Mail.Ru Plunges as Sales Forecast Cut on Slowing Russia Economy

Mail.ru Group Ltd. dropped the most since March in London after the operator of Russia’s most-popular social network cut its 2014 sales forecast as companies curb spending on web advertisements amid a slowing economy.

The shares plunged 13 percent, the steepest decline since March 3, to $28.36 per depositary receipt at 11:18 a.m. in the U.K.’s capital. The Moscow-based company said today it was reducing its sales-growth forecast to as little as 14 percent from an earlier projection of 24 percent. That would be the poorest showing since 2008, when the company reported a drop in sales, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Mail.ru’s display-advertising revenue fell 10 percent in the latest quarter as sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European Union amid Russia’s territorial conflict with Ukraine battered an already weaker economy. Gross domestic product will expand 0.5 percent this year, according to the median estimate of analysts in Bloomberg survey, with economists from BNP Paribas SA and Credit Suisse Group AG projecting a contraction.

“It’s a significant downgrade and shows that sentiment is changing,” Konstantin Chernyshev, head of research at Uralsib Capital in Moscow, said by phone. “The Russian economy is not in a good shape.”

The volume of Mail.ru shares traded today was about 2.6 times the three-month daily average, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The decline, the steepest among Russian stocks traded in London, took the depositary receipts’ retreat this year to 37 percent.

Eighteen analysts who track the stock on Bloomberg recommend buying the GDRs, while two say hold and one says sell. The average 12-month price projection based on 11 estimates is $41.34, a 46 percent premium to the current share price.