December 21, 2020
By Nadezhda Tsydenova and Anna Rzhevkina
(Reuters) – A draft law proposing to limit foreign shareholdings in Russian companies that offer online video streaming services to 20% could worsen the investment climate, a spokesperson for internet giant Yandex told Reuters on Monday.
Russian lawmaker Anton Gorelkin on Friday submitted the draft law to the lower house of parliament, the Duma, saying in a blogpost that new amendments were aimed at protecting the Russian market from “the excessive influence of foreigners”.
Yandex, which owns Kinopoisk, a film and TV streaming service, could be affected by the proposed legislation as it is publicly listed on the U.S. Nasdaq stock exchange and has a free float of 87%.
Currently there is no limit on foreign ownership of streaming service providers whose total audience globally is predominantly Russian.
Gorelkin said the proposed law would not stop foreign players from making money in Russia, but would prevent money shifting overseas.
“We recognise the audio-visual services market as strategic for Russia,” he said, adding that the law would create a powerful incentive to stop the industry shifting overseas.
Yandex spokesperson Ilya Grabovsky said he did not see a need for proposed legislation changes.
“The proposed bill could worsen the investment climate and slow down the development of the Russian market for audiovisual services,” he said.
Last year, Gorelkin proposed a similar draft law to limit foreign ownership in “significant” Russian IT companies to 20%, raising concerns it would damage the ability of Russian companies to compete globally.
Russian lawmakers will soon debate the proposed law on streaming services but it is unclear how much support it has.
Russia’s largest bank Sberbank, which is a shareholder in the Okko online cinema, declined to comment.
Another Russian online cinema, ivi, is preparing to launch an initial public offering in the United States, according to Reuters sources. It declined to comment on the draft law.
(Reporting by Nadezhda Tsydenova and Anna Rzhevkina; Editing by Susan Fenton)
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