Russian roulette for McDonald’s, Unilever and Renault

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McDonald’s Russian restaurants had an element of exoticism missing from some Western branches, said the Financial Times. Local specialities included “Beef a la Russe burger on a black bread bun”. But now they are shutting for good. Two months after temporarily closing 850 outlets, the US fast food chain is selling its Russian business. The company hopes to find a local buyer to hire employees, but nonetheless expects to write off a non-cash charge of up to $1.4bn “in its first exit from a large market”. The move marks a symbolic retreat, 32 years after McDonald’s opened its first outlet on Moscow’s Pushkin Square. Having “embodied the very notion of glasnost”, said CEO Chris Kempczinski, “the Golden Arches will shine no more”. 

Kempczinski stated that remaining is not “consistent with McDonald’s values” amidst “the humanitarian crisis” of the Ukraine war. Its exit will put pressure on others, said Nils Pratley in The Guardian. Unilever says that it is remaining in the country, at no profit to itself, so that it can continue supplying “essential goods” (Wall’s ice cream anyone?) to the Russian people, and to support employees. “Nobody should deny the complexities, but Unilever looks increasingly isolated.” 

In one of the most significant retreats yet, Renault is selling its whole operation, including its 67.7% stake in Lada-maker Avtovaz, to Russian state entities for a “token” two roubles, said Lex in the FT. The €2.2bn write-down means that the French carmaker, shaved of its Russian assets, is now worth barely more than its large shareholding in the Japanese group Nissan. The quality of Russian-made cars has improved greatly since Lada’s Soviet heyday. “Jokes about rusty old clunkers now apply more pertinently to Renault than they do to Lada cars.”



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