President Kovalchuk’s friends want the Baltica brewing company to be taken away from Carlsberg by Putin

Vladimir Putin decided to confiscate the assets of Western companies Carlsberg and Danone after businessmen close to him became interested in them, the Financial Times writes, citing people familiar with the situation. So, according to two people who know the situation from the St. Petersburg brewing company Baltika owned by Carlsberg, the president’s friends, the Kovalchuk brothers, were interested in her.

“Someone decided to take these assets into their own hands,” one source told the newspaper about the Carlsberg and Danone business. The companies are so well run, he says, “any buyer can just do nothing and have cash flow.”

In June, Carlsberg announced an agreement to sell Baltica, but did not name a buyer. The most preferred bidder was Arnest, a major producer of aerosol perfumes, cosmetics and homewares in Russia and the CIS countries, people with direct knowledge of the talks told the FT.

Arnest did not respond to a newspaper request for comment, and Carlsberg declined to comment.

“Oh my! The authorities are practically not leaving [западным компаниям] the possibility of leaving [из России]”- says a person close to the organizers of the sale of Baltica.

A Russian oligarch who has known Putin for decades called the acquisition of Baltica and Danone a “redistribution of wealth” in favor of people closest to Putin. The president’s friend, billionaire Yuri Kovalchuk, a major shareholder and former chairman of the board of directors of Bank Rossiya, convinced Putin of the weakness of Western countries, pushing him to show strength and invade Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2022. In particular, a friend of the Kovalchuk family told the newspaper that he regularly met with the president during the Covid pandemic, they talked for hours about the growing confrontation with the West, Russian history and other common topics.

Frequent meetings or phone calls and video calls continued after the start of the war, according to people with knowledge of it.

Putin’s decision shows that Moscow can now “take assets from foreigners and distribute them to people close to the regime,” says Alexandra Prokopenko, a visiting fellow at the Carnegie Berlin Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

The acquisition of Danone is also part of a history of asset redistribution in favor of people loyal to Putin. An attempt to sell Russian weapons by a French company was thwarted by Dmitry Patrushev, Minister of Agriculture and son of Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council. According to a person familiar with the sale process, “the minister wants to put his people there to take control of the business.”


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