Tech industry close to seeing another bubble: Sistema CEO

Tech industry close to seeing another bubble: Sistema CEO

The tech industry is close to being caught up in another bubble of roller coaster valuations, the chief executive of Russian investment giant Sistema told CNBC.

Mikhail Shamolin, board director and chief executive of Sistema, an investment company holding majority stakes in a number of Russian telecommunications, media, utility and retail businesses, said he was seeing a repeat of the pattern of the tech bubble of the early 2000s.

"Now it is the era of so-called unicorns," Shamolin told CNBC at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, referring to the large-scale tech companies with billion-dollar valuations.

"And people believe unicorns are going to make money no matter what because they are unicorns and there (isn't) that much competition around. And they're so much about scale that, no matter what, they are going to start making money."

"And maybe they're right. I mean no one has got a crystal ball. But I would definitely say from my perspective that risks are increasing of a bubble being formed and eventually bursting."

Sistema has seen a turnaround in its fortunes over the last two years, with the conglomerate reporting a 2.5 billion ruble ($37 million) net income for the first quarter compared to an underlying net loss a year ago, Reuters reported at the start of the month.

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For Russia's tech industry, Shamolin believed its fortune could be split into those companies servicing consumers or businesses. While there have been some Russian success stories in the consumer space - such as Masquerade, the face-swapping app that was bought up by Facebook in March - the business-to-business industry doesn't have the necessary infrastructure to encourage investment.

"In Russia that doesn't exist so that will take years to develop," he told CNBC.

Russia has spent the last two years in the economic and political wilderness due to international sanctions imposed on the country for its annexation of Crimea and role in the pro-Russian uprising in east Ukraine, which it denies. However, Shamolin believes that there were grounds for hope.

"It seems like the worst is over. And I think that people are starting to feel it and if you look at the turnout of foreign investors at this particular forum and even in the previous conferences in last three months you see that a lot of people are coming in and people are interested to see what is going on."

"And yes we had a pretty good first quarter and we didn't have a single non-performing asset out of all the assets we invested in and I think we're now kind of carefully stepping forward with increasing our investments in several sectors that we believe are going to be growing strongly in Russia."