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Four reasons why western companies have been ‘trapped’ in Russia since it invaded Ukraine

Research aims to provide a better idea about why some multinationals are ‘trapped’ in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

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Public pressure for greater sanctions on Russia also affects western companies that have not yet left the country. Sandor Szmutko/Shutterstock

More than 600 days since Russia invaded Ukraine, over 1,400 international companies are still operating in Russia. Only a small percentage of western firms have been able to close down their operations in the country since it invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

As a result, there is now a group of “trapped multinational subsidiaries” operating in Russia – in several cases unwillingly. This includes firms, like Danish brewer Carlsberg Group, which struggled to sell its Russian subsidiaries before the business was seized by the Russian government in August 2023.

In our recently published research we explored why some multinationals have been trapped in Russia, finding it very difficult, if not impossible, to exit the country. We found that western companies have been exposed to multiple competing forces that have prevented them from winding up their Russian operations. In an increasingly fractured world, the risk of being trapped abroad in such a situation poses a new challenge for corporate executives and policymakers.

Our original research finding released in January 2023 showed that between 8-13% of western firms from the EU and G7 nations had fully divested from Russia in the first nine months of the invasion. That is, they had been able to complete the sale or disposal of their Russian subsidiaries by December 2022.

Recent analyses from other initiatives tracking this issue confirm our early findings. The Kyiv School of Economics’ (KSE) latest figures suggest only 8.1% of foreign firms operating in Russia have exited the country so far. Since their total also includes non-EU and non-G7 foreign firms, many of which have been doing business in Russia via exporting and thus not necessarily by way of a controlled subsidiary, their percentage is not strictly comparable to ours.

However, when KSE restricts its analysis to foreign-owned Russian affiliates for which it is possible to gather financials, the percentage of completed exits as of October 2023 is still only 19%. This indicates that the vast majority (over 80%) of foreign companies present in Russia prior to the invasion have not yet left the country some 20 months after the war began.

KSE also observes that “in the last 13 months the ratio of those who leave or stay is virtually unchanged”. This is a surprise given high profile media coverage about companies exiting Russia (or not), especially in the first and second quarters of 2022.

So why did the initial increase in western company exits tail off? Our new research identifies four push and pull factors that have had a – mostly negative – effect on the rate at which western companies have left Russia:

1. Watching and waiting

The sequential ratcheting up of western sanctions regimes may have led some western firms to “wait and see” rather than going ahead with an exit from Russia. That is, they are waiting to see if the sanctions induce Moscow to leave Ukrainian soil, which has unfortunately not happened.

Moreover, EU, US and G7 sanctions have been “targeted”. That is, they have been selective in terms of commercial activities, types of companies, goods, services and technologies covered. This may have encouraged companies operating in sectors excluded from formal sanctioning to “wait and see” whether the sanctioning regime would change at a later stage.

2. The Hotel California effect

A stringent Russian counter sanctions regime may have either discouraged or impeded the divestment of western subsidiaries operating in Russia. For example, Russia’s October 2022 decree listing 45 foreign banks prohibited from disposing their assets in the country have clearly made it very difficult to sell up. This has created a Hotel California effect whereby companies like Carlsberg can check in (invest) but cannot check out (divest).

3. Government guarantees

Pre-invasion guarantees were made by some western governments to protect corporate investments in Russia. For example, by the end of 2022 the German government had offered €7.3 billion (£6.4 billion) in guarantees against certain political risks, including war, to German companies investing in Russia. Again, this may have encouraged corporate boards to wait and see.

4. Acting responsibly

Guidance about responsible business conduct in conflict-affected areas from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and an expert advisory group to the United Nations recommend against divestment if it could cause significant harm to non-combatants. So, for example, this would dictate that pharma companies should keep selling medicines to sick Russians. Additionally, the UN and OECD guidelines recommend companies contemplating exit to carefully consider whether exiting/suspending activities could exacerbate tensions.

