© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The sun sets behind the skyscrapers of the Moscow International Business Centre, also known as “Moskva-City”, in Moscow, Russia April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
By Akriti Sharma and Rocky Swift
(Reuters) – Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing will keep its stores in Russia open, joining a small group of international firms that are staying put even as dozens of big brands temporarily shutter operations or exit the country over its invasion of Ukraine.
Political pressure is building on companies to halt business in Russia, while operations have also been complicated by sweeping sanctions affecting everything from global payments systems to a range of high-tech products.
Large shippers have suspended container routes to and from Russia and many Western companies from Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) and home furnishings giant Ikea to energy majors BP (LON:BP) and Shell (LON:RDSa) have closed shop or announced plans to exit the country.
“Clothing is a necessity of life. The people of Russia have the same right to live as we do,” said Fast Retailing CEO Tadashi Yanai in remarks first reported by Nikkei, adding that every country should oppose war.
A spokesperson told Reuters the company had seen no noticeable impact on its supply chain or logistics in Russia, where Uniqlo has 49 stores.
In contrast, Levi Strauss & Co (NYSE:LEVI) suspended its Russian operations, including any new investments.
The Big Four accounting firms KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte moved one by one to cut their ties with Russia, as did credit card company American Express (NYSE:AXP).
Dairy cooperative Arla Foods, French yoghurt maker Danone and Belgian chemicals group Solvay (BR:SOLB) also suspended operations or investment in the country, while the RIA Novosti news agency cited carmaker Nissan as saying it would halt production at its factory in St Petersburg.
Nissan said last week it was suspending vehicle exports to Russia, joining peers like General Motors Co (NYSE:GM) and Sweden’s Volvo Cars.
Among companies continuing to operate in Russia were McDonald’s Corp (NYSE:MCD) and PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) Inc, prompting New York state’s pension fund – a shareholder in the pair – to urge them and others to consider pausing their operations there.
Russia announced new “humanitarian corridors” on Monday to transport Ukrainians trapped under its bombardment – to Russia itself and its ally Belarus, a move immediately denounced by Kyiv as an immoral stunt.
Russia calls the campaign it launched on Feb. 24 a “special military operation”. It denies attacking civilian areas and says it has no plans to occupy Ukraine.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new media law on Friday, Chinese-owned video app TikTok said it would suspend live-streaming and the uploading of videos to its platform in Russia.
“We have no choice but to suspend livestreaming and new content to our video service while we review the safety implications of this law,” it said in a series of Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) posts https:// on Sunday.
Many companies have strongly condemned Russia’s actions as they suspended services in the country.
“In light of Russia’s ongoing, unjustified attack on the people of Ukraine, American Express is suspending all operations in Russia,” AMEX said on its website.
Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), which had already temporarily stopped future projects and acquisitions in Russia, suspended its service “given the situation on the ground”, a spokesperson said.
KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte all said they would sever links with their Russian operations, affecting thousands of staff.
Uniqlo owner stays put in Russia as Levi, AMEX and others sever ties