Russian invasion of Ukraine: French Societe Generale banking group leaving Russia at cost of €3.1b
French banking group Societe Generale said on Monday it was ceasing activities in Russia and selling its majority stake in Rosbank, weeks after Ukraine's leader urged French firms to leave over Moscow's invasion of the country.
Hundreds of foreign companies, ranging from financial firms to retailers and fast-food restaurants, have pulled out of Russia since the brutal 24 February invasion.
But French firms, which are the biggest foreign employers in Russia, have been among the slowest to withdraw, prompting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to urge them to leave during an address to the French parliament on 23 March.
Societe Generale said in a statement that its withdrawal from Russia would cost it €3.1 billion ($3.4 billion).
"Societe Generale ceases its banking and insurance activities in Russia," the firm said in a statement.
It also announced "the signing of a sale and purchase agreement to sell its entire stake in Rosbank and the Group's Russian insurance subsidiaries" to Interros Capital, an investment firm founded by one of Russia's richest oligarchs, Kremlin confidant Vladimir Potanin.
"With this agreement, concluded after several weeks of intensive work, the Group would exit in an effective and orderly manner from Russia, ensuring continuity for its employees and clients," Societe Generale said.
The bank said it expects the deal to be completed in the coming weeks and that it was subject to approval from regulators.
Societe Generale shares were down by almost six percent following the announcement.
In a separate statement, Interros said that "the conditions for the deal have been approved by the government commission on control over foreign investment in the Russia Federation".
"Interros intends to do the maximum efforts to develop Rosbank," Potanin said in his company's statement.
"The main objective is to maintain the stability of Rosbank, as well as create new opportunities for its clients and partners," he said.
In a statement, Rosbank said it was "certain" that the firm would maintain its stability thanks to its "expertise" and reliance on "international expertise".
The Russian bank said it built "great resistance" to economic turmoil due to its "well-thought-out risk policy" as well as its balanced loan portfolio and diversified liquidity base.
Putin's war in Ukraine has exposed the flaws in the liberal Western world order, laying the groundwork for new global power dynamics that challenge American hegemony, writes @DrTalAbdulrazaq https://t.co/HrVE616xh5— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) April 11, 2022
Meanwhile, Societe Generale's auto leasing subsidiary, ALD, said it would not enter into new commercial transactions in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Since Zelensky's speech to the French parliament, auto giant Renault suspended operations at its Moscow factory and hinted that it might divest its majority stake in domestic car giant AvtoVAZ, while French sports retailer Decathlon halted sales at its stores in Russia.
Another major French company singled out by Zelensky, supermarket chain Auchan, has decided to stay, citing the "human" cost of leaving.
The Western exodus followed the invasion and a slew of Western sanctions on Russia, including the freezing of $300 billion of the country's foreign currency reserves abroad.
Russia has since faced the risk of defaulting on its debt.