Nervous staff and no bankers as western companies struggle to leave Russia

For foreign companies still figuring out what to do with their stranded Russian assets, President Vladimir Putin’s seizure of a major oil and gas project is a powerful warning: act quickly or else.

Companies are grappling with how to leave in ways that limit financial impact, don’t endanger employees and, in some cases, provide an opportunity to return in the future.

Finnish coffee boss Rolf Ladau was one of the early movers.

When Western governments began imposing sanctions on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine in late February, Paulig’s director realized that the coffee roaster there was no longer viable.

Coffee wasn’t on the sanctions lists, but getting beans into Russia was nearly impossible because freight companies stopped shipping to and from the country.

People walk past an exchange office with the exchange rates for rubles against US dollars and euros
The Russian economy is in recession.AP: Pavel Golovkin/File

Paying in rubles became more and more difficult.

Two weeks after the conflict, Mr. Ladau decided that Paulig would leave, and two months later did what normally takes a year: find a suitable buyer and close a deal.

In May, Paulig sold his Russian company to Indian private investor Vikas Soi.

More than a thousand Western companies have joined a corporate exodus from Russia – unprecedented in its size and speed – as they struggle to comply with sanctions and amid threats of Kremlin retaliation.

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