Russian tycoons prepare takeover of Europe’s answer to Google – media
President Vladimir Putin has approved the sale of a controlling stake in Yandex, Russia’s largest internet company, to a consortium of three businessmen and VTB Bank, online news outlet The Bell reported on Monday, citing sources.
Former Russian Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin, who currently works as corporate development adviser to Yandex, reportedly met with Putin last week to discuss the future of the company. The move followed the exit of co-founder Arkady Volozh at the end of last year, after Yandex had announced plans in November to split its domestic and international businesses.
According to The Bell, Kudrin presented Putin with a list of four potential Yandex shareholders: billionaires Vladimir Potanin, Aleksey Mordashov and Vagit Alekperov, and VTB Bank. They plan to form a consortium who will buy a controlling stake in the company’s Russian business after the restructuring and division of assets with Volozh. Putin has agreed to Kudrin’s proposal, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting.
It is unclear how Yandex shares will be distributed between the four members of the consortium, although sources claim the stakes are likely to be divided equally. They also noted that the list of buyers could yet be amended.
The sale cost, composition of the consortium and distribution of shares will reportedly be finalized at a Yandex board meeting scheduled to be held in Dubai next week. The current bids reportedly value the company’s Russian assets at roughly $7 billion.
Putin’s permission is necessary for the sale of Yandex, which is registered in the Netherlands, due to new laws that regulate divestment procedures for foreign companies departing Russia. The regulation also obliges Yandex to sell its assets in the country at a 50% discount, and make a mandatory contribution to the Russian budget equal to at least 10% of half the market value of its local assets.
The news of Yandex’s takeover bid was first reported by Bloomberg last Friday, after which the company’s shares on the Moscow Exchange rose by nearly 10%. They continued to rally on Monday, gaining 6% in early trading.
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