In a monumental development for Russia’s technology sector, Yandex, often referred to as “Russia’s Google,” is being sold to a consortium of Russian investors in a $5.2 billion cash and share deal.
This transaction, announced after extensive negotiations, represents a pivotal moment as it transitions Yandex into the control of Russian entities exclusively for the first time since its establishment in the late 1990s.
Yandex has been a cornerstone of Russia’s digital and technological advancement, offering a wide range of online services from search and advertising to email, ride-hailing, e-commerce, cloud services, and streaming.
The sale aligns with Moscow’s longstanding ambition to consolidate influence over this tech giant. Yandex’s journey to a public listing on Nasdaq in 2011, through its Dutch-registered holding company Yandex NV, has seen its ownership distributed widely, with a significant 88% free-float and a considerable share held by Western investors.
The significance of this deal extends beyond mere ownership change. It underscores a strategic realignment of Russia’s largest tech asset under national control, reflecting broader trends of digital sovereignty and geopolitical influences on the tech industry.
Anton Gorelkin, deputy head of the Russian parliament’s committee on information policy, emphasized this strategic pivot, viewing Yandex not just as a company but as a national asset integral to Russian society’s digital experience.
This deal also unfolds against the backdrop of Russia’s increasing isolation from the global economy following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The exodus of foreign-owned businesses and the Kremlin’s stringent terms on such exits have led to a significant undervaluation of assets, including Yandex’s, whose market capitalization once neared $30 billion in 2021. Yet, this transaction stands out as one of the largest since the onset of the conflict, highlighting the complexities foreign and domestic businesses navigate in the current economic climate.
Yandex’s management has assured its employees of the company’s continued independence despite the change in ownership. The new consortium, named Consortium.First, includes Yandex senior management, a fund controlled by Lukoil, and three other companies led by prominent Russian businessmen. This arrangement raises questions about the future direction of the company and the potential influence of these Russian entities on its operations.
One of the deal’s notable aspects is the payment in Chinese yuan, a decision driven by the sanctions-induced disconnection of most Russian banks from the SWIFT global payments system.
This move reflects not only the adaptability of Russian businesses in the face of international sanctions but also the increasing prominence of the yuan in Russia’s financial transactions.
As Yandex embarks on this new chapter, the implications of its sale are wide-reaching. They span the technological, economic, and geopolitical spheres, marking a significant shift in Russia’s tech landscape and potentially setting the stage for further changes in the global tech industry’s dynamics.