At the time of the invasion, not all of these four factors were known or in play. But six months into the invasion, once the Russian counter sanctions regime came into force, pressure on western firms to divest intensified. This has left corporate decision-makers facing these conflicting pressures.

What to do about profits

A complicating factor is that some of these Russian subsidiaries are generating profits – OECD and UN guidelines do not address this issue. So, what guidance should policymakers give corporate management about trapped multinational subsidiaries?

Perhaps a good place to start is to stop subsidiaries selling to state and private organisations engaged in war efforts. This would mean identifying sensitive sectors that directly or indirectly contribute to Russia’s government coffers or its war effort – sales to the Russian military, for example.

Trapped multinationals should also be encouraged to support war victims, regardless of which “side” they are on. And they should certainly continue to supply essential goods such as medicines to people in conflict areas.

A trickier question is what multinationals should do about reinvesting the profits from their trapped subsidiaries. On the one hand, it could be argued that these investments are needed if these companies are to sustain their operations to support victims and continue supplying essential goods. On the other hand, investing this money into the Russian economy would benefit the government and its military.

An open dialogue between business and government in western countries is urgently needed on this subject. After all, these issues may not only continue but could also spread to other countries and regions in this era of elevated geopolitical tensions.

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Four burning questions about the future of the $16.5B Novo-Catalent deal

To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.
Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand…

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To build or to buy? That’s a classic question for pharma boardrooms, and Novo Nordisk is going with both.

Beyond spending billions of dollars to expand its own production capacity for its weight loss drugs, the Danish drugmaker said Monday it will pay $11 billion to acquire three manufacturing plants from Catalent. It’s part of a broader $16.5 billion deal with Novo Holdings, the investment arm of the pharma’s parent group, which agreed to acquire the contract manufacturer and take it private.

It’s a big deal for all parties, with potential ripple effects across the biotech ecosystem. Here’s a look at some of the most pressing questions to watch after Monday’s announcement.

Why did Novo do this?

Novo Holdings isn’t the most obvious buyer for Catalent, particularly after last year’s on-and-off M&A interest from the serial acquirer Danaher. But the deal could benefit both Novo Holdings and Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk’s biggest challenge has been simply making enough of the weight loss drug Wegovy and diabetes therapy Ozempic. On last week’s earnings call, Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen said the company isn’t constrained by capital in its efforts to boost manufacturing. Rather, the main challenge is the limited amount of capabilities out there, he said.

“Most pharmaceutical companies in the world would be shopping among the same manufacturers,” he said. “There’s not an unlimited amount of machinery and people to build it.”

While Novo was already one of Catalent’s major customers, the manufacturer has been hamstrung by its own balance sheet. With roughly $5 billion in debt on its books, it’s had to juggle paying down debt with sufficiently investing in its facilities. That’s been particularly challenging in keeping pace with soaring demand for GLP-1 drugs.

Novo, on the other hand, has the balance sheet to funnel as much money as needed into the plants in Italy, Belgium, and Indiana. It’s also struggled to make enough of its popular GLP-1 drugs to meet their soaring demand, with documented shortages of both Ozempic and Wegovy.

The impact won’t be immediate. The parties expect the deal to close near the end of 2024. Novo Nordisk said it expects the three new sites to “gradually increase Novo Nordisk’s filling capacity from 2026 and onwards.”

As for the rest of Catalent — nearly 50 other sites employing thousands of workers — Novo Holdings will take control. The group previously acquired Altasciences in 2021 and Ritedose in 2022, so the Catalent deal builds on a core investing interest in biopharma services, Novo Holdings CEO Kasim Kutay told Endpoints News.

Kasim Kutay

When asked about possible site closures or layoffs, Kutay said the team hasn’t thought about that.

“That’s not our track record. Our track record is to invest in quality businesses and help them grow,” he said. “There’s always stuff to do with any asset you own, but we haven’t bought this company to do some of the stuff you’re talking about.”

What does it mean for Catalent’s customers? 

