Sberbank is in talks to buy a large stake in online retailer Ozon, four sources close to the matter said, as Russia’s biggest bank prepares to sever its ties with Yandex.
The proposed Ozon deal is part of Sberbank boss German Gref’s plan to create a one-stop technology platform offering a wide range of financial and other services.
Sberbank is ending two online joint ventures with Yandex, having long failed to agree on strategy with the Russian online giant, and plans instead to join telecoms-to-medicine firm Sistema and private equity group Baring Vostok as Ozon stakeholders.
Under the draft plan, Sberbank could end up with a stake of around 30% in Ozon after the retailer issues additional shares, two of the sources said, because neither Sistema nor Baring Vostok wants to sell out.
A banker close to the deal said that an agreement was nearly ready. Sistema and Baring Vostok each own around a 40% stake in Ozon, one of the rare winners in the coronavirus crisis as online purchases boom amid a nationwide lockdown.
The sources did not say how much Sberbank will pay for the stake or how Sistema’s and Baring Vostok’s stakes will change.
“Shareholders are not going to leave. The additional share issue is being considered so Sberbank can join as third equal majority partner,” one of the sources said.
GROWTH DURING CRISIS
Yandex.Market, a market place to buy and sell goods which is much smaller than Ozon, is one of the two joint ventures that Sberbank and Yandex are ending.
Sistema declined to comment on the talks with Sberbank but said that there had been increased investor interest in Ozon as it was growing rapidly during the coronavirus pandemic.
The sources did not say how a shareholding deal with Sberbank would impact Ozon’s plans for an initial public offering (IPO) within two years.
However, Sistema said in emailed comments to Reuters that the strategic plans for Ozon’s IPO remain unchanged.
Daniil Fedorov, Ozon’s chief financial officer, declined to comment on Sberbank but said that Ozon was considering “various strategic routes for financing further development.”
“(An) IPO is among them as the company is of interest to a wide range of public and private investors,” he told Reuters.
Sberbank and Baring Vostok declined to comment.
Sberbank, through its stake in Mail.Ru, is also an indirect shareholder in AliExpress Russia, a joint venture between China’s Alibaba, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, mobile operator Megafon and Mail.Ru.