Telegram eyes IPO as user numbers close in on 1 billion

Chat app chaps may even turn a profit this year

Telegram's CEO has begun discussing an initial public offering (IPO) as the messaging platform's user count nears the billion mark.

Speaking to the UK's Financial Times, Telegram boss Pavel Durov expressed hope the company might become profitable in 2024 or 2025, meaning listing its shares would be a distinct possibility in the near future.

The company passed 700 million users in 2022 and added a paid tier dubbed "Premium." In 2021, the company launched Sponsored Messages, which it described as "minimalist, privacy-conscious advertisements that can appear in certain public channels."

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Despite the addition of the money-making extras, Telegram's user count has continued to grow. According to Durov, it now stands at 900 million users. If that growth is sustained, a figure of 1 billion before the end of 2024 is possible.

According to Durov, potential investors have offered the company valuations in the order of $30 billion, although it is currently considering a possible IPO.

The CEO said: "The main reason why we started to monetise is because we wanted to remain independent.

"Generally speaking, we see value in [an IPO] as a means to democratise access to Telegram's value."

Telegram Messenger is just over ten years old, with the initial release in 2013. According to the company: "Everything sent on Telegram is securely encrypted" and researchers can check out how the company has implemented its security by poking around its source code.

It also claims to collect no data about its users and requires only a telephone number to sign up.

However, the secure and private nature of the platform has also made it a favorite of criminals and a potential target for regulations, such as the UK's Online Safety Bill, where authorities could potentially demand access to end-to-end encrypted communications.

It is also worth noting that end-to-end encryption for messages is not the default. While Telegram uses encryption, customers must use secret chats to ensure that no trace of their messaging is left behind and that their communications are not part of the Telegram cloud service.

Matthew Hodgson, CEO of Element and co-founder of Matrix, opined: "It's relatively easy for Telegram to build a product for 900 million users given it’s not encrypted by default, or decentralised, and as a result is generally jumping from the frying pan into the fire."

To put things in perspective, WhatsApp has approximately 2 billion monthly active users, according to Statista. However, changes to WhatsApp's privacy policy resulted in a surge of interest in other messaging platforms, including Telegram.

Durov did not commit to a firm timeline for an IPO, although a US listing seems likely. According to the FT, Durov said that Telegram had "studied several options." ®

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