6 Apr 2010 13:13

DST, ProfMedia and China

MOSCOW. April 6 (Interfax) - Digital Sky Technologies (DST) fund, ProfMedia holding and China's Tencent have submitted binding offers for the purchase of the ICQ instant messaging service from AOL, the Russian business daily Vedomosti reported citing unnamed sources.

AOL commenced negotiations for the sale of several assets following its spin-off from Time Warner at the start of December.

In 1998, AOL purchased Israeli company Mirabilis, which manages ICQ's business, for $287 million and $120 million in additional payments based on the company's results. However, immediately following the purchase, AOL's own messenger service, AOL Instant Messenger, become more popular in the U.S. than ICQ.

ICQ has maintained a leading position in countries such as Russia, Germany, Ukraine and Israel. The company's managing director, Eliav Moshe, said in March that 42 million users access ICQ a month. Russia accounts for over 50% of the service's users.

AOL values ICQ at $300 million while DST is ready to offer $200 million-$250 million, the Wall Street Journal reported at the end of 2009. ProfMedia is offering around $120 million for ICQ, a source told Vedomosti.

DST was founded in 2005 by the former head and co-owner of Mail.ru, Yuri Milner and the head of NCH Advisors' Moscow office, Grigory Finger. In 2008, businessman Alisher Usmanov purchased the founders' stakes. Usmanov currently owns 35%. DST has stakes in popular Russian websites such as Mail.ru, Odnoklassniki.ru, HeadHunter.ru and Vkontakte.ru, as well as a minority stake in the popular social networking site Facebook.

ProfMedia is part of Vladimir Potanin's Interros. One of the holding's main assets in Rambler Media. Rambler is ICQ's oldest partner in Russia.

Tencent is a public company with a listing in Hong Kong. The company owns the Chinese messaging services QQ (total uses at the end of September 2009 topped 1 billion persons).