Tuesday, February 12, 2013

(BN) Google Eroded by Yandex to Almaz on Map Skills: Russia Ov

(Bloomberg ) Yandex NV, whose share of Russian web searches is more than double that for Google Inc., can extend its dominance over the world's most-used engine to other countries, according to one of its earliest investors.

"Yandex's chances are strong where Google is weak," Alexander Galitsky, a partner at Almaz Capital Partners, a Moscow-based venture capital firm that invested in Yandex in 2008, said in an interview at Bloomberg's headquarters in New York yesterday. "Their search engine is very well adjusted linguistically and they have very good, precise maps. Their navigation is one of the best."

Yandex, based in The Hague, rolled out yandex.com.tr for Turkey in September 2011. The site offers local maps with traffic information and street views, free e-mail, news aggregation, image and video search as well as Turkish-English translation services. The company offers a map application for Apple Inc.'s iPhones and debuted the Wonder app, which enables users to search social media, for the U.S. market last month.

"What you do when you are stuck in a traffic jam in Moscow?" said Galitsky, who designed software for Russian spy satellites before moving into venture capital for technology startups after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. "You go to Yandex, because their navigation is one of the best. They have a very good chance in those countries where Google is not so active yet, where it's not dominating."

Overtaking Bing

Prospects for Russia's biggest Internet company are best in Turkey, the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan and also in Asian nations such as Vietnam, Galitsky said.

Yandex is seeking to boost its market share in Turkey to as much as 35 percent by the end of 2017, from 1 percent last year, Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, the chairman of Yandex Turkey, said in September. Google has 60 percent of the Turkish search market, according to Yalcindag.

In Russia, Yandex's market share rose to 62 percent in the week to Feb. 10, compared with 26.1 percent for Mountain View, California-based Google, Liveinternet showed yesterday. Its stake has held above 60 percent every month since March 2012, the data show. Yandex overtook Bing on global web searches in November and December to become the world's fourth-biggest engine by number of searches, ComScore Inc. data released last week showed.

'Find Everything'

Almaz Capital, which data compiled by Bloomberg shows had a 0.33 percent stake in Yandex as of a year ago, plans to retain its investment in Yandex, Galitsky said. The search engine, whose slogan is "find everything," will maintain its lead in Russia for at least the next three to four years, he said.

Yandex, which got 90 percent of third-quarter revenue from text-based ads, rose 0.9 percent to $24.93 yesterday in New York. The Bloomberg Russia-US index slipped 0.2 percent to 104.07.

Almaz Capital invests in companies including Hover Inc., a Los Altos, California-based developer of 3D computer vision and mapping technology as well as 2can, which allows payments to be processed by smartphones. It also had a stake in Qik Inc., which was acquired by Web-calling provider Skype Inc. in 2011.

Revenue Growth

Yandex will probably report on Feb. 19 that revenue in 2012 rose 44 percent to 28.8 billion rubles ($950 million), according to the mean estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

"It's been a year since Yandex entered Turkey and if it decides, based on 2012 results, that its expansion in the country was a success, it may enter other markets already this year," Alexander Vengranovich, an analyst at Otkritie Financial Corp. in Moscow who rates the stock buy, said by phone yesterday. 

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