According to him, it is a choice that is not “not easy”. The CEO of Auchan Retail International, Yves Claude, defended, on Sunday March 27, the maintenance of the group’s activities in Russia. “Leaving would be imaginable from an economic point of view but not from a human point of view”he says in an interview with Sunday newspaper.
Asked by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky before the French Parliament on Wednesday about its activity in Russia, where it has been present for twenty years and employs 30,000 people, the Auchan group has decided to stay in the country even if there predicts losses for 2022, says Claude.
In Russia, where Auchan generates 10% of its global sales, “we have a discounter positioning and we believe we will contribute in a period of high inflation to protect the purchasing power of the inhabitants”he adds, specifying that he does not want to deprive his employees, 40% of whom are shareholders, of their jobs and his customers of their daily food needs. “Our customers are urging us to stay”he explains.
“Easy to criticize us”
“It’s easy to criticize us, but we are there, we face up and we act for the civilian population”he responds to critics who call on the Mulliez Family Association (Leroy Merlin, Auchan or Decathlon) to leave Russia, believing that its brands make it one of the largest taxpayers for the Russian 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) operates there “self-sufficient”.
“If we leave, we risk expropriation and expose our local leaders to criminal prosecution for fraudulent bankruptcy. And if we entrust our assets to a third party, another option offered, it means that they will be taken over 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, affirms Yves Claude, questioned on the consequences of this maintenance on 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 in Russia.
“Extreme” conditions in Ukraine
In Ukraine, where Auchan operates 43 stores (6,000 employees), conditions are “extreme” and stock-outs of fresh products began to be observed because 90% of the products came from within the country. Supply solutions from neighboring countries were put in place this week, specifies the CEO.
A hundred Ukrainian employees have been welcomed by their counterparts abroad and will be recruited elsewhere by the group, whose shareholders will devote part of the dividend to help the refugees, he explains again.