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Apr 07 2010

Massive social media alliance takes shape

Published by at 4:02 pm under Companies,Top Stories

Tencent, the Chinese social media group in which Cape Town-based media group Naspers holds a roughly 33% stake, and two Russian media companies, are competing for control of ICQ, the chat service AOL put on the market in November last year. The Russian companies are Profmedia and Digital Sky Technologies (DST), reported Financial Times Deutschland (FTD).

Tencent operates, among others, the Chinese messenger service QQ with 523 million subscribers, which is more than the populations of the USA, Germany, France and the UK put together. Every day roughly 100 million Chinese use the service.

Naspers nurses close ties with DST (both own stakes in Mail.ru, Russia’s biggest e-mail service) and plans are in the pipeline to strengthen these ties (read here…see last paragraph). DST also owns shares in Facebook.

According to FTD, Russian media group Profmedia offered AOL $120 million for ICQ, while DST offered $250 million. Although the newspaper couldn’t find out from Tencent how much it had offered, it looks pretty certain that one of the two “Naspers friends” (DST, or Tencent) will eventually land the fish.

When the media speculated in November last year that Naspers might be buying ICQ (read one example here), senior Naspers managers vehemently denied the reports, saying ICQ’s user statistics weren’t looking good and the business might have its growth days behind it. It sounded as if the managers believed their own story, so Tencent must later have submitted a bid for ICQ against the wishes of minority stakeholder Naspers.

Be that as it may, the outlines of a huge Chinese/Russian/Polish social media alliance is taking shape – and Naspers is slap bang in the middle of it.

In a separate report, FTD said today QQ is “China’s most popular brand name” and Naspers is the “most successful foreign investor in China’s media sector”.

Nie kak nie…

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