* Q1 sales at 7.8 billion roubles ($218.5 million)
* Keeps 22-24 percent sales growth guidance for 2014
* Says economic, political conditions more challenging (Adds CEO comment, revenue breakdown, cash position, background)
By Maria Kiselyova
MOSCOW, April 24 (Reuters) - Russian internet group Mail.Ru confirmed its full-year outlook as it reported growth in first-quarter sales that was ahead of guidance while noting more challenging economic and political conditions.
Businesses in Russia are nervous about the possible implications of Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine, which is taking a toll on Russia’s economy and investments.
“The underlying economic and geopolitical environment has become more challenging, which impacts the longer-term visibility and makes forecasting more problematic,” Dmitry Grishin, Mail.Ru chief executive officer, said in a statement on Thursday.
“Notwithstanding this, the underlying market remains broadly supportive, and the structural drivers of our business are unchanged,” he said, while repeating an earlier outlook.
Mail.Ru, controlled by Russia’s richest man Alisher Usmanov, said in February it expected revenue growth this year of 22 to 24 percent and a margin on EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of 53 to 54 percent.
The company, which owns 52 percent of Russia’s biggest social network VKontakte and operates email and games services, said first-quarter sales rose to 7.8 billion roubles ($218.5 million) from 6.3 billion a year ago.
The growth was driven by a 39 percent increase in revenue from games and a 27 percent increase in advertising sales.
Revenue from paid services in social networks grew 16 percent to 2.6 billion roubles, the biggest share of the total.
The company had around 35 billion roubles of cash with no debt outstanding as of March 31.
$1 = 35.7037 Russian Roubles editing by Jane Baird