SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20549
Amendment No. 1 to Form 20F
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR (g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
SHELL COMPANY PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report
Commission file number:
(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
(Translation of Registrant’s name in English)
(Jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(Address of principal executive offices)
Telephone: +31 20-206-6970
Facsimile: +31 20-446-6372
(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act.
Title of each class
Name of each exchange on which registered
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act. None
Securities for which there is a reporting obligation pursuant to Section 15(d) of the Act. Class A Ordinary Shares
Indicate the number of outstanding shares of each of the issuer’s classes of capital or common stock as of the close of the period covered by the Annual Report.(1)
Title of each class
Number of shares outstanding
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
If this report is an annual or transition report, indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Yes ◻
Note—checking the box above will not relieve any registrant required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 from their obligations under those Sections.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ◻
† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepared the financial statements included in this filing:
International Financial Reporting Standards ◻
If “Other” has been checked in response to the previous question, indicate by check mark which financial statement item the registrant has elected to follow. Item 17 ◻ Item 18 ◻
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes
(1) In addition, we had 808,147 Class A shares held in treasury and nil Class C shares issued and fully paid as of December 31, 2019. Our Class C shares are issued from time to time solely for technical purposes, to facilitate the conversion of our Class B shares into Class A shares. They are held by a Conversion Foundation managed by members of our Board of Directors. For the limited period of time during which any Class C shares are outstanding, they will be voted in the same proportion as votes cast by holders of our Class A and Class B shares, so as not to influence the outcome of any vote.
This amendment No.1 (the “Amendment No. 1”) to the annual report on Form 20-F of Yandex N.V for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019, which was originally filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 2, 2020 (the “2019 Annual Report”), is being filed solely for purposes of including the XBRL files which were not included in the initial submission.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In this Annual Report on Form 20-F (this “Annual Report”), references to “Yandex,” the “company,” “we,” “us,” or similar terms are to Yandex N.V. and, as the context requires, its consolidated subsidiaries.
Our consolidated financial statements are prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP and are expressed in Russian rubles. In this Annual Report, references to “rubles” or “RUB” are to Russian rubles, and references to “U.S. dollars” or “$” are to United States dollars.
Our fiscal year ends on December 31 of each year. References to any specific fiscal year refer to the year ended December 31 of the calendar year specified.
This Annual Report includes market data reported by Yandex.Radar (March 2020), the Association of Russian Communication Agencies (AKAR) (March 2020) and the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) (March 2020).
This Annual Report contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Words such as “project,” “believe,” “anticipate,” “plan,” “expect,” “estimate,” “intend,” “should,” “would,” “could,” “will,” “may” or other words that convey judgments about future events or outcomes indicate such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this Annual Report may include statements about:
|●||the impact of macroeconomic and geopolitical developments in our markets, including the economic, social and political impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic;|
|●||the expected growth of the internet search and advertising markets and the number of internet and broadband users in the countries in which we operate;|
|●||competition in the internet search market in the countries in which we operate;|
|●||our anticipated growth and investment strategies;|
|●||our future business development, results of operations and financial condition;|
|●||expected changes in our margins and certain cost or expense items in absolute terms or as a percentage of our revenues;|
|●||our ability to attract and retain users, advertisers and partners; and|
|●||future advertising supply and demand dynamics.|
The forward-looking statements included in this Annual Report are subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Our actual results of operations may differ materially from those stated in or implied by such forward-looking statements as a result of a variety of factors, including those described under Part I, Item 3.D. “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this Annual Report.
We operate in an evolving environment. New risks emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for our management to predict all risks, nor can we assess the effect of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. You should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. We undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
Item 1. Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisors.
Item 2. Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable.
Item 3. Key Information.
|A.||Selected Financial Data|
The selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2019 and consolidated statements of income data for the year ended December 31, 2019 are derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report.
The selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2018 and consolidated statements of income data for the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2018 are derived from our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report, after adjustment for the retrospective adoption of ASC 842.
The selected consolidated balance sheet data as of December 31, 2017 are derived from our audited consolidated financial statements that are not included in this Annual Report, after adjustment for the retrospective adoption of ASC 842. The selected consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2015 and 2016 and consolidated statements of income data for the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2016 are derived from our audited consolidated financial statements that are not included in this Annual Report, after adjustment for the retrospective adoption of Accounting Standard Updates 2015-03 and 2015-17.
Ruble amounts have been translated into U.S. dollars at a rate of RUB 78.8493 to $1.00, the official exchange rate quoted as of March 25, 2020 by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. Such U.S. dollar amounts are not necessarily indicative of the amounts of U.S. dollars that could actually have been purchased upon exchange of Russian rubles at the dates indicated, and have been provided solely for the convenience of the reader. See “Risk Factors–The principal markets in which we operate are generally subject to greater financial, economic, legal and political risks than more developed markets. Such risks may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
The following selected consolidated financial data should be read in conjunction with our “Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” and our consolidated financial statements and the related notes appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report. Our consolidated financial statements are prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP. These historical financial results are not necessarily indicative of the results to be expected in any future period.
Year ended December 31,
(in millions, except share and per share data)
Consolidated statements of income data:
Operating costs and expenses:
Cost of revenues(1)
Sales, general and administrative(1)
Depreciation and amortization
Total operating costs and expenses
Income from operations
Effect of Yandex.Market deconsolidation
Income/(loss) from equity method investments
Other income/(loss), net(2)
Income before income tax expense
Income tax expense
Net loss attributable to noncontrolling interests
Net income attributable to Yandex N.V.
Net income per Class A and Class B share:
Weighted average number of Class A and Class B shares outstanding:
|(1)||These amounts exclude depreciation and amortization expense, which is presented separately, and include share-based compensation expense of:|
Cost of revenues
Sales, general and administrative
|(2)||A major component of other income/(loss), net is foreign exchange gains and losses generally resulting from changes in the value of the U.S. dollar compared with the Russian ruble. Because the functional currency of our operating subsidiaries in Russia is the Russian ruble, changes in the ruble value of these subsidiaries’ monetary assets and liabilities that are denominated in other currencies (primarily U.S. dollar-denominated cash, cash equivalents and term deposits maintained in Russia) due to exchange rate fluctuations are recognized as foreign exchange gains or losses in our statement of income. For example, in 2019, other loss, net includes RUB 1,294 million of foreign exchange losses arising mainly from the appreciation of the Russian ruble compared to the U.S. dollar in that year. In 2018, other income, net included a RUB 1,169 million gain arising mainly from the significant depreciation of the Russian ruble compared to the U.S. dollar in that year. Although the U.S. dollar value of our U.S. dollar denominated cash, cash equivalents and term deposits are not impacted by these currency fluctuations, they result in upward and downward revaluations of the ruble equivalent of these U.S. dollar denominated monetary assets.|
* Restated to reflect adoption of ASC 842 Leases, which requires the recognition of right-of-use assets and lease liabilities for operating leases.
As of December 31,
Consolidated balance sheets data(1):
Cash and cash equivalents
Term deposits (current and non-current)
Total current liabilities(2)
Total non-current liabilities(2)
Redeemable noncontrolling interests
Total shareholders’ equity
|(1)||Balances as of December 31, 2017 and 2018 have been restated to reflect current period presentation for the retrospective adoption of ASC 842 Leases, which required the recognition of right-of-use assets and lease liabilities for operating leases.|
|(2)||The total non-current liabilities as of December 31, 2015 and 2016 and the total current liabilities as of December 31, 2017 mainly result from our convertible bond offering.|
* Restated to reflect adoption of ASC 842 Leases, which requires the recognition of right-of-use assets and lease liabilities for operating leases. See Note 2, Summary of Significant Accounting Policies, Recently Adopted Accounting Pronouncements, for further information. The financial data for other historical periods have not been restated and are reported under the lease accounting standard in effect for those periods.
Exchange Rate Information
Our business is primarily conducted in Russia and the majority of our revenues are denominated in Russian rubles. We have presented our most recent annual results of operations in U.S. dollars for the convenience of the reader. Unless otherwise noted, all conversions from RUB to U.S. dollars and from U.S. dollars to RUB in this Annual Report were made at a rate of RUB 78.8493 to $1.00, the official exchange rate quoted by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation as of March 25, 2020. On March 30, 2020, the official exchange rate quoted by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation was RUB 77.7325 to $1.00.
See “Risk Factors–The principal markets in which we operate are generally subject to greater financial, economic, legal and political risks than more developed markets. Such risks may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.” for a discussion of the foreign currency exchange rate risks and uncertainties our business faces.
B. Risk Factors
Investing in our Class A shares involves a high degree of risk. The risks and uncertainties described below and elsewhere in this Annual Report, including in the section headed “Operating and Financial Review and Prospects”, could materially adversely affect our business. These are not the only risks that we face; additional risks and uncertainties of which we are unaware, or that we currently deem immaterial, may also become important factors that affect us. Any of these risks could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In such case, the trading price of our Class A shares could decline.
Risks Related to the Current Global Political, Regulatory and Economic Environment
The principal markets in which we operate are generally subject to greater financial, economic, legal and political risks than more developed markets. Such risks may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Financial, economic, banking, legal and political risks in our markets, or an increase in the perceived risks associated with investing in emerging economies, could dampen foreign investment and adversely affect the economies of the countries in which we operate. For example, the current geopolitical situation, as well as volatility in oil prices (to which the Russian economy is particularly sensitive), may continue to have negative macroeconomic and other effects on the regions in which we operate, including increased volatility in currency values and a weaker overall business environment. In general, the Russian economy has experienced a high degree of volatility in the local currency, periods of high inflation rates and fluctuations in oil prices. Economic conditions continue to be uncertain and future changes may have negative effects on our business.
The value of the Russian ruble has fluctuated significantly in recent periods. Although our revenues and expenses, including our personnel expenses, are both primarily denominated in Russian rubles, we may have to increase our personnel expenses from time to time in order to better compete with other companies that denominate their personnel expenses in currencies which appreciate in relation to the Russian ruble. Also, the lease for our Moscow headquarters, are denominated in U.S. dollars, and a major portion of our capital expenditures, primarily for servers and networking equipment, although payable in rubles, is for imported goods and therefore can be materially affected by changes in the value of the ruble. In addition, our expenses related to the development of our business internationally, and, in some cases, for acquisitions, are often denominated in other currencies, including U.S. dollars and Euros. If the Russian ruble were to experience a prolonged and significant decline in value against foreign currencies, we could face material foreign currency exchange exposure, which may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. See “Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk”.
We face risks related to health epidemic and related crisis.
In recent years, there have been outbreaks of epidemics in various countries throughout the world. The current outbreak of a novel strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread rapidly to many parts of the world, including Russia. The epidemic has resulted in quarantines, travel restrictions, and the temporary closure of stores and facilities. In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Our results of operations may be adversely and materially affected, to the extent that COVID-19 or any other epidemic harms the Russian and global economy in general. Any potential impact to our results will depend on, to a large extent, future developments and new information that may emerge regarding the duration and severity of COVID-19 and the actions taken by government authorities and other entities to contain COVID-19 or treat its impact, almost all of which are beyond our control. Potential impacts include, but are not limited to, the following:
temporary closure of offices, travel restrictions or suspension of services of our customers and suppliers have negatively affected, and could continue to negatively affect, the demand for our services;
our customers in industries that are negatively impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19, including the healthcare, travel, offline education, transportation and real estate sectors, may reduce their budgets on
online advertising and marketing, which may materially adversely impact our revenue from online advertising services;
our customers may require additional time to pay us or fail to pay us at all, which could significantly increase the amount of accounts receivable and require us to record additional allowances for doubtful accounts;
any disruption in the network access provided by third parties or any failure by them to handle current or higher future volumes as a result of COVID-19 may cause our customers to lose access for a period of time to our platforms, which may harm our business and may also lead to loss of customers, as well as reputational, competitive and business harm to us;
certain of our customers, distributors, suppliers and other partners may be particularly vulnerable to the slowing macroeconomic conditions arising from COVID-19 and may not be in a position to resume business as usual after a prolonged outbreak, which may have a material adverse impact on our revenues and business operations; and
the global stock markets have experienced, and may continue to experience, significant decline from the COVID-19 outbreak and the private and public companies that we have invested in could be materially adversely affected, which may lead to significant impairment in the fair values of our investments and in turn materially adversely affect our financial condition and operating results.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial impact related to the outbreak of and response to the coronavirus cannot be reasonably estimated at this time, but our consolidated results for the first quarter of and full year 2020 may be adversely affected. We expect our total revenues in the first quarter of 2020 to increase year over year, but there is no guarantee that our total revenues will grow or remain at the similar level year over year in the next three quarters of 2020. We may have to record downward adjustments or impairment in the fair value of investments in the first quarter of 2020, if conditions have not been significantly improved and global stock markets have not recovered from recent declines.
In general, our business could be adversely affected by the effects of epidemics, including, but not limited to, the COVID-19, avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the influenza A virus, Ebola virus, severe weather conditions such as a snowstorm, flood or hazardous air pollution, or other outbreaks. In response to an epidemic, severe weather conditions, or other outbreaks, government and other organizations may adopt regulations and policies that could lead to severe disruption to our daily operations, including temporary closure of our offices and other facilities. These severe conditions may cause us and/or our partners to make internal adjustments, including but not limited to, temporarily closing down business, limiting business hours, and setting restrictions on travel and/or visits with clients and partners for a prolonged period of time. Various impacts arising from a severe condition may cause business disruption, resulting in material, adverse impact to our financial condition and results of operations.
The adoption and maintenance of international embargo, economic or other sanctions against Russia may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The United States, the European Union and certain other countries have imposed economic sanctions on certain Russian government officials, private individuals and Russian companies, as well as “sectoral” sanctions affecting specified types of transactions with named participants in certain industries, including named Russian financial institutions, and sanctions that prohibit most commercial activities of U.S. and EU persons in Crimea and Sevastopol. In 2018 and 2019, these sanctions were prolonged and extended. There is significant uncertainty regarding the extent or timing of any potential further economic or trade sanctions or the potential easing of such measures. Political and economic sanctions may affect the ability or willingness of our international customers to operate in Russia, which could negatively impact our revenue and profitability. Sanctions could also impede our ability to effectively manage our legal entities and operations in and outside of Russia. Although neither our parent company nor our principal operating subsidiary or other subsidiaries are targets of U.S. or EU sanctions, our business has been adversely affected from time to time by the impact of sanctions on the broader economy in Russia. In addition, Yandex.Money, our joint venture with Sberbank, in which we hold an approximately 25% minority stake, is subject to U.S. sectoral sanctions.
Since May 2017, Yandex LLC and Yandex.Ukraine LLC, both subsidiaries of Yandex N.V., have been subject to Ukrainian sanctions, which have blocked Ukrainian users from accessing our services and websites. The applicable sanctions, which were extended in March 2019 for a further three years with regard to Yandex LLC, ban all trade operations and require blocking of all assets, including bank accounts.
In January 2018, pursuant to the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act of 2017, the U.S. administration presented the U.S. Congress with a report on senior Russian political figures, “oligarchs” and “parastatal” entities. Our founder, executive director and substantial shareholder, Arkady Volozh, is one of nearly 100 persons included in one part of the so called “Kremlin List”, on the basis of his reported net worth, and Herman Gref, a member of our Board of Directors and the CEO and Chairman of Sberbank, was included on the “List of Senior Political Figures.” Although we are not aware of any intention on the part of the U.S. government to impose sanctions on Mr. Volozh or Mr. Gref, if Mr. Volozh or Mr. Gref were to become a target of sanctions, it could have material adverse effect on our business.
The applicable sanctions rules, or the authoritative interpretation of current rules by the relevant authorities, could change at any time. In particular, OFAC (or other regulators) could:
|●||add additional parties to the sectoral sanctions list;|
|●||designate parties with whom we have significant business relationships as “specially designated nationals”, meaning that all dealings with them by U.S. and/or EU persons would be prohibited; or|
|●||expand current or new sanctions to cover entities that are less than 50% owned by a listed party, which could adversely affect our Yandex.Market joint venture.|
Many U.S. and EU parties typically take a cautious approach to compliance matters, given the ambiguities of some of these rules and the approach taken by the regulators. Some parties, in particular some U.S. and EU financial institutions, have adopted internal compliance policies that are more restrictive than are strictly required by the applicable rules and have, for example, declined to engage in any dealings with parties on the sectoral sanctions list (including dealings that are not prohibited by the rules applicable to such parties) or with entities closely affiliated with such entities (even if such affiliated entities are not themselves a target of sanctions).
We rely on the continued availability, development and maintenance of the internet infrastructure in the countries in which we operate. Any errors, failures or disruption in the products and services provided by third-party providers of our principal internet connections and the equipment critical to our internet properties and services, or any regulatory limitations on the internet in Russia, could materially adversely affect our brand, business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our success depends on the continued availability, development and maintenance of the internet infrastructure globally and particularly in the countries in which we operate. This includes maintenance of a reliable network backbone with the necessary speed, data capacity and security for providing reliable internet services. Any disruption in the network access provided by third parties or any failure by them to handle current or higher future volumes of use may significantly harm our business. We have experienced and expect to continue to experience interruptions and delays in service from time to time. Furthermore, we depend on hardware and software suppliers for prompt delivery, installation and service of servers and other equipment to deliver our services. Public health concerns or epidemics, such as the recent coronavirus outbreak, may affect the production capabilities of our suppliers and resulting quarantines or closures could further disrupt our supply chain. The internet infrastructure may also be unable to support the demands placed on it by growing numbers of users and time spent online or increased bandwidth requirements. Government regulation may also limit our access to adequate and reliable internet infrastructure. Any outages or delays resulting from inadequate internet infrastructure or due to problems with our third-party providers or new regulatory requirements could reduce the level of internet usage as well as our ability to provide our services to users, advertisers and network partners, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
A recent law, which partly came in force in November 2019, introduced tighter regulation of traffic routing in the Russian internet. While it is not entirely clear yet how this regulation will be applied in practice, its implementation, among other things, may lead to a requirement that Russian internet traffic should be routed through Russian
communication centers. This could reduce data transfer speed significantly and even result in interruptions and delays of the online services in the Russian internet.
The principal markets in which we operate offer uncertain environment for investment and business activity that could have a material adverse effect on the value of our Class A shares, our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The legal framework in which we operate continues to evolve. The current geopolitical environment could increase the risk of new legislative initiatives that could be seen as protecting a country’s national security and/or limiting foreign influence over the sector.
In addition, there can be contradictions between different laws and regulations, and the enforcement of laws can be selective or unpredictable. At the same time, there is sometimes a perceived lack of judicial and prosecutorial independence from political, social and commercial forces.
These factors could have a material adverse effect on our Class A shares and our business, financial condition and results of operations. The fact that we are a high-profile company may heighten these risks.
There has been increased scrutiny in recent periods of technology businesses across the globe. Should our operating environment become more challenging because of a change in the regulation or perception of technology companies, our business, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected.
Around the world, technology companies are operating in an increasingly uncertain and challenging environment, in part due to increased scrutiny from policymakers, regulators and the general public. Such scrutiny has included concerns about business practices, market presence and strategic direction. A number of our competitors, including Google and Facebook, have received scrutiny in different jurisdictions over business practices, including the application of targeted advertising and data processing. Our partner in our Taxi joint venture, Uber, has received scrutiny over labor practices and licensing in many of the jurisdictions in which it operates. Our businesses have also been subject to increasing scrutiny in the markets in which we operate.
Restrictive trade practices in many jurisdictions, including the United States, have also made doing business more difficult for technology companies. For example, governments in a number of jurisdictions have been considering the possibility of excluding Huawei from participating as a supplier in 5G networks based on perceptions of the Chinese government's influence over Huawei. Should our business practices, market presence or strategic direction receive adverse scrutiny or experience increased regulation in any material market in which we operate, we may experience a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and result of operations.
If existing limitations on foreign ownership were to be extended to our business, or if new limitations were to be adopted, it could materially adversely affect our group and the value of our Class A shares.
Applicable law restricts foreign (non-Russian) ownership or control of companies involved in certain strategically important activities in Russia as well as companies that are classified as "mass media" businesses. Currently, technology, the internet and online advertising are not industries specifically covered by this legislation, but proposals have from time to time been considered by the Russian government and the State Duma, which, if adopted, would impose foreign ownership or control restrictions on certain large technology or internet companies.
A draft law which was proposed in mid-2019, for example, was aimed at restricting foreign ownership of “significant” internet companies and, if adopted, could have been applied to Yandex. A number of parties, including representatives of the Russian government, identified concerns with the draft law, and the proposal was withdrawn in November 2019. Notwithstanding the restructuring of our corporate governance approved in December 2019, we cannot assure you that similar legislation will not be proposed and adopted. If any such legislation were to be adopted and were applicable to Yandex, it could have a material adverse effect on our business and the value of our Class A shares. See also “Item 4. Information on the Company – Governance Structure”.
In addition, we believe that our Yandex.Money joint venture is subject to restrictions on foreign ownership because this business currently holds an encryption license covered by the strategic enterprises law. We have also recently obtained an encryption license for our Yandex.Cloud service in order to expand this business. Therefore, the restrictions imposed by the strategic enterprises law have become applicable to Yandex as a whole. In particular, a third-party non-Russian investors would be required to obtain prior approval from the competent Russian authority in some cases if it seeks to acquire more than 25% of the voting power in Yandex or seeks to enter into an agreement that would establish direct or indirect control over Yandex. Such investors would also be required to notify the competent Russian authority if it acquires more than 5% of the voting power in Yandex (which would represent more than 33.3 million Class A shares). In addition, foreign states and international organizations, or entities controlled by them are prohibited from entering into agreements to establish direct or indirect control over Yandex.
Further, draft legislation was introduced in 2018 that would restrict foreign ownership of news aggregators. The draft legislation is broadly worded and, if adopted, might be applied to Yandex.News and other services. At this time, we cannot anticipate if the draft legislation will be adopted or, if it is adopted, whether such restrictions will be applied to us. See also “Item 4. Government Regulation”.
Any restrictions on non-Russian ownership or control could require us to take significant steps to modify our operating, corporate governance or ownership structure, which could have a material adverse effect on our operations or the value of our Class A shares.
Risks Related to Our Governance Structure
Although we have recently implemented a restructuring of our corporate governance, we may not be compliant with any legislation limiting foreign ownership or control in our sector that might ultimately be adopted. Any such non-compliance could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, as well as on the trading price of our Class A Shares.
Even following our recent corporate governance restructuring, we cannot assure you that our business will not become subject to any law that might ultimately be adopted with the goal of limiting foreign ownership or control of businesses in our sector. If our business becomes subject to, and is found not to be compliant with, any such legislation, we cannot assure you that enforcement actions against Yandex or our business by the Russian authorities will not be imposed. The imposition of such enforcement actions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows, as well as on the trading price of our Class A Shares. See also “Item 4. Information on the Company – Governance Structure”.
The Public Interest Foundation that was formed in connection with our recent restructuring has important rights in our corporate governance structure. These rights could be exercised in a manner that is different from what we expect or that is not in the interests of our Class A shareholders.
The Public Interest Foundation has limited and targeted rights, through the powers associated with its holding of the Priority Share in Yandex N.V. and a so-called “Special Voting Interest” in Yandex LLC. The board of the Public Interest Foundation, as well as the designated directors on the Yandex N.V. board and any interim General Director of Yandex LLC appointed by the Foundation in the circumstances set out in the charter of Yandex LLC, may take actions, however, that are not in the interests of our stakeholders, including our Class A shareholders, or decline to approve actions that would be in the interests of our Class A shareholders. These actions could include exercising the veto right over the nomination of four members of our Board in such a way as to prevent the nomination of persons whom the other members of our Nominating Committee and Board believe would best serve the interests of our company and our shareholders. Moreover, these directors, together with the two designated directors, could act in a manner that results in Board deadlocks on material matters, such as budget approvals, that restrict our flexibility or ability to operate. Further, if the Public Interest Foundation exercised its right to use the Special Voting Interest in Yandex LLC in a manner that is inconsistent with our expectations, or if it did so repeatedly, it could disrupt our operations and materially adversely affect the public perception of our business. Any such actions could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations and cash flows, as well as on the trading price of our Class A Shares. The impact and perception of such actions could also make it difficult or impossible for us to access the public capital markets going forward.
