Malaysian Payments Company MOL Global Snaps Up Friendster

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We heard reports that Friendster was going to shopping itself to an Asian technology company but tonight, the news was released that MOL Global, a Malaysian payments company, has purchased social network Friendster. The full press release is below. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed but we’ve heard that the purchase price is around $100 million.

Friendster, which was founded in 2001, has raised over $45 million in venture capital to date, and is sitting on some potentially lucrative IP. The acquisition makes sense because while Friendster is no longer hot in the U.S., it’s most definitely still has members in the Asia/Pacific region.

The social network, which just rolled out a much-needed redesign, appointed Richard Kimber as its new CEO, who used to head Sales and Operations in South East Asia for Google.

MOL Global and Friendster already had a partnership power the payments ecosystem of the Friendster Wallet and its payments platform.

MOL Retail and Payment Channels and Leading Online Social Network Combine to Form Massive Content Distribution and E-commerce Platform in Asia for Over 100 Million Users

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Dec. 9 /PRNewswire/ — MOL Global Pte. Ltd. (“MOL Global”), an affiliate of leading online payment solutions provider MOL AccessPortal Berhad (“MOL”), and Friendster, Inc. (“Friendster”), the operator of a top global web site based on traffic and a leading social network in Asia, announced today they have entered into a definitive agreement under which MOL Global will acquire 100% of Friendster. The principal shareholder of MOL is Tan Sri Vincent Tan, the Chairman and CEO of Berjaya Corporation Berhad, a leading, diversified Malaysian conglomerate that has annual revenues in excess of US$1.8 billion. Following the acquisition, the operations of MOL and Friendster will be combined to create Asia’s largest end-to-end content, distribution and commerce network, pairing MOL’s offline retail channel partners and payment platform with Friendster’s large online footprint, social network and user community in Asia.

“The merger with Friendster will continue to transform the social networking industry, combining a highly intuitive and successful social media site and online marketing channel with an integrated payment platform and content network which includes games, goods, gifts, music and video. We are creating a unique company that will be well positioned to provide content to a huge, regional user base, here in Southeast Asia,” said Ganesh Kumar Bangah, president and chief executive officer of MOL.

MOL uses the leverage of a network of over 500,000 physical and virtual payment channels across 75 countries worldwide to collect payments for content and services. Its core markets are Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and India. MOL has relationships with over 70 online game publishers that have a suite of over 200 online game titles. It also has partnerships with music, movie and video content owners and distributors across the region.

“Friendster and MOL are both industry pioneers and are close partners. This combination is a natural progression of our relationship and will be an industry-changing event,” said Richard Kimber, chief executive officer at Friendster. “The new combined entity gives Friendster the kind of financial backing, retail distribution, and e-commerce infrastructure that will enable us to accelerate our strategy and create a locally relevant, fun experience for our users in Asia, both on and offline.”

In 2003, Friendster pioneered social networking, and today is a leading web site in Asia, with over 75 million registered users and over 90 percent of daily traffic coming from the region. Asian youths have embraced Friendster and use it as their primary means of connecting to and keeping in touch with friends, self-expression, sharing content and news with friends, and as a source of entertainment. Friendster users also enjoy local music, gifting, photo sharing, online games, and using Friendster on their mobile devices. All of these are incorporated in Friendster’s product suite and will be further developed over time with MOL, specifically with Asian youths in mind.

Friendster and MOL entered a global partnership in October of this year where MOL was appointed to provide an integrated payments platform, as a foundation for The Friendster Wallet and The Friendster Gift Shop, for Friendster’s users. The new combined entity will now build upon that initial set of products to deliver a content distribution network and e-commerce platform, enabling a wide array of content to be distributed to Friendster’s community and monetize via micro-transactions using MOL’s payment platform. MOL will use the leverage of its physical distribution networks to localize and extend the online reach of social networking in Southeast Asia to the physical world through Tan Sri Vincent Tan’s substantial assets across Malaysia and the region, including retail franchises in Malaysia and across Southeast Asia such as Starbucks, 7-Eleven, Borders, Krispy Kreme, Wendy’s and Papa John’s Pizza, just to name a few.

Friendster recently launched a new brand and web site packed with new features representing a significant milestone in the company’s history and further signifying the company’s evolution to focus on the Asian youth market. The notable changes include a new fun-centric brand, and a redesigned web site with a focus on local relevance, fun and simplicity.

The combined entity will maintain offices in various locations, around the world, including Mountain View, CA (USA), the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. Ganesh Kumar Bangah will become the Group Chief Executive Officer of the combined entity while Richard Kimber will become the Non-Executive Chairman.

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