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By Tatiana Voronova and Polina Devitt
ST PETERSBURG, June 7 (Reuters) - Oleg Tinkov, the founder and key shareholder in Russia's TCS Group, said on Friday that if his bank were to merge assets with Russian Internet giant Yandex, the united company would be worth over $20 billion.
Tinkov was speaking at a panel at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum with Arkady Volozh, co-founder and controlling shareholder in search engine Yandex, known as Russia's answer to Google.
Tinkov said only a few players in Russia, including his Tinkoff Bank group, as well as Mail.Ru, Gazprombank , Megafon, Yandex and Sberbank , had the ability to create a service platform to provide customers with search engines, payment applications, taxi or food delivery services, similar to those found in China and the United States.
Sberbank, Russia's top bank, is also building its own service system and has a golden share in Yandex. Sberbank earlier this year signed a deal to purchase a stake in media group Rambler, getting access to its digital products and services.
"The question for Yandex is: are you with Tinkoff or Sberbank?" Tinkov told Volozh.
"I believe that if we team up ... with Yandex, then even Sberbank will feel it. The (united company's) capitalisation will be over $20 billion."
Volozh replied: "Yandex is discussing very different paths for its corporate development... Tinkoff is one brilliant option but there are more."
Yandex is Russia's biggest internet search engine with a share of around 56% of Russian search traffic. It is also the country's biggest news aggregator compared with rivals Google and Mail.Ru, and offers an array of services ranging from car sharing to take-away food deliveries.
Volozh and members of the company's founding team control around 57% of the company. Tinkoff is the world's largest bank that is fully online, with around 8 million customers across Russia.
Earlier this week China's Alibaba, Russian sovereign fund RDIF, mobile phone operator Megafon and internet group Mail.ru signed an e-commerce joint venture deal. (Reporting by Polina Devitt, Tatiana Voronova, Elena Fabrichnaya, Katya Golubkova; writing by Katya Golubkova; editing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Louise Heavens)