In addition, no foundations have previously been formed under the newly adopted in Russia legislative framework under which the Public Interest Foundation has been incorporated. We may therefore face new issues in connection with the untested mechanics of the Foundation legislation and supporting regulations.
See also “Item 4. Information on the Company – Governance Structure”.
Our recently implemented restructuring has introduced new elements of our corporate governance with which we have no experience, and the rights granted may be exercised in unexpected ways.
Although our restructuring was designed to provide targeted and precise governance rights, some of these rights are not precisely defined. For instance, what may constitute an “Special Situation” is not defined, although it is our understanding, based on our discussions with the relevant authorities, that such “Special Situations”, if they ever arose, would relate to an action, failure to act or practice by Yandex that was deemed to be materially adverse to the national security interest of Russia. However, it is possible that the Foundation, by approval of at least seven of its directors, may interpret the scope of national security broadly and determine that there is a Special Situation in circumstances that we cannot foresee or reasonably consider to be related to the national security. It is possible that the powers granted to the Public Interest Foundation, the designated directors, the Public Interest Committee and any interim General Director may be exercised in unexpected ways, which may be adverse to the interests of Class A Shareholders and result in a decline in the trading price of our Class A Shares. See also “Item 4. Information on the Company – Governance Structure”.
Risks Related to Our Business and Industry
We face significant competition from major global and local companies, including Google, Mail.ru and Sberbank, which could negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. If our competitors start to more rapidly develop their technologies, we may need to increase R&D investments to defend our market share.
We face strong competition in various aspects of our business from global and Russian companies that provide internet services and content, including search services. Currently, we consider our principal competitors in our core business to be Google and Mail.ru.
Out of the large global internet companies, we consider Google to be our principal competitor in the market for desktop and mobile internet search, and for performance-based advertising, online advertising network revenues, advertising intermediary services, distribution arrangements and other services. According to Yandex Radar, Google’s share of the Russian search market, based on search traffic generated, was 40.1% for the full year 2019 and 40.0% in 2018, compared with our market share of 57.0% in 2019 and 56.3% in 2018. Google conducts extensive online and offline advertising campaigns in Russia. In recent years, Google has actively marketed its products and services, including its mobile and voice search, YouTube, and advertising products for businesses, leading to increased competition.
With Android, its popular mobile platform, Google exerts significant influence over the increasingly important market for mobile and location-based search and advertising. Pursuant to a settlement between FAS and Google reached in April 2017, Google is prohibited from arrangements prohibiting pre-installation of rival applications and is required to provide a choice to users in selecting their default search engine in Russia. Following this settlement, our search share on the Android platform increased in 2018 and 2019. Nevertheless, we expect that Google will continue to use its brand recognition and global financial and engineering resources to compete aggressively with us and can provide no assurance that Google is fully complying or will fully comply with the settlement. In addition to Google, we also face competition, albeit less intense, from the Russian and international business of Microsoft.
On the domestic side, our principal competitor is Mail.ru Group. Although we power paid search on Mail.ru Group properties and monetize a number of Mail.ru Group properties through our Yandex Advertising Network, we also compete with Mail.ru Group for online advertising budgets, allocated between social networks and search. In addition, Mail.ru Group offers a wide range of internet services, including the most popular Russian web mail, and other services that are comparable to ours. Mail.ru’s search market share was 2.2% and 1.6% in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Also, in December 2019 Mail.ru announced the formation of the O2O joint venture with Sberbank, pursuant to which Sberbank and Mail.ru Group will contribute approximately 47 billion rubles at closing and an additional investment of up to 17.6 billion rubles if certain performance targets are met. The joint venture is well
capitalized and focused on the expansion of food delivery (where our FoodTech business competes with Mail.ru Group’s Delivery Club service), ride-hailing (where our Yandex.Taxi business competes with Citymobil) and other services.
Our Taxi business, which is a joint venture with Uber which we completed in February 2018, also faces competition from Gett, Vezet and a variety of other ride-hailing and food delivery operators and dispatch services. We may also face new competitors as the ride-hailing and food delivery industries are highly competitive, with comparably low barriers to entry and switching costs.
We also view a number of social networking sites as increasingly significant competitors. In light of their large audiences and the significant amount of information they can access and analyze regarding their users’ needs, interests and habits, we believe that they may be able to offer highly targeted advertising that could create increased competition for us. The popularity of such sites may also reflect a growing shift in the way in which people find information, get answers and buy products, which may create additional competition to attract users.
In addition, our business units, which include Media Services, Classifieds and our e-commerce joint venture, face significant competition in their respective business areas.
On the Media Services front, our KinoPoisk service faces competition from Ivi, Okko (operated by Rambler Group) and other online cinemas, while Yandex Music competes with VK Music and Boom (both operated by Mail.ru) and Apple Music.
Our Classifieds business faces competition from a range of online and offline classified services, including Avito (in real estate and automobile sales), CIAN (in real estate), and Drom (in automobile sales); and Yandex.Market’s e-commerce business faces competition from online retailers and marketplaces, including Wildberries, Ozon, AliExpress Russia (operated through a JV between Mail.ru, MegaFon, RDIF, and Alibaba), Avito and others.
We understand that Sberbank, with whom we operate joint ventures in e-commerce and e-wallet services, has announced plans to expand its digital ecosystem, including in e-commerce and ride sharing (as described above). At the same time, we have non-compete obligations with Sberbank in e-commerce and fintech business areas which limits our as well as Sberbank’s business expansion in these spheres.
We cannot guarantee you that we will be able to continue to compete effectively with current and future companies that may have greater ability to attract and retain users, greater name recognition, more personnel and greater financial and other resources. If our competitors are successful in providing similar or better search results or other services compared with those we offer, we could experience a significant decline in user traffic or other business. Any such decline could negatively affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We expect the rate of growth of our revenues to be lower in the future and we may experience downward pressure on our operating margin.
We expect that the rate of growth of our online advertising revenues will decline over time as a result of a number of factors, including continuing macroeconomic challenges in Russia, challenges in maintaining our growth rate as our revenues increase to higher levels, increasing competition, changes in the nature of queries, the evolution of the overall online advertising market, the declining rate of growth in the number of internet users in Russia as overall internet penetration increases and the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in connection with current macroeconomic factors, Aeroflot, an advertising partner of ours, terminated all of its contracts for marketing, advertising and information services. A decline in our online advertising revenue growth rate may negatively impact the rate of growth of our revenues on a consolidated basis.
Other factors which may cause our operating margin to fluctuate or decline include:
|•||changes in the proportion of our advertising revenues that we derive from the Yandex ad network compared with our own websites. In periods in which our Yandex ad network revenues grow more rapidly than those from our own sites, our operating margin generally declines because the operating margin we realize on revenues generated from partner websites is significantly lower than the operating margin generated from|
|our own websites, as a result of traffic acquisition costs (TAC) that we pay to our partner websites. Over the several past years our partner TAC was above 50% of our online advertising network revenues. The margin we earn on revenue generated from the Yandex ad network could also decrease in the future if we are required to share with our partners a greater percentage of the advertising fees generated through their websites;|
|•||investments we make in our businesses, in particular our experimental businesses within Other Bets and Experiments, our Taxi segment, which includes our food delivery business and self-driving solution, investments in content in Media Services as well as our initiatives related to the Internet of Things;|
|•||increased depreciation and amortization expense related to capital expenditures for many aspects of our business, particularly the expansion of our data centers to support growth in both our current and new markets;|
|•||relatively higher spending on advertising and marketing to further enhance our brand and promote our services in Russia, to build and expand brand awareness in other countries where we operate and to respond to competitive pressures, if these efforts do not drive revenue growth in the manner we anticipate;|
|•||expenses in connection with the launch of new products and related advertising and marketing efforts, which may not result in the anticipated increase in revenues or market share;|
|•||the possibility of higher fees or revenue sharing arrangements with our distribution partners that distribute our products or services or otherwise direct search queries to our website. We expect to continue to expand the number of our distribution relationships in order to increase our user base and to make it easier for our existing users to access our services;|
|•||costs incurred in our international expansion efforts until we succeed in building the user base necessary to begin generating sufficient revenues in these markets to earn accretive operating margins there; and|
|•||increased costs associated with the creation, support and maintenance of mobile products and services to maintain and expand our offering and competitive market position, which may not result in the anticipated increases in revenues or market share.|
As the Russian internet market matures, our future expansion will increasingly depend on our ability to generate revenues from new businesses, from new business models or in other markets. If we do not continue to innovate and provide services that are useful and attractive to our users, we may be unable to retain them and may become less attractive to our advertisers, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
As internet usage has spread in Russia, the rate of growth in the number of internet users has been declining. Our success depends on providing search and other services that make using the internet a more useful and enjoyable experience for our users. As search technology continues to develop, our competitors may be able to offer search capabilities that are, or that are seen to be, substantially similar to, or better than, ours. As our core market matures, we will need to provide new services, further exploit non-core business models, such as our Taxi, Classifieds and Media Services business units and our e-commerce joint venture, or expand into new geographic markets in order to continue to grow our revenues at previously achieved levels. The cost we incur in these efforts, both in terms of product development expenses and advertising and marketing costs, could be significant.
If we are unable to continue to develop and provide our users with high-quality, up-to-date services, and to appropriately time the services with market opportunities, or if we are unable to maintain the quality of such services, our user base may not grow, or may decline. Further, if we are unable to attract and retain a substantial share of internet traffic generated by mobile and other digital devices, or if we are slow to develop services and technologies that are compatible with such devices, our user base may not grow or may decline.
If our users move to our competitors, we will also become less attractive to advertisers and therefore to Yandex ad network partners. This could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The competition to capture market share on mobile devices is intense, and if we are not successful in maintaining substantial reach among users and monetizing search and other services on mobile devices, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
Users are increasingly accessing the internet through mobile and other devices rather than desktop and laptop personal computers, including through smartphones, wearable devices, and handheld computers such as tablets, as well as through video game consoles, smart TVs and television set-top devices. Such devices have different characteristics than desktop and laptop personal computers (including screen size, operating system, user interface and use patterns). Tailoring our products and services to such devices requires particular expertise and the expenditure of significant resources. The versions of our products and services developed for these devices, including the advertising solutions we offer, may be or become less attractive to users, advertisers, manufacturers or distributors of devices than those offered by our competitors or than our desktop offerings. The percentage of our total search traffic that was generated from mobile devices increased from approximately 49% in the fourth quarter of 2018 to approximately 58% in the fourth quarter of 2019, while the percentage of our search revenues generated from mobile devices increased from approximately 41% to approximately 49% between those periods.
Each manufacturer or distributor of mobile or other devices may establish unique technical standards for its devices, and as a result our products and services may not work or be viewable on these devices. Some manufacturers may also elect not to include our products on their devices, or may be prohibited from doing so pursuant to their agreements with other parties. Although Google is prohibited from arrangements restricting pre-installation of rival applications and is required to provide a choice to users in selecting their default search engine in Russia, it is difficult to anticipate the long-term effects of such changes on our market shares in its Chrome browser and Chrome widget. In addition, consumers are increasingly accessing content directly via applications, or “apps”, tailored to particular mobile devices or in closed social media platforms, which could affect our share of the search market over time. As new devices and platforms are continually being released, it is difficult to predict the challenges we may encounter in adapting our products and services and developing competitive new products and services. See also “—As the internet evolves, an increasing amount of online content may be held in closed social networks, mobile apps or proprietary document formats, which may limit the effectiveness of our search technology, which could adversely affect our brand, business, financial condition and results of operations.”
We expect to continue to devote significant resources to the creation, support and maintenance of mobile products and services for all major operating systems including Android and iOS. If we are unable to attract and retain a substantial number of device manufacturers, distributors and users to our products and services, or if we are slow to develop products and technologies that are more compatible with such devices and platforms, we will fail to capture the opportunities available due to consumers’ and advertisers’ transition to a dynamic, multi-screen environment. Furthermore, given the importance of distribution and application pre-installation arrangements with the most popular device manufacturers to the successful operation of our business, failure to reach such arrangements may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We generate a substantial part of our revenues from advertising, which is cyclical and seasonal in nature, and any reduction in spending by or loss of advertisers would materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In the past three years, we generated on average 79% of our revenues from advertising. Expenditures by advertisers tend to be cyclical, reflecting the overall economic conditions and budgeting and buying patterns, and can therefore fluctuate significantly. According to AKAR, the rate of growth in online advertising expenditures was 20% in 2019, compared to 22% in each of 2018 and 2017. Any decreases in online advertising spending due to economic conditions, or other reasons, could materially adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Advertising spending and user traffic also tend to be seasonal, with internet usage, advertising expenditures and traffic historically slowing down during the months, when there are extended Russian public holidays and vacations, and increasing significantly in the fourth quarter of each year. For these reasons, comparing our results of operations on a period-to-period basis may not be meaningful, and past results should not be relied upon as an indication of future performance. Furthermore, as our business becomes more diversified, seasonal changes may have different effects on various lines of business.
Any decline in the internet as a significant advertising platform in the countries in which we operate could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We have significantly diversified our revenue streams in the recent years; however, the sale of online advertising in Russia still accounts for a sizeable portion of our overall revenue. Although the use of the internet as a marketing channel in Russia is already mature, the internet continues competing with traditional advertising media, such as television, print, radio and outdoor advertising. Although advertisers have become more familiar with online advertising in recent years, some of our current and potential customers still have limited experience with online advertising and have not historically devoted a significant portion of their marketing budgets to online marketing and promotion. As a result, they may be less inclined to consider the internet effective in promoting their products and services compared with traditional media.
Any decline in the appeal of the internet generally in Russia or the other countries in which we operate, whether as a result of increasing governmental regulation of the internet, the growth in popularity of other forms of media, a decline in the attractiveness of the internet as an advertising medium or any other factor, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Several of our businesses operate through joint ventures with third parties, which involves risks that we do not face with respect to our core business.
Our Yandex.Taxi business operates as a joint venture with Uber, while our Yandex.Money and Yandex.Market businesses operate as joint ventures with Sberbank. We hold an approximately 61% interest in our Yandex.Taxi joint venture. We hold an approximately 25% interest in Yandex.Money and we and Sberbank each hold a 45% interest in Yandex.Market. Herman Gref, the chief executive officer and chairman of Sberbank, serves as one of our non-executive directors. Our joint venture partners have certain shareholder and contractual rights in respect of the management of these joint ventures, and therefore we do not have sole control over the management or operations of our joint ventures. The level of control exercisable by us depends on the size of our interest and the terms of the contractual agreements, in particular, the allocation of control among, and continued cooperation between, the participants.
We may face financial, reputational and other exposure (including regulatory actions) in the event that any of our partners fail to meet their obligations under the arrangements, encounter financial difficulty, or fail to comply with local or international regulation and standards. A temporary or permanent disruption to these arrangements, such as through significant deterioration in the reputation, financial position or other circumstances of the third party or material failure in controls, could adversely affect our results of operations.
The formation and operation of joint ventures involve significant challenges and risks, including:
|•||difficulties in integrating operations and managing the large and diverse number of personnel, products, services, technology, internal controls and financial reporting of constituent components of our joint ventures, and any unanticipated expenses relating to business integration;|
|•||disruption of our ongoing business, distraction of our management and employees and increase of our expenses;|
|•||departure of skilled professionals as well as the loss of established client relationships of the businesses we invest in or acquire;|
|•||unforeseen or hidden liabilities or additional operating losses, costs and expenses that may adversely affect us following the transactions;|
|•||potential impairment charges or write-offs due to changes in the fair value of our business units as a result of market volatility or other reasons that we may not control which could have a material adverse effect on our financial results;|
|•||regulatory hurdles including in relation to the antimonopoly and competition laws;|
|•||the risk that any future proposed transaction fails to close, including as a result of political and regulatory challenges and protectionist policies; and|
|•||challenges in maintaining or further growing our business units, or achieving the expected benefits of synergies and growth opportunities in connection with these transactions.|
Additionally, if we or one of our joint venture partners fail to maintain and enhance the Yandex brand, or if we incur excessive expenses in our efforts to do so, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
We rely on partners for a material portion of our revenues and, in particular, for expanding our user base via distribution arrangements. Any failure to obtain or maintain such relationships on reasonable terms could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Revenues from advertising on our ad network partner websites represented 20.9% of our online advertising revenues in 2019 compared with 23.4% in 2018. We consider our ad partner network to be important for the continued growth of our business. Our agreements with our network partners, other than our agreement to power paid search results on Mail.ru, are generally terminable at any time without cause. Our competitors could offer more favorable terms to our current or potential network partners, including guaranteed minimum revenues or other more advantageous revenue-sharing arrangements, in an effort to take market share away from us. Additionally, some of our partners in the Yandex ad network, such as Mail.ru and Microsoft Bing, compete with us in one or more areas and may terminate their agreements with us in order to develop their own businesses. If our network partners decide to use a competitor’s advertising services, our revenues would decline.
Many of our key network partners operate high-profile websites, and we derive tangible and intangible benefits from this affiliation, such as increased numbers of users, extended brand awareness and greater audience reach for our advertisers. If our agreements with any of these partners are terminated or not renewed and we do not replace those agreements with comparable agreements, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be adversely affected.
The number of paid clicks and amount of revenues that we derive from our partners in the Yandex ad network depends on, among other factors, the quality of their websites and their attractiveness to users and advertisers. Although we screen new applicants, favor websites with high-quality content and stable audiences, and strive to monitor the quality of the network partner websites on an ongoing basis, these websites are operated by independent third parties that we do not control. If our network partners’ websites deteriorate in quality or otherwise fail to provide interesting and relevant content and services to their users, this may result in reduced attractiveness to their users and our advertisers, which may adversely impact our business, financial condition and results of operations.
To expand our user base and increase traffic to our sites and mobile applications, we enter into arrangements with leading software companies and device manufacturers for the distribution of our services and technology. In particular, we have agreements, on a co-marketing basis, with certain internet browsers. As new methods for accessing the internet become available, including through new digital platforms and devices, we may need to enter into new or amended distribution agreements. See also “—The competition to capture market share on mobile devices is intense, and if we are not successful in maintaining substantial reach among users and monetizing search and other services on mobile devices, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.”
Our most significant distribution partners in 2019 were Samsung, Opera and Huawei, which preinstall our applications on their devices in Russia and/or offer mobile and desktop browsers, where Yandex is the default search in certain search entry points. Original equipment manufacturers have become increasingly important partners due to mobile traffic growth over the last few years. Each of our other distribution partners constitutes less than 10% of our total distribution traffic acquisition costs. If we are unable to continue our arrangements with current key distribution partners, or maintain existing or enter into comparable arrangements with new distribution partners, particularly for the distribution of our search and other services on mobile devices, this would likely have a negative effect on our search market share over time. In the future, existing and potential distribution partners may not offer or renew distribution arrangements on reasonable terms for us, or at all, which could limit our ability to maintain and expand our user base, and could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business units and joint ventures face comparable risks. For example, if we are unable to attract or maintain a critical mass of Taxi partners, consumers, couriers, restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores, whether as a result of competition or other factors, our ride-hailing and food delivery services could become less appealing to users, and our financial results could be adversely impacted.
Our business (in particular, Search&Portal and Media Services) depends on our ability to license, acquire or create compelling content at reasonable costs. Failure to offer compelling content would harm our ability to expand our base of users, advertisers and network partners.
We license much of our content from third parties, such as music, news items, weather reports and TV program schedules. If we are unable to maintain and build relationships with third-party content providers, this would likely result in a loss of user traffic. In addition, we may be required to make substantial payments to third parties from whom we license or acquire such content. An increase in the prices charged to us by third-party content providers would adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In addition, many of our content licenses with third parties are non-exclusive. Accordingly, other websites and other media such as radio or television may be able to offer similar or identical content. If other companies make available competitive content, the number of users of our services may not grow as anticipated, or may decline. This increases the importance of our ability to aggregate compelling content in order to differentiate Yandex from other businesses.
Our business benefits from a strong brand. Failure to maintain and enhance our brand would materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and result of operations.
We believe that the brand identity that we have developed through the strength of our technology, our user focus, our independence from political considerations and, in particular, our ability to deliver compelling content, has significantly contributed to the success of our business. We also believe that maintaining and enhancing the Yandex brand, including through continued significant marketing efforts, is critical to expanding our base of users, advertisers, advertising network partners, and other business partners. As described below, several of our business units operate as joint ventures. Although we have sought to implement appropriate controls and protections, depending on specific terms of joint venture arrangements we may have more limited ability to ensure that these businesses are operated in a manner that is consistent with the broader Yandex brand.
Maintaining and enhancing our brand, especially in relation to mobile services, will depend largely on our ability to continue to be a technology leader and a provider of high-quality, reliable services, which we may not continue to do successfully.
If we fail to manage effectively the growth and increasing complexity of our operations, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
We have experienced, and continue to experience, growth in our operations, which has placed, and will continue to place, significant demands on our management and our operational and financial infrastructure.
We operate certain of our services through separate business units in order to facilitate the growth of those services. Management of these separate business units, some of which now operate as joint ventures with third-party partners, requires additional administrative effort, which may put strain on our management and other resources. If we do not effectively manage our growth and the operation of our business units, the quality of our services could suffer, which could adversely affect our brand, business, financial condition and results of operations.
As our user and advertiser bases expand, we will need to continue to increase our investment in technology, infrastructure, facilities and other areas of operations, in particular product development, sales and marketing. As a result of such growth, we will also need to continue to improve our operational and financial systems and managerial controls and procedures. We will have to maintain close coordination among our technical, accounting, finance, marketing and sales personnel. If the improvements are not implemented successfully, our ability to manage our growth will be impaired and we may have to make significant additional expenditures, which could harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Growth in our operations internationally may create increased risks that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We have limited experience with operations outside Russia, and in 2019 derived only approximately 7.1% of our revenues from international markets. Part of our future growth strategy is to expand our operations geographically on an opportunistic basis. Our geographic expansion efforts (including the expansion efforts of our business units and joint ventures) generally require the expenditure of significant costs in the new geography prior to achieving the market share necessary to support the commercialization of our services, which allows us to begin generating revenues from our core services in the new geography. Our ability to manage our business and conduct our operations across a broader range of geographies will require considerable management attention and resources and is subject to a number of risks relating to international markets, including the following:
|•||challenges caused by distance, language and cultural differences;|
|•||managing our relationships with local partners should we choose to adopt a joint venture approach in our international expansion efforts;|
|•||credit risk and higher levels of payment fraud in certain countries;|
|•||pressure on our operating margins as we invest to support our expansion;|
|•||currency exchange rate fluctuations and our ability to manage our currency exposure;|
|•||foreign exchange controls that might prevent us from repatriating cash earned in certain countries;|
|•||legal risks, including potential of claims for infringement of intellectual property and uncertainty regarding liability for online services and content;|
|•||adoption of new legislation and regulations, which may adversely impact our operations or may be applied in an unpredictable manner;|
|•||potentially adverse tax consequences;|
|•||deleterious changes in political environment;|
|•||unexpected changes in preferences and perceptions of our users and customers; and|
|•||higher costs and greater management time associated with doing business internationally.|
In addition, compliance with complex and potentially conflicting foreign and Russian laws and regulations that apply to our international operations may increase our cost of doing business and may interfere with our ability to offer, or prevent us from offering, our services in one or more countries. These numerous laws and regulations include import and export requirements, content requirements, trade restrictions, tax laws, economic sanctions, internal and disclosure control rules, data protection, data retention, privacy and filtering requirements, labor relations laws, U.S. laws, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and local laws prohibiting corrupt payments to governmental officials. Violations of these laws and regulations may result in fines; criminal sanctions against us, our officers, or our employees; prohibitions on the conduct of our business; and damage to our reputation. Although we have implemented policies and procedures designed to ensure compliance with these laws, we cannot assure you that our employees, contractors or agents will not violate our policies. Any such violations may result in prohibitions on our ability to offer our services in one or more countries, and may also materially adversely affect our reputation, our brand, our international expansion efforts, our ability to attract and retain employees, and our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our corporate culture has contributed to our success, and if we cannot maintain the focus on teamwork and innovation fostered by this environment, our business, financial condition and results of operations would be adversely affected.
