After suffering through two straight days of stock price declines last week, Russian internet search giant Yandex N.V. (NASDAQ:YNDX) -- and its shareholders -- is getting a reprieve this morning. Earlier today, Yandex shares surged more than 11% in response to news reports that the company's CEO is not interested in selling the company, either to Sberbank or to anybody else.
By 1 p.m. EDT, however, the shares had already retraced to book only a 2% gain.
This would seem to be good news for Yandex shareholders, who were shocked to learn last week that Russian state-controlled bank Sberbank might be looking to acquire a 30% stake in Yandex and put the company firmly under President Putin's thumb. Fearing what this might mean for Yandex, a rare Russian stock success story, investors sold off Yandex.
It only makes sense, then, that investors would breathe a sigh of relief after Yandex CEO Arkady Volozh -- who, along with other founding members, still controls 57% of the company's shares -- went on record this morning and told Reuters: "I have no intention to sell my shares."
But here's the thing -- and, potentially, the reason Yandex has already given back most of its gains:
President Putin has a history of getting what he wants, be that an election, one of Russia's best-run oil companies, or even a piece of Ukraine. If he sets his mind to it, I have little doubt that the Russian president can ensure Sberbank, or someone else under Kremlin control, takes control of Yandex. Even if the CEO doesn't want to take on the Kremlin as a partner, Putin can make life very difficult indeed for Yandex in Russia -- where it generates 93% of its revenues -- until such time as the CEO and board assent.
Long story short, there's still the potential Russia makes an offer Yandex cannot refuse. And that's why today's enthusiasm over Yandex was short lived.