Yandex NV (NASDAQ:YNDX) is scheduled to announce fourth-quarter and full-year 2014 results on Wednesday, and it's time for investors to start thinking about what to expect from the Russian Internet search giant.
Wall Street, for its part, is looking for revenue of 14.74 billion Russian rubles, or roughly $234 million based on current foreign exchange rates, which should translate to earnings of roughly 12.85 RUB per share, or approximately $0.20 per share.
But let's dig a little deeper, shall we? Here are three questions I'll have at the ready going into Yandex's report:
Are tensions in Russia hurting Yandex's core business?
With shares of Yandex down nearly 60% over the past year, it's no mystery that the geopolitical and macroeconomic situation in Russia has done the company no favors. In fact, nearly half the stock's losses came over the past three months, reversing an initial positive reaction to Yandex's admirable third quarter. Alas, if Russia's economy suffers for any meaningful length of time, it could negatively affect ad spending in the region and, in turn, hurt Yandex's core advertising business.
For context, investors should specifically watch Yandex's text-based advertising business, revenue from which grew 29% year over year and accounted for 93% of total sales last quarter. Within that, text-based ads from Yandex's own ad network contributed 21% of total revenue after increasing 19% year over year -- a deceleration thanks primarily to Yandex's entering its second full year of an agreement under which it powers paid search on Mail.ru. Meanwhile, aggregate paid clicks rose 19% over the same period, while average cost per click -- which measures how much money Yandex actually makes from each of its ads -- grew 8% compared to the year-ago period.
Ideally we'd like to see that trend of growth in costs-per-click continue, especially considering that's in contrast to fellow search behemoth Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL), which has seen its cost-per-click metric decline -- albeit at a slowing rate -- since late 2011.
Is Yandex maintaining market share?
Speaking of which, Yandex investors should also be watching closely to see how well it has been able to maintain its share of the Russian search market amid this turmoil.
Last quarter, Yandex's share including mobile averaged 60.3%, down from 61.6% in Q2, and 62% during the third quarter of 2013. That still represents a massive lead over Google, which stands a distant second in Russia with "just" 30% of the market. But keep in mind that was also Google's highest-ever share of the Russian market to date, and up from around 26% in the preceding quarter. You can be sure Big G won't be resting on its laurels given the sheer growth potential of the yet-untapped market, where Internet penetration is still only about 50%. If Google is able to continue its upward march there, it could add insult to injury as Yandex focuses on weathering this macroeconomic uncertainty.
Any updates on supplementary businesses?
Finally, last quarter was a busy one in terms of Yandex's efforts to spread its laser focus from search to other promising markets. It not only acquired advertising tech platform AdFox in early September, for instance, but also completed its purchase of Russian classified ad specialist Auto.ru. Yandex also managed to launch a promising e-commerce platform in Q3 called Yandex.Master, and relaunched its Yandex.Music service with a refreshed design and a new personal music curation system. That's not to mention Yandex already had a taxi service in place called Yandex.Taxi, as well as Yandex.City, its local business review platform that debuted this past June.
Don't get me wrong; I understand these endeavors are long-term in nature. Note, for example, fellow business review specialist Yelp recently reminded investors it'll take years to build the necessary user base for its young international sites before it can even think about properly monetizing them. However, that doesn't mean investors wouldn't still love to hear details on the strides Yelp's various supplementary products are making.
Be it in the initial earnings press release or the subsequent conference call, look and listen for any specific metrics to help gauge the success of Yandex's long-term moves to diversify its business. If the progress in these early stages proves meaningful, it could go a long way toward giving patient investors a light at the end of the tunnel.
Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google (A shares), Google (C shares), Yandex, and Yelp. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google (A shares) and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.