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Sept. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Naspers Ltd., the South African part owner of Russia’s largest social network, is considering a sale of Ricardo.ch, Switzerland’s largest online retailer, people with knowledge of the situation said.

Preparations for a sale are at an early stage, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. While Naspers is interviewing banks to discuss the process, it hasn’t yet hired an adviser, two people said.

The site, which sells fashion and electronics and operates online marketplaces for cars and other products, may be valued at as much as $500 million, two people said. It could attract bids from Swiss-based media groups Ringier AG and Tamedia AG, the people said.

Meloy Horn, a spokeswoman for Naspers, declined to comment, as did Edi Estermann, a spokesman for Ringier. A spokesman for Tamedia said the company continuously evaluates investment opportunities.

Naspers, based in Cape Town, is increasing its bets on digital businesses in fast-growing markets like China and Africa as profit growth slows. The company owns large stakes in Chinese Internet portal Tencent Holdings Ltd. as well as Mail.ru Group Ltd., which operates Russia’s largest social network.

In June, Naspers reported its slowest annual profit growth in six years as it put more money into its Asian and African businesses. Last year it bought RedBus, an online travel portal in India.

A Ricardo transaction would be the first significant asset sale under Chief Executive Officer Bob Van Dijk, a former EBay Inc. executive who replaced billionaire Koos Bekker at the helm in April.

--With assistance from Aaron Kirchfeld in London.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kristen Schweizer in London at kschweizer1@bloomberg.net; Christopher Spillane in Johannesburg at cspillane3@bloomberg.net; Matthew Campbell in London at mcampbell39@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net Elizabeth Wollman, Ben Livesey

Bloomberg