Group announced yesterday that it has signed an agreement to acquire an additional 12 percent stake in, the leading Russian-language social network also known as

Should the deal – which is “conditional on a number of matters, including third-party consent” – be completed, the LSE-listed Internet group will own 52 percent of Vkontakte. The remaining 48 percent belongs to Russian investment fund United Capital Partners (UCP). Group is acquiring the new shares from Megafon CEO Ivan Tavrin, who himself had bought his stake from Vkontakte founder Pavel Durov only a few months ago.

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Over the past several months UCP’s relations with Durov and Group have deteriorated to such an extent that the parties recently voiced their intention to sue each other.

While apparently simplifying Vkontakte’s shareholder structure, Group’s new position as the majority shareholder is unlikely to prevent further conflicts.

UCP considered Tavrin little more than a Group operative  due to his close ties with billionaire Alisher Usmanov, a major shareholder of Megafon and Group. From this point of view, the transfer of Tavrin’s share to Group will not change the balance of power between shareholders.

In addition to its hefty 48 percent stake, UCP has two seats in Vkontakte’s board of directors – as many as Group, an unnamed source at UCP told the Russian business daily Vedomosti.

This article originally appeared in East-West Digital News, our partner in Russia.

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