The moment Mail.ru and Yandex investors have been waiting for has arrived: Russia, at long last, has finally surpassed Germany to become the largest internet market in Europe.
According to comScore, the research firm, Russia had 50.8m internet users in September versus 50.1m users in Germany. And, luckily for those who bought into Russian internet stocks such as Mail.ru and Yandex at sky-high valuations, the market still has a lot of growth left.
With broadband penetration set to reach 60m people in Russia this year – a third of the population – there is still a large swath of the country where the internet revolution has yet to take hold.
GP Bullhound, a techonology-focused investment group, predicts there will be 93m Russian broadband customers by 2013. Of those customers, 71m will be using 3G mobile phones.
This is good news for big internet groups, such as Mail.ru and Yandex, which have spent the past year justifying their initial offering valuations.
Their share prices appear to be evidence that the two group’s initial valuations were inflated. But actually the companies have been surprising the market with better-than-expected earnings.
According to comScore, Russia easily beats France, the UK and Italy for the number of its internet users. But it does not even enter the top rankings for the amount of time these users spend on the internet, falling behind countries such as the UK, the Netherlands and Turkey. While the average European spent 26.4 hours on the internet in September, the average Russian user spent just 22.4 hours.