History of the brand in Russia: why does Obi give away its Russian branches?

A few weeks ago, Obi’s boss, Haub, already had an expropriation in Russia. Apparently, fearing this scenario, the group is giving away its Russian branches to an investor. Trademark expert Kilian hopes that Obi’s exit will not be successful.

The Obi brand is history in Russia: the hardware store chain sells its 27 Russian branches and does not get any money for it. “All legal entities were transferred to an investor without paying the purchase price,” the company said.

According to brand expert Karsten Kilian, the fact that no market price was obviously attainable could be related to the fact that the Russian branches are still connected to mortgages or that all employees have been absorbed. He also notes that it is unclear what condition the structure of the branch building is in. “It is clear, however, that the Obi branches would certainly have had a value in ‘normal times,'” Kilian tells ntv.de. It is not known how much Obi will have to pay for the assets. The only data is that the hardware store chain loses five percent of sales due to the total withdrawal of Russia.

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

In an interview with Manager Magazin, the owner Christian Haub already referred to the Russian law that allows the state to expropriate companies whose countries of origin participate in the sanctions imposed by the war in Ukraine. Therefore, he should 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 financially supporting the regime there.

Treasury pays part of Obi’s departure

According to trademark expert Kilian, with this step, Obi has lost the option of being able to sue for recovery later. “After all, Obi only accepted the donation on the condition that the brand is no longer used in Russia in the future, to avoid possible damage to the German hardware brand.”

Kilian hopes that Obi’s path does not set a precedent in the future. “Honestly, I don’t expect gifts to 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 he could possibly be an oligarch, but perhaps also former CEOs or managers. “This would mean that one or more wealthy Russian citizens would benefit from the war, which was definitely not the purpose of Obi’s withdrawal,” says Kilian. After all, Putin and the upper and middle classes should be weakened, given no more assets.

By canceling the Russian branches, the German treasury receives less taxes and, according to Kilian, pays for part of Obi’s departure from Russia in this way. “In the end, we all pay for the radical departure because there are fewer taxes that sooner or later another will have to pay.”


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