The long and colorful saga of an independent Friendster is over, for now. As expected, it has been acquired, by the Malaysian company MOL Global Pte, which is an affiliate of MOL AccessPortal Berhad, a company that operates and develops payment systems in Asia. The principal shareholder of MOL is Tan Sri Vincent Tan, the CEO of Berjaya Corporation Berhad, a Malaysian conglomerate that has annual revenues over $1.8 billion. No word on how much MOL paid, although previous reports pegged the sale price at over $100 million. The combined entity will have annual revenue of about $110 million, the companies said.
MOL Global to Acquire Friendster
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.
MOL is a MSC Malaysia Status Company that operates and develops payment systems. MOL handles over 60,000,000 payment transactions a year with an annual payment volume of over US$200 million. It leverages on a network of over 500,000 physical and virtual payment channels across more than 75 countries and linked to 65 banks in 15 countries worldwide to operate its key payment products, namely MOLePoints, an online micropayment system for content and services; MOLeTopUp, an electronic prepaid distribution infrastructure; MOL Freedom, a multi-application prepaid payment card; GamesHive, an online game payment aggregator; MOL Wings, a payment aggregator for wired and wireless internet service providers; MOL Zone, a multi-application mobile payment service; and MOL SafePay, an escrow-based payment system for micro-merchants.
MOL was recognized as one of Asia Pacific’s fastest growing technology companies in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Asia Pacific Awards in 2005 and 2006 and has won a Merit Award for the Best of E-Commerce Applications in the MSC Asia Pacific ICT Awards.
With more than 115 million members worldwide, Friendster is a leading global online social network. Friendster is focused on helping people stay in touch with friends and discover new people and things that are important to them. Friendster is one of the best sites that allow people to meaningfully participate with others in exciting and fun ways. Friendster prides itself in delivering an easy-to-use, friendly and interactive environment where users can easily connect with anyone around the world via www.friendster.com or m.friendster.com from any Internet-ready mobile device. Friendster has a growing portfolio of patents granted to the company on social networking, with more expected over the next several months. For more information, visit: www.friendster.com.