Russian internet companies to become strategic assets?

Mon 4 June 2012 12:30, Tamara Yadvichuk

Russian internet companies to become strategic assets?

Last week Reuters reported that a draft law recently proposed to the Russian parliament may officially add internet companies Yandex, Mail.ru and Vkontakte to Russia’s strategic assets. If the new law passes, this will restrict the companies from selling stakes to foreign investors without the permission of the state.

The law in question offers to expand the list of the country’s strategic assets by adding internet companies with more than 20 million monthly users. To give you a quick impression of the number of visitors of Yandex, Vkontakte and Mail.ru, here are some stats:

  • Yandex, the leader of the Russian search market, had over 32 million monthly users in April 2012
  • Vkontakte, the most popular social network in Russia, claims to have over 33 million visitors daily
  • Mail.ru portal was visited by over 31 million people in February 2012

The draft law, which is said to be an "indication of growing government influence in the economy" of Russia, should limit the internet companies’ control over their shares, requiring a permission from the state to sell a stake larger than 10% to investors from abroad.

Yandex went public in May 2011 raising an impressive amount of $1.3 billion. Mail.ru went through the IPO in 2010 and raised $912 million. Vkontakte recently decided to postpone its IPO which was expected to take place in 2012-2013.

Whether the three internet companies are officially named Russia’s strategic assets or not, their importance as global business players is growing. I’ll keep you posted on the topic.

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