Russia’s MTS to acquire biometrics firm VisionLabs for $95 million

A logo of MTS mobile phone operator is seen on a building in central Moscow, Russia, March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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MOSCOW, Dec 13 (Reuters) – Russia’s biggest mobile operator MTS (MTSS.MM) on Monday said it had signed a deal to acquire biometrics company VisionLabs for 7 billion roubles ($95.4 million), including a 25.07% stake from state lender Sberbank (SBER.MM).

Reuters reported in September, citing sources, that Sberbank was planning to sell its stake in VisionLabs to conglomerate Sistema (AFKS.MM), MTS’ largest shareholder, to focus instead on its investment in rival group Speech Technology Center.

Both MTS and Sberbank are among the Russian companies developing a range of services outside their core businesses. Sberbank, with dozens of non-banking assets under its umbrella already, targets around 60% of total revenue from non-core areas by the end of this decade.

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MTS said in a statement that a subsidiary of MTS AI, Intema, had signed a definitive agreement to acquire a 100% equity stake in VisionLabs from existing shareholders.

The founders, whose shares in VisionLabs will be converted into equity interest in MTS AI, held 51.77%, Sberbank held 25.07% and the Sistema venture fund held 23.16% prior to the deal.

The final deal amount is subject to VisionLabs’ performance-based metrics over the next three years, MTS said.

MTS, which has been expanding into media and digital services, said the VisionLabs acquisition would reinforce its artificial intelligence portfolio.

Sberbank controls Speech Technology Center, which competes with VisionLabs in the face and voice recognition sphere, a growing business in Russia where biometric technology is being used to facilitate payments on the Moscow metro and in food shops.

Lev Khasis, first deputy chairman of Sberbank’s management board, said the value of Sberbank’s stake in VisionLabs had increased more than 3.7 times since entry.

($1 = 73.3730 roubles)

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Reporting by Alexander Marrow and Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Louise Heavens

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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