Vkontakte

Mail.ru Group takes over Vkontakte: The happy end of a 3-year financial, legal and political saga

Yesterday, Mail.ru Group, the LSE-listed Russian Internet giant, announced it now fully controls Vkontakte (VK.com), the leading Russian language social network with over 250 million registered accounts and 60 million daily users. The group, which already owned 52% of the company, bought the remaining 48% stake from UCP, the Russian investment fund that had become a VK shareholder in April last year. The all-cash transaction amounted to $1.47 billion.

The move is putting an end to a three-year-long saga over the ownership of the company, which involved financial interests, personal disputes, international lawsuits and political pressures.

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Wikimart

Wikimart.ru raises $40 million from domestic investors after failing to attract foreign VCs

Wikimart, a major Russian B2C marketplace, has agreed a capital increase with a group of Russian investors, including Finprombank chairman Anatoly Goncharov. The news was revealed last week by business daily Kommersant and confirmed to East-West Digital News by Wikimart’s press service.

The $40 million capital injection will be used in part to acquire Terminal.ru, a multichannel retail group that comprises a network of 25 outlets in 13 Russian cities as well as e-commerce sites Terminal.ru and Mallstreet.ru.

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Wired_rosy

Wired highlights 10 Russian startups but gets it wrong with rosy business predictions

In a series on Europe’s “hottest startups,” the UK edition of tech magazine Wired published earlier this month a selection of 10 Russian startups. These included peer-to-peer publishing platform Gitoon, e-commerce intelligence platform Ometria, “rephotography” app publisher Timera, slideshow assistant app Penxy, music-streaming service 10tracks, taxi app publisher Wheely, driving navigational system WayRay, video game marketplace Gameslooper, educational program comparison engine Choister, and autopilot system developer RoboCV.

Wired — which says nothing about its selection criteria — presents the Russian startup scene quite optimistically. Citing perhaps outdated statements by Russian venture capitalists, the UK publication envisions an “increase in private and international investors on the Russian venture market” and “an average GDP per capita growth of six percent per year until 2015.”

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JCB+UnionPay

UnionPay and JCB to spearhead Asian payment push in Russia

While Russia is shifting a part of its business focus from Western countries to alternative partners, Asian bank card giants UnionPay and JCB have expanded initiatives to conquer the Russian market.

China’s UnionPay, which entered the market in 2007, claims to be accepted by over 100,000 POS terminals and more than 30,000 ATMs in Russia, and that a total of 45,000 UnionPay cards have been issued in Russia.

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China+Russia

Chinese giants make their move into Russia’s booming cross-border e-commerce scene

The past few months have seen several significant moves on the booming China-to-Russia cross-border e-commerce scene. This important market represents roughly one half of international e-retailers’ total sales to Russia, or up to $1.5 billion last year, according to a study by East-West Digital News, but still suffers from product quality and delivery time issues.

Dominating this market is Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant preparing its imminent introduction on the NASDAQ, via several sites and projects.

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Anna Chapman

Alleged ex-spy Anna Chapman to launch online shop with logistic support from Otto Group

Anna Chapman, the Russian businesswoman and alleged secret agent uncovered by the FBI in 2010, has teamed up with the Otto Group to launch an e-commerce shop dedicated to her own fashion brand.

According to an agreement signed last month, the group’s logistic subsidiary eTraction will provide the warehousing, fulfilment, call center, and returns management services required to support the online shop. Delivery will be provided by eTraction’s specialized partners.

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Russian emblem

New personal data storage rules to affect both foreign and domestic players – but still no “Chinese wall” surrounding Russia

Some foreign players panicked last week when they learned about the new rules adopted by the Russian parliament regarding the collection and storage of personal data – which will be allowed only on the Russian territory starting from Sept. 2016. Concerns were fuelled by inflated media reports, including a Google Translate-based article that appeared on an influential Californian tech blog.

While storage of personal data on servers located abroad is allowed under the existing legislation – with some restrictions – the new rules demand that only servers located physically on the Russian territory be used. Should an online resource fail to respect this obligation, access to it from Russia may be restricted or blocked by state regulator Roskomnadzor.

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Travelata

Package tour reseller Travelata.ru secures $7 million investment from EBRD and Polish fund MCI

Polish private equity fund MCI Management has teamed up with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to inject $7 million into Travelata.ru, a Russian online reseller of package tours. The amount invested by each of the two investors has not been disclosed.

The funds will be used “to enhance further Travelata’s online services and unique customer experience as well as for expansion across Russia’s regions,” the company stated.

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Russia microelectronics

Russia wants no more reliance on foreign high tech

As part of a large set of actions that are designed to lessen Russian reliance on foreign technology and digital services, government agencies in the Irkutsk region (Siberia) were ordered last month by the presidential administration to stop using the services of Google.

The ban concerns the use of Google’s web resources for the storage of official documents, the use of Google software to create websites for government agencies, the use of Gmail for official mail and “Google search engines for searches of the Internet sites of state agencies.”

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Ostrovok_2

$38 million not enough for a startup – Ostrovok closes 5th round of funding in 3 years

Ostrovok.ru, a major Russian hotel booking service, announced last week that it has raised $12 million in a round led by Vaizra Capital, a fund which belongs to Vkontakte co-founders Vyacheslav Mirilashvili and Lev Leviev.

A number of the startup’s existing investors also took part in the round. The transaction, the details of which have not been disclosed, brings total investment in the project to more than $50 million.

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East-West Digital News is published with the support of:
  • Higher school of economics
  • The Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge
  • Russian Venture Company
  • Territory of tomorrow foundation