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Renault sells Russian carmaker Avtovaz for one rouble

The Moskvich, an icon of Russian car manufacturing, will be making a comeback after 20 years Creative Commons
The Moskvich, an icon of Russian car manufacturing, will be making a comeback after 20 years
  • Renault sells Avtovaz stake reportedly for one rouble
  • Leaves door open for return with six-year buyback option
  • Moscow plant to resurrect Soviet-era Moskvich brand

Renault is to sell its majority stake in carmaker Avtovaz to a Russian science institute for just one rouble with a six-year option to buy it back, leaving the door open for the French carmaker’s return.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said to preserve thousands of jobs Renault’s plant in the city would be used to restart production of the Soviet era Moskvich brand.

The Western carmaker most exposed to the Russian market, Renault said its holding of nearly 67.69 percent in Avtovaz would be sold to the Russian Central Research and Development Automobile and Engine Institute, called Nami.

“The closing of these transactions is not subject to any conditions, and all required approvals have been obtained,” it added.

Two sources familiar with the situation said that Renault Russia and the Avtovaz stake were sold for a symbolic one rouble ($0.016) each. Its 100 percent shares in Renault Russia will go to the city of Moscow.

Renault had valued its Russian assets at 2.2 billion euros ($2.29 billion) last year.

“Today, we have taken a difficult but necessary decision, and we are making a responsible choice towards our 45,000 employees in Russia,” the carmaker’s CEO Luca de Meo said.

The move preserved the group’s performance and its ability to return to the country in future in a different context, he added.

De Meo has been clear about the French carmaker’s desire to return to Russia after the war in Ukraine is resolved and normal relations are eventually restored.

The iconic Moskvich, which translates as a native of Moscow, ceased production around two decades ago.

But Mayor Sobyanin said Moscow was working with truck maker Kamaz Inc and Russia’s industry and trade ministry to localise as much vehicle component production in Russia as possible.

Renault said in March that it would suspend operations at the Moscow plant amid mounting pressure over its continued presence there since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

Renault, 15 percent owned by the French state, confirmed a non-cash writedown of nearly 2.2 billion to reflect the potential costs of suspending Russian operations.

More than 400 companies have withdrawn from Russia since it invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, leaving behind assets worth billions of dollars.

Russia calls its actions a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist accusation is baseless and the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.