Russian cellco MegaFon has agreed to pay around USD740 million for a 63.8% stake in Mail.Ru Group, which includes Russian online social networks VKontakte (VK) and Odnoklassniki (OK) alongside the Mail.Ru e-mail service and internet portal, plus an instant messaging service and an online games business. The ownership rights are being purchased from three subsidiaries of MegaFon’s own parent holding company. The deal is expected to receive shareholder approval on 20 January, whilst it also requires approval from Russian antitrust authorities.
EuroComms reports that VK has 90 million ‘active monthly users’, and OK has 43.6 million ‘active daily users’, while 35.6 million people use Mail.Ru’s e-mail service daily, and 49.1 million use its portal monthly. As reported by CommsUpdate’s MVNO Monday in October, VK is preparing to launch an MVNO-based mobile service, dubbed VKmobile, over the MegaFon network, using a so-called ‘Freemium’ operating model. Sergey Soldatenkov, CEO of MegaFon, said of the latest ownership deal: ‘Closer ties with Mail.Ru Group will allow us to execute common strategic projects, including, but not limited to, the creation and promotion of special offerings to digital subscribers of VKmobile based on the social network VK, and improvements in clients targeting and segmentation. In cooperation with Mail.Ru Group MegaFon would be able to provide a premium and differentiated offering to its digital subscribers.’