02.11.22 Sanctions Review

Not Everyone Has Left: the exodus of iconic international brands from Russia made a lot of noise, but in reality, about half of the foreign companies that worked here before the war still remain on the Russian market

The departure of international companies from the Russian market after the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine was one of the most evident signs of Russia's coming isolation. The expressive gestures of iconic brands like IKEA, Starbucks, Mcdonald's, Lego, and H&M made a lot of noise, but if we talk about foreign businesses in general, the situation looks very different. Those companies, which are directly targeting the end consumer and "selling" their brand, leave to avoid spoiling their reputation. However, many foreign companies continue to work on the Russian market or have only suspended their work. There are slightly less than half of them among American companies, 70% among German companies, and more than 60% among French and Japanese companies. It is mainly the companies from complex and resource-intensive industries such as energy, construction, agriculture, oil and gas, or pharmaceuticals trying to keep their business. The Russian revenue of the companies remaining in Russia is 60% of the Russian revenue of all foreign businesses that existed in Russia at the beginning of 2022, and they employ 600 thousand people, which is only slightly less than the staff of the companies that have left — 670 thousand. Therefore, the Russian economy still has something to lose, and it would be a great exaggeration to think that foreign business has left Russia.

As soon as a foreign business departure from Russia began, several projects started to track and systematize this process. The most famous is the Yale University registry, which we have already written about. In the middle of September, it included 1385 foreign companies operating in Russia at the beginning of 2022. Yaroslav Pilipenko, an analyst of Transparency International Ukraine, estimated that, according to the project data, 817 companies closed their business on the Russian market after the war started (317 have left completely, and 500 have suspended their work). However, to a different extent, 568 more companies are still working in Russia. According to the Yale Registry, among those remaining, the most significant number of companies are from the United States (133), while the bulk of those who have left Russia are also from the United States (274). German companies are almost evenly split: 63 have remained, and 64 have left. The most significant gap is among British companies: 10 have remained and 85 left. French and Chinese companies have mostly stayed in the Russian market. According to Mr. Pilipenko, Chinese business, on the contrary, is expanding its presence in Russia and actively occupying the vacated niches. On the other hand, Yale University economists argue that investors are encouraging the exit from the toxic Russian market: the stock prices of the companies that have left are growing, compensating them for their losses in Russia.

A complete list of international companies operating in Russia on the eve of the war is provided by the LeaveRussia project, run by Ukrainian volunteers and the Kyiv School of Economics. 

The LeaveRussia list includes 3,020 companies (the difference between the Yale and LeaveRussia registries can be explained by the fact that both projects use open sources, but the LeaveRussia registry includes all companies from the Yale registry). According to LeaveRussia, by the end of October, 1,271 companies had already left or were leaving Russia. This is about 42% of all foreign business that existed on the Russian market at the beginning of 2022. Another 40% (1,189 companies) continue to operate in Russia, while others have suspended or limited their work. 53% of American companies and about 60% of British ones have left or are leaving. Poland, Lithuania, Finland, Ireland, and the Czech Republic are the countries whose businesses have massively left Russia (60% of companies). On the contrary, companies from Germany, Japan, France, Italy, and Hungary mostly remain: only 25-30% have left the Russian market.

This situation looks even more significant when we consider that large businesses from complex and resource-intensive industries continue to operate in Russia. 88% of pharmaceuticals-related companies, 79% of metals and mining companies, 91% of agricultural companies, 70% of energy, gas, and oil companies, and 77% of manufacturing companies are still working. Most IT-related companies, online services, and consulting have leftThis was also confirmed by analyzing the list of these companies in terms of their Russian revenues. LeaveRussia estimates that last year the companies that have entirely left or are currently leaving Russia received $120 billion in revenue in the Russian market. In comparison, the revenue of companies that remain or have suspended operations in the Russian market amounted to about $175 billion. The employment situation, i.e., the number of full-time employees, is similar: 673,000 people were working in companies that have left or are leaving Russia entirely, while the remaining companies employ 603,000 people. 

Activists and politicians are not reducing their pressure on the management of companies remaining in Russia and urging them to stop financing the war by paying taxes to the Russian budget. There is no doubt that as the hostilities continue, the departure of foreign businesses from the Russian market will continue. But today, the Russian economy still has a lot to lose, and it would be a great exaggeration to say that foreign business has left Russia.