The Russian internet firm Mail.Ru sold their entire stake in Facebook Inc. (FB) on Sept 6 for $525 million, or around half a percent of the entire company, for a cool $300 million profit. The company had previously sold major stakes in tech companies Zynga, Inc. (ZNGA) and Groupon Inc. (GRPN) and a chunk of their Facebook in Nov. 2012. That resulted in a net gain of about $230 million. With the FB sale, Mail.Ru is now almost completely out of internet holdings outside of Russia. At the same time, the country is doubling down on home-grown social media, where Facerbook has a presence, but is seriously challeneged by two wily domestic start-ups.
Mail.Ru is controlled by Russia’s richest man, billionaire Alisher Usmanov. Usamanov has pulled his investments inward, investing heavily in Russian social networking. Unlike America, where social is dominated by Facebook (and, to a growing extent, Twitter) Russia’s social networking market is fractioned, albeit the local companies are also heavily influenced by Mail.ru.
Mail.Ru controls Odnoklassniki, Russia’s second largest social network, and also owns a 40 percent chunk of the country’s largest, VKontaktke. According to Lenta, a leading Russian news site, Mail.ru plans on focusing on funneling more money into VKonatke. Though Facebook retains a presence in Russia with 10.7 million users, Vkontatke and Odnoklassniki are much more popular, with 27.8 million visitors and 16.7 million visitors, respectively.
By preparing to take an even larger stake in VKontatke and thus control both the first and second largest social media sites, Mail.ru is positioning themselves to gain a virtual monopoly of Russian social media.
Facebook’s stock jumped on the major divestment. They're up 4.05 percent to hit $44.36 a share, an all time high for the company.
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