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13 January 2023

Heineken exiting Russia: “It’s endlessly complicated”

Netherlands | Heineken’s full exit from Russia is dragging on. Like Carlsberg, the Dutch brewer had wanted to be out of the country by the end of 2022. But it seems Heineken was too optimistic when it set itself this date.

In an interview with the newspaper NRC on 23 December 2022, Heineken CEO Dolf van den Brink said it is still not a done deal, without going into details.

To the question “Are you succeeding in selling your Russian branch?” he replied: “I can't say too much about that. It's endlessly complicated. Finding the right party you trust to transfer your people to is one thing. But to also handle it legally and fiscally…”

When asked “Are things moving?”, he said: “Yes. But everyone is careful. Because of Russian law, because of sanctions that are still developing. There is a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty and that means that things are moving even more slowly than usual.” (translated from the interview)

Russian employees provide for themselves

Heineken’s 1,800 Russian employees need not worry about their jobs. The brewing industry did not buckle under the war in Ukraine. Heineken’s Russian colleagues managed to provide for themselves in 2022 and will continue to do so until a new owner is found.

Mr van den Brink left it intentionally open when Heineken will finally pull out of Russia. However, this much is known: Heineken’s exit will be final.

As the Dutch journalist Olivier van Beemen found out, Heineken does not have any plans to come back, meaning the sale will be irrevocable. Carlsberg, on the other hand, has let it be known that it would like to include a buy back option in its eventual sales contract.

Heineken said in March 2022 that it will not profit from any transfer of ownership, and it expects an impairment and other non-cash exceptional charges of approximately EUR 400 million (USD427 million) in total.