Mail.ru buys Russian Facebook for US$1.47bn

17 Sep 2014

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Founder Pavel Durov's VKontakte page from September 2012

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The Russian social network VKontakte, known internationally as the ‘Russian Facebook’, has been bought out for US$1.47bn by Mail.ru, Russia’s largest and publically trading internet company.

The network, which has more than 92m users across the Russian-speaking world, will now be joined by some of Russia’s other largest online networks, including Odnoklassniki.ru and Moi Mir@Mail.Ru, both of which fall under the remit of Mail.ru, according to Tech Crunch.

VKontakte has been embroiled in controversy in the last two years, with its founder Pavel Durov reportedly claiming he was ousted from his position last April as head of the company following pressure put on by Russian President Vladimir Putin for a new chief he could more easily control.

Mail.ru purchased 48pc of the company in this latest deal, now making it the majority shareholder, and it has also dropped litigation regarding the app Telegram. Durov claimed to have created Telegram, and United Capital Partners (owners of 49pc of VKontakte) also claimed ownership of the app.

The social network has proven reasonably successful financially in the preceding years, with its earnings alone for 2013 being in the region of US$98m, up 14pc on the previous year.

However, with its new-found dominance of Russian-speaking social networks, questions remain over the influence the Russian government may have on content that would prove harmful to the Kremlin, something which Durov has been of accused of propagating in the past.

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Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com