Friendster finds buyer in Asian payment company

Pioneering social-networking site agrees to be purchased by MOL Global, a Malaysian online payment company.
Written by Steven Musil, Contributor on

Hot on the heels of Friendster's recent face-lift, the onetime social-networking pioneer has found a buyer.

MOL Global, a Malaysian online payment company, has agreed to purchase Friendster, the companies announced late Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not revealed, but rumors last week said a likely asking price would start around US$100 million.

"This combination is a natural progression of our relationship and will be an industry-changing event," Richard Kimber, chief executive officer at Friendster, said in a statement. "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."

Kimber confirmed last week that the company was shopping itself to buyers as the social-networking site was unveiling a redesigned site that focused on the Asian youth market. The revamped Friendster site offers a suite of features designed to capitalize on the social-gaming craze: a virtual currency, an array of games, and virtual gifts.

Of Friendster's 115 million registered users worldwide, 75 million are based in Asia, and 90 percent of its traffic comes from the Asia-Pacific region. It started offering translated versions of the site two years ago.

The two companies announced a partnership in October in which MOL would provide a payments platform for Friendster Wallet and Friendster Gift Shop.

Ganesh Kumar Bangah, president and chief executive officer of MOL, will become the group chief executive officer of the combined entity. Kimber, who formerly served as Google's regional managing director in Southeast Asia, will become the non-executive chairman.

This article was first published as a blog post on CNET News.

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