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Naspers’ internet buying spree continues with new social network purchase

South African media giant Naspers has added to its growing collection of global internet businesses, recently buying a “controlling interest” in social networking site Multiply.

In July, Memeburn reported the company indirectly landed up with a chunk of Facebook via a 28.7% stake in Digital Sky Technologies (DST), the Russian internet company that has invested in Facebook, social network game creator Zynga and owns the mature instant messaging service, ICQ.

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Multiply is a social networking service with an emphasis on allowing users to share media — such as photos, videos and blog entries — with their “real-world” network.

The website was launched in March 2004 and was privately held with backing by VantagePoint Venture Partners, Point Judith Capital, Transcosmos, and private investors.

Multiply, headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida, reportedly has more than 11-million registered users.

On Multiply, a user’s network is made up of their direct contacts, as well as others who are closely connected to them through their first-degree relationships. Additionally, users are encouraged to specify the nature of their relationship with one another, making it possible to share content with their entire network of closely-related people, or subsets thereof including friends, family, professional contacts, and so on.

According to paidContent.org Multiply was initially positioned as a “mature” alternative to MySpace, providing users with more control over what information they wanted to share. Multiply has since branched out into social shopping, setting up an online marketplace, which gets about 20 million monthly visitors a month, primarily in Southeast Asia.

Naspers is typically not disclosing how much it paid for the stake.

Naspers is a US$15-billion South African-based media company focused on internet investments in emerging markets. Apart from various internet investments in Asia, Eastern Europe, India and South America, the company owns newspaper and magazine properties in South Africa and Brazil, including pay TV networks throughout the African continent.

Memeburn has it on good authority that the company once flirted with buying a stake in successful US business network, Linked.in, but at the time turned the opportunity down — a decision that caused some regret at the company.

Given Naspers’ historical print background, its interest in multinational internet businesses in recent decades marks a remarkable turnaround for a company that once focused only on newspaper and magazine properties in South Africa. Naspers in fact stands for “Die Nasionale Pers”, which is Afrikaans for “The National Press”.

A large part of Naspers’ sizable market capitalisation and the driving force behind its recent investments comes from its stake in Chinese giant Tencent, now rated the world’s third largest internet company by market cap.

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