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Alibaba Leads $280M Fundraising for TangoME

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- The frenzied pace of messaging deals continues, with TangoME Inc.'s $280 million fundraising from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and others on Thursday, March 20.

The Mountain View, Calif., messaging app's pool of 200 million registered users has doubled in a year. Of those, 70 million are active on a monthly basis.

The latest round reportedly puts Tango's valuation at $1.1 billion.

SNL Kagan analyst Seth Shafer observed in an e-mail that the deal could focus attention on Canadian messaging outfit Kik Interactive Inc. "as options are dwindling for anyone wanting to buy their way into the mobile messaging space."

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Facebook's (FB - Get Report) $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp Inc. reinforced the outsized valuation expectations for messaging companies with fast-growing user bases.

Japanese Internet retailer Rakuten Inc. said in February that it would buy Viber for $900 million.

SNL's Shafer noted that a $1.1 billion valuation for Tango would come to about $15.71 per monthly active user. The price is a discount to the $42.22 per monthly active user that Facebook paid for WhatsApp, but marks a premium to the $8.18 per monthly active user that Viber cost Rakuten.

Kik, which has backing from RRE Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures, says on its website that it has 100 million users but does not cite monthly active users.

Tango developed a music sharing service with Spotify Ltd., and has made its platform available to game developers and advertisers opening paths to generate revenues from the free video and voice calling and texting services.

"Alibaba also makes sense as far as a strategic investor, as they have the same interest as Rakuten did in pairing up their e-commerce offerings with a messaging platform," Shafer said. The Chinese e-commerce group has also offered mobile games on its Taobao consumer marketplace and its Laiwang messaging app.

Alibaba Group, which is primed to cash in on a New York public listing, is providing Tango with $215 million. Previous backers are investing another $65 million.

Founded in 2009, Tango has cumulatively raised $367 million. In addition to Alibaba, investors include Access Industries, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Qualcomm Inc.'s venture arm, Toms Capital, Translink Capital and individual investors such as Bill Tai, Shimon Weintraub, Jerry Yang, Alex Zubillaga.

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