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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Merger Could Be in Cards for Port.ru, netBridge

Now that the RuNet investment fever is over, major portals netBridge and Port.ru are looking to form an alliance with other market leaders, company managers have said.

A merger between the two could even be in the cards for next month, the Algorithm information agency reported Monday.

"The deal between Port.ru and netBridge is 90 percent likely to go ahead," a source close to both companies said. "Of all possible merger scenarios for the major holdings, this seems to make the most sense: Port.ru has the free e-mail service Mail.ru, while netBridge owns the online auction site Molotok.ru, the List.ru catalogue and the Boom.ru hosting service."

Port.ru vice president Yury Ammosov neither confirmed nor denied this information Monday.

"We are negotiating on the possibility of consolidating with many market players," he said. "All the major portal companies are talking to each other. Six portals on the market is a little too many. Two would be plenty."

Port.ru recently concluded an agreement with the investment banking group NIKoil, but Ammosov categorically rejected NIKoil’s participation in the possible merger.

"The NIKoil agreement did not provide for any third parties. We suggest exchanging the shares of one company with those of another in our proposals," he said.

NetBridge marketing director Yulia Sigunova repeated Ammosov, virtually word for word.

"We, like many others, are holding negotiations on possible mergers with the owners of major projects," she said. "The market simply does not need so many major players."

Both Sigunova and Ammosov said the hypothetically merged company could become one of the most attractive advertising platforms on RuNet. It is interesting that Sigunova and Ammosov, "speaking purely hypothetically," name each other’s companies as "good merger possibilities."

If the two companies merge, the alliance could become the second-most-visited RuNet resource after the Rambler Group holding, according to the data of SpyLOG president Andrei Andreyev.

Analysts are positive about the possible merger.

"This was to be expected, especially now, when the holdings’ money is starting to dry up now that the first wave of investors has passed," said Alexander Andreyev, an analyst with Brunswick UBS Warburg. "They will cut costs and, most importantly, have a stronger platform and higher advertising prices."

Port.ru’s and netBridge’s competitors are much less optimistic about the alliance.

"Now their money has completely dried up. NIKoil has granted Port.ru its name for old times’ sake, but no investment," one competitor said.

Ammosov and Port.ru director Konstantin Uvarov were once top NIKoil managers.

"Now they are trying to somehow increase their value in a situation where there is no investor interest," the competitor said.

"What effect can there be from simply merging two developing companies?" said Sergei Vasilyev, president of the Russkiye Fondi investment group, which owns Rambler Group.

"They don’t have any money, they can’t capture new markets. Until they find a financial investor, the two participants won’t gel. If they find an investor prepared to buy a stake and invest in development, then it could happen."

The netBridge Services company owns the Molotok.ru online auction, 24x7 Internet store, the free-hosting service Boom.ru and the List.ru catalogue. NetBridge’s founders are the U.S. company New Century Holdings and Western venture capitalists.

Apart from the popular Mail.ru, Port.ru owns the web magazine Internet.ru, the Torg.ru trading system and the tourism portal Travel.ru. Port.ru’s main shareholder is the private U.S. investment company Delta Capital, which announced it had invested $2.5 million in developing Internet projects last spring.

http://www.netBridge.ru netBridge

http://www.Port.ru Port.ru

http://www.Algorithm.ru Algorithm

http://win.mail.port.ru/ Mail.ru

http://www.Molotok.ru Molotok.ru

http://www.List.ru List.ru

http://www.Boom.ru Boom.ru

http://www.Rambler.ru Rambler Group

http://www.SpyLOG.ru SpyLOG

http://www.24x7.ru 24x7 Internet store

http://www.Internet.ru Internet.ru

http://www.Torg.ru Torg.ru

http://www.Travel.ru Travel.ru