According to him, it is a choice that is not “not easy”. The CEO of Auchan Retail International, Yves Claude, defended the preservation of the group’s activities in Russia on Sunday, March 27. “Departure would be conceivable from an economic point of view, but not from a human point of view”he says in an interview with sunday newspaper†
Asked by the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, before the French Parliament, On Wednesday, during its activity in Russia, where it has been present for 20 years and employs 30,000 people, the Auchan group has decided to stay in the country, even if it foresees the loss before 2022, explains Mr Claude.
In Russia, where Auchan generates 10% of its worldwide sales, “We have a discounter positioning and we believe we will contribute in a period of high inflation to protect the purchasing power of residents”he adds, specifying that he does not want to deprive his employees, 40% of whom are shareholders, their jobs and his customers of their daily food needs. “Our customers urge us to stay”he explains.
“Easy to criticize us”
“It’s easy to criticize us, but we’re here, we’re at the forefront and we’re acting for the civilian population”he responds to critics who are calling on the Mulliez family (Leroy-Merlin, Auchan or Decathlon) to leave Russia, believing that its brands make it one of the biggest taxpayers to Russia’s state budget.
Yves Claude, recently appointed Head of Auchan Retail and Auchan France, recalls that Auchan has suspended its investments in Russia and that its subsidiary (232 stores and e-commerce activities) is active there “self-sufficient”†
“If we leave, we risk expropriation and expose our local leaders to criminal charges for fraudulent bankruptcy. And if we entrust our assets to a third party, another option that is offered, it means that they will be acquired by Russian capital. This will not bring peace and will instead be counterproductive in strengthening the Russian economic and financial ecosystem.”he explains.
“I ask myself questions every day, because the decision is not easy to make, but I am convinced that it is the right one. I feel supported by my shareholders, my employees and our social partners” but also by politicians, Yves Claude confirms, questioned about the consequences of this enforcement for the image of the group. He concludes by stating that he does not ” to feel “ intense debates within the Mulliez Family Association, which employs 77,500 people in Russia.
“Extreme” conditions in Ukraine
In Ukraine, where Auchan has 43 stores (6,000 employees), the conditions are: “extreme” and stocks of fresh produce started to build up as 90% of the produce came from the country. Supply solutions from neighboring countries were introduced this week, the CEO said.
One hundred Ukrainian workers have been welcomed by their colleagues abroad and will be recruited elsewhere by the group, whose shareholders will spend part of the dividend on helping the refugees, he explains again.