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FMCG Buys 42% of Rambler

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Rambler International Holding, owner of leading local portal Rambler, just got a new shareholder ?€” the First Mercantile Capital Group investment bank. Before Rambler was owned entirely by the consortium Orion Capital Advisors-Russkiye Fondy.

After long negotiations between shareholders that went into the wee hours of Friday morning, it was decided that prominent Internet businessman Anton Nosik would be appointed Rambler's acting president.

The First Mercantile Capital Group was created in the spring of 1998 by a group of former employees from Kreditanshtalt-Grant ?€” a Russian branch of Austria's Creditanstalt, now owned by Bank Austria.

In September, the CAIB Emerging Russia fund, previously managed by Creditanstalt, with assets of $52 million was transferred to FMCG.

Initially, the fund was renamed First Mercantile Emerging Russia Fund, but in April, following a merger with the Russian Federation Fund, its name was changed again to the Russian Federation First Mercantile Fund.

FMCG owns the Moscow-based consultancy firm Branan and the Nettrader.ru online brokerage. At the end of last year, FMCG announced it was forming a fund with assets of $20 million to invest in Russia's technology sector.

The parties have yet to release the details of the transaction. FMCG head Yury Lopatinsky said Rambler shareholders would make an announcement sometime this week.

According to a source at Rambler, FMCG will receive 42 percent of the company's shares while the remaining 58 percent would remain with Orion Capital Advisors-Russkiye Fondy.

Lopatinsky promises to take an active role in managing Rambler.

"For FMCG this is, of course, a strategic investment. The time of portfolio investments is long over," he said.

According to the managing director of FMCG, Rambler has the best chance of all domestic Internet holdings to make a profit.

"We have been looking at various players on the Russian Internet market for about a year ?€” we thought about Yandex and Port.ru. Rambler seemed to us the most profitable variant," Lopatinsky said.

Now both owners are working on a development plan to be approved at Rambler's annual meeting of shareholders scheduled for June 29.

Until then, authority has been transferred to a coordinating board comprising three individuals: Viktor Huaco from Orion Capital Advisors, the former president of Rambler Mikhail Khanov from Russkiye Kondy, and Lopatinsky from FMCG.

Nosik was appointed acting president of Rambler. Previously, he held the position of vice president.

Nosik has taken up presidential responsibilities once already. The first occasion was at the end of May.

Then shareholders' representatives Sergei Vasilev and Viktor Huaco were unable to agree on his appointment.

With the arrival of FMCG, these passions would appear to have cooled.

Former Rambler president Mikhail Khanov has moved to the temporary coordinating board without receiving any executive functions.

Executive director Igor Ashmanov has left "to go nowhere," as he put it.

He was not prepared to comment on his reasons for quitting the company.

Nosik suggests that the former executive director was not happy with the company's new strategy.

"My main task is to make Rambler profitable," said Nosik. "There is no room in this business plan for projects conducted simply out of interest."

Nosik makes no secret of the fact that he was invited to head the company by representatives of FMCG.

It is unclear what lies in store for Rambler with Nosik at the helm.

Nosik mentioned the possibility of a merger with Yandex. Yandex general director Arkady Volozh has suggested this possibility on several occasions.

Nosik has also mooted leasing leading Internet search engine Google, which had been mentioned.

"It is too early to discuss how we are going to get Rambler out of the red. But I can tell you one thing for sure ?€” we won't be laying off any employees," Nosik said.

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