We believe that a critical contributor to our success has been our corporate culture, which values and fosters teamwork and innovation. As our business matures, and we are required to implement more complex organizational management structures, including those introduced in connection with our recently implemented corporate governance changes, we may find it increasingly difficult to maintain the beneficial aspects of our corporate culture. We operate a number of our services through separate business units, in order in part to maintain the “start-up spirit” and provide greater strategic and operational focus for these units. We also operate several of our business units as joint ventures with other parties and may establish new joint ventures in future. In such situations our efforts in maintaining our corporate culture may not be successful, which would adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. In particular, the spin-off of certain business units or further establishing of joint ventures and partnerships may cause the loss of some of our clients, or disruption in the provision of the services that are being carved out, and may require additional attention from our management.
The loss of any of our key personnel, or a failure to attract, retain and motivate qualified personnel, may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our success depends in large part upon the continued service of key members of our management team and technical personnel, as well as our continued ability to attract, retain and motivate other highly qualified engineering, programming, technical, sales, customer support, financial and managerial personnel.
Although we attempt to structure employee compensation packages in a manner consistent with the evolving standards of the markets in which we operate and to provide incentives to remain with Yandex, including equity awards under our employee incentive plans, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to retain our key employees. Although we grant additional equity awards to management personnel and other key employees from time to time, employees may be more likely to leave us after their initial award fully vests. Decline of the market value of our shares could also make such equity awards less effective in retaining our key employees, especially for options issued above the current trading price. If any member of our senior management team or other key personnel should leave our group, our ability to successfully operate our business and execute our business strategy could be impaired. We may also have to incur significant costs in identifying, hiring, training and retaining replacements for departing employees.
The competition for software engineers and qualified personnel who are familiar with the internet industry in Russia is intense. We may encounter difficulty in hiring and/or retaining highly talented software engineers to develop and maintain our services. There is also significant competition for personnel who are knowledgeable about the accounting and legal requirements related to a NASDAQ listing, and we may encounter difficulty in hiring and/or retaining appropriate financial staff needed to enable us to continue to comply with the internal control requirements under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and related regulations. Any inability to successfully retain key employees and manage our personnel needs may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If our security measures are breached, malicious applications interfere with or exploit security flaws in our services, or our services are subject to attacks that degrade or deny the ability of users to access our products and services, our products and services may be perceived as not being secure, users and customers may curtail or stop using our products and services, and we may incur significant legal and financial exposure.
Third parties have in the past attempted, and may in the future attempt, to use malicious applications to interfere with our services and may disrupt our ability to connect with our users. Such interference often occurs without disclosure to or consent from users, resulting in a negative experience that users may associate with Yandex. Such an attack could also lead to the destruction or theft of information, potentially including confidential or proprietary information relating to Yandex’s intellectual property, content and users. For example, if a third party were to hack into our network, they could obtain access to our search code. Because the techniques used to obtain unauthorized access, disable or degrade service,
or sabotage systems change frequently and often are not recognized until launched against a target, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or implement adequate preventative measures. If an actual or perceived breach of our security occurs, the market perception of the effectiveness of our security measures could be harmed and we could lose users and customers.
Although we maintain substantial security measures, such measures may also be breached due to employee error, malfeasance, system errors or vulnerabilities, fraudulent actions of outside parties, or otherwise. Such security breaches may expose us to a risk of loss of this information, litigation, remediation costs, increased costs for security measures, loss of revenue, damage to our reputation, and potential liability.
In addition, we offer applications and services that our users download to their devices or that they rely on to store information and transmit information to others over the internet. These services are subject to attack by viruses, worms and other malicious software programs, which could jeopardize the security of information stored in a user’s device or in our computer systems and networks. These applications may be difficult to remove or disable, may reinstall themselves and may circumvent other applications’ efforts to block or remove them. If our efforts to combat these malicious applications are unsuccessful, or if our services have actual or perceived vulnerabilities, our reputation may be harmed, our user traffic could decline, and our communications with certain users could be impaired, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business depends on the accuracy and reliability of our search results and dependability of our other services. A systems failure, technical interference or human error could prevent us from providing accurate search results or ads or reliably deliver our other services, which could lead to a loss of users and advertisers and damage our reputation and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Our business depends on our ability to provide accurate and reliable search results, which may be disrupted. For example, because our search technology ranks a webpage’s relevance based in part on the importance of the websites that link to it, people have attempted to link groups of websites together to manipulate search results. If our efforts to combat these and other types of “index spamming” are unsuccessful, our reputation for delivering relevant results could be harmed. This could result in a decline in user traffic, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We seek to ensure the speed and reliability of our services regardless of the user’s location by operating our own Content Delivery Network (CDN) in points of presence in major cities throughout Russia and other countries in which we operate. This network allows us to support reliable 24/7 operations, including server-based computations, research and development work, and user and advertiser services. We use proprietary computer architecture to link these clusters of servers, as well as proprietary computational software that operates across these distributed servers, including software that enables us to deploy and monitor software across our systems. This allows us to use relatively inexpensive off-the-shelf servers as the foundation of our robust and effective systems for redundant, distributed data storage, retrieval and distributed calculations. Geographic distribution of our servers decreases the cost of internet usage for our users, increases the access speed for our services and increases the stability and dependability of our service offerings. This structure provides redundant fail-safe capacity such that the failure of a single facility would not cause our websites to stop functioning.
Nevertheless, although we maintain robust network security measures, our systems are potentially vulnerable to damage or interruption from terrorist attacks, denial-of-service attacks, computer viruses or other cyber-attacks or attempts to harm our system, power losses, telecommunications failures, floods, fires, extreme weather conditions, earthquakes and similar events. Our data centers are also potentially subject to break-ins, sabotage and intentional acts of vandalism, and to potential disruptions. The occurrence of a natural disaster or other unanticipated problems at our data centers could result in lengthy interruptions in our service, or a pandemic or an outbreak of disease or similar public health concern,
such as the recent coronavirus outbreak, or fear of such an event, could result in reduced customer traffic and consumer spending or labor shortages and delays in manufacturing and shipment of products. In each case, such events which could reduce our revenues and profits, and our brand could be damaged if people believe our services are unreliable.
From time to time, we have experienced power outages that have interrupted access to our services and impacted the functioning of our internal systems. Although we maintain back-up generators, these may not operate properly through a major sustained power outage or their fuel supply could be inadequate. Any unscheduled interruption in our services places a burden on our entire organization and would result in an immediate loss of revenue. If we experience frequent or persistent system failures on our websites, our reputation and brand could be permanently harmed. The steps we have taken to increase the reliability and redundancy of our systems are expensive, reduce our operating margin and may be insufficient to reduce the frequency or duration of unscheduled downtime.
Although we test updates before implementation and there were no significant downtime periods in recent years, errors made by our employees in maintaining or expanding our systems may damage our brand and may have a materially adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may not be able to prevent others from unauthorized use of our intellectual property rights, which may adversely affect our competitive position, our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We rely on a combination of patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights, as well as nondisclosure agreements, to protect our intellectual property rights. Our patent department is responsible for developing and implementing our group-wide patent protection strategy in selected jurisdictions, and to date we have filed more than 750 patent applications, of which more than 400 have resulted in issued patents. The protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in Russia and other markets in which we operate, however, may not be as effective as that in the United States or Western Europe. Also, the efforts we have taken to protect our proprietary rights may not be sufficient or effective. Any significant infringement of our intellectual property rights could harm our business, our brand and/or our ability to compete, all of which could adversely affect our competitive position, our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may be subject to intellectual property infringement claims, which are costly to defend, could result in significant damage awards, and could limit our ability to provide certain content or use certain technologies in the future.
A number of internet, technology, media and patent-holding companies own or are actively developing patents covering search, indexing, electronic commerce and other internet-related technologies, as well as a variety of online business models and methods. We believe that these parties will continue to take steps to protect these technologies, including, but not limited to, seeking patent protection in certain jurisdictions. As a result, disputes regarding the ownership of technologies and rights associated with online activities are likely to arise in the future. In addition, use of open-source software is often subject to compliance with certain license terms, which we may inadvertently breach.
With respect to any intellectual property rights claim, we may have to pay damages or compensation and/or stop using technology found to be in violation of a third party’s rights. We may have to seek a license for the technology, which may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all, and may significantly increase our operating expenses. We may be required to develop an alternative non-infringing technology, which may require significant effort, expense and time to develop. If we cannot license or develop technology for any potentially infringing aspects of our business, we may be forced to limit our service offerings and may be unable to compete effectively. We may also incur substantial expenses in defending against third-party infringement claims regardless of the merit of such claims.
We may be subject to claims from our current or former employees as well as contractors for copyright, trade secret and patent - related matters, which are costly to defend, and which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operation.
The software, databases, algorithms, images, patentable intellectual property, trade secrets and know-how that we use for the operation of our services were generally developed, invented or created by our former or current employees or contractors during the course of their employment with us within the scope of their job functions or under the relevant contractor’s agreement, as the case may be. As a matter of Russian law, we are deemed to have acquired copyright and related rights as well as rights to file patent applications with respect to such products and have the intellectual property rights required for their further use and disposal subject to compliance with certain requirements set out in the Civil Code of Russia. We believe that we have appropriately followed such requirements, but they are defined in a broad and ambiguous manner and their precise application has never been definitively determined by the Russian courts. Therefore, former or current employees or contractors could either challenge the transfer of intellectual property rights over the products developed by them or with their contribution or claim the right to additional compensation for their works for hire and/or patentable results, in addition to their employment compensation. We may not prevail in any such action and any successful claim, although unlikely to be material, could adversely affect our business and results of operation.
We may be held liable for information or content displayed on, retrieved by or linked to our websites and mobile applications, or distributed by our users; or we may be required to block certain content or access to our websites could be restricted; any of which could harm our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations.
The law and enforcement practice relating to the liability of providers of online services for the activities of their users is currently not settled in Russia and certain other countries in which we operate. Claims may be brought against us for defamation, libel, negligence, copyright, patent or trademark infringement, tort (including personal injury), fraud, other unlawful activity or other theories and claims based on the nature and content of information to which we link or that may be posted online via blogs and message boards, generated by our users or delivered or shared through our services, including if appropriate licenses and/or rights holder’s consents have not been obtained. For example, we have previously been involved in litigation regarding alleged copyright infringement in the United States. We are also regularly required to remove content uploaded by users on grounds of alleged copyright infringement, and from time to time we receive requests from individuals who do not want their names or websites to appear in our search results. In addition, under the applicable laws any companies and their officers may be held liable for the failure to delete or to stop distributing such information as is required by a court enforcement officer’s act. The liability may include penalties for companies and imprisonment for officers.
Third parties may also seek to assert claims against us alleging unfair competition, data misappropriation, violations of privacy rights or failure to maintain the confidentiality of user data. Our defense of any such actions could be costly and involve significant time and attention of our management and other resources. If any of these complaints results in liability to us, the judgment or settlement could potentially be costly, encourage similar lawsuits, and harm our reputation and possibly our business.
The governments of the countries in which we operate are increasingly developing legislation aimed at regulation of the internet, in many places expanding liability and creating new obligations for companies that operate in the internet. For example, under the law “On Information, Information Technologies and on the Protection of Information”, we are required to delete from our search engine search results linking to websites that have been blocked in Russia for repeated copyright infringements.
Additional recent legislation in Russia has introduced a system of information and website blocking measures both to prevent and stop copyright and related rights infringements and to prevent dissemination of illegal information, such as child pornography, content encouraging suicides and drug use, information on minors hurt by illegal actions and
extremist information. The regulations generally require a request from the governmental authority to take down the allegedly infringing or illegal information prior to blocking of a particular website. However, in some cases, such as dissemination of extremist information, access to such information can be blocked without notification or prior judicial scrutiny. In 2018, an analogous simplified blocking process was proposed in draft legislation with regard to violation of copyright and related rights (e.g. to videos posted online). This proposal is currently under consideration of the Russian Government and has not been submitted to the Russian State Duma. Moreover, under the recent amendments to legislation a website may be blocked if the information published there contains disrespectful and indecent statements about the society, state, Constitution or governmental authorities. Additionally, the subjects who are accused of disseminating such statements can face administrative fines.
Therefore, if we fail to identify the above-mentioned types of information and delete them from our websites in timely manner, our websites might be blocked.
New legislation and regulations may impose additional new requirements on us and our operations and lead to material legal liability, which can be difficult to foresee or limit.
In addition, in 2018 we became party to an anti-piracy memorandum signed between the major Russian IT companies and copyright holders. This memorandum stipulates an out-of-court procedure that obligates search engines to remove URLs to infringing audio-visual content at the request of the rights holders. The memorandum was initially valid until September 1, 2019 but was prolonged until January 31, 2021 and is currently in force. It is planned that a corresponding draft law will be elaborated on the basis of this memorandum. Apart from that, under a recent resolution of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, liability may be imposed for the provision of access to materials that violate IP rights. We believe that according to the wording of the decision, this norm should be applicable to owners of websites where such materials are published. However, there is no assurance that courts would not interpret this provision broadly and would not apply this norm to Yandex.
The categories of illegal information to which access can be restricted may be interpreted broadly or be expanded. In certain cases, even removal of illegal information does not eliminate the risk of website blocking or reinstate access to the blocked website. For example, Russian legislation allows for permanent blocking of websites for repeated violation of copyright and related rights. A number of large websites have been blocked pursuant to this legislation so far, including, for example, a major hosting provider. We may be subject to unpredictable blocking measures, injunctions or court decisions that may require us to block or remove content and may adversely affect our services and operations. In addition, to ensure compliance with such laws, we may be required to commit greater resources, or to limit functionality of our services, which may adversely affect the appeal of our services to our customers. Although we believe that we are in full compliance with applicable laws, the application of new norms by government authorities might be sometimes inconsistent or unpredictable. In addition, draft legislation under consideration by the Russian State Duma describes the process of limiting access to a “program application” that contain materials violating copyright and related rights. The wording of the proposal is rather broad, and it is difficult to predict how this norm, if adopted, would be applied in practice (in particular, how a “program application” would be defined) and how this might affect all our applications.
As the internet evolves, an increasing amount of online content may be held in closed social networks, mobile apps or proprietary document formats, which may limit the effectiveness of our search technology, which could adversely affect our brand, business, financial condition and results of operations.
Social networks are important players in the internet market and have a significant degree of control over the manner and extent to which information on their websites can be accessed through third-party search engines. Information can also be stored in other closed systems, such as mobile apps.
If social or other networks or software providers take steps to prevent their content or documents in their formats from being searchable, such content would not be included in our search results even if the content was directly relevant to a search request. These parties may also seek to require us to pay them royalties in exchange for giving us the ability to search content on their sites, in their networks or documents in their format and provide links thereto in our search results. If these parties also compete with us in the search business, they may give their search technology a preferential ability to search their content or documents in their proprietary format. Any of these results could adversely affect our brand, business, financial condition and results of operations.
We may have difficulty scaling and adapting our existing technology architecture to accommodate increased traffic and technology advances or new requirements of our users and advertisers, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
With some of the most highly visited websites in Russia, we deliver a growing number of services, page views and video programs to an increasing number of users. In addition, the services we offer have expanded and changed significantly and are expected to continue to do so in the future to accommodate bandwidth-intensive technologies and means of content delivery, such as interactive multimedia and video. Our future success will depend on our ability to adapt to rapidly changing technologies, to adjust our services to evolving industry standards and to maintain the performance and reliability of our services. Rapid increases in the levels or types of use of our online services could result in delays or interruptions in our services.
As we expand our services, we will need to continue to invest in new technology infrastructure, including data centers. We may have difficulty in expanding our infrastructure to meet increased demand for our services, including difficulties in obtaining suitable facilities or access to sufficient electricity supplies. A failure to expand our infrastructure could materially and adversely affect our ability to maintain and increase our revenues and profitability and could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Certain technologies could block our ads, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Advertising displayed on our platforms may be interfered with by third parties, which may adversely affect our ability to attract advertisers. For example, third parties had in the past, and may in the future, employ technologies to block the display of ads on webpages. The wide and effective use of ad-blocking technologies can reduce the amount of revenue generated by the ads we serve and decrease the confidence of our advertisers and Yandex ad network partners in our advertising technology, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we fail to detect click fraud or other invalid clicks, we may face litigation and may lose the confidence of our advertisers, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We are exposed to the risk of fraudulent and invalid clicks on the ads we serve from a variety of potential sources. Invalid clicks are clicks that we have determined are not intended by the user to access the underlying content, including clicks resulting from click fraud executed by automated scripts of computer programs. We monitor our own websites and those of our partners for click fraud and proactively seek to prevent click fraud and filter out fraudulent or other invalid clicks. To the extent that we are unsuccessful in doing so, we credit our advertisers for clicks that are later attributed to click fraud. If we are unable to stop these invalid clicks, these credits to our advertisers may increase. This could negatively affect our profitability, and these invalid clicks could result in legal claims or harm our brand.
We acquire complementary businesses, teams and technologies from time to time, and may fail to identify additional suitable targets, acquire them on acceptable terms or successfully integrate them, which may limit our ability to implement our growth strategy. Acquisitions of new businesses may also lead to increased legal risks and other negative consequences, which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
We regularly acquire other businesses, technologies and teams. The acquisition and integration of new businesses, technologies and people pose significant risks to our existing operations, including:
|•||additional demands placed on our management, who are also responsible for managing our existing operations;|
|•||increased overall operating complexity of our business, requiring greater personnel and other resources;|
|•||difficulties in expanding beyond our core expertise;|
|•||significant initial cash expenditures or share dilution in connection with acquiring and integrating new businesses; and|
|•||legal risks (including potential claims of the counterparty or of third parties), which may result from our lack of expertise in the field of the target’s business, incomplete or improper due diligence, misrepresentations by counterparties, and/or other causes.|
The integration of new businesses presents a number of challenges, including differing cultures or management styles, poor financial records or internal controls on the part of the acquired companies, and an inability to establish control over cash flows. Furthermore, even if we are successful in integrating new businesses, expected cost and operating efficiencies may not materialize, the financial benefits from the acquisition may be less than anticipated, and we could be required to record impairment changes as a result of under-performing assets.
Moreover, our growth may suffer if we fail to identify suitable acquisition targets or are outbid by competing bidders. As a NASDAQ-listed company, we are subject to securities laws and regulations that, in certain circumstances, require that we file with the SEC audited historical financial statements for businesses we acquire that exceed certain materiality thresholds. Given financial reporting practices in Russia and other countries in which we operate, such financial statements and documented systems of internal controls over financial reporting are often not readily available or not capable of being audited to the standards required by U.S. securities regulations. As a result, we may be prevented from or delayed in pursuing acquisition opportunities that our competitors and other financial and strategic investors are able to pursue, which may limit our ability to implement our growth strategy.
Failure to maintain effective customer service may result in customer complaints and negative publicity and may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Customer complaints or negative publicity about our services or those offered by us (including services offered by our business units) or one of our joint ventures, or breaches of customers’ privacy or of our security measures, could diminish consumer confidence in and use of our services. Measures we implement to combat risks of fraud and breaches of privacy and security may be viewed as onerous by our customers or those of our joint ventures and damage relations with them. Alternately, should breaches of customers’ privacy or of security measures occur, we could be subject to investigations and claims from governmental bodies, as well as from our customers. These measures heighten the need for prompt and accurate customer service to resolve irregularities and disputes. Effective customer service requires significant personnel expense, and such expense, if not managed properly, may impact our profitability or that of one or more of our joint ventures. Any inability by us or our joint ventures to manage or train our or their customer service representatives properly could compromise our or their ability to handle customer complaints effectively. In case of failure to maintain effective customer service by us or by one of our joint ventures, our reputation may suffer, and we may lose our customers’ confidence, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The inherent limitations of the available data regarding internet usage and online advertising may make it difficult to assess our markets and our market position.
We rely on and refer to information and statistics from various third-party sources, as well as our own internal estimates, regarding internet usage and penetration and the online advertising markets in the countries in which we operate. The information and statistics used in our industry are subject to inherent limitations reflecting the differing metrics and measurement methods utilized and applied by different sources; for example, data derived from computer usage contrasted to that derived from user surveys. In addition, while we believe that the available data and research on the Russian market is of comparable quality to that available in most developed countries, the data for Kazakhstan and Belarus are generally less consistent and reliable due to more limited third-party measurements in those countries.
We will need to make new arrangements for our Russian headquarters premises before our current lease expires in 2021, which may result in material expenses and distraction of management attention.
Our Russian headquarters are currently located in approximately 64,000 square meters of rented property in central Moscow, with leases expiring in 2021 on a portion of our properties under lease. We also lease additional office space of approximately 47,000 square meters in business centers in central Moscow, which houses some of our divisions. In order to secure sufficient office space to support our expected future growth, in December 2018 we acquired a property site for a new Moscow headquarters situated at 15 Kosygina Street. We may encounter challenges in developing our headquarters design proposal for the site and obtaining the required approvals for the finalized project. In addition, we may face difficulties in managing or coordinating a development process. If the development project is not finished by the time our current and future lease expires, we may need to negotiate a new lease for our current or future premises, and may be unable to secure favorable terms, or may be required to agree to rent denominated in, or linked to, U.S. dollars, which would subject us to foreign exchange risk.
Additional Risks Related to Regulatory Matters
Because the range of the services we provide is increasing and the legal framework governing the operations in our markets is evolving, we may be required to obtain additional licenses, permits or registrations or comply with other requirements, which may be costly or may limit our flexibility to run our business.
As we increase the range of services and diversify our business we may have to apply for additional licenses. Maintenance of granted licenses and obtaining new licenses may require us to spend additional resources. Licensing requirements may also limit our flexibility in running our business. Failure to maintain required licenses may significantly limit our ability to provide new services in respect of which these licenses are required.
As the legal framework in Russia continues to evolve, we may be required to take additional actions in order to comply with new legislation. Although we believe that we are in full compliance with applicable laws, ambiguities in legislation and the wide discretion granted to regulatory authorities may result in us being subject to additional regulatory requirements. Compliance with additional or new regulatory requirements, or new interpretations or applications of existing requirements, may also require us to spend additional resources and limit our flexibility in providing our services.
For instance, there are various discussions of regulation applicable to big data processing. Any restrictive regulations in this sphere might negatively affect our business operations and flexibility in providing our services.
We are subject to regulation regarding the processing and retention of personal and other data, which may impose additional obligations on us, limit our flexibility, or harm our reputation with users.
The collection and handling of user data by any entity or person in Russia (as in many other countries) may be subject to certain requirements and restrictions. If these requirements and restrictions are amended, interpreted or applied in a manner not consistent with current practice, we could face fines or orders requiring that we change our operating practices, which in turn could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Several companies in our group underwent a planned inspection by the competent Russian authority (Roskomnadzor) in 2019. The authority did not find any significant violations. If further inspections are conducted in the future and result in the determination that companies in our group fail to comply with the applicable data protection
legislation, we could experience financial and reputational losses and could be restricted from providing certain types of services until we comply with the requirements.
