BARCELONA, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Russian internet business Mail.ru is interested in investing in a taxi business and helping to bring it online but has no appetite for a full-fledged takeover, CFO Matthew Hammond said on Wednesday.
Hammond was responding to a report in the RBC Daily that linked Mail.ru - which spans social networks, advertising, online gaming and food delivery - to a possible purchase of taxi company Vezyot.
He declined to comment on what he called press speculation but, speaking at the Morgan Stanley European Tech, Media & Telecom Conference in Barcelona, said buying into a traditional taxi firm would be a realistic option.
“Any investment we make would be a minority investment. It should be much more thought of as a (joint venture) and us leveraging the traffic,” he said in answer to a question. “It’s taking that offline business and putting it online.”
Mail.ru has been widely compared with Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings and says it has benefited from a migration of advertising from search to social media that has helped it to outpace growth at Russian rival Yandex of late.
Hammond said Mail.ru had no interest in owning an online taxi business of the kind that relies heavily on subsidies to win and retain customers.
“This would be a distribution deal,” he said.
Russian mobile operator Megafon this year paid $740 million for a stake in Mail.ru from Uzbek-born billionaire Alisher Usmanov, who owns shares in both firms. South Africa’s Naspers and Tencent are also shareholders.
Mail.ru has ramped up operations at its Delivery Club cuisine service, which it expects to turn profitable in 2018, while its Youla consumer-to-consumer advertising site should start contributing revenues in the first quarter of 2018.
Mail.ru’s online gaming operation delivered 83 percent growth in the third quarter, powered by games such as Pixonic’s War Robot, and can be expected to deliver “solid” further growth next year, Hammond said. (Reporting by Douglas Busvine. Editing by Jane Merriman)