History of the brand in Russia: Why is Obi selling its Russian branches?

A few weeks ago, Obi’s boss, Haub, was already counting on an expropriation in Russia. Apparently out of fear of this scenario, the group sells its Russian subsidiaries to an investor. Brand expert Kilian hopes Obi’s exit won’t be felt.

The Obi brand is historical in Russia: the hardware chain sells its 27 Russian branches and does not receive any money for it. “All legal entities have been transferred to an investor without payment of the purchase price,” the company said.

According to brand expert Karsten Kilian, the fact that no market price was obviously achievable could be because the Russian branches are still mortgage-bound or all employees have been taken over. He also points out that it’s unclear what condition the limb construction fabric is in. “It is clear, however, that the Obi branches would certainly have had value in ‘normal times’,” Kilian tells ntv.de. The amount Obi will have to write off for the assets is not known. The only fact is that the hardware chain lost 5% of its sales due to the complete withdrawal from Russia.

Even though the approval of the responsible authorities is still pending: under the new owner, the Obi brand will not be prosecuted in Russia. Obi has “taken the final step to finally exit the Russian market,” the channel said. All markets in Russia had already been closed in mid-March due to the war in Ukraine, and now the Obi Group is “neither directly nor indirectly active in Russia” after the latest transaction.

In an interview with Manager Magazin, owner Christian Haub previously referred to Russian law that allows the state to expropriate companies whose home countries participate in sanctions imposed due to the war in Ukraine. He should therefore have expected an expropriation in Russia. For moral reasons, after the Russian attack, Haub could not imagine continuing to do business in Russia and thus indirectly supporting the regime there financially.

Treasury pays part of Obi’s discharge

According to trademark expert Kilian, with this step, Obi lost the ability to sue for repossession later. “After all, Obi only accepted the donation on the condition that the brand would not be used in Russia in the future, in order to avoid possible damage to the German hardware brand.”

Kilian hopes Obi’s path will not set a precedent in the future. “Honestly, I don’t hope the gift of assets will be copied because it’s a well-known fact that a gift tends to enrich the recipient.”

Even if the name of the Russian investor is not known, according to Kilian, in this specific case, it could possibly be an oligarch, but possibly also former CEOs or managers. “It would mean that one or more wealthy Russian citizens would benefit from the war, which was certainly not the purpose of Obi’s withdrawal,” says Kilian. After all, Putin and the upper and middle classes should be weakened – and not given more assets.

By canceling the Russian branches, the German Treasury collects less tax and, according to Kilian, thus pays for part of Obi’s exit from Russia. “At the end of the day, we all pay for the radical exit because there are less taxes that sooner or later someone else will have to pay.”

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