Additionally, “organizers of information distribution” (subjects that ensure the operation of information systems or computer software which are intended or used to receive, transmit, deliver and/or process electronic messages of internet users) are required to notify the relevant Russian authority about the commencement of their operations and must retain a broad range of data relating to and generated by their users for a period of time, which must be provided to the authorities at their request. Our principal subsidiary operating in Russia has notified the relevant Russian authority that it acts as an organizer of information distribution with respect to some of the services it provides. Organizers of information distribution that use encryption when delivering or processing electronic messages are required to provide the security authorities with information necessary for decoding the delivered or processed messages. Compliance with these requirements may require significant expenditures by us, including additional data centers, servers and other infrastructure or software development. Data retention may also harm our reputation with users. If we fail to comply with the above requirements, the Russian authorities can block access to our services in Russia.
Companies are also required to store all personal data of Russian users in databases located inside Russia. Compliance with the requirements provided in this legislation may be practically difficult, require significant efforts and resources, could lead to legal liability in other jurisdictions and limit functionality of our services. Compliance with these requirements may also limit our ability to compete with other companies located in other jurisdictions that do not require mandatory local storage of personal data related to their users and that may elect not to comply with such requirements in Russia. Nevertheless, after conducting an inspection in 2019, Roskomnadzor has not revealed any violations by Yandex in this regard.
Due to the nature of the services we offer and the fact that we have a presence in a number of countries, we may also be subject to data protection laws of other jurisdictions, especially laws regulating the cross-border transfer of personal data, which may require significant compliance efforts and could result in liability for violations in other jurisdictions. For example, the General Data Protection Regulation (the GDPR) came into force in May 2018 in the EU. Although we have only modest operations in the EU and therefore our exposure under the GDPR should be limited, we believe that we are taking all necessary steps to comply with the GDRP. However, if we fail to interpret all the requirements of the GDPR in accordance with the official interpretation, we may be held liable for noncompliance. As our business grows, we may also encounter increased pressure from foreign state authorities with respect to the production of information related to users in circumvention of the international legal framework regulating the provision of such information. Any non-compliance with such requests may lead to liability and other adverse consequences. Further, current law imposes restrictions on the distribution of satellite images of certain areas in Russia and the other countries in which we operate and imposes requirements with respect to the information provided by the traffic monitoring service we offer. If we were found to be in violation of any such restrictions, we may be forced to suspend such services or may potentially be subject to fines or other penalties.
We may be subject to existing or new advertising legislation that could restrict the types and relevance of the ads we serve, which would result in a loss of advertisers and therefore a reduction in our revenues.
Russian law prohibits the sale and advertising of certain products and heavily regulates advertising with respect to certain products and services. Ads for certain products and services, such as financial services, as well as ads aimed at minors and some others, must comply with specific rules and must in certain cases contain required disclaimers.
Further amendments to legislation regulating advertising may impact our ability to provide some of our services or limit the type of advertising we may offer. The application of these laws to parties, such as Yandex, that merely serve or distribute ads and do not market or sell the product or service, however, can be unclear. Pursuant to our terms of service, we require that our advertisers have all required licenses or authorizations. If our advertisers do not comply with these requirements, and these laws were to be interpreted to apply to us, or if our ad-serving system failed to include necessary
disclaimers (or otherwise ensure compliance of the ads with advertising legislation), we may be exposed to administrative fines or other sanctions, and may have to limit the types of advertisers we serve.
The regulatory framework in Russia governing the use of behavioral targeting in online advertising is unclear. If new legislation were to be adopted, or current legislation were to be interpreted, to restrict the use of behavioral targeting in online advertising, our ability to enhance the targeting of our advertising could be significantly limited, which could result in a loss of advertisers or a reduction in the relevance of the ads we serve, which would reduce the number of clicks on the ads and therefore our revenues.
Our need to comply with applicable Russian laws and regulations could hamper our ability to offer services that compete effectively with those of our foreign competitors and may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Many of our global competitors, such as Google and Microsoft, have their principal operations outside of Russia, putting them generally outside of the jurisdiction of Russian courts and government agencies, even though some of them have offices in Russia. Our systems and operations are located principally in Russia. Russian laws and regulations that are applicable to us, but not to our non-Russian competitors, may impede our ability to develop and offer services that compete effectively on a global scale as well as in Russia with those offered by our non-Russia-based competitors and generally available worldwide over the internet. For instance, our non-Russian competitors might be not in compliance with the requirement of the Russian data protection legislation to store all personal data of Russian users in databases located inside Russia. In addition, our non-Russian competitors have not joined an anti-piracy memorandum signed between the major Russian IT companies and copyright holders. This memorandum stipulates an out-of-court procedure that obligates search engines to remove URLs to infringing audio-visual content at the request of the rights holders.
Any inability on our part to offer services that are competitive with those offered by our non-Russian competitors may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
The competent authorities could determine that we hold a dominant position in one or more of our markets, and could impose limitations on our operational flexibility that may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Applicable antimonopoly legislation imposes restrictions on companies that occupy a dominant position in a given market. Were the competent authorities to investigate the internet or online advertising industries, the ride-hailing business or other businesses in which we operate, it is possible that they may conclude that, given our market share, we hold a dominant position in one or more of the markets in which we operate. Additionally, from time to time we receive information requests from Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) related to certain of our services. If FAS deems that we hold a dominant position in one or more of the markets in which we operate this could result in limitations on our future acquisitions and a requirement that we pre-approve with the authorities any changes to our standard agreements with advertisers and Yandex ad network partners, as well as any specially negotiated agreements with business partners. In addition, if we were to decline to conclude a contract with a third party or terminate an existing agreement without sufficient substantiation this could, in certain circumstances, be regarded as abuse of a dominant market position.
Any abuse of a dominant market position could lead to administrative penalties and the imposition of fines of up to 15% of our prior year annual revenues in the relevant market. These limitations may reduce our operational and commercial flexibility and responsiveness, which may adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, under Russian antimonopoly legislation some potential acquisitions that we may consider require a preliminary approval by FAS. FAS may withhold the approval or may approve transactions subject to particular conditions. Such conditions could place significant restrictions on Yandex businesses, could make the acquisition less attractive, and could result in a termination of the proposed transaction.
Risks Related to Tax Matters
Some of our counterparties provide limited transparency in their operations, which could subject us to greater scrutiny and potential claims from government authorities.
We do business with a number of companies, especially small companies that may not always operate in a fully transparent manner and that may engage in unpredictable or otherwise questionable practices with respect to tax obligations or compliance with other legal requirements. We have been approached by government authorities from time to time regarding potential tax claims or other compliance matters in connection with such transactions. As we are a larger and more transparent company with greater resources than such counterparties, governmental authorities may seek to collect taxes and/or penalties from us in relation to such transactions on the basis that we could have had knowledge of or aided such practices even when we did not.
Changes in the tax systems in the countries in which we operate, or unpredictable or unforeseen application of existing rules, may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Russian tax, currency and customs laws and regulations are subject to varying interpretations and changes, which may be frequently revised and reviewed by the authorities. As a result, our interpretation of such tax legislation may be challenged by the relevant authorities. Russian tax legislation largely follows the OECD approach but may be implemented in a way which is not in line with international practice or our interpretation. Moreover, under the current conditions of weak economic growth and reduced tax revenue, the authorities are taking a more assertive position in their interpretation of the tax legislation and, as a result, it is possible that transactions and activities that have not been challenged in the past may now be questioned by the authorities. High-profile companies such as ours can be particularly vulnerable to such assertive positions of the authorities.
Although we believe that our interpretation of relevant legislation is appropriate and is in accordance with existing court practice, if the authorities were successful in enforcing differing interpretations, our tax liability may be greater than the estimated amount that we have expensed to date and paid or accrued on our balance sheet. We believe our tax position is consistent with the tax laws in the jurisdictions in which we conduct our business, however, the determination of our worldwide provision for tax liabilities, including digital tax, requires significant judgment and there are many transactions and calculations where the ultimate tax determination is uncertain and we are subject to regular review and audit by both domestic and foreign tax authorities. Generally, Russian taxpayers are subject to inspection of their activities for a period of three calendar years immediately preceding the year in which an audit is carried out, with tax audits routinely undertaken at least every two years. Tax years 2017, 2018 and 2019 are currently open for tax audit of our principal Russian subsidiaries.
There have also been significant developments and proposed changes in recent periods to international tax laws that increase the complexity, burden and cost of tax compliance. The OECD has published proposals covering a number of matters, including tax treaties and taxation of the digital economy. Future tax reform resulting from this development may result in changes to long-standing tax principles, which could adversely affect our effective tax rate or result in higher cash tax liabilities. The OECD is working towards a consensus-based solution by the end of 2020 to address the challenges posed to the current tax system by the digitalization of the economy. Russian authorities also may introduce turnover digital tax if the OECD fail to reach the agreement or the agreement is unsatisfactory.
Taxes payable on dividends from our Russian operating subsidiaries to our parent company might not benefit from relief under the Netherlands-Russia tax treaty.
In 2019, our principal Russian operating subsidiary distributed dividends to our parent company (Yandex N.V.) and applied withholding tax at a 5% rate in reliance on the provisions of the Netherlands-Russia tax treaty.
Yandex N.V. is incorporated in the Netherlands and our principal operating subsidiaries are incorporated in Russia. Our management seeks to ensure that we conduct our affairs in such a manner that our parent company is regarded as the beneficial owner of all its incomes and not regarded as tax resident in any jurisdiction other than the Netherlands and, in particular, is not deemed to be a tax resident of, or to have a permanent establishment in, Russia. Thus, dividends paid from our Russian operating subsidiaries to our parent company should generally be subject to Russian withholding
tax at a 5% rate. If our parent company were not treated as a Dutch resident for tax purposes or if it were deemed to have a permanent establishment in Russia, or if the Russian tax authorities were to determine that other conditions for the application of the 5% rate are not met because, for example, if Yandex N.V. is not deemed to be beneficial owner of the dividends received, dividends paid from our Russian operating subsidiaries to our parent company would be subject to Russian withholding tax at the rate of 15%.
We can provide no assurance that dividend withholding tax relief may not be challenged by the Russian tax authorities based on the grounds mentioned above. Furthermore, Russian tax rules regarding residency and beneficial ownership which were recently introduced may change or their interpretation may evolve, thus triggering changes in taxation of dividends from our Russian subsidiaries to our parent company in the future.
Based on the current state of the law and available interpretations, we believe that Yandex N.V. and our material foreign subsidiaries should not be treated as controlled foreign corporations for Russian tax purposes. However, there are risks that any of these rules may be interpreted or applied in a manner that may have an adverse effect on our results of operations.
We may be required to record a significant deferred tax liability if we are unable to reinvest our earnings in Russia.
Our principal Russian operating subsidiary has significant accumulated earnings that have not been distributed to our Dutch parent company. Our current policy is to retain substantially all our earnings at the level of our principal subsidiary for investment in Russia.
We did not provide for dividend withholding taxes on the unremitted earnings of our non-Dutch subsidiaries for 2012 or earlier years because we considered them to be permanently reinvested outside of the Netherlands. As of December 31, 2019, we had an accrual of RUB 795 million ($10.1 million) for dividend withholding tax. If circumstances change and we are unable to reinvest in that subsidiary’s current operations or acquire suitable businesses in Russia, U.S. GAAP would require us to record a deferred tax liability representing the dividend withholding taxes that we would be required to pay if this subsidiary were to pay these unremitted accumulated earnings to our Dutch parent company as a dividend, even if such dividends were not actually declared and paid. As of December 31, 2019, the cumulative amount of unremitted earnings in respect of which dividend withholding taxes have not been provided is RUB 83,531 million ($1,059.4 million). The applicable withholding tax rate is 5% and the amount of the unrecognized deferred tax liability related to these unremitted earnings was RUB 4,177 million ($53.0 million) as of December 31, 2019. We expect the amount of unremitted earnings to grow as our principal Russian operating subsidiary continues to generate net income. If we were required to record a deferred tax liability on an amount subsequently made available for distribution it may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
Risks Related to Ownership of our Class A Shares
The price of our Class A shares has been and may continue to be volatile. Market fluctuations specific to developing markets or to high-growth technology companies generally may affect the performance of our Class A shares and could expose us to potential securities litigation, which could result in substantial costs and a diversion of our management’s attention and resources.
Macroeconomic and geopolitical events in recent periods have adversely affected the value of traded securities of companies with significant operations in Russia and certain other markets, including our Class A shares. In addition, the market for technology and other growth companies has generally experienced severe price and volume fluctuations that have often been disproportionate to the operating performance of those companies. These broad macroeconomic, geopolitical, market and industry factors may impact the market price of our Class A shares regardless of our actual operating performance.
The trading price of our Class A shares has been and may continue to be volatile and subject to wide fluctuations in price in response to various factors, some of which are beyond our control. These factors include:
|•||macroeconomic and geopolitical developments, including those specific to technology businesses, the internet and online advertising both in Russia and globally, as well as the impact of COVID-19;|
|•||any proposed or adopted legislation in Russia that would impost limitations on foreign ownership or control of our business;|
|•||changes or proposed changes in the regulation of our services by the applicable government authorities, including with respect to operational requirements and governance;|
|•||market rumors (for example, rumors regarding potential changes to our capital structure in October 2018 had an immediate negative impact on the price of our Class A shares);|
|•||quarterly variations in our results of operations or those of our competitors;|
|•||fluctuations in our share of the internet search market;|
|•||the proportion of our revenues generated on our websites relative to those generated through the Yandex ad network or through distribution partners, as a result of the revenue sharing arrangements we enter into and the overall volume of advertising we provide our partners;|
|•||announcements of technological innovations or new services and media properties by us or our competitors;|
|•||the amount of advertising purchased or market prices for online advertising;|
|•||the emergence of new advertising channels in which we are unable to compete effectively;|
|•||the volume of searches conducted, the amounts bid by advertisers or the number of advertisers that bid in our advertising system;|
|•||changes in governmental regulations, in particular those applicable to regulation of online business in Russia and globally;|
|•||disruption to our operations or those of our partners;|
|•||our ability to develop and launch new and enhanced services on a timely basis;|
|•||commencement of, or our involvement in, litigation;|
|•||any major change in our directors or management;|
|•||changes in earnings estimates or recommendations by securities analysts;|
|•||our ability to compete effectively for users, advertisers, partner websites and content;|
|•||the operating and stock price performance of other companies that investors may deem comparable to us;|
|•||fluctuations in the exchange rate between currencies, including the Russian ruble and the U.S. dollar;|
|•||general global or Russian economic conditions and slow or negative growth or forecast growth of related markets; or|
|•||other events or factors, including those resulting from war, incidents of terrorism, natural disasters, public health concerns or epidemics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, or responses to these events.|
Additionally, volatility or a lack of positive performance in the price of our Class A shares may adversely affect our ability to retain key employees, some of whom have been granted equity awards.
This volatility may affect the price at which holders of Class A shares may sell such shares and the sale of substantial amounts of our Class A shares could adversely affect our trading price.
In the past, following periods of volatility in the overall market and the market price of a company’s securities, securities class action litigation has often been instituted against these companies. Such litigation, if instituted against us, could result in substantial costs and a diversion of our management’s attention and resources.
The concentration of voting power with our principal shareholders, including our founders, directors and senior management, together with the Priority Share held by the Public Interest Foundation, limits your ability to influence corporate matters, while a loss of voting control by our principal shareholders could affect the direction of our company.
Our Class B shares have ten votes per share and our Class A shares have one vote per share. As of February 20, 2020, our founder, directors, senior management (and their affiliates) and principal non-institutional shareholders together own 95.67% of our outstanding Class B shares and 3.7% of our outstanding Class A shares, representing in the aggregate 55.06% of the voting power of our outstanding shares. In particular, our founder, Mr. Volozh, directly or indirectly controls 86.73% of our outstanding Class B shares and 0.11% of our outstanding class A shares representing in aggregate 48.48% of the voting power of our outstanding shares. Additionally, the Priority Share provides the Public Interest Foundation with certain rights, including an effective veto on acquisitions related to our Company or the sale of our material businesses.
In addition, as part of our recently implemented restructuring, the automatic conversion feature of the Class B Shares has been amended to provide that, upon the death of a Class B holder, including Mr. Volozh, Class B Shares held by a family trust established by such holder will not automatically convert for a period of two years. During the two-year transition period following the death of Mr. Volozh, the trustee of the family trust will be bound to vote in favor of any proposal of the Board, and in accordance with the Board’s recommendation on any other matter. These restrictions will fall away, and the shares will automatically convert into Class A Shares, after the end of that two-year period.
As a result, our founder, directors, senior management and their affiliates have significant influence over the management and affairs of our company and over all matters requiring shareholder approval, including the election of directors, the amendment of our articles of association and significant corporate transactions, such as a sale of our company or its assets.
This concentrated control limits your ability to influence decisions on corporate matters. We may take actions that our public shareholders do not view as beneficial or as maximizing value for them. As a result, the market price of our Class A shares may be adversely affected.
Certain of our directors and shareholders and their affiliates may have interests that are different from, or in addition to, the interests of other Yandex shareholders.
Some of our directors are affiliated with investment funds or financial institutions that have investments in other businesses or entities that currently or may in the future compete with us or with whom we may enter into transactions. For example, one of our directors, Herman Gref, is CEO and Chairman of Sberbank, with which we have joint ventures with regards to Yandex.Market and Yandex.Money. Such affiliations may require the directors to recuse themselves from consideration of certain transactions or may otherwise create real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest.
Our Board of Directors and our priority shareholder have the right to approve accumulations of stakes in our company or the sale of our principal Russian operating subsidiary, which may prevent or delay change-of-control transactions.
Our Board of Directors has the right to approve the accumulation by a party, group of related parties or parties acting in concert of the legal or beneficial ownership of shares representing 10% or more, in number or voting power, of our outstanding Class A and Class B shares (taken together). If our board grants its approval of such share accumulation, the matter is then submitted to Public Interest Foundation, as holder of our priority share, which has a further right of approval of such accumulation of shares. In addition, any decision by our Board of Directors to transfer all or substantially all of our assets to one or more third parties, including the sale of our principal Russian operating subsidiary, is subject to the prior approval of Public Interest Foundation, as priority shareholder.
Any holding, transfer or acquisition by a party, group of related parties or parties acting in concert of the legal or beneficial ownership of Class B shares representing 10% or more, in number or by voting power, of our outstanding Class A and Class B shares (taken together), without the prior approval of our Board of Directors, first, and then the priority shareholder, will be null and void. The acquisition of shares in excess of the thresholds permitted by our articles of association will be subject to certain notification requirements set forth in our articles of association. Failure to comply with those terms would render the transfer of such shares null and void. In addition, the holders of such shares would not be entitled to the dividend or voting rights attached to their excess shares. The rights of our Board of Directors and our priority shareholder to approve accumulations of stakes in our company may prevent or delay change-of-control transactions.
Anti-takeover provisions in our articles of association and the shareholders agreement among our principal shareholders may prevent or delay change-of-control transactions.
In addition to the rights of our board and of the priority shareholder to approve the accumulation of stakes of 10% or more, as described above, our multiple class share structure may discourage others from initiating any potential merger, takeover or other change-of-control transaction that our public shareholders may view as beneficial. Our articles of association also contain additional provisions that may have the effect of making a takeover of our company more difficult or less attractive, including:
|•||the staggered terms, of up to four years, of our directors, as a result of which only a minority of our board is subject to election in any one year;|
|•||a provision that our directors, other than the two directors designated by the Public Interest Foundation from time to time, may only be removed by a two-thirds majority of votes cast representing at least 50% of our outstanding share capital;|
|•||requirements that certain matters, including an amendment of our articles of association, may only be brought to our shareholders for a vote upon a proposal by our Board of Directors;|
|•||minimum shareholding thresholds, based on par value, for shareholders to call general meetings of our shareholders or to add items to the agenda for those meetings, which will be very difficult for Class A shareholders to meet given our multiple class share structure; and|
|•||supermajority requirements for shareholder approval of certain significant corporate actions, including the legal merger or demerger of our company and the amendment of our articles of association.|
The Dutch public offer rules, which impose substantive and procedural requirements in connection with the attempted takeover of a Dutch public company, only apply in the case of Dutch target companies that have shares listed on a regulated market within the European Union. We have not listed our shares, and do not expect to list our shares, on a regulated market within the European Union, and therefore these rules do not apply to any public offer for our Class A shares.
We rely on NASDAQ Stock Market rules that permit us to comply with applicable Dutch corporate governance practices, rather than the corresponding domestic U.S. corporate governance practices, and therefore your rights as a shareholder differ from the rights you would have as a shareholder of a domestic U.S. issuer.
As a foreign private issuer whose shares are listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market, we are permitted in certain cases to follow Dutch corporate governance practices instead of the corresponding requirements of the NASDAQ Marketplace Rules. We follow Dutch corporate governance practices with regard to the quorum requirements applicable to meetings of shareholders and the provision of proxy statements for general meetings of shareholders. In accordance with Dutch law and generally accepted business practices, our articles of association do not provide quorum requirements generally applicable to general meetings of shareholders. Although we do provide shareholders with an agenda and other relevant documents for the general meeting of shareholders, Dutch law does not have a regulatory regime for the solicitation of proxies and the solicitation of proxies is not a generally accepted business practice in the Netherlands. Accordingly, our shareholders may not be afforded the same protection as provided under NASDAQ’s corporate governance rules.
We do not comply with all the provisions of the Dutch Corporate Governance Code. This may affect your rights as a shareholder.
As a Dutch company we are subject to the Dutch Corporate Governance Code, or DCGC. The DCGC contains both principles and best practice provisions for management boards, supervisory boards, shareholders and general meetings of shareholders, financial reporting, auditors, disclosure, compliance and enforcement standards. The DCGC applies to all Dutch companies listed on a government-recognized stock exchange, whether in the Netherlands or elsewhere, including the NASDAQ Global Select Market. The principles and best practice provisions apply to the board (in relation to role and composition, conflicts of interest and independence requirements, board committees and remuneration), shareholders and the general meeting of shareholders (for example, regarding anti-takeover protection and obligations of the company to provide information to its shareholders) and financial reporting (such as external auditor and internal audit requirements). The DCGC requires that companies either “comply or explain” any noncompliance and, in light of our compliance with NASDAQ requirements and as permitted by the DCGC, we have elected not to comply with all of the provisions of the DCGC. This may affect your rights as a shareholder and you may not have the same level of protection as a shareholder in a Dutch company that fully complies with the DCGC.
Because of the secondary listing of our Class A shares on the Moscow Stock Exchange, we are subject to additional disclosure and compliance requirements that may conflict with those imposed by the SEC and NASDAQ, and we may experience trade fluctuations based on arbitrage activities.
In June 2014, we established a secondary listing of our Class A shares on the Moscow Stock Exchange. Pursuant to that listing, we and our insiders must comply with certain disclosure and other obligations that may differ in timing and substance from those applicable to our NASDAQ listing. In addition, many of the obligations imposed by the Moscow Stock Exchange are formalistic in nature, and that exchange has limited experience in the application of its requirements to companies incorporated outside Russia. As a result, we may not be able to comply with all formal obligations in a manner that is consistent with the requirements or interpretations of that exchange.
In addition, this secondary listing may create opportunities for trading arbitrage, particularly in connection with currency fluctuations between the trading in U.S. dollars on NASDAQ and in rubles on the Moscow Stock Exchange, which could impact the trading price of our Class A shares.
Risks for U.S. Holders
We cannot assure you that we will not be classified as a passive foreign investment company for any taxable year, which may result in adverse U.S. federal income tax consequence to U.S. holders.
