Uniqlo owner stays put in Russia as Netflix, AMEX, and others sever ties

‘Clothing is a necessity of life. The people of Russia have the same right to live as we do,’ says Fast Retailing CEO Tadashi Yanai, adding that every country should oppose war

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 and home furnishings giant IKEA to energy majors BP and Shell 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 Nikkeiadding 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. suspended its Russian operations, including any new investments.

The move came after streaming giant Netflix, credit card company American Express, and three of the Big Four accounting firms – KPMG, EY, and PwC – cut ties with Russia.

Dairy cooperative Arla Foods is suspending local operations and French yogurt maker Danone is suspending any investment in Russia. Danone added that one of its two factories had closed in Ukraine.

Among companies continuing to operate in Russia are McDonald’s Corporation and PepsiCo, 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, March 7, 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 February 24 a “special military operation.” It denies attacking civilian areas and says it has no plans to occupy Ukraine.

After President Vladimir Putin signed a new media law on Friday, March 4, TikTok, the Chinese-owned video app, said it would suspend livestreaming 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,” the social media company said in a series of Twitter posts on Sunday, March 6.

‘Unjustified attack’

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,” it said on its website.

“Given the circumstances on the ground, we have decided to suspend our service in Russia,” a Netflix spokesperson said.

Netflix had already temporarily stopped all future projects and acquisitions in Russia and said it had no plans to add state-run channels to its Russian service, despite a regulation that would require it to do so.

KPMG, PwC, and EY said they would sever links with their Russian operations, affecting thousands of staff. – Rappler.com

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