Renaissance Capital Behind FriendFinder Networks IPO

MOSCOW — A Russian investment bank is underwriting the initial public offering for FriendFinder Networks Inc., an effort to raise nearly half-billion dollars to pay off debt and return the company to solid footing.

Renaissance Capital is based in Moscow but has satellite offices across Eastern Europe, the U.K., in Nigeria and in New York.

The bank — considered just this summer one of largest of its kind in Russia — has struggled in the face of the global financial crunch, the Financial Times reported in September.

Earlier this year, Renaissance Capital’s New Zealand-born co-founder and CEO Stephen Jennings spurned a $3 billion acquisition offer from a state-controlled Russian bank, then turned around and sold a 50 percent stake to a former business partner for $500 million.

With financial backing from Renaissance Capital, FriendFinder Networks is looking to raise $460 million to help offset massive debt, which is estimated at $423 million, according to the Florida-based company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission made last week.

In the filing, FriendFinder revealed its net income between Jan. 1 and Dec. 6, 2007 — $48.6 million, down 20.5 percent from the full year in 2006.