Spain’s Día supermarket ‘unaffected’ as EU blacklists Russian tycoon

Spain's Día supermarket chain, which is majority owned by Mikhail Fridman's LetterOne investment firm, insisted Tuesday it would not be affected by the EU's blacklisting of the billionaire over Russia's Ukraine invasion.

Spain's Día supermarket 'unaffected' as EU blacklists Russian tycoon
Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman secured majority control of struggling Spanish discount supermarket chain Día in 2019 via a public share offer. Photos: Joel Saget, Pavel Golovkin/AFP

In a statement published on Monday night, the group said it was not controlled by the Russian oligarch, just hours after his name was added to the European Union’s sanctions blacklist of allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Día said although it was 78 percent owned by LetterOne Investment Holdings SA (LIHS), “no individual shareholder controls the LIHS”, not Fridman nor Petr Aven, who co-founded the Luxembourg-based investment company and has also been hit by EU sanctions.

“Accordingly, the firm considers it is not affected in any way, either directly or indirectly (by the aforementioned individuals who do not control LIHS or, therefore, Día), by the new package of sanctions.”

In a letter to his LetterOne employees, the Ukraine-born financier – one of Russia’s richest men – told staff that “war can never be the answer” and called for the “bloodshed” to end, the company told AFP on Sunday.

“This crisis will cost lives and damage two nations who have been brothers for hundreds of years,” he wrote.

READ ALSO: How much influence does Russia have over Spain?

Born into a Jewish family in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv in 1964, Fridman studied in Moscow then went on to build a vast business empire encompassing everything from oil and gas to banking, telecoms and distribution.

He divides his time between London and Moscow and Forbes estimates his fortune at $15.5 billion.

Although he has cultivated strong ties to Putin’s administration, he has never become part of the president’s inner circle.

LetterOne first bought into Día in 2017, launching a hostile takeover bid two years later.

The Spanish chain, which operates nearly 6,000 supermarkets in Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil, posted a turnover of 6.64 billion euros ($7.4 billion) last year, the group said on Tuesday, giving a net loss figure of €257.3 million.

In 2019, Spain’s top criminal court opened an investigation into whether Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman artificially depressed the share price of supermarket chain Día before buying the firm.


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Qatar to invest an extra €4.75 billion in Spain

Qatar on Wednesday said it plans to invest an additional $5 billion (€4.75 billion) in Spain on the second day of a state visit by its emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Qatar to invest an extra €4.75 billion in Spain

“The volume of investments agreed upon with the Spanish side amounts to $5 billion in various sectors,” said Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in a statement tweeted by his ministry.

Neither side gave a timetable for the investment, which amounts to some €4.75 billion, nor did they say which sectors would benefit.

“Qatar will invest close to five billion euros in our country in the coming years,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said during a business meeting with the Qatari delegation.

“It is a gesture of confidence in the Spanish economy and Spanish businesses which will strengthen bilateral ties,” he said ahead of afternoon talks with the emir.

Before the pandemic, Qatari investment in Spain stood at €2.67 billion ($2.8 billion), the Spanish government said, making it the country’s 24th biggest investor.

To date, Qatari funding has been notably invested in several sectors: civil aviation, construction, energy and communications.

According to a Spanish government source, the two sides will on Wednesday sign around a dozen commercial contracts, notably concerning energy as Madrid seeks to diversify its gas supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Qatar, one of the world’s three biggest exporters of liquified natural gas (LNG), is currently Spain’s fifth-largest supplier after the United States, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt.

The country accounted for 4.4 percent of Spain’s total gas imports in April and the Spanish government hopes to increase this share.

European states are increasingly looking to other sources of natural gas as they try to wean themselves off dependence on Russia, with LNG easily shipped by boat from countries such as Qatar and the United States.

After Madrid, the Qatari leader will continue his tour of Europe, visiting Germany, Britain, Slovenia and Switzerland, where he will attend the World Economic Forum in the mountain resort of Davos which runs from May 22-26.

Qatar will host the World Cup later this year.