A group of Russia’s top billionaires have entered a race to acquire the majority stake in Yandex NV, which owns one of Russia’s leading search engines and has been criticized for playing a role in promoting its media narrative about the invasion of Ukraine.
The company is making gains despite the accusations surrounding it about promoting the Russian novel in the Ukrainian invasion, and its board of directors is scheduled to discuss offers to buy 51% of it during a meeting in Dubai next week, and the final decision may not be taken after this meeting.
Bloomberg reported that the Russian billionaire, who is under US sanctions, Vladimir Potanin, made an offer to buy Yandex, along with a group of investors, including the business magnate and former owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich, who also faces Western sanctions, along with the state-owned bank in Russia. VTB, and possibly Western-sanctioned tycoon Alexei Mordashov, will also join them.
The Russian billionaire and steel magnate, Viktor Rashnikov, said separately that he would like to buy a small stake in Yandex.
The second offer is made by the Russian billionaire and former head of the Russian oil giant Lukoil, Vagit Alekperov, who is also subject to US sanctions targeting Russia’s wealthy supporters of Putin during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Representatives for Potanin and Alekperov declined to comment, according to Bloomberg.
Bloomberg quoted a media representative for billionaire Roman Abramovich as saying that he had not negotiated the purchase of any stake in the company. Representatives of VTB Bank, Mordashov and Rashnikov declined to comment.
The agency revealed that “Yandex”, which owns a search engine bearing its name and is known as “Google Russia”, as it is the most prominent search engine there, has received purchase offers of about $ 7 billion.
Yandex controls so far about 60% of the search engine market in Russia, which makes it also subject to pressure from the Kremlin and put it under severe control since the start of the war.-
The company is considered one of the most prominent search engines in the world after Google and Bing of Microsoft and Chinese Baidu, but its most prominent market is in Russia, where it is one of the largest technology companies there.-
The company started as a search engine only in 1997, and with its development and expansion into other technical fields, it became known as “Silicon Valley in Russia”.
Its products include smart electronic applications related to weather and maps, and even the production of self-driving cars.
Yandex has suffered since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine due to the pressure exerted on it, whether from Moscow or from Western countries, where it faced great criticism last year that made it stop the work of the news service because of what was described as defending Russian violations against human rights in Ukraine.
The interest comes from Russia’s most wealthy to buy Yandex, in light of pressure from Ukraine’s allies to isolate Russian money.
According to reports, despite these pressures, Yandex achieved net profits during the first quarter of this year, estimated at 5.8 billion rubles (more than 70 million dollars).
It is noteworthy that the founder of Yandex, Arkady Voloz, resigned from his position as CEO of the company and no longer has the right to vote during the decisions of the board of directors, after the European Union included his name on the sanctions list last June because of his company’s role in promoting Russian state media materials about the invasion.
Foulouz, who currently lives in Israel, is seeking a deal to get rid of his stake in Yandex.
According to Bloomberg, any sale in the company must be approved by the Kremlin, which means that the company’s management meeting will have no more decision than a recommendation to be submitted to Russian President Vladimir Putin.