Billionaire Alisher Usmanov reduced his holding in Facebook Inc. (FB:US) as his Russian Internet company sold a stake for more than $525 million, taking advantage of a 57 percent jump in the stock’s price this year.
Mail.ru Group Ltd., controlled by Usmanov, said today it sold its remaining 14.2 million Facebook shares, about a 0.6 percent stake, in July and August. Shares of Menlo Park, California-based Facebook have rebounded this year, surging (FB:US) past the price set at last year’s initial public offering and valuing the company at $102 billion.
Good timing with technology investments has helped Usmanov become Russia’s richest man with a fortune topping $20 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. While the lock-up period on Mail.ru (MAIL)’s Facebook stake expired in May, a bet to wait a few months allowed it to benefit from further gains.
“Mail.ru earned more than expected on selling Facebook shares as they didn’t sell immediately in May,” Alexander Vengranovich, an analyst at Otkritie Capital, said by phone. “The company is now likely to pay special dividends from the sale as they did earlier.”
Since the start of May, Facebook shares have gained 52 percent on increasing demand for mobile advertising. Mail.ru paid special dividends topping a combined $1.5 billion this year and last after divesting Internet holdings outside Russia.
Mail.ru, which is part-owned by Chinese Internet company Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700) and South Africa’s Naspers Ltd. (NPN), jumped as much as 4.7 percent and added 2.8 percent to $34.85 at 12:08 p.m. in London. It had lost 1.7 percent this year before today.
Usmanov became an early investor in Facebook in 2009 and held part of his stake through his Internet company. Mail.ru has divested its stakes in Facebook, Groupon Inc. (GRPN:US) and Zynga Inc. (ZNGA:US) to focus on expanding its social-networking and online gaming businesses.
Usmanov has also held Facebook through the Digital Sky Technologies fund. Leonid Solovyev, a DST spokesman in Moscow, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Usmanov earned about $1.4 billion by selling shares in Facebook’s IPO last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. He also sold $532 million shares of Mail.ru in February to recoup investments in the Russian company.
Mail.ru reported a 28 increase in first-half sales today, driven by growth in online advertising and user spending in social networks and games. The company increased its full-year sales growth target to 27 percent to 29 percent from an earlier range of 25 percent to 28 percent.
Usmanov also owns stakes in Twitter Inc. and Chinese e-commerce companies Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and 360buy Jingdong Inc. Alibaba has a value of about $87 billion, according to the average of 11 analyst estimates released in July. It could raise about HK$100 billion ($12.9 billion) in an IPO, Ernst & Young LLP said in June.
In late April, Usmanov said he had recently spent about $100 million buying Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) shares in anticipation they will rise. The stock has advanced 28 percent from a low this year of $390.53 on April 19.
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