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Tencent, the Chinese social gaming company worth $38 billion, invested $300 million in Russia’s Digital Sky Technologies, the firm best known for helping Facebook and Zynga put off initial public offerings through its capital infusions.
Talk about a role reversal. We’re used to seeing the Russian firm, run by Yuri Milner, grab pieces of American companies. This time a Chinese company has turned around and grabbed a piece of DST instead. Tencent took a 10.26 percent stake in the company, but with limited voting rights: It will get about 0.51 percent of the firm’s total voting power. It will also have the right to nominate one observer to the DST Board.
In Tencent, DST gains an investor who could broker introductions into China’s blossoming consumer technology scene. In return, Tencent broadens its holdings internationally and indirectly gains a stake in Facebook and Zynga.
Tencent owns a widely adopted instant-messaging service in China, QQ, as well as a PayPal-like payments system and social games similar to Zynga’s offerings.
“This investment is a vote of confidence in DST from the market leader in China and one of the world’s most successful and dynamic Internet companies overall,” Milner said in a statement. “We look forward to working together with Tencentand benefiting from their expertise as we both push forward with our plans to capitalize on this immense growth in our markets.”
DST is well-known as a late stage investor that has bought pieces of Silicon Valley’s most-talked about companies. It invested $180 million in Zynga in December, allowing the social gaming to grow without going public and letting some of its employees cash out their stock options. It played a similar role for Facebook, investing $200 million directly and buying $100 million in shares from employees.
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