February 14, 2020 / 3:54 PM / 4 days ago

Yandex races ahead with driverless car plans

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Internet company Yandex (YNDX.O), which reported lower growth in fourth-quarter profit on Friday, is poised to test its driverless cars outside Russia this year.

FILE PHOTO: A view shows a self-driving car owned and tested by Yandex company during a presentation in Moscow, Russia August 16, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo

Yandex has invested 2.2 billion roubles ($34.66 million) in driverless cars since it began working on the technology in 2016, the company’s Deputy CEO Tigran Khudaverdyan said on Friday.

The company also has a licence to test driverless vehicles in Israel and will begin tests in the United States this summer.

Yandex is racing to develop driverless vehicles for mass consumption along with several other companies, including Google (GOOGL.O) parent Alphabet, which has the self-driving car division Waymo.

“In the fourth quarter our investment in driverless cars amounted to 555 million roubles,” said Khudaverdyan. “Since the beginning of this venture, we have invested approximately 2.2 billion roubles, including 1.5 billion roubles in 2019.”

Khudaverdyan said Yandex’s driverless fleet now amounts to 110 vehicles.

Yandex has a wide range of online services, which include internet search, ride-hailing, food delivery and payments.

The company’s fourth-quarter results showed a 33% increase in revenue year-on-year.

BCS Global Markets analyst Maria Sukhanova said this performance was “solid”.

Yandex said its fourth-quarter net income, which fell 95% year-on-year, was affected by many one-time factors, such as restructuring and exchange rate differences.

The company’s fourth-quarter adjusted EBITDA was 13.2 billion roubles, up 7% year-on-year, but this compared with growth of 29% in the third quarter.

BCS Global Markets’ Sukhanova said the investments in driverless technology and the increased spending on its car-sharing business, Yandex.Drive, contributed to the lower than expected EBITDA growth.

By 1526 GMT, Yandex shares were down 3.5% in Moscow.

Yandex said the 49% year-on-year growth in its ride-hailing division, Yandex.Taxi, which includes taxis, food delivery and driverless cars, boosted growth, in particular the number of trips, which reached 150 million in December.

Revenue from the taxi business increased by 71% year-on-year to 11.94 billion roubles, accounting for 23% of the company’s total revenue.

Reporting by Nadezhda Tsydenova and Alexander Marrow, Writing by Alexander Marrow. Editing by Jane Merriman

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