Apple, Ford and other big US brands join wave of companies fleeing Russia

  • Apple stops sales in Russia and makes some changes to the application
  • ESG Investors Support Corporate Action
  • The ruble hits a new low

March 2 (Reuters) – Some of America’s best-known companies, including Apple, Google, Ford, Harley-Davidson and Exxon Mobil, have chastised and rejected Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, under constant pressure from investors and consumers who report violence.

Apple Inc said late Tuesday it had halted sales of iPhones and other products in Russia, adding it was making changes to its Maps app to protect civilians in Ukraine.

Tech companies such as Alphabet Inc’s Google have removed Russian state publishers from their news, and Ford Motor (FN) – with three joint venture factories in Russia – told its Russian manufacturing partner that it was suspending its operations in the country. Motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc has suspended shipments of its bikes.

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Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) said it would cease operations in Russia and was taking steps to withdraw from the Sakhalin-1 business, following in the footsteps of British energy giants Shell Plc (SHEL.L) and BP, the largest foreign investor in Russia.

Many companies have been exceptionally clear in their condemnation of Russia.

“We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all those who suffer as a result of the violence,” Apple said in a statement.

The steady drumbeat of companies taking a stand increased later in the day when rockets hit major cities across Ukraine. Read more

“Ford is deeply concerned about the invasion of Ukraine and the resulting threats to peace and stability. The situation has forced us to reassess our operations in Russia,” Ford said, adding to several days of announcements from global automakers.

“We deplore Russia’s military action that violates Ukraine’s territorial integrity and endangers its people,” Exxon said, adding that it would not invest in new developments in Russia.

Boeing (BA.N) has suspended parts, maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines, a Politico reporter tweeted. The US aircraft manufacturer has suspended major operations in Moscow and will also temporarily close its offices in Kyiv, the tweet said. Boeing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Western restrictions have hit the Russian economy hard, with the ruble falling by as much as a third to a record high. Financial isolation is growing as shipping lines say they won’t service Russian ports.

The US government is expected to ban Russian flights from US airspace as early as Wednesday, government and industry officials told Reuters. Read more

And a boom in investor interest in environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors is making it harder for companies left on the sidelines.

Russian companies are particularly at risk with these Western investors because they are often not open to talks to change their behavior, said TJ Kistner, vice president of Segal Marco Advisors, a leading US pension consultant.

Western investors could react by withdrawing. “The only course of action for many is simply divestment,” Kistner said.

Moscow reacted by temporarily preventing foreign investors from selling Russian assets.

Big tech companies are also continuing their efforts to prevent Russian forces from profiting from their products.

Apple said it blocked app downloads from some state-backed news services outside of Russia.

Microsoft (MSFT.O) earlier said it would remove Russian media RT’s mobile apps from its Windows App Store and ban ads on Russian state-sponsored media. Google has banned RT and other Russian channels from receiving money for ads on websites, apps and YouTube videos, similar to a decision by Facebook (FB.O).

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Reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland; Ross Kerber in New York; Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Written by Peter Henderson and Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Stephen Coates and Lincoln Feast.

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