Goldman-Backed HeadHunter Targets Russian IPO in U.S.

(Bloomberg) -- HeadHunter Group PLC plans to raise as much as $253 million in what would be the first initial public offering of a Russian company in the U.S. since Washington began imposing sanctions in 2014 to punish the Kremlin for its role in the Ukrainian crisis.

HeadHunter, Russia’s largest online-recruitment firm, plans to offer up to 18.75 million American Depository Receipts on Nasdaq at between $11 and $13.50 a share, the company said in a statement Thursday. The shares will be sold by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Elbrus Capital, which acquired the company from Mail.ru Group Ltd. in 2016.

If it goes through, this will be the first time a Russian company tests the American market since 2013, when fintech firm Qiwi Plc and software developer Luxoft Holding Inc. sold shares. Geopolitical tensions following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and later charges of Kremlin interference in the U.S. presidential election have led to escalating sanctions against Moscow and dampened investor appetite.

Goldman, which is managing the HeadHunter listing along with five other banks including Morgan Stanley & Co., VTB Capital Plc and Sberbank CIB, may be seeking to take advantage of investor enthusiasm for the technology sector after offerings by Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., according to Alina Sychova, head of capital markets origination at Sova Capital in Moscow.

HeadHunter postponed plans for a U.S. offering last April following a new wave of sanctions that pummeled Russian markets, Kommersant reported at the time.

The market for Russian equity sales remains frail. Not a single Russian company held an initial public offering last year and Globaltruck Management was the last firm to list shares on the Moscow Exchange, in November 2017. Earlier this month, Russian railroad carrier Rustranscom PLC dropped plans for a London offering. Cherkizovo Group PJSC, which delisted from the London Stock Exchange in 2017, shelved a potential share sale because it said the situation on capital markets wasn’t favorable.

“The banks managing the HeadHunter IPO also participated in marketing Rustranscom and Cherkizovo deals and understand the level of investor demand for Russia,” Sychova said. “It seems they are hoping U.S. demand for the technology sector will take this deal over the finish line.”

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