket strategy and the ideas of the Samwers will be even rarer in the future. With the delisting, the Group is released from the reporting obligations imposed on it by the Prime Standard of the stock exchange. There will only be general meetings as long as free shareholders stay on board.

More: Oliver Samwer: “There was no master plan”

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