Friendster looking for a buying buddy

Social networking pioneer Friendster is up for sale, appointing Morgan Stanley to lead the search for a buyer or partial buyer of its assets.

The Asia-centric user base of Friendster is pointing speculation about an Asia-based acquisition play although Facebook may emerge as a likely acquirer given its lack of penetration in the region.

Some 75% of Friendster’s 100 million registered accounts are located in the Asia Pacific, most of which are based in Asia – the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia in particular..The company currently has 105 employees across Australia, the United States, Philippines and Singapore.

Global CEO Richard Kimber who leads the company from Sydney, Australia would not comment on the sale speculation.

When Kimber opened the Sydney office in January he was tasked with driving an Asia Pacific wide expansion, which included the opening of an office in Singapore and increase in head count.

A mooted IPO was also on the agenda but given the current investment climate was put on hold. Friendster’s last round of funding was €14 million ($20 million) secured in August which was to fund the new offices and staff in Asia.

To date the social networker has received €31 million ($45 million) in VC funding. Kimber had also foreshadowed that the company would be looking at acquisitions for niche Asian social networking sites in addition to investing in its back end infrastructure and ad serving technology.

A Morgan & Stanley sale document obtained by TechCrunch includes patents as assets in the Friendster portfolio with five granted and 10 pending.  TechCrunch estimates the value of  Friendster at around €147 million, based on Facebook's recent valuation of €7 billion and a suspected lower spending power of consumers in Southeast Asia.