| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Internet search firm Yandex declared itself "better than Google" as it debuted on the Nasdaq on Tuesday, and signaled it has ambitions to expand beyond its Russian heartland.
The IPO is the biggest U.S. Internet listing since Google Inc went public in 2004, and is a long-held plan for the founders, who met at school at age 13.
CEO Arkady Volozh, 47, and Chief Technology Officer Ilya Segalovich, 46, who as schoolmates excelled at math and physics, said the IPO was just the beginning for Yandex.
"Russia deserves to have a technology company of a global level," Volozh told Reuters in an interview conducted in Russian. "We're working toward that happening."
Yandex raised $1.3 billion through the IPO as investors scooped up the shares, lured by prospects for the country's growing Internet market and the euphoria of last week's blowout debut by LinkedIn Corp.
Yandex shares were up 42 percent at $35.48 in late morning.
"Google is a great company but we are better," Segalovich said with a smile. "We ... are very focused on what we are doing and the focus is technology and search."
He said the company has ambitions to move beyond Russia.
"We have several ideas (about) how to go beyond our current business models," Segalovich said. "Definitely there are some new business models we are trying to explore and also international expansion is one of the new areas for us."
Yandex has not yet decided how to use the proceeds of the IPO but said it could be potentially useful for acquisitions.
"All our competitors have piles of cash -- huge piles -- and we must be prepared for (all) kinds of things," said Segalovich. "The landscape may change very fast. We may require maybe (an) acquisition or changes in strategy ... The Internet is very dynamic and growing very fast and all our big rivals are very rich."
(Reporting by Megan Davies, editing by Matthew Lewis)