SA media giant Naspers is reportedly in talks with Time Warner’s AOL with a view to acquiring the struggling US Internet company’s instant messaging service, ICQ.
US technology website TechCrunch reported at the weekend that AOL was looking to offload ICQ for about US$300m and that Naspers was a likely buyer. Fin24, a Naspers-owned website, also reported on the speculation.
AOL is in the process of a giant restructuring that will see Time Warner spin-off the Internet company and listed it separately in New York. TechCrunch says Time Warner has hired bankers Allen & Co and Morgan Stanley to assist in the sale of ICQ.
A deal could make sense for Naspers, which has snapped up instant messaging companies from Poland to China in the past few years. The company operates Internet businesses in SA, Russia, Poland, China, Brazil and Thailand. It owns a 35% stake in Tencent, the Chinese company that owns the hugely popular QQ instant messaging application.
ICQ dominated the instant messaging market in the 1990s but has fallen out of favour as services like Google Talk and Microsoft Windows Messenger have gained ground. However, TechCrunch estimates that ICQ still has somewhere between 40m and 50m active users worldwide, mainly in Germany, Russia, Ukraine and Israel.
“According to our sources, Naspers was approached by AOL about a potential sale proactively, but is not the only corporation who might end up as the new parent company of ICQ,” according to TechCrunch. — Staff reporter, TechCentral