Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) of Russia has granted a permission to Naspers/MIH Group to acquire between 38% and 100% stake in online game developer and publisher Astrum Online Entertainment from DST (Digital Sky Technologies), reported newspaper Kommersant. According to the newspaper, the transactions between Naspers and DST is part of a merger between online portal Mail.ru and Astrum Online. The merger is expected to include both stock and cash transactions.
DST owns a 53% stake in Mail.ru and majority stake in Astrum Online while Naspers/MIH Group owns a 43% stake in Mail.ru. The revenues of Mail.ru reached US$ 75 million in 2008 while Astrum Online’s revenues were estimated at $50 million last year.
According to TNS Web Index, Mail.ru had a monthly reach of 20.4 million people in September 2009. Astrum Online said last week that a total number of players registered in the holding’s online games exceeded 30 million, up 50% from 20 million in May 2009.
Astrum Online was created as a result of merger of five online game developers: Astrum Nival, Nikita.Online, IT Territory, TimeZero and DJ Games. These companies launched more than 30 massive multi-player online games, including The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, Legend: Legacy of the Dragons, Territory, TimeZero, Sphere, Piratia and Perfect World.
In 2009, the Russian online advertising market is expected to be $700 million or about the same as last year. The online games spending will be increasing 29% to $238 million in 2009.
The new company that would be created as a result of merger between Mail.ru and Astrum Online would generate revenues from both online games subscriptions/virtual goods and advertisements as well as benefit from Astrum Online’s gaming revenues from outside of Russia.