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Bacardi goes big in Russia

The Bermuda global headquarters of Bacardi Limited (File photograph)

Bacardi, the Bermudian-based drinks giant, is capitalising on demand in Russia, as other Western businesses are moving away.

Since the invasion of Ukraine in February last year, companies have been fleeing Russia.

But not the privately owned Bacardi.

TheWall Street Journal cites Russian government customs data collected by the trade-data specialist Export Genius that Bacardi’s Russian business, Bacardi Rus LLC, imported $169 million of products during the 12 months to June 30.

Products imported include Grey Goose vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin, Oakheart rum, Dewar’s Scotch whisky, Patrón tequila and Martini-branded vermouth, prosecco and other products.

Meanwhile, data from Russia’s federal tax agency shows Bacardi Rus reported an 8.5 per cent rise in annual revenue to about $314 million for 2022.

Profits tripled from more than $15 million in 2021 to more than $48 million for the 2022 year.

The WSJ also said the company has been advertising for new employees.

Ivan Kolarov, an analyst at drinks-industry tracker IWSR, noted: “The departure of several leading international brand owners from the alcohol market has reduced competition and has created an opportunity for the ones that have remained as well as for local companies.”

At the beginning of the war, Bacardi said, it had paused exports to Russia and frozen advertising investments in the market, according to the WSJ.

The newspaper said that language remained on Bacardi’s website through at least most of last year but has since been removed from the original statement.

The majority of products sold by Bacardi and other spirits companies are not subject to sanctions.

Bacardi is not alone in its decision to remain operating in Russia, the WSJ said, citing rival Davide Campari-Milano.

Other alcohol makers have departed Russia, halted operations there or are struggling to find buyers or close deals to exit.

Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev is in talks to sell its stake in a large Russian beer joint venture, while Heineken said in March that it was doing everything it could to find a new owner for its Russian operations.

Carlsberg recently struck a deal to sell its business in Russia, but the Government has since seized the brewer’s local operations and installed new leadership.

The newspaper said many Western liquor brands are available in Russia, adding that amid the onslaught of Western sanctions, the Russian Government encouraged what are known as parallel imports, permitting companies to bring in foreign products through third parties without the permission of brand owners.

The WSJ said Bacardi started selling its brands in Russia in 1992, opening an office there a decade later.

In 2016, it partnered with Beluga Group, Russia’s largest spirits maker, to bottle its William Lawson Scotch. The whisky has become a top-seller in the country.

In 2018, Bacardi named Russia among five emerging markets that it said would drive most of its growth.

Bacardi now employs 350 people across seven cities in Russia, according to the company’s website.

Bacardi did not respond to a request for comment.

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Published August 10, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated August 11, 2023 at 8:09 am)

Bacardi goes big in Russia

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