Heineken fears Russia will take over business as it leaves country

Heineken expressed concern Monday that the Kremlin could attempt to seize its local operations as it looks to exit Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

The Dutch beer giant plans to sell off its Russia business after a strategic review concluded it was “no longer sustainable nor viable in the current environment.”

However, Heineken will nonetheless maintain limited operations in Russia due to fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin could nationalize the business in retaliation.

“We aim for an orderly transfer of our business to a new owner in full compliance with international and local laws,” Heineken said in a statement. “To ensure the ongoing safety and wellbeing of our employees and to minimize the risk of nationalization, we concluded that it is essential that we continue with the recently reduced operations during this transition period.”

Heineken issued its warning weeks after Putin backed a plan to “introduce external management” to Western companies that leave Russia in response to the invasion “and then transfer these enterprises to those who want to work.”

Heineken bottling plant
Heineken said it will continue limited operation in Russia to minimize the risk of nationalization.
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The Kremlin has repeatedly threatened to retaliate against businesses from “unfriendly” countries involved in an economic crackdown on Russia.

Heineken previously said it would halt sales, advertising and production in Russia, as well as halting all new investments and exports to the country.

The company said it “will not profit from any transfer of ownership” of its Russia operations and expects an “impairment” of approximately €0.4 billion (about $440 million) in connection to the exit.

Heineken plant in Russia
Heineken said its business in Russia is “no longer sustainable.”
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“In all circumstances we guarantee the salaries of our 1,800 employees will be paid to the end of 2022 and will do our utmost to safeguard their future employment,” company officials added.

More than 400 Western companies have already left Russia over the Ukraine war, with many citing operational difficulties or a moral objection to the war as the catalyst for their decisions.

McDonald’s was one of the companies to pause sales in Russia. Within days of the fast-food chain’s decision, a local operator called Uncle Vanya filed a trademark application with a logo nearly identical to McDonald’s golden arches. Russian officials have endorsed the takeover bid.