Mail.ru Group Ltd. (MAIL), billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s Internet company, cashed in about $320 million by selling a stake in Facebook Inc. (FB) before an expiration of share lockups for some employees of the social networking site.
Mail.ru sold about 16 million Facebook shares this month, according to the Moscow-based company’s spokeswoman Ksenia Chabanenko. Its stake dropped to 0.75 percent as of today, according to a company filing. Facebook averaged at $20.41 in October, meaning the shares could have earned $327 million. The stock has recovered 26 percent since the beginning of September.
Usmanov, who made his fortune in metals and mining and who once owned 10 percent of Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, is among early investors that have been cutting their holdings. Facebook Director Peter Thiel sold more than $1 billion worth of shares in the IPO and after the end of the first lockup. The ending of another restrictive period on Oct. 29 may weigh on the shares, said Scott Kessler, an equity analyst for S&P Capital IQ.
“It’s going to be harder for it to appreciate,” said New York-based Kessler, who cut his rating of the stock to “hold” from “buy” today.
Facebook shares jumped 19 percent yesterday after the company reported sales that topped analysts’ estimates. They slipped 2 percent to $22.76 at 12:55 p.m. in New York.
The lockup period for some Facebook employees that ends Oct. 29 will make 234 million shares available for sale. On Aug. 16, Facebook unlocked 271.1 million shares, the first of five insider sale restrictions scheduled during its first year as a public company.
When Usmanov acquired a 10 percent stake in Facebook in 2009, his fund Digital Sky Technologies persuaded founder Mark Zuckerberg to sell by giving up voting rights. Part of Usmanov’s stake in Facebook was then transferred to Mail.ru before the own IPO in 2010.
Mail.ru rose 4 percent to $33.48 at the close of trading in London. The stock has gained 29 percent this year.
“Investors are hoping that the company will share proceeds with shareholders and pay dividends,” said Anna Lepetukhina, an analyst at Sberbank CIB, in an e-mail.
Mail.ru, Usmanov and his managing partner in DST, Yuri Milner, cashed in their investments during Facebook’s IPO. Mail.ru alone received about $745 million from selling Facebook shares, according to its first-half report. It then agreed to pay $795 million in special dividends in August.
Usmanov invested in Facebook when the company was valued at between $6 billion and $10 billion, the businessman told state television Rossiya 24 in April.
Mail.ru’s other technology and Internet investments in the U.S. include Groupon Inc. (GRPN) and Zynga Inc. (ZNGA) Chief Operating Officer Verdi Israelian reiterated that those stakes may also be sold at the right time and price.
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