Based on certain management estimates with respect to our gross income and the average value of our gross assets and on the nature of our business, we believe that we were not a “passive foreign investment company,” or PFIC, for U.S. federal income tax purposes for the 2019 tax year, and do not expect to be a PFIC in the foreseeable future. However, because our PFIC status for any taxable year will depend on the composition of our income and assets and the value of our assets in such year, and because this is a factual determination made annually after the end of each taxable year and there are uncertainties in the application of the rules, there can be no assurance that we will not be considered a PFIC for the current taxable year or any future taxable year. In particular, the value of our assets may be determined in large part by reference to the market price of our Class A shares, which has fluctuated, and may continue to fluctuate, significantly. If we were to be treated as a PFIC for any taxable year during which a U.S. holder held our Class A shares, certain adverse U.S. federal income tax consequences could apply to the U.S. holder. See “Taxation—Taxation in the United States—Passive foreign investment company considerations.”
Any U.S. or other foreign judgments you may obtain against us may be difficult to enforce against us in Russia or the Netherlands.
We have only very limited operations in the United States, most of our assets are located in Russia, our company is incorporated in the Netherlands, and most of our directors and senior management are located outside the United States. As a result, it may be difficult to serve process on us or these persons within the United States. Although arbitration awards are generally enforceable in Russia and the Netherlands, and Russian courts may elect to enforce foreign court judgments
as a matter of international reciprocity and judicial comity, you should note that judgments obtained in the United States or in other foreign courts, including those with respect to U.S. federal securities law claims, may not be enforceable in Russia or the Netherlands. There is no mutual recognition treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation or the Netherlands, and no Russian federal law or Dutch law provides for the recognition and enforcement of foreign court judgments. Therefore, it may be difficult to enforce any U.S. or other foreign court judgment obtained against our company, any of our operating subsidiaries or any of our directors in Russia or the Netherlands.
The rights and responsibilities of our shareholders are governed by Dutch law and differ in some important respects from the rights and responsibilities of shareholders under U.S. law.
Our corporate affairs are governed by our articles of association and by the laws governing companies incorporated in the Netherlands. The responsibilities of members of our Board of Directors under Dutch law are different than under the laws of some U.S. jurisdictions. In the performance of its duties, our Board of Directors is required by Dutch law to consider the interests of Yandex, its shareholders, its employees and other stakeholders and not only those of our shareholders. Also, as a Dutch company, we are not required to solicit proxies or prepare proxy statements for general meetings of shareholders.
In addition, the rights of our shareholders are governed by Dutch law and our articles of association and differ from the rights of shareholders under U.S. law. For example, Dutch law does not grant appraisal rights to a company’s shareholders who wish to challenge the consideration to be paid upon a merger or consolidation of the company.
Item 4. Information on the Company.
History and Development of the Company; Organizational Structure.
Our founders began the development of our search technology in 1989, and launched the yandex.ru website in 1997. Our principal Russian operating subsidiary, Yandex LLC, was formed in 2000, as a wholly owned subsidiary of our former Cypriot parent company. In 2007, we undertook a corporate restructuring, as a result of which Yandex N.V. became the parent company of our group. Yandex N.V. is a Dutch public company with limited liability. Its registered office is at Schiphol Boulevard 165, 1118 BG, Schiphol, The Netherlands (tel: +31-20-206-6970). The executive offices of our principal operating subsidiary are located at 16, Leo Tolstoy Street, Moscow 119021, Russian Federation (tel. +7-495-739-7000).
For a discussion of our principal acquisitions and disposals in 2019, see “Operating and Financial Review and Prospects—Recent Acquisitions”.
Yandex is one of the largest internet companies in Europe. Since 1997, Yandex has delivered world-class, geographically relevant search and locally tailored experiences on all digital platforms, based on its innovative technologies. Yandex operates Russia’s most popular search engine. We also provide a number of other services, including market-leading on-demand transportation services, navigation products, classifieds and entertainment services in Russia and other regions, including other CIS countries, Central Europe, the EU, Africa and the Middle East. Yandex’s goal is to help consumers and businesses better navigate the online and offline worlds.
Yandex is a technology company that builds intelligent products and services powered by machine learning. Our products and services are based on complex, unique technologies that are not easily replicated. Benefiting from Russia’s long-standing educational focus on mathematics and engineering, we have drawn upon the considerable local talent pool to create a leading technology company.
We derive a substantial part of our revenues from online advertising. We enable advertisers to deliver targeted, cost-effective ads that are relevant to our users’ needs, interests and locations. We serve ads on our own search results and other Yandex webpages, as well as on thousands of third-party websites that make up our Yandex Advertising Network. Through our ad network, we extend the audience reach of our advertisers and generate revenue for both our network partners and us. We offer a variety of ad formats to our advertisers, including performance-based, brand and video
advertising formats across different platforms. A few years ago, we embarked on a strategy to diversify our revenue streams and broaden the appeal of our ecosystem. Other revenue streams are growing rapidly and come from our Taxi segment, which includes ride-hailing and food delivery services, classifieds and other initiatives, including music subscription and event tickets sales within our Media Services, as well as Other Bets and Experiments, particularly by our car-sharing business and personalized content feed.
Our businesses are organized in the following operating segments:
|●||Search and Portal, which includes all our services offered in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (and, for periods prior to the imposition of sanctions on Yandex by the government of Ukraine in May 2017, all our services offered in Ukraine), other than those described below;|
|●||Taxi (including our Ride-hailing business (which consists of Yandex.Taxi and Uber in Russia and other countries), FoodTech business (including Yandex.Eats, Yandex.Chef and Yandex.Lavka, a hyper local convenience store delivery service) and our Self-Driving Cars (“SDC”) division);|
|●||Classifieds (including Auto.ru, Yandex.Realty and Yandex.Jobs);|
|●||Media Services (including KinoPoisk, Yandex Music, Yandex.Afisha, Yandex.TV program, our production center Yandex.Studio and our subscription service Yandex.Plus);|
|●||Other Bets and Experiments (including Zen, Yandex.Cloud, Yandex.Drive, Geolocation Services and Yandex.Education);|
|●||E-commerce (the Company’s Yandex.Market service for the period prior to April 27, 2018, the date of the completion of the Yandex.Market joint venture between Yandex and Sberbank of Russia. Following the completion of the joint venture, we have deconsolidated Yandex.Market and now treat it as an equity investee under the equity method accounting).|
Our Other Bets and Experiments aim to develop currently successful business models and to create new ones. Once an experiment becomes sizable enough, represents a new business model, and has good prospects for future development, we may decide to designate it a business unit or incorporate into one of our existing segments and report it accordingly.
Search and Portal
We offer a broad range of world-class, locally relevant search and information services that are free to our users and that enable them to find relevant information quickly and easily.
Our search engine offers almost instantaneous access to the vast range of information available online. We utilize linguistics, mathematics, machine learning and AI to develop proprietary algorithms that efficiently extract, compile, systematize and present relevant information to our users. Our organic search results are ranked by computer algorithms based exclusively on relevance, and we clearly segregate organic results from paid results to avoid confusing our users.
We also offer a number of our core products and services, such as search, mail, weather and browser, to users in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan, providing targeted platforms for local advertisers in those markets.
Yandex Search generated 57.0% of all search traffic in Russia in 2019 and 58.3% in February 2020, according to Yandex.Radar, a search traffic and browser usage analytics tool based on Yandex.Metrica data. In 2019, our search share on desktop and mobile reached 68.3% and 50.1%, respectively. In February 2020, our search share averaged 68.8% on desktop and 52.9% on mobile, respectively, with mobile search share of 55.8% on Android and 41.5% on iOS. The percentage of our total search traffic generated from mobile devices averaged approximately 58% in Q4 2019 compared with 49% in Q4 2018, while the percentage of our search revenues generated from mobile devices increased to approximately 49% in Q4 2019 from approximately 41% in Q4 2018.
In December 2019, Yandex presented Vega – a major update of its search engine that includes over 1,500 improvements, such as search results quality enhancement, instant results, expert responses and hyperlocality.
Yandex.Mail provides users with fast and easy access to their email.
Yandex.Disk is our cloud-based storage service that allows users to upload, store and share content online.
Yandex.News is the most visited online news aggregation service in Russia, providing a comprehensive media overview for our users. We aggregate and present local, national and international news. The selection of news is fully automated and editorial-free.
Our Yandex.Weather service offers hyperlocal, real-time weather information based on our proprietary weather forecasting technology, Meteum. Powered by machine learning, it gives accurate forecasts at the level of individual neighborhoods across the world. In 2018, based on our AI, neural networks and satellite technologies, we empowered our up-to-the-minute weather forecast service by using satellite imagery as a new data source for precipitation maps to provide users with highly advanced and accurate weather updates.
Yandex.Travel is our travel aggregator service, which allows users to search for flight tickets and hotels, as well as to compare prices. The service also offers users an opportunity to purchase train and intercity bus tickets. Yandex.Travel is integrated into the services of Yandex’s ecosystem and, in addition to Yandex.Travel websites, provides services directly from Yandex search results and Yandex.Maps.
In October 2017, we launched Alice, the first conversational intelligent assistant for the Russian market. Alice assists users with a broad range of inquiries, such as factoid questions, weather forecasts, directions and currency exchange rates, as well as helps users to manage daily tasks, such as setting up an alarm, reminding of important things or hailing a taxi. Alice is not limited to predefined scenarios and includes a general “chit-chat” mode – a unique feature among intelligent assistants that has been enthusiastically embraced by millions of users. It also benefits from the near-human level of speech recognition accuracy (based on the Word Error Rate measurement) provided by the Yandex SpeechKit platform. In May 2018, we launched a developers’ skills platform, Yandex.Dialogues, designed to make it easy for any third-party developer to create new skills for Alice. Today, there are more than 4 million monthly users of external voice applications with Alice.
In May 2019, we announced our own smart home ecosystem powered by Alice, and by the end the year, the number of supported smart home device models is about 1,500, including air-conditioners, robot vacuum cleaners, light switches, power sockets, remote controllers and more. While initially only accessible through our search app, Alice is also accessible through Yandex.Browser, Yandex.Navigator, Yandex Launcher, Yandex.Station, Yandex.Station mini and Yandex.Auto, as well as on third-party platforms and smart speakers.
Launched in mid-2017, Turbo pages is a new format of displaying content on mobile devices, which loads several times faster than regular web pages and is optimized for smaller screens. Our Turbo pages are easier to implement compared to other similar products and offer monetization from Yandex out of the box. Turbo pages are available on Search, Zen and News, in mobile and desktop. In 2019, our Turbo-pages were being used by tens of thousands internet websites.
Yandex Search App
Enhanced with Alice, the first conversational voice assistant on the Russian market, Yandex Search App integrates Yandex’s must-have services into one app, including Search, Maps, News, Zen, Weather and many others. At the beginning of 2020, our Search App was installed on 55% of Android smartphones in Russia and generated 53% of Yandex’ search traffic on the Android platform. The Yandex Search App audience reached 55 million users on Android on a monthly basis in January 2020.
Our Yandex Browser is the second most popular browser on desktops and the most popular non-native browser on mobile platforms in Russia. Yandex Browser is committed to delivering high-quality user experiences and to ensuring security for users online. Yandex.Browser’s built-in Antishock technology blocks malicious and fraudulent advertising and its “Protect” technology offers comprehensive protection against the majority of online threats. For example, Yandex.Browser checks all downloaded files for viruses, warns users about dangerous websites, encrypts users’ passwords when using public Wi-Fi networks, and ensures safe payments. In 2018, we introduced native ad blocking in the Russian version of Yandex Browser to enhance users’ browsing experience by filtering intrusive advertising. Moreover, we started offering an energy-saving mode, making Yandex.Browser the most energy-efficient browser, according to the tests of ixbt.com, the Russian information and analytical website focused on IT technologies.
The combined share of our desktop and mobile visits processed through Yandex Browser in Russia reached 20.3% in February 2020, according to Yandex.Radar.
In May 2018, we launched Yandex.Station, the first smart speaker designed for the Russian market and Yandex’s first hardware product, equipped with our AI voice assistant, Alice, to help users manage their daily tasks. Yandex.Station provides a complete in-home multimedia entertainment experience. As the first smart speaker with both audio and video capabilities, it plays music and also streams films, videos and television through its HDMI port to any connected display. Currently, Yandex.Station has access to Yandex's video platform Yandex.Live and streaming service KinoPoisk.
In October 2019, we launched our next smart speaker – the compact and affordable Yandex.Station Mini, which has all the features of Yandex.Station apart from video capabilities. In addition, it has a distinctive feature of gesture control.
Our Monetization and Advertiser Services
We offer a variety of ad formats to our advertisers, including performance-based, brand and video advertising formats.
Performance-based ads are principally targeted to a particular user query on our search engine result pages, and on the search result pages of our partners, as well as to the content of a particular website or webpage being viewed, or to user behavior or characteristics. Such ads are clearly marked as paid advertising and are separate from our organic search results and non-advertising content.
Most of our revenues are generated from performance-based advertising, on a pay-per-click basis, with a smaller, but growing portion of revenues generated from brand advertising and video advertising, based on the number of impressions delivered. We actively monitor the ads we serve, both automatically and manually, in order to help ensure the relevance of the ads as well as compliance with applicable laws.
Yandex.Direct is our auction-based advertising placement platform, which uses auction theory and relies on our distributed infrastructure to process millions of auctions every day. Yandex.Direct lets advertisers cost-effectively deliver relevant ads targeted at particular search queries or content on Yandex websites or third-party websites in the Yandex ad
network. Advertisers may use our automated tools, often with little or no assistance from us, to create performance-based ads, bid on keywords that are likely to trigger the display of their ads, and set total spending budgets. Yandex.Direct features an automated, online sign-up process that enables advertisers to create and quickly launch their advertising campaigns. Advertisers may also work with our sales staff to design and implement more specialized or sophisticated advertising campaigns. Recently we enhanced Yandex.Direct with an opportunity to place display ads right in the system. We also offer a Yandex.Direct mobile app to better facilitate advertisers’ access to our service to manage their advertising campaigns.
Performance-based ads on our desktop search engine results page (SERP) appear in one of several general categories: top of the page, appearing above the organic search results and featuring up to four paid links on desktop and up to three paid links on mobile; and bottom of the page, which appears either below the organic search results or the right-hand block located to the right of the organic search results, featuring up to nine paid links in total on desktop and up to one paid link on mobile. In late 2017 we started to test the concept of Templates – our new ad placement formats tailored to a search query of a particular user. Templates allow advertisers to dynamically enrich their ads with additional elements, such as quick links, contact information, working hours, merchants’ ratings, images and others. We are constantly rolling out new templates and testing new formats. In April 2018, we introduced a change in our search engine results page layout. Instead of our typical ad placement blocks, paid links are mixed with organic search links, whereby our algorithms choose which format is more appropriate and efficient in each particular situation in order to provide a more personalized SERP. Advertisers bid for the amount of traffic they want to purchase, instead of traditional bidding for a specific ad placement block. Yandex.Direct continues using a Vickrey-Clarke-Groves (VCG) auction to serve ads on our SERP.
Yandex Advertising Network
Our Yandex Advertising Network partners include search websites, for which we provide search capabilities, as well as contextual network partners, where we serve ads on websites, digital panels and others, based on user behavior or characteristics or website content. Among our partners are some of the largest Russian websites, including Mail.ru, Rambler, Bing, Avito.ru, Gismeteo.ru and others.
We help third-party website owners monetize their content while extending the reach of our advertisers. Through the Yandex Advertising Network, our partners can deliver performance-based ads on their search results pages or websites. Our advertising algorithms use our proprietary MatrixNet technology, which optimizes the click-through rate on our network through improved click prediction. We screen applicants for the Yandex Advertising Network and favor websites with high-quality content and stable audiences to offer advertisers high-quality traffic.
Yandex’s video advertising network allows users to place full-screen videos, video ads on pages of websites and ads within the video content available on over 300 advertising platforms, including desktop and mobile websites, mobile and Smart TV applications. Yandex’s video ad network covers over 64.5 million users. Yandex’s technologies enable users to provide advertising to the targeted audience and offer analysis of its efficiency through different tools and instruments, such as Brand Lift or video roll analysis.
In 2018, Yandex started offering auction-based digital outdoor advertising opportunities in partnership with leading outdoor advertising players in Russia, Gallery and RussOutdoor. In 2019 advertisers could run campaigns on billboards in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan and other major cities. By the end of 2019, advertisers were able to use more than 500 outdoor formats for their advertising campaigns. Outdoor ads are sold on a thousand opportunity-to-see (OTS) basis. In September 2019, we launched Outdoor in Yandex.Direct, which gives many opportunities for advertisers to include Outdoor in their marketing mix using the same interface. Yandex’s technologies also make it possible to estimate the audience coverage, and to divide it into segments in accordance with anonymized data on interests and social-demographic characteristics, which can be also used for Yandex.Direct retargeting.
In 2018, we also launched indoor advertising tailored to the targeted audience. The cameras on the digital advertising panels determine socio-demographic profile of the panels’ audience, and when ads are shown to different types of viewers, we charge advertisers only for ads shown to the targeted audience. The system uses only anonymized data and does not make video recordings. In 2019 we enlarged the number of places where indoor advertising is available, such as pharmacies, beauty salons, business centers and mobile phone stores. The number of available indoor displays is currently more than 3,000. Indoor advertising was also launched in Yandex Direct in September 2019.
We have developed a range of programmatic advertising products, which utilize real-time bidding, or RTB, technologies to provide effective solutions to our publisher and advertiser partners. Our RTB ad exchange connects our performance-based demand-side platform (DSP) Yandex.Direct, to our display-based DSP (called AWAPS) as well as to integrated third-party DSPs. Our RTB ad exchange leverages the wealth of targeting data generated by our own Data Management Platform, including Crypta, and search and browsing history. The RTB ad exchange is connected to many of our Yandex Advertising Network partners who have chosen to display ads from our RTB ad exchange as well as or in lieu of our regular Yandex.Direct ads. In addition, through ADFOX, we provide a supply-side platform to our publisher partners. ADFOX is able to mediate in real-time between programmatic brand ads from AWAPS, performance-based ads from Yandex.Direct, ads from integrated third-party DSPs and the publisher’s own direct sales.
We offer our advertisers the ability to display ads on mobile versions of Yandex services, including Search, Zen, and our Advertising Network partner websites, as well as in mobile applications, including our Yandex Search App. Advertisers are able to set up their mobile bid as a coefficient of their desktop bid.
Our web analytics system, Yandex.Metrica, has the largest coverage among web analytics platforms in Russia, installed on 84% of .ru domains. It is also one of the three most popular web analytics system tools in the world. Yandex.Metrica combines near real-time reporting tools with intuitive heat maps and session replay. It features online-to-offline and cross-device tracking, easy-to-use attribution models, intuitive dashboards and fully customizable reports and segments. Yandex.Metrica filters out referral spam and bot traffic and lets site owners monitor ad blocker usage – all out-of-the-box. Yandex.Metrica provides the Logs API to export all raw data in order to accomplish complex tasks. Yandex.Metrica is available without any data caps or sampling, regardless of the traffic volume.
We also provide users with AppMetrica, a universal app analytics and marketing platform for install attribution that can be used for tracking various kinds of ad campaigns, as well as for product analytics, crash reports and push campaigns.
Yandex.Radar is our market analytics tool, which provides advertisers, webmasters, analysts, and other internet marketing professionals with accurate statistics on the internet technology trends in different countries. Yandex.Radar's technology reports are based on Yandex.Metrica aggregated data and provide statistics on search market shares and browser usage, as well as traffic breakdown by operating system and device type. In November 2018, we introduced Yandex.Radar's “Top internet resources”, which represents the first ranking featuring cross-device audience data for the top 10,000 sites popular among visitors from Russia.
We provide a multi-mode experience that seamlessly and efficiently satisfies the ride-hailing and FoodTech needs of users in our markets. Our platform enables access to both a wide range of personal mobility services through our ride-hailing offerings, and a variety of food and convenience store delivery services through our FoodTech offerings.
We launched our ride-hailing service in Russia in 2011. We have since expanded into 18 countries and 374 cities (with over 50,000 population), as of December 31, 2019. The scale of our network and our proprietary technological capabilities enable us to accurately forecast demand and incentivize drivers to be available to accept rides.
We have established one of the largest transportation networks in Russia and much of the CIS, providing over 700,000 drivers with taxi orders and enabling riders to complete 150 million rides in December 2019. The combined volume of downloads of our ride-hailing apps would make us the fourth-most downloaded ride-hailing service in the world in 2019, according to AppAnnie. In 2019, our total number of rides grew 54% year-over-year.
Russia has historically accounted for the largest portion of our ride-hailing operations, where we offer the broadest range of ride-hailing tariffs, varying by both price and functionality.
In addition to our primary ride-hailing services, our B2B platform offers complex solutions for corporate transportation services, including business trips, airport transfers and staff logistics, as well as transportation budget management. We launched our B2B platform in Russia in 2016 and have since expanded it to include Kazakhstan, Armenia and Israel.
Our app utilizes smartphone GPS to detect a rider’s location and efficiently connect a rider with an available driver. Our app also provides robust features and functionality for riders throughout a trip, including the efficient determination of pickup points to reduce estimated arrival and waiting times. Our proprietary map infrastructure allows our apps to more precisely locate cars, as well as offers a more accurate match with nearby drivers. Our app provides riders with upfront pricing and may also suggest alternative pickup points with a shorter wait time or lower fare. Our app also alerts riders of price decreases when period of surge demand subsides. At locations with more complicated logistics such as airports or stadiums, pickup points are predetermined in our app and are integrated with offline points. Our app accepts a variety of payment methods, including credit cards, cash paid directly to the driver in certain markets and e-wallet payments.
We currently engage drivers for our ride-hailing services both directly and through a wide partner network. In certain regions, we also support the new simplified self-employment regime that has been introduced by the tax authorities in Russia, which allows us to engage more drivers directly.
We offer our Fleet Management Companies (FMCs) partners access to efficient fleet management software to manage their driver base and fleet, optimizing their administrative and technical workflows.
Safety is of the utmost importance, and we take a comprehensive approach to monitoring and improving the safety of all our platform users, before, during and after their rides. For riders, we offer insurance that covers passengers in the event of personal injuries sustained while on a ride. We have also implemented service access controls, such as driver scoring and detailed driver identification methods. We also tailor certain safety features to particular users, such as providing child safety seats. For drivers, we offer training and vehicle check-ups, both remotely and in person, and we have implemented technological tools to improve trip safety, such as video and telemetry monitoring to ensure drivers are alert. This hardware monitoring tool is currently in its pilot phase, and we hope to expand its use to a majority of our taxis in Russia in the near future. Our platform also includes protection and response tools, such as emergency support and a safety center section within the app for riders and drivers.
Our FoodTech business consists of Yandex.Eats, our ready-to-eat delivery service and Yandex.Lavka, a hyper local convenience store delivery service. We see a large potential for both segments in our target markets.
Our FoodTech business relies on a wide partner network of couriers, who make deliveries on bikes, scooters and on foot.
As of December 31, 2019, our Yandex.Eats services was available in 33 cities in Russia and Kazakhstan, with the majority of operations in Russia. Yandex.Eats is one of the leading online food ordering and delivery marketplaces in Russia collaborating with approximately 15,000 restaurant partners as of the end of December 2019. Approximately 85% of our food and other staple delivery orders in 2019 were through a first-party delivery model.
Yandex.Lavka offers on-demand delivery of groceries, ready-to-eat and other FMCG products within 15 to 20 minutes. The assortment includes 2,000 – 2,500 SKUs with a focus on fresh and ready-to-eat categories. As of the end of December 2019 Yandex.Lavka operated 50 “dark” stores (mini warehouses) in Moscow. We plan to expand our geographical footprint beyond the capital.
