Questions are being asked about the extent of Coca Cola HBC’s operations in Russia after a report suggested the firm has not fully withdrawn from the country despite pledging to do so.
The London-listed firm, which is the European bottler for the Coca-Cola Company, said in March 2022 that it was suspending all operations in the country following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In an update last August, the company said it intended to have “a much smaller operation in Russia which has been renamed Multon Partners,” which it said would focus on the sale of existing local brands. “It will be managed and operated locally,” it said.
But according to a report in The Mail on Sunday, Coca Cola HBC has maintained ten bottling plants, including three in the capital, Moscow, and another in Rostov-on-Don, which is near the border with Ukraine.
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola HBC told the outlet: “Following The Coca-Cola Company’s decision in March 2022 to suspend its business in Russia, Coca-Cola HBC transitioned to a 100 per cent local business in Russia called Multon Partners.
‘It is a self-sufficient business managed by a local team and focused on local brands, such as Dobry Cola. The Coca-Cola Company is not involved in these operations. Our focus is to ensure the business remains self-sufficient and that we can protect our people and our assets.’
City A.M. contacted Coca-Cola HBC for a comment.
Questions around the extent of its Russia operations comes after consumer giant Unilever said last week that withdrawal from Russia was “not straightforward,” and operating in the country was the best option to avoid the risk of its business ending up in the hands of the Russian state.
But its new chief, Hein Schumacher, has vowed to look at the company’s decision to operate in Russia with a “fresh pair of eyes,” after it was criticised for continuing to operate in the country.
The maker of Ben and Jerry’s and Dove soap reportedly made £556m in the country last year, according to figure from the Moral Ratings Agency.