Russia’s largest bank and tech giant wannabe Sberbank followed up on previous announcements and signed a non-binding agreement to acquire a 35% stake in MF Tekhnologii from Gazprombank as well as a 1% stake from Rostec state agency in the same company that is the owner of 58.3% of the voting interest in Mail.ru internet major.
Sberbank will control over 20% of voting rights and 1.9% of the economic interest in Mail.ru, in addition to the 45/45/10 joint venture the companies have set up in the transportation and the foodtech segments.
Separate report by Reuters cited the first deputy chair of the bank Lev Khasis as saying that an IPO of the JV over 3-5 years horizon was a possibility discussed with Mail.ru. Khasis also said Sberbank will eventually have one director on Mail.ru's board.
As reported by bne IntelliNews, Sberbank was intending to tie up with Russia’s tech leader Yandex, but the deal quickly fell to pieces and ended in divorce after only a year due to reported clashes between the management of the two organisations. However, the former partners have not parted ways completely and still have several profitable joint ventures in common.
This week Yandex has adopted a new governance structure to account for “national interests” and lower the risks of takeover by state-affiliated structures.
In addition to the MF Tekhnologii and the JV deal, Sberbank reserved a three-year option to swap the stake in the joint venture for another stake in Mail.ru, caped at another 20%.
RBC business portal estimated that 1.9% economic stake in Mail.ru is currently valued at abut $84mn. Russian newswire Interfax reported previously that the stake is valued at $170mn. Gazprombank acquired its stake at $157.5mn, so the reported price is 8% higher, and double the implied market price.
Previously the analysts welcomed the deal from Mail.ru’s perspective, but questioned the rationale on Sberbank’s side.
"The [shareholder] change, if it happens, would be positive for Mail.ru’s investor sentiment, even though Sberbank has state control," BCS Global Markets commented previously in October. However, "for Sberbank, the logic is not clear, as the JV with Mail.ru has not yet been closed," BCS GM analysts added, even though Mail.ru's stake may contribute to Sberbank’s ecosystem developments.
“From a Sberbank investor perspective, we view this allocation of capital as questionable, given Mail.ru’s complex business structure (including its JV in e-commerce/payments with Alibaba) is likely to suffer from new conflicts of interest with the arrival of Sberbank. Still, the transaction is small in the Sberbank context,” VTB Capital (VTBC) said in a note in October, while reiterating the Buy call on Russia’s largest lender.