We use proprietary software powered by machine learning to manage inventories and assortment and ensure high level of stock availability and quality.
Our Yandex.Eats app provides a high-quality customer experience (focused on personalized and simple way of ordering food from a wide range of restaurants), discounts and special offers as well as real-time tracking of orders and couriers. Our app accepts a variety of payment methods, including credit cards and e-wallet payments.
Our FoodTech platform features separate apps for couriers and for our partner restaurants, which helps them to manage the order process. We are focused on enhancing the experience of our partner restaurants to improve efficiency of businesses processes.
In early 2017, we started working on our driverless technologies with the aim of creating a fully-fledged autopilot functionality, which is described in the industry as Level 5 – a fully-autonomous system. In May 2017, we unveiled our first prototype of our self-driving car, which leverages Yandex’s world-class technologies, such as AI and machine learning, mapping and real-time navigation.
In November 2018, we received a license to operate our self-driving car in the state of Nevada and demonstrated the advanced capabilities of our autonomous vehicles at CES, Las Vegas in January 2019 and again in 2020. In December 2018, we obtained the relevant permission from the Israeli Ministry of Transportation and Road Safety, and began testing our self-driving cars on public roads in Tel Aviv, Israel.
By the end of 2019, our self-driving fleet grew to over 100 cars, which have accumulated over 2 million autonomous miles on public roads in Russia, the USA and Israel. Yandex is also operating Europe’s first autonomous ride-hailing service with no one behind the steering wheel in Innopolis, Russia. In 2019, Yandex signed an MOU with Hyundai Mobis to jointly develop autonomous vehicles. We are also developing our own proprietary LIDAR sensors to be used in our self-driving cars. We have already started testing the first prototypes of our solid state and 360-degree LIDARs on the streets of Moscow.
In November 2019, we introduced our autonomous delivery robot, Yandex.Rover, which operates on our self-driving platform adapted for new tasks and driving dynamics. As a part of the initial testing phase, our Rovers are already delivering small packages on the Yandex campus in Moscow.
Yandex’s Classifieds business unit includes Auto.ru, Yandex.Realty and Yandex.Jobs.
Auto.ru is our classifieds platform for used and new cars, commercial vehicles and spare parts. We strive to make the used cars market as transparent as possible by trying to close the gap between the real conditions and customer perception of the cars advertised on our platform. Auto.ru puts significant effort into providing users with the special tools such as vehicle history reports, which include information from official databases as well as our internal and third-party data. In 2019, we launched a new feature that allows our users to apply for a car loan directly on the Auto.ru website. We partner with reliable financial organizations and do not provide loans ourselves.
Auto.ru continues to hold a leading position in its established markets with particularly strong presence in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. We also continue growing our market share in the regions. Successful integration of Hearst Shkulev Media, the largest media company in the Urals with 30 auto classifieds domains in the regions, and our deal with 24auto.ru, the leading auto classified in Krasnoyarsk region, have also strengthened our regional businesses.
We monetize Auto.ru through advertising, vehicle history reports, loan commissions, value added services (VAS) and listing fees for dealers, spare part sellers and certain individuals.
Yandex.Realty is our real estate classifieds platform for private individuals and realtors. The service provides listings for both the sale and rental of apartments, houses and commercial property. We also offer the opportunity to place listings for apartments in newly-built or under-construction apartment complexes across Russia. Yandex.Realty helps users not only to find the right listing but also discover all relevant information about the building and its surroundings. Yandex.Realty monetizes listings for new apartments, charging realtors for verified calls from clients.
Yandex.Jobs is our service for job seekers, which is mainly focused on blue collar and service industry jobs. The service is available as a mobile app for Android and iOS and allows users to get in touch with a potential employer directly from the app. Yandex.Jobs aggregates vacancies from a number of partners.
Media Services include our entertainment services (Yandex Music, KinoPoisk, Yandex.Afisha and Yandex.TV Program, which, combined, have a monthly audience of more than 50 million people), a subscription service
(Yandex.Plus), and a production center (Yandex.Studio). Based on Yandex’s recommendation technologies and professional content, Media Services offer its users various entertainment options. We monetize Media Services through online advertising and transaction revenues, including music and video content subscriptions as well as event tickets sales. Our Media Services are available across different platforms, including Yandex.Station and Yandex.Auto.
Media Services include the following:
|●||Yandex Music is our music streaming service, offering users millions of tracks and facilitating new music discovery with its recommendation tools, as well as podcasts and radio feature. The most popular feature of Yandex Music is the smart playlist feed, which we launched in December 2017. Utilizing Yandex’s machine learning technologies, the smart playlist feed is updated daily for each user according to their tastes and preferences. Yandex Music has a free web version and a mobile app and is offered as both Yandex’s own service and as a white label product from mobile operators. Today, Yandex Music is available in 12 countries, including Israel, Belarus, Kazakhstan and other CIS countries. In January 2020, the number of Yandex Music subscribers reached 3.3 million users. The service's catalog includes more than 60 million tracks, as well as more than 90,000 podcast episodes. Yandex Music also invests in creating its own content, produces music videos, releases its own music shows and organizes concerts for subscribers.|
|●||KinoPoisk is a video platform and the largest Russian-language source for information about movies, TV-shows, celebrity content and entertainment news, providing users with critic and user reviews and ratings, personalized recommendations, local movie showtimes, ticketing, and many other services. In 2018 KinoPoisk launched its own video streaming service, KinoPoisk HD, which allows users to watch content on a subscription basis (through the Yandex.Plus or KinoPoisk HD subscription) or purchase selected titles. The Kinoposik HD catalogue lists over 9,000 movies and TV shows online, including exclusive content, licensed from leading domestic and international production companies. KinoPoisk offers a premium subscription in partnership with Amediateka, an exclusive distributor of HBO content in Russia, which gives our users access to the full video library of Amediateka. In 2019, we continued investing in our content library to grow the KinoPoisk streaming catalog. In December 2019, we announced a new exclusive deal with the BBC. The number of monthly viewing subscribers on the platform reached 1 million in January 2020.|
|●||Yandex.Afisha (“playbill”) allows users to buy tickets to cinemas, theaters and concerts online. It incorporates personalized recommendations and is currently operating in over 190 cities across Russia, as well as several cities in Belarus and Kazakhstan.|
|●||Yandex.TV Program is a service providing users with an up to date schedule of broadcast, cable and digital TV channels as well as an option to view certain TV channels online.|
|●||Yandex Plus is our subscription service, which we launched in Russia in May 2018. In 2019, we expanded Yandex.Plus to Kazakhstan and Belarus. The service provides subscribers with a high value bundle of multiple Yandex services, including unlimited music streaming on Yandex Music, ad-free movies and TV-shows on KinoPoisk HD, discounts for taxi and car-sharing rides, bonuses for Beru customers as well as other benefits from the Yandex ecosystem. We record Yandex.Plus’ revenues in the Media Services segment.|
|●||Yandex.Studio is our own production center, which we launched in 2018 to create video and music content, co-invest in different projects with other production studios and provide marketing support to movies releases. We have already participated in the co-production of several Russian movies. We believe the service is strategically important in a world where video consumption is rapidly shifting online and importance of original content as a key differentiating factor is increasing, and plan to expand our participation in such projects.|
Other Bets and Experiments
In addition to our core business and our separate business units, we offer a number of services and products, including experimental ones that represent new business models and have good prospects for future development.
Yandex.Zen is a personal content recommendation service. Zen selects news, videos, images, blog entries, and other internet content that may be relevant to a user. The service uses Yandex's global search index and AI technology.
Zen has successfully developed its publisher content platform. In 2018, the service launched the partner program with publishers, aimed at increasing the share of high-quality content created on the Zen platform. In September 2019, Zen offered an opportunity to create short videos, in addition to articles and narratives (a set of screens combining text, video, images and GIFs that can be swiped through) to all publishers. In December 2019, Zen’s publisher content platform generated over 66% of all clicks to Zen.
Yandex.Zen is available on Yandex Home Page, Yandex Search App, Yandex Browser, and as a standalone app on Android and iOS. In December 2018, Zen also became available to users of the Opera desktop browser in Russia. Zen is also preinstalled on some third-party devices sold in Russia by vendors such as Huawei, Xiaomi and Samsung. In 2019, Yandex.Zen recommendation service launched inside Coc Coc browsers in Vietnam and Opera in Turkey, as well as inside Viber, the second most popular messaging app among traditional messengers in Russia, in a pilot mode. Following the successful test, we rolled out Zen feed to all users of Viber in Russia and Belarus in March 2020.
In September 2018, we introduced our public cloud platform, Yandex.Cloud, allowing companies to host and develop their apps and services, and store and manage their data by leveraging Yandex’s advanced technologies and infrastructure. At launch, Yandex.Cloud offered a scalable virtual infrastructure with multiple management options, automated services for the labor-intensive management tasks of popular databases systems and AI-based Yandex services (speech recognition and synthesis as well as machine translation).
As of December 2019, approximately 25,000 businesses and individuals were using our platform. We have enhanced our platform with new services such as Cloud Interconnect to extend customers' on-premise network to the Yandex.Cloud network via a private connection, DataLens to visualize data, and a range of services for developing cloud-native applications. We continue developing our cloud platform to provide users with a full-fledged cloud offerings. All Yandex.Cloud services are available on servers located in Russia.
In February 2018, we launched our free-floating car-sharing service, Yandex.Drive, providing users with vehicles, which can be reserved by the minute, the hour or the day through a mobile app and which can be dropped of in any permitted parking place across the cities we serve, as well as at airports and shopping malls. Offering on-demand access to cars in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Kazan, Yandex.Drive operates the leading car-sharing platform in Russia and one of the largest in the world. As of February 2020, Yandex.Drive users have completed approximately 58 million rides since the launch.
In 2019, we also introduced the cargo and minivan segments of our car-sharing service and added a fleet of 30 electric vehicles in Moscow.
We equip Yandex.Drive’s car fleet with Yandex.Auto, our in-car infotainment system. Yandex.Auto provides a number of Yandex’s services, including Yandex.Navigator and Yandex Music. Powered by our voice-controlled assistant Alice, Yandex.Auto allows the user to personalize the service. It recognizes each user, greeting them by name, loads their usual routes, plays their favorite music and warns about traffic or weather conditions.
Yandex.Drive pricing is inclusive of fuel, parking, insurance and other costs associated with car ownership. Yandex provides dynamic pricing, which integrates traffic conditions, customer demand and other factors at the time of reservation. In addition, Yandex.Drive became the first car-sharing service worldwide to launch fixed-price tariff based on the final destination point, which allows us to improve the utilization rates of our fleet.
Our Geolocation Services integrate Yandex’s advanced technologies (including mapping, cartography, navigation, etc.) to provide broad range of services across Russia, other CIS countries and Turkey. We focus on the development of logistics and routing solutions for individual users and businesses, as well as advertising products for offline-businesses. Our Geolocation Services include Yandex.Maps, Yandex.Navigator, our infotainment system for connected cars, Yandex.Auto, as well as Yandex.Routing, our technology platform for businesses, which provide services and products in the transportation and logistics industries. We monetize Geolocation Services through online advertising, licensing and transaction services.
Yandex.Maps provide high-quality, detailed maps of Russia, its neighboring countries, Turkey and other countries where we operate our ride-hailing service. We offer our users panoramic views, navigation across cities enriched with augmented reality, public transportation routes, driving directions with voice controls and turn-by-turn navigation. We continue to develop Yandex.Maps to integrate new features, such as hotel bookings, food ordering, ratings and reviews of restaurants as well as their menus. In 2019, we introduced a new Transportation section, which enables users to see public transport routes as well as buses, trolleybuses and trams that move in real time.
We use our technology and licenses to create and edit maps from raw data, including satellite images, GPS coordinates and live user feedback. Yandex.Maps is also available via application programming interfaces, or APIs, which allow developers to embed and use our interactive maps in third-party websites and applications, as well as to add extra layers of information — for example, to offer a map showing the location of a restaurant or a hotel.
We also offer Yandex.Navigator, our mobile application, empowered by our AI assistant Alice, that provides turn-by-turn navigation, incorporates a voice input function, speed limit warnings, parking information, natural guidance features as reference points along a route and voice notifications for accidents or road works. It is one of Yandex’s most popular mobile apps in terms of usage.
Our map-based apps allow offline businesses to place ads in native formats (adopted for different scenarios on the map) and target potential clients among those using Yandex.Maps and/or Navigator.
Yandex.Auto is our voice-activated in-car infotainment system, which offers Yandex’s best-in-class mapping and navigation, music streaming, weather information and other services. We work with car manufacturers to equip cars with Yandex.Auto. Yandex.Auto is already available in some models of Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Renault, Geely, Chery and others on the Russian market. In this segment, we primarily generate revenues from the sale of Yandex.Auto software licenses.
In May 2019, Yandex entered into an agreement with Renault-Nissan-AvtoVAZ, which represents about a third of the Russian new car market. Under this agreement, Yandex.Auto will be fitted into more than 2 million Renault, Nissan and Lada cars in the next five years. In late 2019, we also signed an agreement with Geely for the integration of Yandex.Auto platform into new cars. About 80% of Geely cars sold in Russia and Belarus will be equipped with our platform.
Yandex.Fuel is a contactless payment service at gas stations built into Yandex.Navigator, Taximeter, an application for Yandex.Taxi drivers, Yandex.Drive car-sharing and Yandex.Auto multimedia systems, and is also available to corporate clients. The service was launched in December 2018.
Now more than 4,000 fueling stations are connected to the service throughout Russia, including EKA, PTK, Neftmagistral, Tatneft and Shell. In 2019, the users of Yandex.Fuel have purchased more than 145 million liters of fuel with a gross merchandise value of 5.5 billion rubles.
Yandex.Routing is our B2B routing platform, aimed at providing businesses in the transportation and logistics segments with routing-based solutions. Offering optimal and transparent routes for delivery and logistics, our service helps companies to minimize the time and fuel spent.
Launched in 2000, Yandex.Market is one of the most popular internet services in Russia, providing product information, price comparisons and user generated reviews of products and online retailers. We aggregate price, product and availability information from thousands of active online and “brick and mortar” retailers, and currently feature over 200 million offerings in approximately 3,000 product categories from over 30,000 domestic and international merchants. Similar to Yandex.Direct, Yandex.Market is mainly priced on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis and recognizes revenue only when a user clicks on product offerings placed by merchants on Yandex.Market.
In April 2018, Yandex and Sberbank of Russia completed the formation of a joint venture based on Yandex.Market to further develop domestic and cross-border e-commerce marketplaces, in addition to comparison shopping. Sberbank invested 30 billion rubles (approximately $500 million at the time) into the new joint venture. At closing, the joint venture was valued at 60 billion rubles (approximately $1 billion at the time). The two partners own equal stakes in the joint venture. Ten percent of the JV’s shares are reserved for current and future equity awards for management and employees of Yandex.Market.
Starting April 27, 2018, we deconsolidated Yandex.Market from Yandex’s consolidated financial results and we record our share of Yandex.Market’s financial results under the equity method of accounting within the other income/(loss), net line in the consolidated statements of income.
In May 2018, Yandex.Market launched in beta the marketplace Beru, a domestic e-commerce platform with 1P and 3P sales, allowing users to make purchases across multiple categories. Beru came out of beta in October 2018, featuring 100,000 SKUs, which expanded to over 600,000 SKUs by the end of 2019. The daily audience of the marketplace exceeded 1 million users as of the end of the year. In order to enhance the user shopping experience and provide full-fledged services, we introduced the first Beru-operated fulfillment center in Rostov-on-Don. In 2019, we launched another two fulfillment centers in Sofino and Tomilino, in the Moscow region. In addition, Beru leases capacity from a third-party fulfilment center.
Yandex is a technology company that is a pioneer in machine learning, artificial intelligence and neural networks. We believe this expertise uniquely positions us in the global technology arena and allows us to innovate in our local markets and continuously improve our products and services based on complex, unique technologies that are not easily replicated.
Our advertisers include individuals and small, medium and large businesses throughout the countries in which we operate, as well as large multinationals. Small and medium size enterprises purchase the bulk of our performance based advertising. No single advertiser accounted for more than 1.1% of our total revenues in 2017, 2018 or 2019.
Sales and Advertiser Support
We have an extensive sales and support infrastructure, with sales offices in a number of cities in Russia, as well as Minsk, Belarus; Lucerne, Switzerland; Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA; Istanbul, Turkey; Shanghai, China; and Almaty, Kazakhstan. In Russia we have 17 sales offices, which allows the company to better understand the needs of businesses in the regions and help them grow using new technologies and advertising opportunities.
The substantial majority of our advertisers use our automated Yandex.Direct service to establish accounts, create ads and manage their advertising campaigns. Our largest advertising clients are served by a dedicated sales team. These companies may request strategic support services, which include a dedicated accounts team, to help them set up and manage their campaigns. Our sales team specialists are able to help advertisers with tasks such as selecting relevant keywords, creating effective ads and audience targeting, thus measuring and improving advertisers’ return on investment.
The Yandex Advertising Network follows a similar model. Most of the websites in the network submit their applications through Yandex.Direct’s automated partner interface. Our direct sales force focuses on building relationships
with our largest partners to help them get the most out of their relationship with us. We also have relationships with different advertising sales agencies placing online advertising.
We engage in significant marketing efforts directed first and foremost at internet users, as well as advertising agencies, advertisers and webmasters. Our marketing efforts are focused above all on delivering an optimal user experience with every Yandex product and service. We believe that satisfied users are the best and most credible advocates for our services. In order to improve user satisfaction and loyalty and to continue to use our products and services as marketing tools, we constantly experiment with and improve the design, technology and interface of these products and services. Although we believe that word of mouth is the best advertising strategy, we also view advertising campaigns in online and traditional media as an important element of our efforts to promote our brand, as well as key services. We also invest heavily into our separate business units, including Taxi, Classifieds, Media Services and Other Bets and Experiments to grow customer awareness, increase user base, increase usage in our existing markets and penetrate into other geographies.
We operate in a market characterized by rapid commercial and technological change, and we face significant competition in many aspects of our business, including search, ride-hailing, food delivery, classifieds, media services, e-commerce and cloud. We currently operate principally in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkey.
Across our different business lines we face competition from both global and local players.
We consider Google to be our primary competitor. In addition to its search solutions, including voice search, Google offers online advertising, information and other search services similar to ours, including services similar to Yandex.Direct. We expect that Google will continue to use its brand recognition, financial and engineering resources and to develop its technologies to compete with us.
The following table presents a comparison of Russian search market share, according to Yandex.Radar (a search traffic and browser usage analytics tool based on Yandex.Metrica data), based on search traffic generated:
We also face competition from the Russian and international websites of Microsoft and other established companies and start-ups that are developing search and online advertising technologies.
Mail.ru Group is one of our largest local competitors. Mail.ru offers many communication services, including Russia’s most popular webmail, social networking and messenger services. Our Yandex.Direct platform competes for advertising budgets with myTarget, an advertising tool operated by Mail.ru across its social networks and e-commerce projects.
We believe that social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Mail.ru Group’s Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki and My World services, are becoming significant competitors for online ad budgets. These sites derive a growing portion of their revenues from online advertising, and are experimenting with innovative ways of monetizing user traffic. In light of their very large audiences and the significant amount of proprietary information they can access to analyze their users’ needs, interests and habits, we believe that they may be able to offer highly targeted advertising which could create increased competition for us. The popularity of such sites may also reflect a growing shift in the way in which people find information, get answers and buy products, which may result in increased competition for users.
In certain vertical areas, in particular those in which our business units operate, we and our joint ventures compete with niche services, including e-commerce, video search, online news aggregators and dictionaries, real estate and
automobile services, and specialized search apps for mobile devices. Our Yandex.Taxi service competes with Vezet, Citymobil (operated through a JV between Mail.ru and Sberbank) and Gett as well as a number of regional offline players across Russia. In addition, although Yandex.Taxi and Uber operate as a joint venture in Russia and neighboring countries, our Taxi business may also compete with Uber in jurisdictions outside the scope of our joint venture territory. Yandex.Market’s e-commerce services face competition from a number of local players acting as both merchants and marketplaces, including Wildberries, Ozon, AliExpress Russia (operated through a JV between Mail.ru, MegaFon, RDIF, and Alibaba), Avito and others. Our Classifieds services compete with Avito in most areas as well as with a number of niche players such as CIAN in real estate and Drom in automobile sales. On the Media Services front, our KinoPoisk service competes with Ivi, Okko (operated by Rambler Group) and other online cinemas, while Yandex Music competes with VK Music and Boom (both operated by the Mail.ru), and Apple Music. Our food delivery business Yandex.Eats competes with Delivery Club (a part of the JV between Sberbank and Mail.ru). Our Yandex.Drive car-sharing service competes with Delimobil, BelkaCar as well as a number of other players operating primarily in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Our public cloud platform competes mainly with international cloud services, such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS), as well as with certain local players (Rostelecom, Sberbank, Mail.ru).
We also face competition from other search and service providers in establishing relationships with device manufacturers, such as mobile and tablet computer makers, and access providers, such as internet service providers. Such companies have a significant degree of control over the distribution of products and services, including by offering or establishing exclusive arrangements for “default” search features or other services and bundling them with their offerings. Our users typically have direct relationships with these companies, and may be influenced by economic or other factors in deciding which search or other services to use.
Science and Education
Yandex has been developing and implementing educational programs since 2007. Today the company has more than 30 educational projects and services that are used by people of all ages – from first graders to graduate students, from young professionals to those who decided to change their career paths. Our team of specialists represents many scientific disciplines, including mathematics, data analysis, programming and linguistics. Besides, working on products and technologies at Yandex, some of our experts teach, lecture and train students and young specialists.
The Yandex School of Data Analysis, offering free courses for undergraduates and graduate students, has been running since 2007. The school trains specialists in data processing, big data infrastructure, data analysis, and fact extraction in five Russian cities as well as in Minsk, Belarus. The school’s graduates create a global alumni network advancing machine learning and distributed systems development in academia and the private IT sector. In October 2018, we launched Y-Data, a branch of Yandex School of Data Analysis in partnership with Tel Aviv University, Israel. It offers an advanced one-year master’s degree program in machine learning. Yandex also has schools for project managers, user interface developers, designers and other specialists in IT.
In 2016 with the support of regional governments and ministries overseeing education and IT, we launched a project to teach programming to school children called Yandex.Lyceum which is now offered in 131 cities in Russia and Kazakhstan.
Yandex and Higher School of Economics (HSE) run the Faculty of Computer Science, for which we created an educational program. We also partner with other leading research centers and universities, including the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Saint Petersburg State University and the Belarusian State University. We sponsor a number of contests and workshops/seminars in computer programming, mathematics and linguistics with participants from all over the world, and run a programming competition on the annual basis, Yandex Championship, in different fields of computer science such as backend, frontend, machine learning, mobile app development, data analytics and competitive programming.
In addition to educational services, Yandex and Coursera, the online education platform, launched several Specializations and Courses written by Yandex’s employees for people who are eager to expand their knowledge in a certain field of IT.
In 2019, we launched Practicum, an online learning platform in the IT sphere available for users globally. The programs currently available on the service include frontend development, web development, backend development, data
analysis and data science. Over 300,000 people have already explored our educational opportunities with thousands of them choosing to meet their professional goals with help of our platform.
To reward achievements in academics and research as well as to support undergraduate and postgraduate students in computer science and information technology at HSE, in 2014 we established the Ilya Segalovich Scholarship, in memory of one of our co-founders. The scholarship committee includes faculty staff members and lead developers from Yandex. Since 2014, this scholarship has been awarded to over 80 students.
