Payback: how investor threats will turn for Telegram
A lawsuit from TON investors may threaten Telegram with the arrest of accounts and property and the shutdown of the messenger’s data centers, experts interviewed by Izvestia do not rule out.
At the end of February, the Da Vinci Capital fund demanded that the company compensate the $ 100 million invested in the blockchain platform that had not yet been launched. The investor threatened to sue if the money is not returned within 14 days. However, Telegram can raise funds from the sale of convertible bonds or the monetization of the messenger, experts suggest.
At the end of February, the Da Vinci Capital fund sent a notice to top managers and lawyers of Telegram and TON about its intention to file a lawsuit against companies in case of non-payment of compensation in the amount of $ 100 million within two weeks, Forbes reported, citing its own sources in the fund. It’s about the return of funds that Da Vinci Capital invested in the TON blockchain platform in 2018. Then the project attracted a total of $ 1.7 billion from 171 investors. But in 2020, founder Pavel Durov announced that the blockchain platform would not be launched. Earlier, the American court banned the release of the Gram cryptocurrency, and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obliged developers to return most of the money to investors. Now the company has paid off part of its debts, but by the end of April it has to return more than $ 600 million.
It is difficult to assess the prospect of a litigation between Da Vinci Capital and Telegram, said the ex-director for special projects of the messenger Anton Rosenberg. The investment agreement of TON implied risks in which the launch of the platform for objective reasons may not happen at all, he noted. On the other hand, the state of TON and the distribution of investments raised many questions even before such reasons appeared, added Anton Rosenberg.
– In fact, investors’ money was spent primarily on maintaining Telegram itself, and four full-time programmers were involved in the development of TON. And the result is such that, despite the open source code, in fact, paid for by investors, even third-party development teams have not been able to launch their version of TON in a year, – said Anton Rosenberg.
If the case still goes to court and Da Vinci Capital wins, this will create a dangerous precedent: the rest of the investors who owe Telegram will also file lawsuits, the expert said. In this case, Telegram will urgently need to pay hundreds of millions of dollars. Now Pavel Durov does not have such resources, says Anton Rosenberg. Therefore, arrests of accounts and property are possible, which in the end will lead to the shutdown of Telegram data centers, he did not rule out.
The case may come to the seizure of property, agrees the owner of the company “Katkov and Partners” Pavel Katkov. But this is unlikely to happen quickly: Telegram lawyers can try to delay the process and gain time, he said.
“Often, exhausting the enemy is part of a judicial strategy aimed at making the enemy run out of steam,” the expert explained.
Telegram did not promptly answer Izvestia’s questions about plans to resolve the problem.
In January, it became known that Telegram plans to issue bonds in the amount of $ 1 billion and sell them to a limited circle of investors. Bonds can be converted into shares at a 10% discount if the company goes public within five years. Telegram officially declares that the proceeds will go to the development of the messenger. But the main goal may be to pay off the debt to TON investors, says analyst at BCS Investment World Denis Buivolov.
– It looks reasonable enough and will not require the injection of Durov’s own funds into the company, – the expert explained.
If the bonds are converted into shares, Pavel Durov will actually sell part of the messenger, said Finam analyst Leonid Delitsyn. However, the share of investors will be small, he said.
“The Telegram appraisal, according to my calculations, will start at $ 90 billion. So you won’t get a lot of shares for $ 1 billion,” the expert noted.
Another way to stabilize the company’s financial condition may be messenger monetization, experts say. In 2021, Telegram will launch its own advertising platform, Pavel Durov announced earlier. However, the messenger may not cope with this task, said Denis Buivolov.
“Facebook has not yet found a successful strategy for monetizing its WhatsApp messenger (2 billion active users),” he argued.
There are not many developers in Telegram, so the launch of monetization may not happen soon, added Anton Rosenberg. In any case, advertising is unlikely to provide a return on the messenger, he doubted.
In the 200 billion mobile advertising market, Telegram has a chance to earn from $ 1 billion to $ 6 billion through monetization, Leonid Delitsyn, in turn, estimated. But the messenger will reach this indicator only after three years, he predicted.