Friendster, the long-time U.S. social network which now has its biggest presence in Southeast Asia, has reportedly put itself up for sale there. The company has hired Morgan Stanley to manage the process, according to documents published by TechCrunch. Possible buyers could include Asian telecom companies, because of the social network’s big mobile presence. We’ve reached out to Friendster and will update if we hear back.
Friendster has expanded aggressively in Southeast Asia recently. The company raised $20 million in a round last August, which it said it would use in part to further build up its presence there, where 75 percent of its registered users now live. It’s the top social network in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
But it also faces renewed competition in those countries from the same social networks—including Facebook—that displaced its early lead in the United States. Indeed, the TechCrunch documents show that Friendster’s share of the internet market in the region has fallen slightly recently, while Facebook’s has grown.
Earlier this year, Friendster opened up offices in Singapore and Sydney, Australia, where new CEO Richard Kimber is based. Friendster has also said that 80 percent of the employees it will add in 2009 will be based in the Asia-Pacific region.
Possible buyers include Asian telecom heavyweights, including Singel, Hutchison Telecommunications, Maxis, Globe, and DiGi. Another possible buyer is Philippines media company ABS-CBN, which has shown interest in the social networking space, with its purchase of a five percent stake in Friendster-rival Multiply.com in late November.
By Joseph Tartakoff