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Telegram raises $1B from Russian Direct Investment Fund, Mubadala & Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners

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Telegram has raised more than $1 billion to help enable it to continue with its global growth ambitions while sticking to its privacy values and remaining independent.

The $1 billion is from the sale of five-year convertible bonds with a 7 percent annual coupon to international investors including Russia’s state-run Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) which bought bonds worth around $2 million through its partnership with the Mubadala Investment Company which invested a total of $75 million.

Founder Pavel Durov, who also founded VKontakte, Russia’s Facebook answer, said Russia’s Direct Investment Fund was not a direct investor and the firm who not have sold bonds to it even indirectly but RDIF bought a small number of Telegram bonds in the secondary market.

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“The end goal for Telegram is to become a financially sustainable project that can serve humanity for decades (or centuries) to come. Today’s news is another step towards that goal,” Durov said in a statement.

Telegram has no love from Russian authorities after Durov refused to hand over encryption keys and backdoor access to user data landing his company into a two-year ban. Durov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia but resides in Saint Kitts and Nevis. He left Russia in 2014 after he was edged out of VKontakte in 2014 by Mail.Ru which now owns the social network. 

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Mubadala Investment Company invested US$75 million in 5-year pre-IPO convertible bonds of Telegram while Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners invested a further US$75 million.

Launched in 2013 by brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov as a secure messaging app utilising end-to-end encryption, Telegram evolved into a fully-fledged social media platform and has its global headquarters in the UAE. It has become one of the 10 most downloaded apps in the world with over 500 million monthly active users.

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Faris Sohail Faris Al Mazrui, Head of Mubadala’s Russia and CIS Investment Programme, said, “We recognise and admire Pavel’s vision for the company and the team’s execution in building an exceptional product and company. His unwavering focus on user experience and privacy, and how it is central to every business decision he makes, is one of the keys to Telegram’s popularity and success. Telegram’s user base has reached a critical mass that places it amongst global tech giants.

“We believe that Telegram is well-positioned for an inflection point that will transform it into a leading global technology company. The company represents a very promising investment opportunity for Mubadala and will sit well within our wider portfolio of pioneering companies looking to transform their respective industries. Our investment in Telegram establishes a strategic partnership for us to further strengthen Abu Dhabi’s technology ecosystem as well as bring new levels of tech skills and talent to the capital.”

Pavel Durov, Founder and CEO of Telegram, added, “We are honoured by the US$150 million investment into Telegram from Mubadala and Abu Dubai Catalyst Partners. We look forward to developing this strategic partnership to continue our growth in the MENA region and globally.”

In recent years, Mubadala has been expanding its focus on the technology sector through a strategy of direct and fund-of-fund investing from early-stage venture capital to growth. Over the past 12 months, it has made a number of global technology investments in category leaders including the autonomous driving technology company Waymo, AliExpress and Jio Platforms, to name just a few.

RDIF is Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, and has invested billions in Russian technology companies and has well put money into Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.

James Munce, CFO and COO of Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners, said, “Over the past 7 years, Telegram usage has grown from zero to 500 million monthly active users. This demonstrates the management team’s unshakeable dedication to building a platform centred around privacy and user experience. We believe this creates a strong value proposition and will be a focal point for social media platforms and a new era of messaging.

“ADCP strives to partner with businesses that demonstrate strong growth trajectories globally, and that can bolster an evolving technology ecosystem in Abu Dhabi and the ADGM. We aim to use our resources to work hand-in-hand with management teams towards catalysing leading platforms in different industries at the cutting edge. We see a very attractive opportunity to do this with Telegram.”

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Milcah Lukhanyu
Milcah Lukhanyu
I cover tech news across Africa. Drop me an email at [email protected]

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