March 13 (Bloomberg) -- Prospects that Yandex NV will use part of its almost $1 billion in cash for dividends outweighs a share sale that sent the Russian company’s stock down the most in three weeks, Barclays Plc and JPMorgan Chase & Co say.
The nation’s most-used search engine tumbled 8 percent to $23.03 yesterday after some of its largest shareholders said they would sell twice as much stock as the company had planned to acquire in a buyback announced March 11. Yandex raised $552 million in the offering, pricing shares at $22.75 apiece, according to a statement released after trading closed in New York. The Bloomberg Russia-US Equity Index of the most-traded Russian companies in New York and RTS Index futures retreated.
At least seven of the 16 analysts that have buy recommendations on Yandex reiterated their ratings on the Nasdaq-listed company yesterday. Boris Vilidnitsky, an analyst at Barclays in London who sees Yandex gaining 54 percent in the next 12 months, said yesterday’s slide was “overdone” as the company, which had $895 million in cash and cash equivalents as of Dec. 31, may use part of these funds to reward shareholders.
“This is just the beginning,” Vilidnitsky said by phone yesterday. “The company has a lot of cash and has been discussing using some of it as a dividend payment, which I think may happen already this year. I would be a buyer here.”
The Bloomberg Russia-US gauge lost 1.3 percent to 100.69 as RTS futures slipped 0.5 percent to 153,220 in U.S. hours.
Besides Vilidnitsky, analysts at JPMorgan, Credit Suisse Group AG, UralSib Financial Corp., Otkritie Capital and Sberbank Investment Research reiterated their buy ratings on Yandex yesterday. Among 21 analysts covering the stock, 76 percent have a buy recommendation, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. reiterated its 12-month target price on the stock at $31.5 yesterday, implying a 37 percent gain from the current level.
Yandex, which has never paid dividends, had $900 million cash as of last month and expected to have “about $1 billion in the near future,” Chief Financial Officer Alexander Shulgin said on a Feb. 19 conference call.
The company’s founders Chief Executive Officer Arkady Volozh and Chief Technology Officer Ilya Segalovich, along with shareholders including Baring Vostok Capital Partners sold 24.3 million shares. Volozh is expected to reduce his stake to 10.5 percent from the current 12.2 percent, Segalovich is to cut his holdings to 2.5 percent from 2.6 percent, while Baring Vostok will cut to 11 percent from 16 percent currently, according to Barclays’ Vilidnitsky.
“We remain positive on Yandex long-term fundamentals and would view any weakness in the shares as a buying opportunity,” JPMorgan said in a report yesterday. “The decision to use Yandex’s existing cash cushion suggests that more shareholder remuneration may follow, possibly in the form of dividends.”
Yandex reported last month fourth-quarter earnings that missed estimates and said domestic sales growth will slow.
The Market Vectors Russia ETF, the largest Russian exchange-traded fund, fell 1.2 percent to $28.92 in New York yesterday. The RTS Volatility Index, which measures expected swings in futures, slipped 0.5 percent to 20.78 points.
The ruble erased its advance versus the dollar and pared gains against the central bank’s currency basket after President Vladimir Putin nominated Elvira Nabiullina, an adviser to the president and Russia’s economy minister from 2007 to 2012, to lead the regulator.
Futures expiring in March on Russia’s ruble showed the currency falling 0.2 percent to 30.744 per dollar, after strengthening as much as 0.3 percent to 30.6330 in Moscow yesterday. The ruble gained less than 0.1 percent versus the dollar to 30.7010 by the close in Moscow. The currency was little changed at 34.8955 against the dollar-euro basket used by the central bank to minimize swings that hurt exporters.
Crude for April delivery gained 0.5 percent to $92.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday, narrowing its discount to Brent crude to the lowest level in more than five weeks, as the euro trimmed losses against the dollar and OPEC increased production. Brent for April settlement dropped 0.6 percent to $109.65 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Urals crude, Russia’s major export blend of oil, was little changed at $106.79 per barrel.
United Co. Rusal, the world’s largest aluminum producer, dropped 1.4 percent to HK$4.15 in Hong Kong trading as of 10:20 a.m. local time. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.3 percent.
--With assistance from Ilya Khrennikov in Moscow. Editors: Marie-France Han, Tal Barak Harif