Having recently cut ties with Sberbank, Russian tech giant Yandex wants to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis in a state of greater independence and the next step is taking full ownership of its ride-hailing business.
During a conference call last month, Greg Abovsky, Yandex’s COO and CFO, said the company was seeking to buy Uber’s minority stake in ride-hailing and delivery division Yandex.Taxi.
The move would give the Russian firm a much stronger hold of the ride-hailing business in Russia and neighboring countries. It operates in several other countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Yandex currently holds a majority stake of 61% in the taxi operations while Uber holds 38%. The remaining 1% is held by management in the company.
Abovsky said on the call that Yandex wants to own more of the businesses it already has stakes in.
“There’s nothing imminent or in the process today. But I think we’re very much interested in increasing that stake and taking full control of that asset,” he said. “I think it’s a question of making sure that we can agree on a price that creates value for our shareholders.”
The company declined to comment any further on its plans for Yandex.Taxi and its relationship with Uber.
For Uber, such a deal would mark a final exit for the company from the Russian market. After failing to gain the ideal market share there, Uber merged its Russian operations with Yandex in 2018 to form the Yandex.Taxi that’s in business today. As a result of that deal, Uber maintained a minority stake.
Yandex also operates food and grocery delivery services. These businesses have come under the microscope during lockdown. Much like its counterparts in Europe and the US, Yandex has seen an uptick in food delivery demand during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Yandex.Taxi head Daniil Shuleyko said that the “coronavirus has accelerated Russian consumers’ transition to online shopping”.
In another example of how the company has had to respond to the crisis, it deployed a separate fleet of vehicles for doctors to visit patients using Yandex.Taxi cars booked through the app. It has transported doctors for more than 300,000 medical appointments, according to a spokesperson for the company.
The potential Uber buy-out and the evolving delivery market – and not to mention its investments in self-driving cars – are just a selection of changes going on at one of Russia’s biggest tech companies.
In June, Yandex cut ties with the state-controlled bank Sberbank, which is Russia’s largest bank. The two sides had been involved in two joint ventures around e-commerce and payments.
The termination of the ventures will see Yandex take full control of Yandex Market, an e-commerce marketplace. Sberbank will take full control of payments provider Yandex Money – expect to see the bank rebrand the service under a new name soon.