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West invests in Russian computer game industry

MOSCOW, July 26 (RIA Novosti) - Foreign investors are showing interest in Russian computer game developers, the daily Vedomosti newspaper reported Tuesday. The NORUM venture fund, an EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) subsidiary, and Russia's Finam investment company are buying a controlling stake (52.9%) in Buka, a leading Russian gaming company. Germany's Quadriga Capital Russia investment fund is negotiating the purchase of Akella, a Russian gaming company. In spring, the Enerl Group, an American technologies holding company, announced it was acquiring a controlling stake in Russia's Nival Interactive.

The pertinent parties valued Buka at $12 million, a source close to the deal told Vedomosti. Buka board chairman Igor Ustinov believes that investments of new shareholders will help the company gain a foothold on Chinese and Indian markets. Ustinov said the company opened an office in China last year. It plans to control at least 2.5% of the $150-$200-million Chinese gaming market in two or three years.

Sergei Oparin, managing director of Finam's investment banking department, said Buka would become a leading Russian computer game producer by 2008. Consequently, Finam will be able to withdraw from this project. NORUM investment manager Alexander Vlasov expects Buka to be worth $40 million in several years.

Finam, as well as Ernst & Young, who consulted Buka, estimated Russia's legal computer game market (not including pirated product sales) at $200 million in 2004. Anatoly Subbotin, public relations manager with the 1C computer company, estimated the Russian computer game market at $210 million, an increase of 80% from 2003.

The Quadriga Capital Russia fund is negotiating the purchase of Akella, which is valued at $20 million.

Akella vice-president Vladimir Kudra said the Russian computer game market has recently reached the level of developed countries.

Kirill Dmitriyev, managing director of the Delta Private Equity Partners fund, said the Russian video-game sector has now become more promising than offshore programming.

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