Yandex, dubbed “Russia’s Google,” Exits Homeland in a $5.2bn Deal

The parent company of Yandex, often dubbed “Russia’s Google,” has announced its withdrawal from its home country. The Dutch-based parent sold the Russian operation for 475 billion roubles ($5.2 billion), significantly below its estimated market value.

Following the sale to a consortium of investors, Yandex’s Russian business now stands as a fully Russian-owned entity. The move comes amid previous accusations of concealing information about the Ukraine conflict from the Russian public.

The deal, hailed by Moscow, marks the culmination of over 18 months of planning and negotiation. Anton Gorelkin, deputy head of the Russian parliament’s committee on information policy, lauded the transaction as safeguarding Yandex as a national asset.

Established during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s, Yandex carved its niche with proprietary search engine, mapping, and advertising services, alongside ventures into taxis and food delivery. Despite its moniker as “Russia’s Google,” Yandex has no affiliation with the American tech giant or its parent company, Alphabet.

The $5.2 billion deal stands substantially below Yandex’s market valuation, which reached approximately $30 billion in 2021. Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, numerous foreign-owned businesses have exited, often under unfavourable terms or through state-directed asset seizures.

Arkady Volozh, Yandex’s co-founder, publicly criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine before leaving the firm in 2022. Facing EU sanctions, Volozh contests his association with Russian President Vladimir Putin, highlighting Yandex’s independence despite governmental pressures.

In a bid to comply with Russian content regulations, Yandex divested some online resources to state-controlled rival VK in late 2022. Despite asserting independence, Yandex faced scrutiny for search result biases, including underreporting Russian atrocities in Ukrainian locales like Bucha.

Yandex’s departure marks a significant shift in Russia’s tech landscape and underscores the challenges of operating in a politically charged environment.

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