The Dutch multinational brewer Heineken leaves Russia for good. The company had seven breweries and 1,800 employees in the country, and in 2022 announced the withdrawal of its branded products after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This Friday, it has completed its exit with the sale of its activities for the symbolic price of one euro to the Russian industrial group Arnest, which does not appear on the lists of those sanctioned by the war. The operation will involve losses of 300 million euros and implies the progressive elimination of trade in the Amstel brand, owned by Heineken International, over the next six months.
One of the conditions for the sale was that some smaller regional beer brands would continue to be brewed for another three years. The step is considered necessary to guarantee business continuity and the approval of the agreement, according to Heineken sources. In any case, the company will not receive revenue, royalties or other amounts from Russia for this, nor will it endorse those brands. Under the agreement, the Arnest group – a conglomerate of packaging, household products and cosmetics companies – will pay some 100 million euros of corporate debt in installments. It also ensures jobs for the 1,800 employees for the next three years. “We have completed our exit from Russia,” said Dolf van den Brink, Heineken’s executive director, in the statement where the firm explains the details of the agreement.
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The brewery leaves Russia in better conditions than the Danish Carslberg, whose participation in a local company, Baltika Breweries, was expropriated this July by the State. The same has happened with the Russian subsidiary of the French yogurt maker Danone. Both companies had put their assets in Russia up for sale because of the war in Ukraine. Last April, the Russian branches of the German energy firm Uniper and its Finnish counterpart Fortun Oyj, were themselves placed under state control. The Kremlin already warned then that it could seize more Western assets in retaliation for “foreign moves against Russian firms outside the country.”
Heineken announced in March 2022 that it was planning to withdraw from Russia, but the sale has proven complex and slow. Last March, a report by the Dutch investigative journalism platform Follow the Money uncovered the launch of at least 61 new products in Russia. It included new varieties of the Amstel brand and the step was approved by the head office of the multinational.
First, it denied the allegations. Later she recognized them in a statement, admitting in turn that the process of disassociation of her Russian business had not yet begun. Faced with the loss of image due to the criticism received, she justified the maneuver by the need to “avoid liquidation.” In April 2023 she said she had found a buyer and was awaiting approval from Russian authorities for the now-announced sale. “Although it has taken longer than calculated, it ensures the position for our workers and makes it easier for us to march responsibly,” according to Van den Brink.
Heineken has turned 150 years old and has been present in Russia for two decades, in a market considered difficult. The current agreement does not contemplate repurchase options, so the multinational terminates its Russian presence. “It is very hard to say goodbye to 1,800 colleagues. There are no winners”, Van den Brink assured.
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