Among of our other important educational projects we note the following:
|●||Yandeх.Textbook, an online service for schoolteachers for Russian language and mathematics with possibility for individual educational trajectories for each student.|
|●||Yandex.Atlas, which provides students and their parents with information about the pass rates of Russian universities in previous years and helps them to choose an appropriate university in accordance with their requirements and opportunities.|
|●||Yandex.Tutor, an online study tool for the Russian Unified State Exam (USE).|
Employees and Workplace Culture
We place a high value on technological innovation and compete aggressively for talent. We strive to hire the best computer scientists and engineers, as well as talented sales, marketing, financial and administrative staff. We seek to create a dynamic, fulfilling work environment with the best features of a “start-up” atmosphere, encouraging equal participation, creativity, the exchange of ideas and teamwork.
Our total headcount increased from 8,767 at December 31, 2018 to 10,092 at December 31, 2019. As of December 31, 2019, we had 5,784 employees related to the product development cost category, 3,808 employees related to sales, general and administration, and 500 employees related to cost of revenues.
We rely principally on a combination of trademark, copyright, related rights, patent and trade secret laws in Russia and other jurisdictions as well as confidentiality procedures and contractual provisions to protect our proprietary technology and our brand. We enter into confidentiality and patent assignment agreements with our employees and consultants and confidentiality agreements with other third parties, and we rigorously control access to our proprietary technology.
Our patent department is responsible for developing and implementing our group-wide IP protection strategy in selected jurisdictions. We have filed more than 750 patent applications to date, of which more than 400 have resulted in issued patents in Russia, the USA, China and Taiwan. We also have internal procedures for invention disclosures, patent filings, patent acquisitions, freedom-to-operate analyses and patentability searches.
We have three registered well-known trademarks in Russia for certain services (classes 35, 38 and 42 under the International Classification of Goods and Services) on the basis of intensive use. Under Russian law, the protection granted to well-known trademarks is extended to non-homogeneous goods and services if customers associate specific use of the designation by third parties with the rights holder and the rights holder’s legitimate interests are infringed. Yandex is also a registered trademark in Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and other countries under the Madrid Agreement and Protocol. We have other registered trademarks in Russia and abroad. We continue to file applications to register new trademarks and widen the country coverage of our existing trademarks. Most of the software used by our services or distributed by Yandex to our users is either developed by our employees or by independent contractors who transfer all rights to Yandex.
We enter into written license and use arrangements with providers of a significant portion of the content we offer. Our agreements with most of the news content providers in Russia are on “content-for-traffic” terms, pursuant to which we obtain access to news content for free in consideration of the user traffic that accesses the content providers’
websites through our search engine. We license or purchase other additional content. We do not knowingly include content on our websites that we do not have the legal right to include.
We do not own the content generated or posted by users on our websites. As with all websites that host user-generated content, we are potentially liable for any intellectual property infringement committed by the creator of that content. If we receive a complaint from a party that user-generated content on our websites infringes that party’s copyright or related rights, we examine the content in question. If the complaint is substantiated, we remove the content and notify the party that has posted the content (if their contact details are available). If the user evidences that the content does not violate third parties’ intellectual property rights, it is possible to recover the deleted content. In the event of any court decision in the matter, we comply with the decision.
Our principal operating subsidiary currently leases a total of approximately 64,000 square meters in a single location in central Moscow that serves as our group’s headquarters. We also lease additional office space of about 49,000 square meters in business centers in central Moscow, of which approximately 19,000 square meters relates to the contract for office space in Moscow City business center that we signed in December 2019. We or our operating subsidiaries also lease or own office space in a number of other cities in Russia. We also lease offices in Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA; Istanbul, Turkey; Lucerne, Switzerland; Minsk, Belarus; Berlin, Germany; Schiphol, The Netherlands; Shanghai, China; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Tel Aviv, Israel, and other locations. We operate data centers in Moscow and other regions of Russia, as well as in Finland. We have points of presence in a number of cities in Russia and elsewhere. Taking into account the projected demand for our services, we continuously evaluate the capacity and locations of our data centers to determine the most cost-effective manner of delivering reliable services to our users.
In December 2018, we acquired a property site at 15 Kosygina Street, Moscow, Russia for our new Moscow headquarters. The acquisition cost of the property site amounted to 9.7 billion rubles (around $145 million, based on the exchange rate as of the transaction date) exclusive of 18% VAT. We are continuing to progress in our efforts to develop this site, including obtaining required regulatory approvals.
In December 2019, our shareholders approved targeted changes to Yandex’s corporate governance structure, which we refer to as the restructuring. Our Board proposed this restructuring in response to the evolving legal and regulatory environment in Russia, and designed these changes to balance the concerns of public authorities in our core market with the interests of our shareholders, employees and users.
Pursuant to this restructuring, a newly formed Public Interest Foundation now has certain limited and targeted governance rights in our group. The Public Interest Foundation was incorporated in the Oktyabrskiy special administrative region in Kaliningrad, in the Russian Federation, under a newly adopted legislative framework. The Public Interest Foundation has no shareholders, owners or beneficiaries, and is governed by the Foundation’s Board of Directors. The statutory purpose of the Public Interest Foundation, as set out in its charter, is to preserve the continuity and promote the success of Yandex. The Public Interest Foundation is not permitted by its charter to engage in any commercial activities; its operating costs will be covered by Yandex.
The Public Interest Foundation holds our Priority Share, which gives the Public Interest Foundation the following rights:
|●||to approve the accumulation by a party, group of related parties or parties acting in concert, of the legal or beneficial ownership of shares representing 10% or more, in number or by voting power, of the outstanding Class A and Class B Shares (taken together), if our Board has otherwise approved such accumulation of shares;|
|●||to approve a decision of our Board to sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of, directly and indirectly, all or substantially all of our assets to one or more third parties in any transaction or series of related transactions, including the sale of Yandex LLC; and|
|●||to make binding nominations of two members of our 12-person Board, whom we refer to as the designated directors. Under Dutch law, a binding nomination will be adopted at a General Meeting of our shareholders, unless rejected by a two-thirds (2/3) majority of those voting.|
As part of the restructuring, our Board has also reorganized its Nominating Committee and has formed a new Public Interest Committee. One designated director will sit on the Nominating Committee, and both designated directors will sit on the Public Interest Committee.
The Nominating Committee will consist of five directors and will form two subcommittees:
|●||Subcommittee I will consist of one designated director, one director with a Russian passport and residency, and one other director. Subcommittee I will recommend to our Board for nomination four directors (the “Class I Directors”), who will then be subject to the approval of our Board as a whole. The designated director will have the right to veto any candidates for such slots, provided that the exercise of such veto has first been approved by the Public Interest Foundation. The initial Class I Directors are Herman Gref, Mikhail Parakhin, Charles Ryan and Ilya Strebulaev.|
|●||Subcommittee II will consist of three directors who are not Class I Directors and will, by simple majority, recommend to the Board for nomination six directors (the “Class II Directors”); the designated directors will have no right of veto over candidates for these seats. Our Board must adopt the recommendations of candidates recommended by Subcommittee II, unless our Board votes by a supermajority of ten directors (subject to adjustment for Board vacancies) to reject such recommendation.|
Public Interest Committee
The Public Interest Committee will have a right of approval over certain specified matters, and will consist of three members: the Yandex CEO (currently Mr. Volozh) and both of the designated directors. Decisions of the Public Interest Committee must be unanimous. The Public Interest Committee will not review ordinary business or commercial matters; its right of approval will be limited to a defined list of the following specific matters deemed to be of public interest:
|●||transactions or other transfers resulting in the granting of direct access to Russian users’ personal data owned by us and non-depersonalized big data owned by us to non-Russian persons;|
|●||the adoption, modification, amendment, and cancellation of the Yandex internal policies on protection of personal data and non-depersonalized big data of Russian users (including storage procedures, and sale/provision of such information to foreign persons);|
|●||entry by Yandex into any agreement which concerns Russia with a non-Russian state or an international intergovernmental organization (or its bodies and agencies); and|
|●||direct or indirect transfers or encumbrances of material intellectual property rights, including licensing such rights, if as a result of such license Yandex would lose the ability to use such rights in Russia.|
Our Board cannot act in respect of any of these specified matters prior to receiving a recommendation from the Public Interest Committee. If the Public Interest Committee does not approve the matter referred to it, the Board will follow the decision of the Public Interest Committee, unless the Board rejects such decision by either (i) a supermajority of eight votes (subject to adjustment for Board vacancies), which must include the affirmative votes of the two designated directors; or (ii) a supermajority of eight votes (subject to adjustment for Board vacancies) (not including the affirmative votes of the two designated directors), provided that the Public Interest Foundation Board has given its
approval. The Public Interest Committee will act only as a check on our Board’s actions; it cannot proactively make any decisions on behalf of the Board or require the Board to take any action.
Special Voting Interest in Yandex LLC
As an additional protection for the overall structure, the Public Interest Foundation holds a Special Voting Interest in Yandex LLC, which provides limited and defined powers that will be exercisable only in the case of what we describe as a Special Corporate Situation or a Special Situation related to a matter of national security.
Special Corporate Situations
A Special Corporate Situation is deemed to arise only in the following specific circumstances:
|●||the Public Interest Committee is not formed;|
|●||the Public Interest Committee is dismissed by our Board;|
|●||a designated director is not included in the Nominating Committee;|
|●||a binding nomination for a designated director is rejected by the General Meeting;|
|●||a designated director is removed by the General Meeting without approval of the holder of the Priority Share;|
|●||the General Meeting appoints a candidate as a Class I Director that has not been recommended by the Nominating Committee through Subcommittee I; or|
|●||a decision of the Public Interest Committee is breached by Yandex LLC.|
If the Foundation Board decides (acting by a specified majority) that any of the above triggers for a Special Corporate Situation has occurred, it must send a notice to Yandex, providing details of such matter. Following receipt of such notice, we may cure such matter within a defined period. If we do not cure such matter, the Public Interest Foundation will have the ability (acting by specified majority) to replace the General Director of Yandex LLC without the vote of Yandex N.V. The Public Interest Foundation will appoint an interim General Director from a pre-approved list. As soon as the situation is resolved, Yandex N.V. will remove the interim General Director and appoint a permanent General Director.
Special Situations related to a matter of national security
A Special Situation is a matter constituting an extraordinary one-off event related to matters of the national security of the Russian Federation requiring quick remedy.
If the Foundation Board decides (acting by a specified supermajority) that a Special Situation has occurred, it must send a notice to Yandex providing the details of such matter. Following receipt of such notice, we may cure such matter within a defined period. If we do not cure such matter, the Public Interest Foundation will have the ability (acting by specified majority) to replace the General Director of Yandex LLC without the vote of Yandex N.V. In interim General Director appointed under these circumstances will hold office for a limited period of time, after which Yandex N.V. will again have the right to appoint a permanent General Director.
Public Interest Foundation Board
The Public Interest Foundation is governed by a board comprising 11 directors, including members appointed by five leading Russian universities (Higher School of Economics, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Moscow State University, Saint Petersburg State University and the Saint Petersburg National Research University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics), and three non-governmental institutions (the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), Moscow School of Management Skolkovo and the Endowment of Moscow School #57), all of which have long histories of cooperation with Yandex. The Public Interest Foundation Board will also include three representatives of Yandex management (initially, Arkady Volozh, Tigran Khudaverdyan and Elena Bunina). The initial members of the Foundation Board are:
Elena Bunina, General Director of Yandex LLC – Executive Director of the Foundation
Elena Shmeleva (Saint Petersburg State University), Director of Educational Center “Sirius”, the Head of the Education Fund “Talent and Success” – Chairperson of the Foundation
Arkady Volozh, CEO of Yandex N.V.
Tigran Khudaverdyan, Deputy CEO of Yandex N.V.
Pavel Bezruchko (Higher School of Economics), Managing Partner of “ECOPSY Consulting”
Mikhail Kirpichnikov (Moscow State University), Dean of the Biology Faculty at MSU
Alexander Dyukov (University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics), Chairman of the Board, CEO of Gazprom Neft
Sergey Ryazansky (Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology), Head of “Russian Schoolchildren's Movement”, an all-Russian public-state children and youth organization”
Alexander Shokhin (Russian Union of Industrialist and Entrepreneurs), President of Russian Union of Industrialist and Entrepreneurs
Andrey Sharonov (SKOLKOVO), President of the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO
Mikhail Sluch (School №57 Development Fund), Director of School №57
After Russian parties (including Russian citizens, Russian beneficially owned legal entities and the Mr. Volozh’s family trust) cease to hold cumulative voting power over at least 50% plus one vote in Yandex N.V., the number of representatives of management entitled to sit on the Foundation Board will be decreased from three to two, and the Higher School of Economics will have the right to appoint an additional member of the Foundation Board. As a result, the Foundation directors appointed by Russian universities will have the power to decide on the following matters without any additional votes by the other members of the Foundation Board:
|●||selection of candidates for binding nomination as designated directors; and|
|●||proposals of candidates for inclusion on the list of persons who may serve as interim General Director of Yandex LLC from time to time.|
Conversion Provisions of the Class B Shares
In addition, as part of the restructuring, the automatic conversion feature of the Class B Shares was amended. Previously, such shares would immediately convert into Class A Shares upon the death of the holder. To avoid this “cliff-edge” scenario, in which the voting control of our company could suddenly shift, following this amendment Class B Shares held by a family trust will not automatically convert for a period of two years after the death of the holder. Mr. Volozh has established such a trust. Mr. Volozh also agreed to enter into a two-year lock-up agreement with respect to 95% of his Class B Shares.
We operate in a rapidly evolving environment of increasing regulatory complexity, reflecting a trend towards increasing scrutiny of large technology companies by policymakers, regulators and the general public in jurisdictions across the globe, including in Russia. As explained in more detail below, there are also a significant number of additional laws and regulations currently being debated and considered for adoption in Russia and other countries where we operate which, in the event of adoption, might require us to take significant steps to modify our operating, governance or ownership structure. Due to changing interpretations of laws and regulations, we could also be subject to laws and regulations to which we are not currently subject and which could materially affect our operations. We have not summarized laws and regulations to which we do not believe we are currently subject. See also “Risk Factors – If existing limitations on foreign ownership were to be extended to our business, or if new limitations were to be adopted, it could materially adversely affect our group and the value of our Class A shares”.
Regulation of Sensitive Businesses in Russia
In recent years, the Russian government has adopted a series of laws aimed at regulating the technology and internet sectors generally, as described in detail below. In addition, a number of laws have been adopted that impose restrictions on foreign ownership and control of businesses in sensitive sectors of the Russian economy, including strategically important enterprises and mass media, and we are aware of various discussions about potentially imposing similar restrictions on businesses such as ours. Most significantly, legislation was proposed in the Russian State Duma in the summer of 2019 that, in its original form, would have limited non-Russian ownership of “significant” internet companies to no more than 20%. Following extensive debate, that proposal was withdrawn in late November 2019, but we can provide no assurance that similar legislation will not be proposed, and potentially adopted, in the future.
In light of this regulatory environment, our shareholders approved a restructuring of our corporate governance in December 2019. See “Governance Structure” above.
The principal Russian law governing advertising, including online advertising, is the Federal Law No. 38-FZ “On Advertising,” dated March 13, 2006 (as amended) (the “Russian Advertising Law”). The Russian Advertising Law prohibits advertisements for certain regulated products and services without the required certification, licensing or approval. For example, advertisements for products such as pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, food supplements and infant food, financial instruments or securities and financial services as well as incentive sweepstakes and advertisements aimed at minors and some other products and services must comply with specific requirements and must in certain cases be accompanied by certain required disclaimers. Additionally, Russian law contains certain prohibitions regarding the advertising of alcohol, tobacco and medical services. In addition, the distribution of advertisements over the internet (for example, by email) may require the prior express consent of recipients. In some cases, violation of these Russian laws can lead to civil action by third parties who suffer damages, or administrative penalties imposed by FAS. Further amendments to legislation regulating advertising may impact our ability to provide some of our services or limit the type of advertising we may offer.
We seek to comply with all advertising laws and regulations. At the same time, the application of the advertising laws, in particular in relation to products or services requiring certification, licensing or approval, can be ambiguous and inconsistent. The application of these laws in an unanticipated manner, or the failure of our compliance efforts, may expose us to substantial liability as distributors of advertising and may restrict our ability to provide some of our services. Other laws or interpretations of laws, including those of foreign jurisdictions, may also restrict advertising and negatively impact our business. For example, some French courts have interpreted French trademark laws in ways that would limit the ability of competitors to advertise in connection with generic keywords. Adoption of similar interpretations by Russian or other national courts may adversely affect our business. In addition, Russian law does not specifically regulate behavioral targeting in relation to advertising, which is a standard tool widely used in online business. Any future interpretation of Russian law affecting the regulation of behavioral targeting could have a negative impact on our business.
In addition, according to publicly available information there are currently unofficial discussions of proposals related to the centralized collection of data about the auditory of online services. For now, it is difficult to predict what impact such regulation, if adopted, might have on our services.
Intellectual Property Regulation
In principle, the acquisition, protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in Russia are addressed in line with international standards. In particular, literary, artistic and scientific works are subject to copyright protection without any registration and enjoy legal protection simply by virtue of being created in an objective form perceivable by third parties.
Mandatory registration with Rospatent is required for “hard IP” such as trademarks and patents (available in Russia for inventions, utility models and industrial designs) in order for the rights holder to acquire exclusive rights. Trademarks registered abroad under the Madrid Agreement and/or Madrid Protocol have the same legal protection in Russia as locally registered trademarks.
Under Russian law, we have exclusive rights to trade secrets (know-how) only if we have complied with a legal requirement to introduce reasonable measures to maintain confidentiality of our trade secrets, which measures may be burdensome and formalistic to implement. As we rely extensively in our operations on the protection afforded to trade secrets, we have implemented a set of measures required by Russian law in order to protect these trade secrets (know-how). However, there is a risk that our measures will be deemed insufficient and, as a result, we will fail to acquire rights to these trade secrets under Russian law.
One of the known problems and risks in Russian business practice relates to acquiring exclusive rights to works for hire and patentable results from employees. As a rule, the exclusive rights to works for hire and patentable results are assigned to the employer if the intellectual property is made during the course of employment. However, there are often uncertainties and disputes around the scope of such assignments. In case of employment disputes, Russian courts are often inclined to follow an overly formalistic approach and may take a pro-employee position in the event of uncertainty in a dispute of this nature.
Nonetheless, under Russian law, subject to the risks outlined above, we are deemed to have acquired copyrights and rights to file patent applications with respect to works for hire and patentable results created by our employees during the course of their employment with us and within the scope of their job duties, and have the exclusive rights to their further use and disposal subject to compliance with the requirements of the Civil Code of Russia.
Liability of Online Service Providers
Laws relating to the liability of online service providers for the activities of their users and other third parties are still being developed in Russia and certain other countries in which we operate.
Russian law contains provisions aimed at establishing a framework for limitation of liability of online service providers for the information communicated by third parties over such providers’ networks. Substantial ambiguity remains in Russian law around the scope and protection of such limitation of liability. In particular, there is little clarity on the limitation of liability with respect to types of online service providers other than providers transmitting information and hosting providers (such as those caching data or providing information location tools). Because the law has not been given detailed binding interpretation, our exposure to liability will depend significantly on the interpretation of these provisions by the courts and officials.
The Russian Civil Code also imposes strict liability for infringement of intellectual property rights if such infringement is committed in connection with business activities. It might be unclear how these provisions apply to online service providers.
Russian law establishes a system for the blocking of websites that make available specific categories of illegal information related to child pornography, suicide or drug use as well as other restricted information. Current law also permits the blocking of websites for violation of data protection, copyright and related rights. The procedure for deleting such information is complex and strictly enforced and the failure to follow such procedures may lead to the blocking of the applicable website by all Russian internet service providers and telecommunication service operators.
Other legislation is currently in place in Russia that allows blocking of websites that contain extremist information (including containing calls for mass rioting, extremist activity and participation in mass assemblies conducted in violation of established procedure) at the request of certain governmental authorities without prior notification. Only a subsequent post-blocking notification to the relevant website owner or hosting provider is required. The categories of illegal information to which access can be restricted may be interpreted broadly or be expanded by government authorities depending on circumstances. We may find ourselves subject to such blocking if government authorities interpret information provided by our services as violating these rules and we may be unable to prevent this blocking of our services.
Moreover, pursuant to recent legislative amendments, a website might be blocked if the published information contains disrespectful and indecent statements about the society, state, Constitution or governmental authorities. Additionally, the subjects who are accused of disseminating such statements can face administrative fines. Russian law also restricts the circulation of certain identified categories of publicly available and distributed information that may be harmful to minors. In particular, there is a requirement to take administrative and technical measures to prevent the dissemination of restricted information. In addition, the circulation of information products must be accompanied by a
relevant mark identifying the age restriction category of information.
This legislation, as well any similar additional regulations, and the interpretation of such legislation and regulations, may impose new requirements on us and our operations and lead to material legal liability, which can be difficult to foresee or limit. See “Risk Factors—We may be held liable for information or content displayed on, retrieved by or linked to our websites and mobile applications, or distributed by our users; or we may be required to block certain content or access to our websites could be restricted; any of which could harm our reputation, business, financial condition and results of operations”.
In February 2020, draft legislation aimed at regulating big data in Russia was introduced and remains under consideration. The wording of the legislation is very broad and ambiguous, but would create a basis for further regulation in this sphere. In particular, it states that the Government should implement control over big data processing. Currently big data processing is not specifically covered by Russian law. This legislation, if adopted, may have a far-reaching impact on our business, which is difficult to estimate at the present time.
Applicability of the Russian Law on Strategic Enterprises
Our Yandex.Money joint venture with Sberbank, in which we hold an approximately 25% interest, is subject to laws and regulations specifically applicable to electronic payments and encrypted information. Under the regulations governing electronic payment systems, payments with digital money fall into the sphere of banking activities, and such payments are regarded as a special transaction entered into without the need to open an account. Such transactions, however, have to be performed by a credit organization supervised by the Central Bank of Russia. To comply with this law, our Yandex.Money joint venture established a non-banking credit organization subsidiary, which obtained the required license from the Central Bank of Russia.
Under Russian law, a variety of activities related to encryption require a special permit (license) granted by the Federal Security Service (the “FSS”) subject to the applicant’s continued compliance with a number of licensing requirements, including the requirement to use only certified encryption means and equipment and to ensure timely extension of such certification when its terms expire.
Our Yandex.Money joint venture with Sberbank uses encryption algorithms, as permitted by the applicable licenses, for the protection of transfers performed by its customers and may be required to obtain additional licenses for their use. The requirements for the grant and maintenance of licenses for the use of encryption algorithms are very broad and unclear, leaving the regulator with significant discretion in applying and enforcing the applicable laws. See also “Risk Factors— Because the range of the services we provide is increasing and the legal framework governing the operations in our markets is evolving, we may be required to obtain additional licenses, permits or registrations or comply with other requirements, which may be costly or may limit our flexibility to run our business”.
As a holder of an encryption license, our Yandex.Money joint venture is subject to the strategic enterprises law, which restricts the acquisition of voting shares or participation interests and establishment of control by foreign legal entities and individuals, as well as states, international organizations and entities controlled by them, with respect to business entities with strategic importance.
We have also recently obtained an encryption license for our Yandex.Cloud service in order to expand this business. Therefore, the restrictions imposed by the strategic enterprises law have become applicable to Yandex as a whole. In particular, a third-party non-Russian investors would be required to obtain prior approval from the competent Russian authority in some cases if it seeks to acquire more than 25% of the voting power in Yandex or seeks to enter into an agreement that would establish direct or indirect control over Yandex. Such investors would also be required to notify the competent Russian authority if it acquires more than 5% of the voting power in Yandex (which would represent more than 33.3 million Class A shares). In addition, foreign states and international organizations, or entities controlled by them are prohibited from entering into agreements to establish direct or indirect control over Yandex.
