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Russian Web firm invests 200 mln dlrs in Facebook

by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) May 26, 2009
Facebook said Tuesday that a Russian Web investor had purchased a nearly two percent stake in the social network giant for 200 million dollars, valuing the company at some 10 billion dollars.

Digital Sky Technologies (DST) was also offering to purchase at least 100 million dollars of Facebook common stock held by current and former employees of the Palo Alto, California-based company, Facebook said.

Facebook said DST would not be represented on the board of the fast-growing social network or hold special observer rights.

DST's purchase of a 1.96 percent equity stake in preferred stock in Facebook is the largest cash-raising exercise by the company in two years.

US computer software giant Microsoft obtained a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook for 240 million dollars in 2007, a deal which at the time valued the company at 15 billion dollars.

"This investment demonstrates Facebook's ongoing success at creating a global network for people to share and connect," Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a statement.

"A number of firms approached us, but DST stood out because of the global perspective they bring -- backed up by the impressive growth and financial achievements of their Internet investments.

"We're looking forward to working with the DST team," Zuckerberg said.

"Our investment experience in other regions reveals the tremendous value social networking companies create as they redefine how people communicate and interact," said Yuri Milner, chief executive of DST.

"By every important metric -- user growth and engagement, technological innovation and financial performance -- Facebook is on a similar trajectory, though on a much more global scale.

"We're delighted to invest in Facebook, Mark and his management team as they make the world more open and connected," Milner said.

Facebook, founded in February 2004, has been growing rapidly over the past few years and recently announced it had signed up its 200-millionth member.

While the number of users has grown at an amazing clip, Facebook, unlike other Web giants such as Amazon, eBay, Google and Yahoo!, has yet to prove how it is going to translate traffic into cash.

Privately-held DST, which is based in Moscow and London, holds significant interests in Internet companies in Russia and Eastern Europe such as Mail.ru, Forticom and vKontakte, according to the statement.

DST's main assets account for more than 70 percent of all page views on the Russian-speaking Internet and its social networks are the market leaders in more than 13 countries, it said.

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