VTB Invests $18 Million in Internet Via Fast Lane Ventures

VTB Capital, the securities unit of Russia’s second-biggest lender, is investing $18 million in internet startups by taking a stake in Fast Lane Ventures.

The investment gives VTB an undisclosed minority holding in Moscow-based Fast Lane, Aidar Kaliev, head of VTB Capital’s venture capital investments, said in an interview today. “It gives us a seat on the board and the first refusal to increase our stake,” Kaliev said.

VTB invested in one of the few domestic technology initial public offerings of OAO Russian Nautical Technologies in July 2010, which raised $85 million on the Micex Stock Exchange. Yandex NV, the owner of Russia’s most popular Internet search engine, raised $1.3 billion in a New York IPO in January this year. Mail.ru Group Ltd., a Russian investor in Facebook Inc., attracted $912 million in its London IPO in November 2010.

“We have one or two companies who could be candidates for IPOs on the Nasdaq,” said Kaliev in Moscow. The bank will exit two investments through trades sales before the end of 2012, he said.

VTB last month invested $10 million in Oktogo.ru, a Russian online hotel booking and travel company. The bank has invested $130 million of its $330 million venture fund in four deals in Russia and in four companies with “Russian components” in Germany, Los Angeles and London.

The lender’s investment strategy is underpinned by “patriotism and profit,” Kaliev said. “We have invested in aiHit, an artificial intelligence company, in the U.K. because its engineers are from Russia and the Ukraine.”