See also “Risk Factors— If existing limitations on foreign ownership were to be extended to our business, or if new limitations were to be adopted, it could materially adversely affect our group and the value of our Class A shares”.
Mass Media Regulation
Russian law requires certain parties that disseminate news and similar mass communications and information to be registered with the appropriate Russian governmental body, Roskomnadzor, and to comply with restrictions regarding the distributed content. The law currently permits electronic network publications (websites) to register as mass media. As registration under this amendment is voluntary, we elected not to register our online properties as mass media. See “Risk Factors — Because the range of the services we provide is increasing and the legal framework governing the operations in our markets is evolving, we may be required to obtain additional licenses, permits or registrations or comply with other requirements, which may be costly or may limit our flexibility to run our business.”
Since 2016, Russian law imposes a limit of no more than 20% on non-Russian ownership and control, direct or indirect, of Russian mass media. Accordingly, if our core business were to be required to register as a mass media, or if such law were otherwise amended to cover our business, it would have a material impact on the ownership structure of our business and could materially adversely affect the value of our Class A shares. See also “Risk Factors— If existing limitations on foreign ownership were to be extended to our business, or if new limitations were to be adopted, it could materially adversely affect our group and the value of our Class A shares”.
In addition, in March 2019 a new law came into force that imposes liability for the dissemination of “fake news” in mass media or telecommunication networks if such news items are potentially of social importance. The liability includes fines up to 1.5 million rubles (depending mainly on the consequences of such violation). It is difficult to predict how these norms will be interpreted in practice. This regulation can be applied to some of our services and, therefore, we could be held liable for the information published by third parties.
A recent draft law that partly came in force in November 2019 introduced tighter regulation of traffic routing in the Russian internet. While it is not entirely clear yet how this regulation will be applied in practice, its implementation, among other things, may lead to a requirement that Russian internet traffic should be routed through Russian communication centers. This could reduce data transfer speeds significantly and even result in interruptions and delays of the online services in the Russian internet segment. We are not able to predict the potential impact of this regime on our services or our business.
Privacy and Personal Data Protection Regulation
We are subject to Russian and foreign laws regarding privacy and the protection of our users’ personal data. We publish on our websites our privacy policies and practices concerning the use, processing, storage and disclosure of user data. Any failure by us to comply with our privacy policies as well as Russian or other applicable laws and regulations relating to privacy and the protection of user data may result in proceedings against us by governmental authorities, individuals or other third parties, which may adversely impact our business. In addition, the adoption and interpretation of data protection laws, and their application to internet operations, are often unclear, difficult to predict and in a constant state of development. Although we believe that we comply with all current requirements, these laws could in the future be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with current practice. For instance, in May 2014 the Court of Justice of the European Union established that an operator of a search engine can be obligated to remove from the list of search results links to webpages containing inaccurate or outdated information related to an individual. Russian personal data laws have been amended, granting a similar right to Russian citizens, who may apply for the removal of search results that link to inaccurate or irrelevant information about them. In addition, in May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, came into force in the EU. We believe that we have taken all necessary steps to comply with the applicable requirements of the GDPR, although our exposure is relatively limited. Nevertheless, some provisions of the GDPR are formulated broadly and their interpretation by the competent authorities might be unpredictable. Therefore, we may fail to interpret all the requirements in accordance with the official interpretation and may be held liable for noncompliance.
Russian data protection laws provide that an individual must freely consent to the processing of her/his personal data. Such consent must be concrete, informed and conscious, and may be provided in any form evidencing the fact that consent has been provided, unless otherwise established by federal law, which requires that it be made in writing, signed by digital electronic signature or evidenced in a similar manner prescribed by laws and regulations.
We, like our peers, seek this consent from our users by asking them to click on a button or select a check-box in appropriate circumstances prior to commencement of the account registration process, indicating the user’s consent to our collection, use, storage and processing of personal data. Furthermore, many of our services do not require the creation of an account prior to their use and we collect only limited information in these circumstances. In particular, we place cookies and use other widespread technologies that assist us in improving user experience of our products and services and ultimately benefit both our users and advertisers through behavioral targeting of advertising. No clear legislative guidelines have been provided addressing whether our practices are compliant with the requirements of the data protection legislation in Russia and abroad. There is a risk that such laws may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is not consistent with our current data protection practices. Complying with various regulations in this area may cause us to incur additional costs or to change our business practices. Further, any failure by us to protect our users’ privacy and data may result in a decrease of user confidence in our services, and may ultimately result in a loss of users, which would adversely affect our business.
Russian legislation also regulates “organizers of information distribution”. Organizers of information distribution must retain a broad range of data relating to and generated by users for a period of time and provide such data to security and investigation authorities at their request. Organizers of information distribution that use encryption when delivering or processing electronic messages have to provide the security authorities with information necessary for decoding the delivered or processed messages. If an organizer of information distribution fails to comply with the above requirements, the Russian authorities can prescribe the blocking of access to the services of such organizer of information distribution.
Russian personal data law also requires that companies store all personal data of Russian users only in databases located inside Russia. Although we have data centers located in Russia, this law could limit our flexibility in managing our operations globally. Failure to comply with applicable data protection legislation may lead to the restriction of access to our services. For example, in 2016 a Russian court ordered the blocking of access to a popular social networking website for violation of data protection legislation.
In 2019 several companies in our group underwent a planned inspection by the competent Russian authority (Roskomnadzor). After this inspection only a small number of insignificant violations were found, we complied with the instructions of Roskomnadzor and no further issues arose. If Roskomnadzor were in the future to determine that we had failed to comply with the applicable data protection legislation, we could experience financial penalties and reputational damage and could be restricted from providing certain types of services until we comply with the requirements.
Licenses for the Provision of Particular Services
Entities that provide certain telecommunication services for a fee are required under Russian law to obtain a “telematics” license from Roskomnadzor. In order to increase our range of services and diversify our business, we have obtained the telematics licenses necessary for the provision of certain of our services in Russia. However, we generally do not charge a fee for the online services we provide to our users and therefore believe that we are not required to hold a telematics license for provision of these services. We do, however, generate revenue from ads directed to our users. As a result, it is possible that a Russian court or government agency may construe our online advertising revenues as a fee and determine that we are required to hold an additional telematics license for such services, which would require us to apply for and comply with the terms of any such license.
Additionally, we may in certain cases offer user services for a fee, which could require us to comply with the licensing requirements described above.
Russian law grants to the Federal Antimonopoly Service, or FAS, wide powers and authorities to maintain competition in the market, including approval or monitoring of mergers and acquisitions, establishment of rules of conduct for market players occupying dominant positions, prosecution of any wrongful abuse of a dominant position, and the prevention of cartels and other anti-competitive agreements or practices. The regulator may impose significant administrative fines (up to 15% of the annual revenue derived in the market where the violation occurred) on market players that abuse their dominant position or otherwise restrict competition, and is entitled to challenge contracts,
agreements or transactions that are in violation of the antimonopoly regulation. We could be considered to possess a substantial market share in the online advertising market and/or other markets in which we operate, including ride-hailing; although we are not recognized by the regulator as occupying a dominant position in any market. However, we understand that the regulator from time to time focuses on internet services, could in the future recognize online advertising as a separate market and could identify dominant players and impose conduct limitations and other restrictions.
In addition, the “fifth antimonopoly package” developed by FAS is currently under consideration, which would introduce amendments to the existing antimonopoly legislation in the sphere of digital markets and IP. The new legislation aims to facilitate the review of cases in this sphere. In particular, the document specifies new triggers for determining the dominant position of a digital transactional platform. Therefore, this legislation, if adopted, may have a far-reaching impact on our business, which is difficult to estimate at the present time.
Taxation of legal entities and individuals in Russia is regulated primarily by the Tax Code of the Russian Federation. The scope and application of the Tax Code is elaborated by numerous regulations and clarifications from the Ministry of Finance of Russia and by the Federal Tax Service, which enforces the tax laws. Russian tax law and procedures are still not fully developed and local divisions of the Federal Tax Service have considerable autonomy in tax law interpretation and often interpret tax rules inconsistently. Also, there is extensive court practice on the construction of the Code’s provisions, which can sometimes be unpredictable or even contradictory. Both the substantive provisions of the Russian tax law and the interpretation and application of those provisions by the Russian tax authorities and by Russian courts may be subject to rapid and unpredictable change. See “Risk Factors — Changes in the tax systems in the countries in which we operate, or unpredictable or unforeseen application of existing rules, may materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.”
Consumer protection legislation
Recent amendments to Russian consumer protection legislation impose duties on aggregators of information about goods and services. These norms are applicable to some of our and Yandex.Market’s services and the failure to comply with such norms could lead to liability.
Our Class A ordinary shares are currently listed on the NASDAQ Global Select Market and in June 2014 were admitted to trading on Moscow Exchange; therefore, we are required to comply with specific Russian regulation concerning information disclosure, insider trading and certain other requirements as may be applied to foreign issuers in Russia.
Applicability of Other Regulations
Because our services are accessible to Russian-language speakers worldwide and are becoming increasingly available to other users globally, certain foreign jurisdictions, including those in which we have not established a local office, employees or infrastructure, may require us to comply with their local laws.
Item 4A. Unresolved Staff Comments.
Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects.
You should read the following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations in conjunction with the “Selected Consolidated Financial Information” section of this Annual Report and our consolidated financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report. In addition to historical information, this discussion contains forward-looking statements based on our current expectations that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Our actual results may differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements as
a result of various factors, including those set forth in the “Risk Factors” and “Forward-Looking Statements” sections and elsewhere in this Annual Report.
We are one of the largest European internet companies and the leading search provider in Russia. Our principal constituencies are:
|●||Users. We provide our users with advanced search capabilities and an extensive range of online services that enable them to find relevant, objective information quickly and easily, as well as communicate, connect, arrange transportation, access entertainment and shop over the internet.|
|●||Advertisers. Our online advertising platform allows advertisers to reach a large audience of users in their markets and deliver cost-effective online advertising. With Yandex.Direct, our auction-based advertising platform, advertisers can promote their products and services through relevant ads targeted to a particular user query, the content of a website or webpage being viewed, or user behavior or characteristics.|
|●||Yandex ad network partners. We have relationships with a large number of third-party websites, which we refer to as the Yandex ad network. In addition to serving ads on our own websites, we also serve ads on our network partners’ websites and share the fees generated by these ads with our partners, providing an important revenue stream for them.|
Our yandex.ru website first began generating revenue in 1998. We became profitable in 2003 and have been profitable every year since then.
Online advertising revenues accounted for 93.0%, 80.4% and 69.4% of our total revenues in 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Our online advertising revenues consist of fees charged to advertisers for serving online ads on our websites and those of our partners in the Yandex ad network. We place the significant majority of our performance-based ads through Yandex.Direct. We sell approximately half of our performance-based ads on a prepaid basis. Our Yandex.Direct advertisers pay us on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, which means that we recognize revenue only when a user clicks on one of our advertisers’ ads. Our brand advertising is generally sold on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) impressions basis. For these ads, we recognize as revenue the fees charged to advertisers when their ads are displayed. We recognize our online advertising revenues net of value added tax and sales commissions and bonuses. In Russia, the VAT rate was 18% in 2018 and increased to 20% as of January 1, 2019. Although the largest part of our revenues is generated by direct sales to our advertisers, a significant portion of our advertising is sold through media agencies. We recognize revenues from those advertising sales net of the commissions and bonuses paid to these agencies.
We benefit from a large and diverse base of advertisers. Our advertisers include individuals and small, medium and large enterprises across Russia and the other countries in which we operate, as well as large multinational corporations. No individual advertiser accounted for more than 1.1% of our total revenues in 2017, 2018 or 2019. On a geographical basis, we generated more than 92% of our total revenues in each of 2017, 2018 and 2019 from advertisers and other customers with billing addresses in Russia, including the Russian offices of large multinational corporations.
We serve ads both on our own websites and on the websites of our partners in the Yandex ad network. For performance-based ads served on the websites of our partners in the Yandex ad network, we recognize as revenue the fees paid to us by advertisers each time a user clicks on one of their performance-based ads or, for those advertisers paying for brand ads on a CPM basis, as their ads are displayed. We pay our partners in the Yandex ad network fees for serving our advertisers’ ads on their websites. These fees are primarily based on revenue-sharing arrangements. As such, the fees paid to our partners in the Yandex ad network are calculated as a percentage of the revenues we earn by serving ads on partners’ websites. We account for the fees we pay to our partners in the Yandex ad network as traffic acquisition costs, a component of cost of revenues. Since we launched our Yandex ad network in 2006, these costs annually have, in aggregate, amounted to more than one-half of the revenues we have earned from serving ads on the Yandex ad network and we expect them to continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Yandex ad network partners do not pay us any fees associated with our serving ads on their websites.
Our agreements with our partners in the Yandex ad network generally have an indefinite term but may be terminated by either party at will with no termination fees. Agreements with larger partners in the Yandex ad network are individually negotiated and vary in duration but typically renew automatically. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, none of our ad network partners accounted for more than 8% of our total revenues. In 2019, Mail.ru Group continued to be our most significant ad network partner.
We believe the most significant factors that influence our ability to continue to increase our online advertising revenues include the following:
|●||the level of internet penetration and usage in Russia and the other markets in which we operate;|
|●||the absolute and relative level of traffic on our own websites and those of our partners in the Yandex ad network;|
|●||the relevance, objectivity and quality of our search results and the quality of our other services and of the Yandex ad network;|
|●||our search market share, including on mobile devices, with a larger market share allowing us to better monetize our users’ search activity and attract and retain advertisers, as well as partners in our Yandex ad network;|
|●||the demand for online advertising in Russia and the other markets in which we operate, particularly among small and medium-size businesses;|
|●||our ability to effectively monetize traffic generated by our websites and those of the Yandex ad network partners, including through improvements to our advanced auction and advertising placement system, while maintaining an attractive return on investment for our advertisers; and|
|●||our ability to effectively monetize mobile search where the number of search queries is growing more quickly than on desktops.|
During 2019, we revised our organizational structure, separating several focus areas into product lines and geographies. As a result, our businesses are now organized in the following operating segments:
|●||Search and Portal, which includes all our services offered in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (and, for periods prior to the imposition of sanctions on Yandex by the government of Ukraine in May 2017, all our services offered in Ukraine), other than those described below;|
|●||Taxi (including our Ride-hailing business (which consists of Yandex.Taxi and Uber in Russia and other countries), FoodTech business (including Yandex.Eats, Yandex.Chef and Yandex.Lavka, a hyper local convenience store delivery service) and our Self-Driving Cars (“SDC”) division);|
|●||Classifieds (including Auto.ru, Yandex.Realty and Yandex.Jobs);|
|●||Media Services (including KinoPoisk, Yandex Music, Yandex.Afisha, Yandex.TV program, our production center Yandex.Studio and our subscription service Yandex.Plus);|
|●||Other Bets and Experiments, where we aim to prove new business models. These include Zen, Yandex.Cloud, Yandex.Drive, Geolocation Services and Yandex.Education; and|
|●||E-commerce (Yandex.Market service for the period prior to April 27, 2018, the date of the completion of the Yandex.Market joint venture between Yandex and Sberbank of Russia. Following the completion of the joint venture, we have deconsolidated Yandex.Market and now treat it as an equity investee under the equity method accounting).|
In addition to the described changes, we changed the approach to intersegment revenue recognition in relation to Zen and approach to intersegment allocation related to office rent expenses and administrative support services of our business units. Now we recognize payments of Zen to Yandex.Browser, Yandex Homepage and Yandex Search app as traffic acquisition costs rather than revenue elimination. Now we net office rent expenses and administrative support services expenses within Search and Portal segment at operating costs level as opposed to treating business units share of rent expenses as intersegment revenue of Search and Portal. These changes insure consistency with internal reporting.
Key Trends Impacting Our Results of Operations
Although the Russian economy has stabilized over the past three years, our results of operations have been impacted in recent periods by lower rates of GDP growth in Russia, which has negatively affected our rate of revenue growth. In 2019 the growth of the Russian economy weakened, reflecting a broad-based slowdown in industrial activity and global trade. The COVID-19 pandemic is adversely affecting the global and Russian economies. In addition to the impact of the current macroeconomic environment, the trends described below are key drivers of our results of operations.
Our business and revenues have grown rapidly since inception, and the effectiveness of performance-based advertising as a medium has contributed to the rapid growth of our business. Advertising spending continues to shift from offline to online as the internet evolves, and we expect that our business will continue to grow. However, we expect that our revenue growth rate will continue to decline over time as a result of a number of factors, including challenges in maintaining our growth rate as our revenues increase to higher levels, increasing competition, particularly on mobile devices, changes in the nature of queries, the evolution of the overall online advertising market and the declining rate of growth in internet users in Russia as overall internet penetration increases. We do not expect the rate of online advertising revenues growth in 2020 to be higher than in 2019.
Our operating margins, representing our income from operations as a percentage of revenues, may fluctuate in the future depending on the percentage of our online advertising revenues that we derive from the Yandex ad network compared with our own websites. The operating margin we realize on revenues generated from the websites of our partners in the Yandex ad network is significantly lower than the operating margin generated from our own websites. The percentage of our online advertising revenues derived from the Yandex ad network decreased from 25.5% in 2017 to 23.4% in 2018 and to 20.9% in 2019.
Growth in mobile search may also have an impact on our operating margins. The number of search queries from mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, is growing more quickly than desktop queries. Queries from mobile devices represented 57.5% of our total search queries and 49.3% of our search revenues in Q4 2019. To date, growth in mobile usage has not had a material impact on our pricing and revenues. However, we have seen some evidence that this growth may exert modest downward pressure on our operating margins in the future due to the ongoing transition to mobile platforms and related distribution TAC.
Recent and future capital expenditures may also put pressure on our operating margins. Our capital expenditures increased from RUB 12,389 million in 2017 to RUB 28,323 million in 2018, with a decrease to RUB 20,543 million in 2019. We spent approximately 60% of our total capital expenditures in 2019 on servers and data center expansion to support growth in our current operations. Our depreciation and amortization expense decreased as a percentage of revenues from 11.9% in 2017 to 9.5% in 2018, and to 8.4% in 2019. We currently expect our capital expenditures in 2020 to be on par with 2019 as a percentage of revenues, excluding the effect of our new headquarters construction. However, if we decide to undertake any new capital projects, our capital expenditures may increase as a percentage of our revenues in 2020.
To support further brand enhancement and respond to competitive pressures, we spent larger amounts in 2017, 2018 and 2019 on advertising and marketing than we have spent historically, in absolute terms. A significant portion of our advertising and marketing expense in 2018 and 2019 relates to our efforts to promote our Yandex.Taxi and our Search services, as well as Classifieds and Media Services, and to support our brand in Russia and the other markets in which we operate. We expect to continue to invest in advertising and marketing. We currently expect our overall advertising and marketing costs in 2020 to remain roughly stable as a percentage of revenues in comparison to 2019 due to continuing investment to promote our services. This spending will not significantly impact our operating margin rate.
Our revenues are impacted by seasonal fluctuations in internet usage and in advertising expenditures. Internet usage and advertising expenditures generally slow down during the months when there are extended Russian public holidays and vacations, and are significantly higher in the fourth quarter of each year. Moreover, expenditures by advertisers tend to be cyclical, reflecting overall economic conditions, retail patterns and advertising budgeting and buying patterns.
Inflation in Russia has also impacted our results of operations and may continue to do so. According to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, Rosstat, the consumer price index in Russia increased by 2.5% and 4.3% in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and by 3.0% in 2019. We can provide no assurance that the annual rate of inflation will not increase significantly in 2020. Higher rates of inflation may accelerate increases in our operating expenses and capital expenditures and reduce the value and purchasing power of our ruble-denominated assets, such as cash and cash equivalents.
Changes in the value of the U.S. dollar compared with the Russian ruble can also negatively affect our results of operations. See “Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk—Foreign Currency Exchange Risk.”
In June 2017, we completed the acquisition of assets and assumption of liabilities of Hearst Shkulev Digital LLC (“Shkulev”), one of the biggest regional auto classifieds with the leading position in Sverdlovsk and Chelyabinsk regions of the Russian Federation, for cash consideration of RUB 401 million, including contingent consideration of RUB 52 million, subject to successful technical integration and client base transition. As of December 31, 2019, the total amount of contingent consideration was paid.
In December 2017, we completed the acquisition of a 100% ownership interest in Deloam Management Limited and its subsidiary (“FoodFox”), one of the leading food delivery operators in Moscow. The primary purpose of the acquisition of FoodFox was to enlarge the range of services we provided. The fair value of consideration transferred totaled RUB 595 million and consisted of cash consideration of RUB 541 million and deferred consideration of RUB 54 million. The deferred consideration arrangement requires us to pay the additional cash consideration to FoodFox’s former shareholders and convertible debt holders, when certain legal conditions are being met within a four-year period following the acquisition date. No deferred consideration has been paid to date.
Other Acquisition in 2017
During the year ended December 31, 2017, we completed another acquisition for total consideration of approximately RUB 66 million.
In February 2018, we and Uber International C.V. ( “Uber”), a subsidiary of Uber Technologies Inc., completed the combination of Yandex.Taxi Holding B.V. with several Uber legal entities into MLU B.V., a Dutch private limited liability company. We and Uber each contributed our legal entities operating our ride-hailing and food delivery businesses in Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus,Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova and $100.0 million (RUB 5,722 million as of the date of acquisition) and $225.0 million (RUB 12,874 million as of the date of acquisition) in cash, respectively. The merger was accounted for as a business combination. A further description of the acquisition and its accounting implications can be found in Note 4 of our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report.
In October 2018, we completed the acquisition of 90% in Edadeal LLC and its subsidiary (“Edadeal”), a daily deal and coupon aggregator, which is used to find deals for grocery stores, thus increasing our ownership from 10% to 100%. Cash consideration transferred totaled RUB 233 million. The key product of Edadeal is a mobile app for iOS and
Android aggregating information regarding discounts at nearby supermarkets and stores.
Other Acquisitions in 2018
During the year ended December 31, 2018, we completed other acquisitions for total consideration of approximately RUB 751 million.
In March 2019, we completed the acquisition of assets and assumption of liabilities of Znanie Company Limited (Cyprus) and its two subsidiaries, Znanie Development Company Limited (Cyprus) and Znanie LLC (Russia) (“TheQuestion”). TheQuestion is an internet-based question-and-answer social network. The primary purpose of the acquisition of TheQuestion was to enlarge the database of answers to specific search queries and to enhance the quality of search results provided by Yandex’s Search portal. The fair value of consideration transferred totaled RUB 384 million, including cash consideration of RUB 351 million and deferred consideration of RUB 33 million. The deferred consideration arrangement requires us to pay the additional cash consideration to the former investors within four-year period. No additional consideration has been paid to date.
A further description of the acquisitions and their accounting implications can be found in Note 4 of our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report.
Formation of Yandex.Market joint venture in 2018
On April 27, 2018, we and Sberbank formed a joint venture based on the Yandex.Market platform. As a part of the deal, Sberbank subscribed for new ordinary shares of Yandex.Market for RUB 30,000 million (approximately $500 million as of signing of the Subscription Agreement). Since that date, we and Sberbank each hold an equal number of the outstanding shares in Yandex.Market, with up to 10% of outstanding shares allocated to management and an equity incentive pool. We retained a noncontrolling interest and significant influence over Yandex.Market's business. Accordingly, Yandex.Market's results of operations before the transaction are classified within continuing operations.
A further description of the acquisitions, the joint venture formation and their accounting implications can be found in Note 4 of our audited consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report.
Results of Operations
The following table presents our historical consolidated results of operations as a percentage of revenues for the periods indicated:
Year ended December 31,
Operating costs and expenses:
Cost of revenues
Sales, general and administrative
Depreciation and amortization
Total operating costs and expenses