Danish companies fear for assets in Russia

A.P. Moeller-Maersk and other big Danish companies are concerned about their assets in Russia after the superpower has threatened with sanctions against the EU and the United States.

The threat from Vladimir Putin and Russia regarding sanctions against European and American companies make several of the biggest Danish companies fear for their assets in the country.

ShippingWatch has learned that several of the country's biggest companies, including A.P. Moeller-Maersk, Carlsberg, and Ecco are in constant dialog with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in relation to Putin's threat of freezing western assets in Russia and confiscating real estate and property belonging to western companies and individuals currently on Russian soil.

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The companies are allegedly concerned about which assets Russia can freeze, and which sectors and countries Putin might target.

For the Maersk Group, this primarily concerns the massive investment in Russian port terminal company Global Ports, of which Maersk's terminal operator APM Terminals acquired a 37.5 percent stake in September 2012, at a price of around USD 873.2 million. A.P. Moeller-Maersk has yet to return with a comment.

Wants to defend sovereignty

According to state-owned Russian news agency Ria-Novostni, the Russian parliament is working on a bill to allow the seizure and freezing of European and American corporate assets.

"This legislation will allow the president and the government to defend our sovereignty against threats," says the man behind the bill, Andrei Klishas, Chairman of the constitutional committee in the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, according to CNN.

The bill also includes the option to freeze the bank accounts of European and American companies. According to sources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danish companies have - in similar situations in the past - been able to pull their money out of the country. But it is difficult for the ministry at this time to evaluate how real the current threat is. And the ministry has allegedly not been able to get any information from the embassy in Russia or their Ukraine/Russia task force.

The Russian bill serves as a response to the Eu and United States' recent discussions into the possibility of issuing sanctions against Russia due to the country's aggressions toward the Ukraine, primarily focused on the Crimea peninsula.

The EU opted to make use of this opportunity. First off, the EU has decided to cut off negotiations concerning visa liberalization and a major financial agreement with Russia. The United States is also introducing visa limitations and freezing assets deposited in the United States by certain named Russians and Crimean citizens.

Shipping untouched

Even though the crisis on the Crimea peninsula is at full throttle, and the EU and the United States have introduced political sanctions against Russia, the Danish shipping industry has yet to take a hit.

"None of what we're seeing has had any impact on our business. No economic sanctions have been introduced in either direction, so we're not affected by the decisions in Brussels," says Jacob K. Clasen, section chief at the Danish Shipowners' Association.

According to the association, 2-3 percent of the Danish shipping industry takes place in Russia, and several carriers describe the major Russia market as a significant growth engine.

One of these is DFDS, which has a solid exposure to Russia and the Baltic nations. This company trusts that the politicians will resolve the current conflict.

"We're awaiting the situation and leaving the job to the politicians, though of course we hope for the best," says DFDS Head of Communication Gert Jakobsen.

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