November 19, 2019 / 10:57 AM / 3 months ago

Russia's Sberbank, Mail.Ru to invest $1 billion in online food, taxi venture

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian internet company Mail.Ru and state lender Sberbank have finalised the terms of a joint food and taxi platform and plan to invest 64.6 billion roubles ($1 billion) in the business, Mail.Ru said on Tuesday.

The deal, first revealed in July, should be closed by the end of the year and will hand the firms equal stakes in the joint venture, it said.

The move marks a significant step in Sberbank’s pursuit of a stronger presence in Russia’s digital economy and offers competition to the country’s leading technology company, Yandex, which dominates the ride-hailing market.

Alongside the joint venture, Sberbank has signed a binding agreement to acquire a small percentage of Mail.Ru shares, via a 35% stake in holding company MF Technologies, Mail.Ru said.

The stake in MF Technologies, 34% from Gazprombank and 1% from Rostec, for 11.3 billion roubles, will give Sberbank 1.82% economic rights and 20.3% voting rights in Mail.Ru, according to Reuters calculations.

Three years after closing the joint venture deal, Sberbank will then have the opportunity to acquire shares of up to 20% in Mail.Ru, in exchange for its stake in the joint venture.

“We believe that our partnership will significantly enhance the digital economy in Russia, resulting in the active development of advanced and popular services that will change the common patterns for consumption of products and services,” Sberbank CEO German Gref said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mail.Ru will contribute its stakes in the Delivery Club food delivery service and Citymobil taxi to the venture.

Sberbank will contribute its 35% stake in Foodplex, an app for restaurant bookings, and around 38.5 billion roubles in cash, Mail.Ru said.

Sberbank’s investments with Mail.Ru rival Yandex include Yandex.Market, an e-commerce venture and Yandex.Dengi, or Yandex.Money in English.

($1 = 63.8760 roubles)

Reporting by Nadezhda Tsydenova; Writing by Alexander Marrow and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Louise Heavens and Peter Graf

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