Summary:

A flurry of reports suggest Facebook is interested in buying Israeli image recognition startup Face.com. But reports from Moscow suggest the rumor mill could be turning because Russian search engine Yandex wants to sell its stake in the firm to Mark Zuckerberg.

MarkZuckerberg

Facebook’s apparent interest in Israeli image recognition startup Face.com could rely on an unexpected partner — the Russian search engine Yandex, according to reports.

Rumors that Mark Zuckerberg is interested in purchasing first emerged on Monday, with a report in Israel’s Calcalist that was then spun up with a potential $100 million price tag by The Next Web.

But according to Russian newspaper Vedomosti, the deal may actually happen in a roundabout way — with Moscow-based search engine Yandex selling its stake in the Israeli company to Facebook instead.

As it reports:

“One of the shareholders of Face.com is Russia’s Yandex which, in autumn 2010 together with Israeli investment fund Rhodium, invested $4.3 million in return for 18.4 percent of the company and the move for its CEO, Arkady Volozh, to join Face.com’s board of directors.”

“Yandex is in talks to sell its stake in Face.com, says a source close to the company. The source told Vedomosti about the negotiations for the sale, which Yandex wants to do in exchange for money and Facebook stock.”

When I asked a Yandex spokesman about the report, he declined to comment on it.

Whatever the case, it’s worth being very, very wary of rumors like this right now. Troubled or not, Facebook’s IPO now means it has a substantial war chest and is likely to make some acquisitions — and that means lots of people have a lot of interest in talking up deals or trying to inflate any potential purchase price. I expect we’ll see a lot of well-placed rumors and leaks over the next few months as hot startups try to negotiate a chunk of Facebook for themselves.

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