Contrary to the opinion of many multinational corporations, large French companies want to stay in Russia

It was on tiptoe that Hermès, on the first Friday morning, March 4, announced its decision to suspend its operations in Russia. Without issuing a press release, but through “message” in the professional social network LinkedIn. In the evening, Chanel made a similar decision because “difficult to operate” in the country. A few hours later, two of the biggest French luxury players followed: Kering, a group chaired by François-Henri Pinault, and LVMH, the world’s number one in the sector, owned by Bernard Arnault, France’s first fortune, also announced they were closing. “temporarily their shops”. Given the exit calls these global brands were facing from all sides, especially on Instagram, and the impossibility of importing products, keeping their stores open in the country was becoming difficult to sustain.

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Thus, these luxury groups became the first major French companies to make such decisions since Russia sent its tanks to Ukraine. Elsewhere in Europe and in the United States, every day since the start of the war, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, multinational corporations have distanced themselves from Russia. British oil groups BP and Shell and American ExxonMobil, car manufacturers Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, Toyota and Volkswagen, Italian insurance company Generali, Ikea or even Apple, Disney, Microsoft and Meta have all decided to leave the country. , suspend its activities or close its representative office.

Against the tide, tricolor bands have so far tried to stay in Russia as TotalEnergies (ex-Total). On Friday, the company’s ships loaded with Russian gas continued to provide supplies to Europe.. Total’s interests in the country are numerous. The group owns a 19.4% stake in Russian gas giant Novatek, where it communicates in the capital with Vladimir Putin’s close friend Gennady Timchenko, who is subject to European and US sanctions. TotalEnergies is also actively involved in several large projects, especially in Siberia. In 2020, 17% of oil and gas production and 24% of reserves were located in Russia.

After recognizing that“Now there is a fundamental problem in working with any political or economic person close to the Russian authorities”Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire spoke Wednesday with the CEO of TotalEnergies, with nothing leaked from their exchange. On the same day, on the air of France Inter, Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans called on the group to stop its activities in Russia. The position was also defended by several French parliamentarians on the left and right. Under pressure, a group led by Patrick Pouyanne was content not to take on a new project in Russia and “condemns Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine”. Total’s stance has come as a surprise in the energy world, where several observers note that in many countries the company enjoys the support of French diplomacy and intelligence, especially in conflict zones like Mozambique or Yemen.

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