'Ukraine is open for business': Western companies urged to be part of country's recovery
By James Rogers
In December, McDonald's reopened in Bucha, a city that was a key battleground in Russia's failed attempt to capture Kyiv
A year to the day since Russia launched its devastating invasion of Ukraine, Western companies are being urged to be part of the country's recovery.
"Ukraine is open for business," Andy Hunder, president of the Kyiv-based American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, told MarketWatch. Western companies, he said, should be looking to be part of "the biggest recovery of a nation in Europe since World War II."
Ukraine's GDP fell by 30.4% in 2022, according to the country's Ministry of Economy.
The 600-plus members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine include Boeing Co. (BA), Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO), Citigroup Inc. (C), Coca-Cola Co. (KO), Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL), Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL)(GOOGL) Google, International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), McDonald's Corp. (MCD), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Oracle Corp. (ORCL), PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) and Pfizer Inc. (PFE).
"Companies are continuing to operate during the war, because it's important to keep the economy ticking over," said Hunder. "We have seen quite phenomenal resilience."
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Hunder used the example of McDonald's, which reopened in Ukraine in September and continues to operate in the country.
"More romantic than McMenu with a loved one -- only McMenu by candlelight," tweeted McDonald's Ukraine on Oct. 27, 2022, in a wry reference to the power cuts that have followed Russia's attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.
In December, Hunder tweeted that McDonald's had reopened in Bucha, a city near Kyiv that was a key battleground in Russia's failed attempt to capture the capital.
The Chamber of Commerce president also highlighted Nestlé's recent announcement of a $42.8 million investment in a new production site in Ukraine's Volyn region. The investment will expand the Swiss food giant's production of vermicelli and other food products in Ukraine.
Hunder acknowledged the reality of doing business in Ukraine, such as dealing with power cuts and air raids. "When we're in our office, we have to go down to the underground car park and wait until the air-raid sirens are off," he said.
Related:Ukraine will still defeat Russia, even with a winter energy shortage, say members of Kyiv-based American Chamber of Commerce
Some 70% of the chamber's members are operating fully, according to Hunder, and 88% are paying salaries in full. However, 19% have had at least one employee killed in the last 12 months, and 31% have incurred damage to factories and other property.
A Mondelez International Inc. (MDLZ) factory in Trostyanets that produced Oreo cookies is one of the facilities that has suffered significant damage in the war. Trostyanets, a city in northeastern Ukraine about 30 miles from the Russian border, was the scene of fierce fighting at the start of the war before being retaken by Ukrainian forces.
"We've invested to restart both our potato-chip factory in Vyshhorod and our chocolate factory in Trostyanets, with strong safety measures and enhanced security protocols in place," a spokesperson for Mondelez told MarketWatch.
"We continue to increase our humanitarian support for Ukraine, with more than $12 million in cash and in-kind donations committed to date," the spokesperson said. "Our thoughts remain with the people of Ukraine who have been impacted by this senseless violence."
A business resilience survey of members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine, conducted by the chamber with McKinsey & Co., found that while the war has taken a massive toll on Ukrainian business, companies have shown resilience, with some even finding growth opportunities. Some 47% of respondents experienced a decline in sales, with agriculture, retail, mining and metallurgy the most severely hit sectors. However, only 2% of companies reduced head count by more than 30%, and around 15% of companies captured growth in 2022. The survey was conducted from mid-January to early February.
Also see:Employees of U.S. companies celebrate Thanksgiving in Kyiv hours after Russian missile barrage hits Ukraine
Ukrainian businesses are also working hard to operate despite power cuts. In a speech in December, Ukraine's prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, said that 500,000 mostly low-power generators were brought to Ukraine by businesses and individuals in 2022. "In addition, our partners provide us with larger generator units that can power important facilities," he said. "For example, medical institutions or pumping stations of water utilities."
Earlier this month, the U.S. Agency for International Development delivered a mobile gas-turbine power plant to Ukraine that was purchased from General Electric Co. (GE). The mobile power plant was manufactured in the U.S. by GE's Gas Power business and has a total output capacity of approximately 28 megawatts, which is enough to provide electricity to at least 100,000 homes, according to USAID.
Consumer-goods giant Unilever , which opened a tea factory in the city of Hostomel in 2016, is working to support its employees and their families in Ukraine. "Our focus remains on ensuring the wellbeing of our Ukrainian employees and their families, including by helping them find safety in nearby countries and by setting up accommodation in the west of Ukraine for those who have chosen to stay," the company said in a statement released earlier this month. "We have also donated more than EUR15 [million] [equivalent to $15.8 million] of support and essential Unilever products to the humanitarian relief effort."
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February 24, 2023 16:00 ET (21:00 GMT)
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