Summary:

Russian online games is a sector investors should be keeping a close eye on… South African media conglomerate Naspers has been granted ant…

Perfect World, an MMO games from Astrum Online Entertainment

Russian online games is a sector investors should be keeping a close eye on… South African media conglomerate Naspers has been granted anti-trust permission to buy between 38 percent and 100 percent of Russian online games developer Astrum Online Entertainment from majority shareholder Digital Sky Technologies.

As Kommersant (via Yakov) reports, the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has given Naspers the green light to buy the firm — making this the second big Russian massively multiplayer online (MMO) game deal this week after Astrum minority shareholder Nival said it was close to securing $5 million in funding to finance a new title.

Naspers is already a major player in Russian online media through its 43 percent stake in email and search business Mail.ru. Naspers has been mentioned as a likely bidder for the instant messaging service ICQ, which owner AOL is reportedly looking to sell — but a spokeswoman told us that it wouldn’t comment on “press speculation”. Naspers’ half-year earnings, out on Thursday, may have more on its M&A strategy.

Kommersant, citing sources, reports that Naspers plans to “merge” Mail.ru with Astrum — though the deal may simply see both companies work together more closely and produce co-branded games such as Drive@Mail.ru.

Astrum claims to have cornered 60 percent of the Russian online games market with its 30 million registered players as of Q309 and made revenues of $50 million (£30 million) in 2008.

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