Russian new media investment group Profmedia is raising equity to buy a bigger stake in Rambler.ru, the Russian content and search business it owns a 54.4 percent stake in. (via Yakov). Profmedia announced on Wednesday it’s launching an accelerated bookbuild — where a company quickly raises finance by offering existing investors new shares — to buy out minority shareholders in Rambler and take greater control.
If successful, Profmedia will consider removing Rambler from the London-based AIM stock exchange and taking the business private. Profmedia warns that any remaining Rambler shareholders will find it harder to sell shares if the business is privately held so it urges them to sell now, while Profmedia’s buying. Reuters.com reports the bookbuild could be completed as early as Wednesday night.
Rambler attracts around 45 million unique users in total across its various products, which include email and search services as well as news site Lenta.ru, price comparison site Price.ru, instant messaging service Rambler-ICQ and the contextual ad firm ‘Begun’.
Still one of Russia’s top three online players, Rambler has suffered from increase competition and an erosion of its grip on the search market — from 14.9 percent last year to 6.4 percent at the start of this year. On top of that, the company lost its CEO and, reportedly, half its staff.
However, such is the pace of digital growth in Russia — the country’s online market grew 55 percent in 2008 to $590 million (£352.5 million) — Rambler’s growth figures would still make most western businesses weep. Last year it made revenues of $74.6 million (£44.5 million), a 45 percent year-on-year rise, and profits were 29 percent higher at $34.3 million (£20.5 million).
The deal that could have given the company a clear advantage at home and abroad, a sale of its Begun business to Google (NSDQ: GOOG) for $140 million, was blocked by Russia’s anti-trust authority a year ago.