Google’s Antitrust Defeat Is Helping Its Biggest Russian Rival

July 29, 2016, 9:51 AM UTC
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When Russia’s competition authorities ruled against Google in a major antitrust case last September, they paved the way for a key local competitor to gain ground.

Yandex (YNDX), in many ways the Russian Google (GOOG), said in its latest quarterly results Thursday that it was starting to see the benefits from the ruling. The case had very strong parallels with the EU’s current Android antitrust charges against Google.

“Yandex share on Android devices started to grow again in late June as a result of new distribution deals following the favorable…ruling in our case against Google,” said the company’s COO, Alexander Shulgin, as he hailed “significant improvements in mobile monetization.”

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As in the major ongoing EU case (in which Yandex testified), the Russian authorities accused Google of abusing its dominant position in the Android ecosystem by banning device manufacturers from making rival search services the default on their devices’ homescreens.

Yandex, in part thanks to its greater proficiency at handling Russian-language queries, has a search market share of around 57% in the country—though this has been gradually eroding in recent years.

Google also pressured manufacturers to preinstall all its core apps, such as Gmail and Maps, if they want to use any. Again, Yandex offers a suite of such apps, even including an Android app store to those manufacturers and operators who might want a lucrative alternative to Google’s Play Store.

Yandex has not been clear about which new distribution deals have helped to boost its Android market share, nor did it quantify the growth, although it reportedly now has a share of around 40%.

Google lost an appeal against the Russian antitrust ruling in March, and has so far still not paid a fine for its violations—indeed, it still has an appeal in with the Moscow appellate court, so it is not clear to what extent it has actually changed its practices in Russia.

Buoyed by its strong results for the first half of the year (H1 revenues were up 31% year-on-year and adjusted net income up 40%), Yandex has now raised its gross outlook for 2016 revenues, predicting growth in the range of 19-22% compared with last year.

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Meanwhile in the EU, Google this month won an extension on the deadline for handing in its defence against the similar charges levied against it by competition commission Margrethe Vestager. It now has until September 7.

The Android charges are only one strand (albeit a major one) in a tapestry of EU antitrust cases against Google. So far, Google has been failing to get its way in its war with Vestager, although none of the cases are as yet resolved and some charges may still be yet to come.

Google had not responded to a request for comment on Yandex’s assertions at the time of writing.

This article was updated to note that it remains unclear to what extent Google has changed its practices in Russia.

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