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United Capital Partners may increase stake in Russia’s Vkontakte

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MOSCOW, Apr 18 (PRIME) -- Investment fund United Capital Partners (UCP) controlled by Ilya Shcherbovich does not rule out the possibility of increasing its stake in Russian social networking Web site Vkontakte, the fund’s partner Viktoria Lazareva told PRIME Thursday.

“We do not have any immediate plans, but we do not rule out such a possibility in the future if other shareholders will be ready to sell their stakes,” Lazareva said.

Late on Wednesday, the fund said it had closed a deal to buy a 48% stake in Vkontakte from the co-founders Vyacheslav Mirilashvily and Lev Leviyev. The price of the deal has not been disclosed.

Before the deal, Mirilashvily and his family held a 40% stake in Vkontakte and Leviyev owned an 8% stake.

UCP has long been in talks on the purchase of the aforementioned stakes on behalf of a group of partners, Lazareva said without elaborating.

Major Russian Internet company Mail.ru Group, which had a 39.99% stake in Vkontakte, and the social network’s founder and CEO Pavel Durov owning a 12% stake had a preemptive right to buy the stakes of Mirilashvily and Leviyev.

However, Vkontakte spokesman Georgy Lobushkin told RIA Novosti that the Web site’s management including Durov was not aware of the changes in Vkontakte’s shareholder structure.

A market source said that Vkontakte’s key shareholder Mail.ru Group did not receive an offer to increase its stake in the company.

Holding company USM Advisors, which manages Internet assets belonging to tycoon Alisher Usmanov, the owner of a majority stake in Mail.ru Group, declined to comment on the deal saying it has no information about the matter.

Gleb Davidyuk, managing partner of investment fund iTech Capital said that the 48% stake in Vkontakte could be evaluated at about U.S. $1 billion, and UCP hardly has such a sum. Davidyuk suggested that the stake was sold for a marginal price, or UCP bought the stake for a third-party company and used its funds to finance the deal.

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