Until the deal closes, Catalent will operate as a standalone business. After it closes, Novo Nordisk said it will honor its customer obligations at the three sites, a spokesperson said. But they didn’t answer a question about what happens when those contracts expire.

The wrinkle is the long-term future of the three plants that Novo Nordisk is paying for. Those sites don’t exclusively pump out Wegovy, but that could be the logical long-term aim for the Danish drugmaker.

The ideal scenario is that pricing and timelines remain the same for customers, said Nicole Paulk, CEO of the gene therapy startup Siren Biotechnology.

Nicole Paulk

“The name of the group that you’re going to send your check to is now going to be Novo Holdings instead of Catalent, but otherwise everything remains the same,” Paulk told Endpoints. “That’s the best-case scenario.”

In a worst case, Paulk said she feared the new owners could wind up closing sites or laying off Catalent groups. That could create some uncertainty for customers looking for a long-term manufacturing partner.

Are shareholders and regulators happy? 

The pandemic was a wild ride for Catalent’s stock, with shares surging from about $40 to $140 and then crashing back to earth. The $63.50 share price for the takeover is a happy ending depending on the investor.

On that point, the investing giant Elliott Investment Management is satisfied. Marc Steinberg, a partner at Elliott, called the agreement “an outstanding outcome” that “clearly maximizes value for Catalent stockholders” in a statement.

Elliott helped kick off a strategic review last August that culminated in the sale agreement. Compared to Catalent’s stock price before that review started, the deal pays a nearly 40% premium.

Alessandro Maselli

But this is hardly a victory lap for CEO Alessandro Maselli, who took over in July 2022 when Catalent’s stock price was north of $100. Novo’s takeover is a tacit acknowledgment that Maselli could never fully right the ship, as operational problems plagued the company throughout 2023 while it was limited by its debt.

Additional regulatory filings in the next few weeks could give insight into just how competitive the sale process was. William Blair analysts said they don’t expect a competing bidder “given the organic investments already being pursued at other leading CDMOs and the breadth and scale of Catalent’s operations.”

The Blair analysts also noted the companies likely “expect to spend some time educating relevant government agencies” about the deal, given the lengthy closing timeline. Given Novo Nordisk’s ascent — it’s now one of Europe’s most valuable companies — paired with the limited number of large contract manufacturers, antitrust regulators could be interested in taking a close look.

Are Catalent’s problems finally a thing of the past?

Catalent ran into a mix of financial and operational problems over the past year that played no small part in attracting the interest of an activist like Elliott.

Now with a deal in place, how quickly can Novo rectify those problems? Some of the challenges were driven by the demands of being a publicly traded company, like failing to meet investors’ revenue expectations or even filing earnings reports on time.

But Catalent also struggled with its business at times, with a range of manufacturing delays, inspection reports and occasionally writing down acquisitions that didn’t pan out. Novo’s deep pockets will go a long way to a turnaround, but only the future will tell if all these issues are fixed.

Kutay said his team is excited by the opportunity and was satisfied with the due diligence it did on the company.

“We believe we’re buying a strong company with a good management team and good prospects,” Kutay said. “If that wasn’t the case, I don’t think we’d be here.”

Amber Tong and Reynald Castañeda contributed reporting.

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Petrina Kamya, Ph.D., Head of AI Platforms at Insilico Medicine, presents at BIO CEO & Investor Conference

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb….

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Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

Credit: Insilico Medicine

Petrina Kamya, PhD, Head of AI Platforms and President of Insilico Medicine Canada, will present at the BIO CEO & Investor Conference happening Feb. 26-27 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. Dr. Kamya will speak as part of the panel “AI within Biopharma: Separating Value from Hype,” on Feb. 27, 1pm ET along with Michael Nally, CEO of Generate: Biomedicines and Liz Schwarzbach, PhD, CBO of BigHat Biosciences.

The session will look at how the latest artificial intelligence (AI) tools – including generative AI and large language models – are currently being used to advance the discovery and design of new drugs, and which technologies are still in development. 

