Russia's Sberbank eyes 30% in Ozon e-commerce major

Russia's Sberbank eyes 30% in Ozon e-commerce major
Russia's Sberbank wants to buy a 30% stake in e-commerce firm Ozon
By bne IntelliNews June 5, 2020

Russia's largest state-controlled bank Sberbank eyes 30% stake in e-commerce major Ozon Holdings controlled by multi-industry investment conglomerate AFK Sistema, Reuters reported on June 4 citing unnamed sources close to the deal.

The news comes amid unconfirmed reports that Sberbank is about to pull out of the joint venture in Yandex.Market (Beru e-marketplace) and Yandex.Money (e-payment system), its last remaining assets in its bitter divorce from Russia's most valuable digital company Yandex.

Now Sberbank reportedly seeks to reinforce its digital ecosystem with Ozon, buying into the company along with existing shareholders AFK Sistema and Baring Vostok fund, controlling about 40% each.

"Potential acquisition of Ozon following the sale of Yandex.Market could be logical, given Ozon’s more matured business," BCS Global Markets commented on June 5. The analysts estiamte that Ozon is valued at $1bn, thus 30% represents less than 1% of Sberbank's equity. However, the bank previously guided for no more major deals in the ecosystem, BCS GM reminds. 

Reportedly, an additional share issue is planned, as neither Sistema or Baring are willing to completely exit their positions. Sistema previously said that Ozon could be up for an IPO, and is systematically cashing in on stakes in its most successful assets, such as its most recent SPO of Detsky Mir children's goods retailer.

"For Sistema, the impact would depend on Ozon’s valuation, but it is good that the company found another partner to finance the business’ development," BCS GM notes, but warns that with three major shareholders at the wheel, certain frictions cannot be ruled out. 

An additional share issue could come in handy for Ozon, which needs cash to expand. Both Sistema and Baring Vostok have been investing heavily in Ozon's development of logistic solutions. The e-retailer plans to open at least five new fulfilment hubs in Russia’s regions and grow its last-mile logistics network at least threefold in 2020-2021.

In 2019 the retailer's revenue growth was clipped by unresolved logistics and infrastructure issues. Nevertheless, Ozon’s valuation improved in 2020, and in addition Russian e-commerce majors are seeing a boost in sales amidst the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).