Yota Devices, the Russian company that sells two-screened Android smartphones, has a new owner after shareholder Telconet Capital sold its majority 64.9 percent holding to Hong Kong-listed REX Global Entertainment for $100 million, according to a regulatory filing.
Yota caught the attention with a unique dual-screen smartphone which takes aim at the increasingly homogeneous design of phones by offering an e-ink screen on its reverse. Its first device — called simply the Yota Phone — emerged in December 2012 and was subsequently sold in 20 markets across Europe, Russia and Middle East. Yota didn’t disclose sales figures, but media reports suggest it didn’t fare well.
The device did manage to build a cut following among those who appreciate something different, though, and its second release — Yota Phone 2 — was better received. Indeed, Yota’s own Indiegogo campaign to bring the odd-looking phone to the U.S. ended with nearly $300,000 in pledges, vastly overshooting its initial $50,000 target.
Yota has offices in Germany, Canada, Finland, Singapore, and Russia, but it has previously said that China — where it has locations in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen — is its most important focus.
“China will be the biggest market in terms of volumes, no doubt about that,” Yota CEO Vlad Martynov said in a February interview with Reuters.
Given its interest in China, it makes some sense that Telconet Capital is selling to an Asian investor, albeit one that doesn’t have direct smartphone experience. REX Global Entertainment’s business interests include cruise ships, casinos, property, and even gamma ray irradiation services (!).
Representatives for Yota Phone and REX Global Entertainment did not respond to our questions about the investment at the time of writing. (We’ll update this post with more details as we hear them.)
It isn’t clear what plans that Yota has with its new investor on board, but we’d suspect that in addition to upping the ante in China, it will look closely at opportunities in emerging markets in Asia, in particular India and Southeast Asia. Other Android phone makers like OnePlus and Xiaomi have focused on those regions, where smartphone adoption remains relatively nascent but device sales continue to grow at double and triple digit rates.
Martynov is confirmed to speak at our TechCrunch China event in Beijing next month, so we should have a more complete picture of what’s on the horizon soon.
Yota Devices grew out of the its parent company’s telecom business, which is centered around providing mobile broadband services and wireless devices. Yota, founded in 2006, is notable for being one of the first WiMAX providers, though today it provides 4G-LTE services in more than nine cities across Russia.