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Spain’s Dia supermarket chain owned by oligarch Fridman ‘unaffected’ by EU sanctions

Chain is 78% owned by LetterOne Investment Holdings, firm co-founded by blacklisted Russian billionaire, who recently called for end to ‘bloodshed’ in Ukraine

Russian businessman Mikhail Fridman, co-founder of Alfa-Group, attends a conference of the Israel Keren Hayesod foundation in Moscow, Russia, on September 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)
Russian businessman Mikhail Fridman, co-founder of Alfa-Group, attends a conference of the Israel Keren Hayesod foundation in Moscow, Russia, on September 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)

Spain’s Dia 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.

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.

Dia said although it was 78 percent owned by LetterOne Investment Holdings SA (LIHS), “no individual shareholder controls the LIHS” — neither 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, Dia), 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.

Chairman of the Genesis Award, Mikhail Fridman speaks during the award ceremony at the Jerusalem Theater, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

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 Dia 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 euros ($287 million).

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