(English) Sovereign fund RDIF to back car sales platform, food delivery service and online travel agency

25 января 2020


On Wednesday, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) announced its intention to invest in three big Russian startups.

The sovereign wealth fund is teaming up with Baring Vostok, a leading Russian private equity firm, and unnamed funds from the Middle East, to invest in CarPrice. Founded in 2014, this Russian online broker of used car received considerable funding in the past – including from Baring Vostok, which took part in CarPrice’s $40 million funding round in 2015.

No details of the forthcoming transaction were disclosed, but the RDIF stated that “the investment in CarPrice will enable it to actively increase its market share and develop platforms for interdealer car sales, an innovation in the Russian Federation.”

Unnamed co-investors

The RDIF also intends to invest, jointly with unnamed “partners from France and the Middle East,” in Elementaree, an online meal kit delivery service operating in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Through previous rounds of funding (the last one took place in 2017), Elementaree raised nearly $3 million from Russian individual investors.

The transaction will allow Elementaree to “expand its production facilities, install cutting-edge technological equipment, support the digitalization of its services and extend its business to other cities.” No financial details were provided. 

One of the most established Russian startups, Travelata, will benefit from the RDIF’s funding as well, with unnamed Middle Eastern investors also involved in the deal.

Travelata is a major online travel agency, partnering with over 120 tour operators and backed by offices in 20 Russian cities. Among the company’s previous investors are Bas Godska, a prolific Dutch business angel; Altair, a Russian seed-stage fund; the Polish fund MCI; the EBRD; and Invia, a Czech online travel agency. Since its inception in 2011, Travelata has secured $12.5 million in total, according to CrunchBase, not including the forthcoming round with RDIF participation.

Billion-dollar programs

Created in 2011, the RDIF manages $10 billion in its own funds and another $40 billion from its partners. Its portfolio includes a variety of Russian and foreign technology companies. Recently, the fund backed the Mail.ru-Alibaba alliance to form a giant social commerce ecosystem in Russia; took part in a $40 million round of funding for online video leader ivi.ru; and announced plans to invest massively in artificial intelligence

The sovereign fund has developed joint programs with state-backed funds from other countries, in particular China (China Investment CorporationTusHolding GroupChina Development Bank), Japan (JBIC), the UAE and France (BPI France). Some of these programs amount to several billions of US dollars.

RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev also drew media attention at Davos by reiterating his confidence in private equity group Baring Vostok, whose executive team languishes in prison or under house arrest under controversial charges.

Dmitriev said his fund could become one of the limited partners of Baring Vostok, should the firm decide to launch new funds.

In November, Baring Vostok cancelled plans to raise a sixth Russia fund that could have been worth $1.3 billion. International institutional investors are concerned about “contradictions in Russian and international arbitration law” and the uncertainty regarding the protection of their rights, the firm explained.

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