The BIO CEO & Investor Conference brings together over 1,000 attendees and more than 700 companies across industry and institutional investment to discuss the future investment landscape of biotechnology. Sessions focus on topics such as therapeutic advancements, market outlook, and policy priorities.

Insilico Medicine is a leading, clinical stage AI-driven drug discovery company that has raised over $400m in investments since it was founded in 2014. Dr. Kamya leads the development of the Company’s end-to-end generative AI platform, Pharma.AI from Insilico’s AI R&D Center in Montreal. Using modern machine learning techniques in the context of chemistry and biology, the platform has driven the discovery and design of 30+ new therapies, with five in clinical stages – for cancer, fibrosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and COVID-19. The Company’s lead drug, for the chronic, rare lung condition idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, is the first AI-designed drug for an AI-discovered target to reach Phase II clinical trials with patients. Nine of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have used Insilico’s AI platform to advance their programs, and the Company has a number of major strategic licensing deals around its AI-designed therapeutic assets, including with Sanofi, Exelixis and Menarini. 

 

About Insilico Medicine

Insilico Medicine, a global clinical stage biotechnology company powered by generative AI, is connecting biology, chemistry, and clinical trials analysis using next-generation AI systems. The company has developed AI platforms that utilize deep generative models, reinforcement learning, transformers, and other modern machine learning techniques for novel target discovery and the generation of novel molecular structures with desired properties. Insilico Medicine is developing breakthrough solutions to discover and develop innovative drugs for cancer, fibrosis, immunity, central nervous system diseases, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, and aging-related diseases. www.insilico.com 


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Another country is getting ready to launch a visa for digital nomads

Early reports are saying Japan will soon have a digital nomad visa for high-earning foreigners.

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Over the last decade, the explosion of remote work that came as a result of improved technology and the pandemic has allowed an increasing number of people to become digital nomads. 

When looked at more broadly as anyone not required to come into a fixed office but instead moves between different locations such as the home and the coffee shop, the latest estimate shows that there were more than 35 million such workers in the world by the end of 2023 while over half of those come from the United States.

Related: There is a new list of cities that are best for digital nomads

While remote work has also allowed many to move to cheaper places and travel around the world while still bringing in income, working outside of one's home country requires either dual citizenship or work authorization — the global shift toward remote work has pushed many countries to launch specific digital nomad visas to boost their economies and bring in new residents.

Japan is a very popular destination for U.S. tourists. 

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This popular vacation destination will soon have a nomad visa

Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Latvia and Malta are some of the countries currently offering specific visas for foreigners who want to live there while bringing in income from abroad.

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With the exception of a few, Asian countries generally have stricter immigration laws and were much slower to launch these types of visas that some of the countries with weaker economies had as far back as 2015. As first reported by the Japan Times, the country's Immigration Services Agency ended up making the leap toward a visa for those who can earn more than ¥10 million ($68,300 USD) with income from another country.

The Japanese government has not yet worked out the specifics of how long the visa will be valid for or how much it will cost — public comment on the proposal is being accepted throughout next week. 

That said, early reports say the visa will be shorter than the typical digital nomad option that allows foreigners to live in a country for several years. The visa will reportedly be valid for six months or slightly longer but still no more than a year — along with the ability to work, this allows some to stay beyond the 90-day tourist period typically afforded to those from countries with visa-free agreements.

'Not be given a residence card of residence certificate'

While one will be able to reapply for the visa after the time runs out, this can only be done by exiting the country and being away for six months before coming back again — becoming a permanent resident on the pathway to citizenship is an entirely different process with much more strict requirements.

"Those living in Japan with the digital nomad visa will not be given a residence card or a residence certificate, which provide access to certain government benefits," reports the news outlet. "The visa cannot be renewed and must be reapplied for, with this only possible six months after leaving the countr

The visa will reportedly start in March and also allow holders to bring their spouses and families with them. To start using the visa, holders will also need to purchase private health insurance from their home country while taxes on any money one earns will also need to be paid through one's home country.

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