Mail.ru Group announced yesterday that it has signed an agreement to acquire an additional 12% stake in Vkontakte.ru, the leading Russian-language social network also known as VK.com. Should the deal – which is “conditional on a number of matters, including third-party consent” – be completed, the LSE-listed Internet group will own 52% of Vkontakte. The remaining 48% belong to Russian investment fund United Capital Partners (UCP).
Mail.ru Group is acquiring the new shares from Megafon CEO Ivan Tavrin, who himself had bought his stake from Vkontakte founder Pavel Durov only a few months ago.
Over the past several months UCP’s relations with Durov and Mail.ru Group have deteriorated to such an extent that the parties recently voiced their intention to sue each other.
While apparently simplifying Vkontakte’s shareholder structure, Mail.ru Group’s new position as the majority shareholder is unlikely to prevent further conflicts.
UCP considered Tavrin little more than a Mail.ru Group operative due to his close ties with billionaire Alisher Usmanov, a major shareholder of Megafon and Mail.ru Group. From this point of view, the transfer of Tavrin’s share to Mail.ru Group will not change the balance of power between shareholders.
In addition to its hefty 48% stake, UCP has two seats in Vkontakte’s board of directors – as many as Mail.ru Group, an unnamed source at UCP told the Russian business daily Vedomosti.