French DIY retailer Leroy Merlin to transfer ownership of Russian business to management

PARIS (Reuters) -French DIY retailer Leroy Merlin, which employs 45,000 people in Russia, intends to hand over ownership of operations in the country to local management, its parent company ADEO said on Friday.

Leroy Merlin is owned by the Mulliez family, which is also behind French sporting goods chain Decathlon and food retailer Auchan, both of which continue to operate in Russia.

“We are starting the transfer process and have to submit the project to the relevant authorities in Russia,” ADEO’s head said.

“In concrete terms, our local management will initiate discussions that may last several months,” he added.

Russia’s Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Yevtukhov described Leroy Merlin’s decision to transfer assets to local management as “civilised” and “reasonable”.

“I stress that the chain will not only continue to work and keep all staff, but also plans to open new shops,” Yevtukhov said in a statement.

As the transaction is subject to Russian authorities’ approval, financial details were not immediately available and it was not possible to say whether the retailer would keep operating under the Leroy Merlin brand, a spokeswoman said.

Western companies from McDonald’s and Starbucks to Deutsche Bank and Shell have stepped back from Russia, under pressure from customers and their governments to inflict an economic price on Moscow for waging war on its neighbour.

Western sanctions on Russia have also complicated doing business there.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas, Editing by Dominique Vidalon and Louise Heavens)