Friendster to rename as MOLster

Malaysia truly can, indeed! With the acquisition of Friendster by a Malaysian company MOL Global, I won't be surprised if Friendster is to be renamed soon as MOLster (Oh, no...it sounds very much like a 'molester'. So maybe it won't work!) or perhaps 'Temanster'. Heh.

Malaysian online payment service provider MOL Global Pte Ltd has snapped up Friendster, a social networking site that has 115 million users worldwide.

The acquisition will see the company, an affiliate of MOL AccessPortal, owning 100% of the world's third most popular Internet site for social networking, behind Facebook and MySpace.

MOL AccessPortal president and chief executive officer (CEO) Ganesh Kumar Bangah, who made the announcement today, however declined to reveal how much the deal would cost the company.

However, Reuters, quoting a source, reported today that the site will be sold for at least US$100 million (RM340 million).

MOL's principal shareholder, Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun, who owns the conglomerate Berjaya Corporation Bhd, said he was proud of the merger as it showed that "Malaysia truly can" .

Friendster CEO Richard Kimber said the acquisition will be finalised by year end.

The acquisition will combine the operations of MOL and Friendster to create Asia’s largest end-to-end content, distribution and commerce network.

Bangah will be the CEO in charge of the operations of the company while Kimber will be the non-executive chairman who will be guiding Bangah on financial strategies, including working with investors.

"Right off the bat, the combined revenue of both companies is in excess of more than US$110 million (RM373.6 million)," Bangah said after the announcement of the acquisition.

MOL and Friendster had on Oct 15 announced a partnership to create Friendster Wallet, a pre-paid payment system for users to buy virtual goods, including games and gifts.

The social networking site was reportedly looking for Asian buyers in July amid the slumping registration of Friendster users.

Kimber said today the site receives more than 10 billion page views, and that 75 million registered users are from Southeast Asia alone.

MOL leverages on a network of over 500,000 physical and virtual payment channels over 75 countries and is linked to 65 banks in 15 countries worldwide.

The company handles over 60 million payment transactions a year with an annual payment volume of over US$200 million.

"This is a very strategic relationship," said Bangah, adding that it was an opportunity for Malaysian content developers to access the US market.

Friendster Asia head Ian Stewart said the company’s new branding, which includes a new logo, product launches and features, will attract more users while the site’s focus on local content sets it apart from other social network sites.

"We have teams set up in countries like Vietnam and the Philippines to deliver local content to users," Stewart said.

"We are committed to having local expertise and execution."

The new features include a shout out wall for users to post comments, photo uploading, applications such as games, gifts and finding friends.

From Sun2Surf, "MOL to acquire Friendster".

An affiliate of a Malaysian online payment firm has jumped into the social-networking business by agreeing to buy Friendster Inc. of Mountain View, the two companies announced Thursday in Kuala Lumpur.

MOL Global Pte. Ltd., an affiliate of MOL AccessPortal Berhad of Kuala Lumpur, has agreed to buy the firm that pioneered social networking.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. A published report last week said Friendster was close to a deal worth $100 million with a firm from Asia .

In a press release, the two companies said the combined entity would merge MOL's e-commerce platform with Friendster's social network of 115 million users worldwide.

"The merger with Friendster will continue to transform the social-networking industry," Ganesh Kumar Bangah, MOL president and chief executive, said in a news release.

Friendster, founded in 2002 by computer programmer Jonathan Abrams, was the early king of social networking in the United States, but was eventually surpassed first by MySpace and now by Facebook, which has 350 million members worldwide.

However, Friendster went on to carve its own niche in Southeast Asia, where it has more than 75 million members.

The statement said MOL will take advantage of the brick-and-mortar holdings in the region of its principal shareholder, Tan Sri Vincent Tan, chairman and CEO of Berjaya Corp. Berhad, a Malaysian conglomerate with more than $1.8 billion in annual revenues.

The company said it plans to use those holdings, which include Starbucks, 7-Eleven, Borders, Krispy Kreme, Wendy's and Papa John's Pizza franchises, to extend the reach of social networking in Southeast Asia.

From SFGate, "Friendster sold to firm in Malaysia".

MOL Global Pte Ltd is acquiring the entire equity in social networking website operator Friendster Inc, creating an entity with a combined annual revenue exceeding US$110mil upon the completion of the acquisition exercise.

MOL Global is an affiliate of online payment solutions provider MOL AccessPortal Bhd, which has Berjaya Corp Bhd chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Tan Sri Vincent Tan as the principal shareholder.

Following the acquisition, the operations of MOL and US-based Friendster will be combined to create Asia’s largest end-to-end content, distribution and commerce network.

The combined operations will be paired with MOL’s offline retail channel partners and payment platform with Friendster’s large online footprint, social network and user community in Asia.

MOL AccessPortal president and CEO Ganesh Kumar Bangah said the acquisition had a strategic value and the new entity would retain Friendster’s offices in various locations.

“We are creating a unique company that will be well positioned to provide content to a huge, regional user base here in South-East Asia,” he told a press conference after the parties signed a definitive agreement yesterday.

He said he would become the group CEO of the combined entity while the current CEO of Friendster, Richard Kimber would become the non-executive chairman.

MOL has a network of over 500,000 physical and virtual payment channels across 75 countries worldwide to collect payments for content and services.

Ganesh shrugged off questions on the transaction value of the acquisition, saying “we’re private companies, so we can’t disclose the amount.”

Quoting a source, Reuters reported that Friendster would be sold for more than US$100mil.

An industry blog, TechCrunch, had in July valued Friendster at US$210mil, a fraction of Facebook’s estimated US$10bil valuation.

Kimber said the new combined entity would give Friendster the kind of financial backing, retail distribution and e-commerce infrastructure that would enable the company to further expand in the region.

“We target the acquisition to be completed by year-end,” he said.

He said Friendster had recently launched a new brand and website packed with new features representing a significant milestone in the company’s history and further signifying its focus on the Asian youth market.

“We have 115 million registered users currently with 90% of the daily traffic coming from the Asia region,” he said.

From The Star Online, "Malaysia's MOL AccessPortal to acquire 100% of Friendster".

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