Russian billionaires in hunt for stakes in Yandex’s local assets – sources

Russian billionaires in hunt for stakes in Yandex's local assets - sources
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Russian technology giant Yandex is on display at the company’s headquarters in Moscow, Russia December 9, 2022. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

:Nasdaq-listed Yandex, often dubbed “Russia’s Google”, has received bids from Russian billionaires for assets it is seeking to divest in the country that value them at some $14 billion, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Vladimir Potanin, CEO and the largest shareholder of metals giant Nornickel, and Vagit Alekperov, co-founder and a major shareholder of oil major Lukoil, are among the bidders, the sources said.

Given Kremlin measures that oblige foreign companies leaving Russia to sell their assets at a 50 per cent discount, Yandex’s Dutch-registered holding company Yandex NV – whose shareholders are mostly Western investment funds – could ultimately make some $7 billion from a full divestment, they said.

“Potanin and Alekperov are two sizeable names in the mix right now, and those two are being strongly contemplated,” one of the sources said. “But there are several other people still being considered.”

Other potential bidders include Severstal’s main shareholder Alexey Mordashov and state-owned bank VTB, two of the sources said.

Interested parties include former Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich and businessman Alexander Abramov, they added.

Yandex, whose Moscow-listed shares were trading 9.4 per cent higher as of 1550 GMT, declined to comment. Interros, an investment holding company Potanin controls, declined to comment. Alekperov could not immediately be reached for comment.

A representative for Mordashov declined to comment, while Abramov and VTB representatives did not immediately respond to requests. A person close to Abramovich said the information about his interest in buying a stake was not true.

Since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Yandex, while not itself under sanctions, has struggled to balance domestic pressure with the interests of its Western investors.

Yandex NV is divesting its main revenue-generating businesses inside Russia and developing four newer units internationally.

The company sold its news feed and homepage to state-controlled rival VK last year, while its primary advertising competitor, Alphabet Inc’s Google, stopped selling online advertising in Russia.

Bloomberg News first reported the latest bids and valuation, citing sources who said that Yandex NV had received offers tabled by Potanin and Alekperov for a controlling stake in Yandex’s Russian business.


Yandex’s board is due to hold a regular meeting next week and could discuss the bids, said the sources, who requested anonymity because of the non-public nature of their information. No final decision will be made at that point, they added.

About 15 investors have come forward, one of the sources said, some seeking small shares, others a stake of as much as 25 per cent.

The first source said the $7 billion Yandex NV is expected to receive for its Russian assets accounted for the 50 per cent discount, and that as a deal for about half of the company was being discussed, it might initially see $3.5 billion.

Any deal would require shareholder and Kremlin approval. The actual sale will not take place until August or September, the first source said. Another speculated it could be wrapped up closer to mid-summer.

Russian media outlets The Bell and Meduza have previously reported elements of the deal.


Source: Reuters