23 May 2023 09:53

VTB interested in buying stake in Yandex as part of consortium of investors - Kostin

SHANGHAI. May 23 (Interfax) - VTB is interested in buying a stake in Russian internet company Yandex as part of a consortium of investors, VTB head Andrei Kostin told reporters during the Russia-China business forum.

"As for Yandex, we are members of a large consortium, yes," Kostin told the reporters.

VTB's potential stake in Yandex "has yet to be discussed," he added.

Kostin did not specify the price or timing of the potential deal, but when asked whether the issue of acquiring a stake in Yandex might be resolved before the end of this year, he said, "I think so, of course."

VTB later clarified that a final decision on the matter had not been taken. "VTB is interested in buying a stake in Russian Yandex as part of a consortium, and has submitted the relevant application; however, the final decision on the bank's entry into the deal will be taken following negotiations on the stake, the amount, and on other terms and conditions," the bank's press service told Interfax.

Yandex's largest shareholder is a family trust established by company cofounder Arkady Volozh, which holds 8.5% of Yandex equity and 45.1% of votes. Volozh decided in June 2022 that he would not instruct the trustee as to how to vote such shares going forward and that the trustee would vote such shares in accordance with the recommendations of the board of directors.

The company's free float is 87.9% or 46.5% of votes.

Last November, Yandex announced a potential corporate restructuring in which the Russian business would be handed over to management, while Netherlands-based parent company Yandex N.V. might divest its stake in the Russian business. It would also get the international parts of the cloud, autonomous vehicles, education and crowdsourcing businesses. It is not yet clear when this restructuring might take place, but it is subject to shareholder approval. Yandex has not commented on who might acquire the company's Russian business since the upcoming changes were announced.

Yandex's board of directors might meet next week to discuss offers from suitors to acquire at least 51% of shares in the company, Bloomberg reported at the end of last week, citing sources. The price of such a stake would be in the range of $7 billion-$7.5 billion.

Offers have been received from Lukoil founder Vagit Alekperov and Nornickel head Vladimir Potanin, whose bid includes potential co-investors, including billionaire Roman Abramovich and VTB, already minority shareholders of Yandex. The consortium might also be joined by the chairman of steelmaker MMK Viktor Rashnikov and Severstal principal owner Alexei Mordashov, the agency said.