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Deal or no deal? Yandex is looking to sell Russian assets, sources tell Meduza. The company says otherwise.

Source: Meduza
Vladislav Shatilo / RBC / TASS

Internet giant Yandex is looking for buyers for its Russian assets Yandex Search, Yandex.Mail, and the movie database Kinopoisk, a source close to the company’s co-founder Arkady Volozh told Meduza. This was corroborated by another source close to the company’s management. 

According to the source close to Volozh, Sberbank and Rostec are being considered among other potential buyers. The source close to Yandex’s management had also heard about Rostec’s interest in these assets.

“Sber has the money to buy such assets, but it’s unclear if [CEO Herman] Gref wants to spend money on this,” a source at Sberbank told Meduza.

Yandex denies having plans to sell off Russian assets. “Yandex isn’t going to sell the services listed. There are no negotiations on this. The only deal that we’re working on concerns News and Zen,” the company’s press office told Meduza. 

Rostec and Sberbank did not respond to Meduza’s requests for comment prior to publication.

Yandex announced that it was selling its news service, Yandex.News, and its recommendations service, Yandex.Zen, to the Russian Internet company VK at the end of April. Reportedly, these services will leave Yandex and be transferred to the buyer after the deal is finalized. This is expected to happen before July 1. 

Yandex’s plans to sell Yandex.News and Yandex.Zen were first reported by RBC in mid-March. The company initially dismissed reports about the deal as rumors, only to announce its intention to sell these services a few days later.

In late April, Meduza’s sources said that Yandex was planning to split up the company into a Russian and international division, which would allegedly be headquartered in Tel Aviv. “There’s now great demand among employees for Yandex to provide them with the opportunity to earn money in other countries, and for this legal entities need to come into being,” a source in the company said at the time. 

Immediately after publication, Yandex’s press service told Meduza that there were “no plans to split up the company.” 

On May 16, the Israeli newspaper Calcalist claimed to have obtained a letter that Yandex’s Arkady Volozh supposedly sent to several Israeli ministers, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. The purported letter said that Volozh had decided to move the company’s headquarters to Tel Aviv and wanted the government to facilitate the relocation of Yandex’s staff to Israel. 

In turn, Yandex’s press office said there were no plans to “transfer headquarters from Moscow or relocate the team from Russia.” The press office added that the company has had an office in Tel Aviv for several years and was continuing to hire new employees, including to fill vacancies in Israel, some of which offered opportunities for relocation. “We also want to help employees who work remotely get paid in a way that’s convenient for them,” the company said. 

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the European Union added Yandex’s deputy CEO Tigran Khudaverdyan to its sanctions list; he subsequently resigned from the company. Later, Yandex’s CEO Elena Bunina also stepped down, allegedly in response to the invasion. Yandex’s Search, Ads, and Cloud Services head Andrey Styskin requested three months of leave in April. Sources told Meduza that Styskin has no intention of returning to the company, attributing this in part to the controversy over Yandex’s search engine only displaying pre-war photos of Bucha (a town outside Kyiv where widespread evidence of atrocities was uncovered after Russian occupying troops retreated from the region in late March).

Yandex has yet to come under U.S., EU, or other foreign sanctions in connection with Russia’s war against Ukraine.

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