A subsidiary of MTS, Russia’s largest mobile network operator, is acquiring facial recognition specialist VisionLabs in a deal valued at 7 billion roubles, or about $95.4 million USD. The final value of the deal will depend on VisionLabs’ performance over the next three years.
The acquisition is being conducted by Intema, a subsidiary of MTS AI, via a 100 percent equity stake from VisionLabs’ existing shareholders. That includes the roughly 25 percent stake held by Sberbank, which first announced a partnership with VisionBox aimed at building a multimodal authentication platform back in November of 2017.
It will also include a sizeable stake taken by Sistema Venture Capital back in 2016, which was evidently impressed at the time by VisionLabs’ Luna facial recognition and computer vision platform.
As Reuters reports, both Sberbank and MTS have been escalating business activities beyond their core businesses (of banking and mobile network services, respectively). Biometric technologies are increasingly being used in financial services and payments applications in Russia, as illustrated in the Moscow metro system’s face-based fare payment system; and Sberbank has a controlling interest in Speech Technology Center, which offers its own biometric technologies including facial recognition and voice biometrics.
For its part, MTS indicated in announcing the acquisition that the deal is aimed at enhancing its artificial intelligence portfolio.
The agreement offers the latest illustration of escalating M&A activity in the biometrics sector. The past month alone brought news of SecureAuth’s acquisition of Acceptto, GBG’s acquisition of Acuant, Stytch’s acquisition of Cotter, and Precise Biometrics’ acquisition of EastCoast Solutions.
December 13, 2021 – by Alex Perala