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The Kremlin says more foreign companies are failing than delivering on their promises to leave Russia. Here's what the data shows.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin.Contributor#8523328
  • A Kremlin spokesperson said many foreign companies are still operating in Russia.

  • Two lists that Yale and KSE maintain show most foreign firms have not fully exited the market.

  • Russia has been making it increasingly difficult for foreign companies to leave its market.

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, over 1,000 foreign companies announced they would exit Russia in protest against the war.

But it's been more than 20 months since the war started, and the Russian government has said many of those companies haven't made good on their word.

"More foreign companies remain in Russia than those who left the country," Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for the Kremlin, told Business Insider in late October.

BI looked at two major data sources to fact-check the Russian government's statements.

Kremlin fact-check No. 1: Data from Yale University

Yale University runs an ongoing study that examines which foreign companies have left Russia since the war began.

A team of experts and student volunteers with knowledge of 10 languages — including Russian, Ukrainian, English, and Polish — update the list every day. They compile the list using public sources such as regulatory and tax filings and reports from insiders and whistleblowers. Yale's study focused on companies with at least $100 million in global revenue in any single year over the past decade.

It breaks its findings down into five categories. Here are the results as of November 22:

Yale's data shows that many firms are cutting back on their Russian operations, but that just one-third of the companies it examined have made a clean break with Russia.

According to Yale's study, 552 foreign companies are still operating in Russia. This number includes those whose operations are running under a "business-as-usual" approach and those who have curtailed their investments and operations significantly.

Meanwhile, another 502 companies have wound down most — if not all — of their operations in Russia while keeping return options open, according to Yale's list. In total, 535 companies have made a clean break with the Russian market.

What this shows is that, as the Russian government said in October, the number of companies still operating in Russia is greater than the number of those that have made a complete exit.

Kremlin fact-check No. 2: Data from the Kyiv School of Economics

The Kyiv School of Economics, or KSE, also examines company operations in Russia.

KSE reviewed the top taxpaying companies in Russia that generated more than $5 million in annual revenue and in which foreigners own a stake larger than 51%. Its list includes information from datasets such as those from Yale's research and another list from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

It gets its data from the news and official company statements. The institute also examines the data with the Ukrainian government and updates its database daily.

KSE has six categories for companies in various stages of operations or withdrawal in Russia. Here are their results as of November 21:

KSE's data shows that most foreign companies have not left Russia.

According to the data, 1,582 companies continue to operate in Russia, and just under 300 have made a full exit from Russia since it invaded Ukraine.

The rate of departures from the Russian market is slowing

To be sure, it's unclear exactly how many foreign companies were operating in Russia before the war began.

And even though the data shows many companies still operating — to varying degrees — in Russia, there's more to it than meets the eye, Steven Tian, the research director of Yale's Chief Executive Leadership Institute and one of the lead researchers of Yale's list, told BI.

There was an initial rush of exits from Russia in the weeks after it invaded Ukraine — but Tian said companies are now pulling out of the country at a "much slower pace." Many of the biggest household names have already exited the market.

"Most — but not all — of the companies left in Russia are much smaller," Tian said.

In a November 20 analysis of its data, KSE said that while the percentage of companies that have shut their operations in Russia rose sharply by mid-April 2022, the ratio of those leaving or staying in the market has been stagnant in the last 15 months.

Major brands that have made a clean "surgical" cut from Russia include McDonald's and the energy provider BP, which took a $25 billion hit from its departure.

The foreign companies still operating in Russia have cited a variety of reasons for not leaving the market, including operational, ethical, and policy challenges.

The Italian fashion firm Benetton is operating in Russia with a "business-as-usual" approach. It cited longstanding relationships with its partners and obligations to employees in Russia. Unilever and Nestlé have reduced but not eliminated their business in Russia, citing obligations to their company staff and the Russian people.

Russia is making it difficult for foreign companies to exit

Many companies still operating in Russia are also stuck in the process of exiting the market.

The Russian government has been making it increasingly difficult for foreign companies to leave its market. It has introduced a series of steep hurdles to the process, such as demanding companies pay donations to the state and sell their assets at a steep discount before they can exit the country.

Recently, the Kremlin announced that Western firms that want to exit Russia must sell their holdings in the Russian ruble. The move could further delay corporate exits and cause foreign-currency transfers for companies leaving the market.

As Agathe Demarais, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the Financial Times in September, "It is clear in hindsight that it made more sense for Western firms to leave Russia immediately than to adopt a wait-and-see approach."

The companies still operating in Russia are contributing to the country's booming wartime economy. Official estimates indicate Russia's gross domestic product grew by 5.5% in the third quarter from a year ago — reversing a 3.5% decline in the same period last year.

But defense and government spending has driven much of Russia's economic growth, which means it's not translating to affluence for many Russians on the ground dealing with rising prices.

So, even though the Kremlin has been painting a rosy picture of the country's economy, "the real situation is bad," Igor Lipsits, a prominent Russian economist, said.

Read the original article on Business Insider