Western Companies Put Russian Assets On Sale

Energy businesses are among those with the most to lose.

Gold, beer, cigarettes and fossil fuels galore. Everything must go, but who will buy? The invasion of Ukraine prompted many Western companies to quit Russia and put their assets on sale at a steep discount.

Energy businesses are among those with the most to lose. BP has warned that finding a buyer for its 19.75% stake in Kremlin-owned oil company Rosneft will be difficult, and it could face a write-down of as much as $25 billion. Shell will exit its joint venture with Gazprom, valued at about $3 billion, and pull out from the now-stalled Nord Stream 2 gas project, in which it holds a 10% stake worth about $1 billion. Exxon Mobil is taking steps to part from its offshore development project near Sakhalin Island, valued at over $4 billion.

Big international brewers are selling too. Dutch giant Heineken is seeking to divest, as is its Danish rival Carlsberg, which holds a 27.3% share of the Russian market through a stake in Baltika Breweries, the country’s biggest brand. Belgium’s Anheuser-Busch InBev is negotiating to sell Turkish brewer Anadolu Efes its share of their joint venture.

While the list of companies scrambling for the exit grows longer and more diverse by the day, it is the opposite with potential buyers. Chinese energy firms Cnooc, CNPC and Sinopec reportedly had discussions about purchasing Shell’s Russian assets—yet these firms, too, might want to avoid any potential backlash, and Sinopec later suspended discussions.

Ultimately, the greatest beneficiaries of rushed selloffs could be Russian. Canadian mining company Kinross Gold already announced the handover of its assets to Russian-controlled Highland Gold Mining. British tobacco multinationals Imperial Brands and BAT are negotiating to transfer their operations to local third parties. French bank Societe Generale will sell its participation in Rosbank to Interros Capital, which is linked to multibillionaire Vladimir Potanin.

However, finding a buyer is not a complete solution. The risk of inadvertently breaking rules on sanctions raises the possibility of severe legal repercussions, regardless.