After Moscow invaded Ukraine, ‘Russia’s Google’ has decided it can’t stay in Russia.
Moscow-headquartered Yandex, the country’s dominant search engine founded by two Russian entrepreneurs, is hoping to transfer its most promising new technologies overseas and ditch most of its Russian business to avoid the effects of Western sanctions imposed after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia to Ukraine.
Under the plan, which the Financial Times reported on Thursday, Yandex N.V.—Yandex’s holding company registered in the Netherlands—would sell most of its Russian businesses, like search, e-commerce and ride-hailing, to a local buyer. The New York Times later reported that Yandex N.V. would then shift its most promising technologies to non-Russian markets.
By cutting ties with Russia, Yandex hopes to protect its newer ventures, such as self-driving cars, cloud computing, and education technology, from being connected to the Russian market. Western partners have canceled tie-ups with Yandex after Russia’s war in Ukraine, including food delivery company Grubhub, which ended its robot delivery initiative with Yandex days after Russia’s invasion. New export controls also limit the sale of advanced technology components to Russia.
There are hurdles to Yandex’s plan. It would need to find a local buyer willing to purchase its Russian businesses. It would also need Moscow’s permission to transfer technology licenses outside of the country, and Yandex shareholders would need to agree to the plan.
The plan is reportedly supported by Aleksei Kudrin, Russia’s former finance minister. Kudrin is expected to take a leading position at Yandex once the deal is complete, according to the Financial Times.
Yandex did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sanctions and a staff exodus
Yandex, founded in 2000, controls about 60% of Russia’s search-engine market, and has invested in ride-hailing, e-commerce and…
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