DUESSELDORF, Germany May 20 Olaf Koch, the
chief executive of German retailer Metro AG, is
sticking to a plan to attend an economic conference in St
Petersburg hosted by Russian President Putin after other
executives pulled out.
U.S. executives have withdrawn from the conference starting
on Thursday after the White House made clear that their
participation would be frowned upon due to the Ukraine crisis.
On Monday, the CEO of big German utility E.ON
said he would not attend due to "important meetings at short
notice", leaving Koch as the only major German CEO still on the
guest list, although other European CEOs are due to attend.
A Metro spokesman said Koch still planned to take part, in
the interest of the company's 22,000 employees in Russia.
"Especially in the current difficult situation, we think it
makes sense to talk to each other and maintain dialogue," he
Germany has close economic ties to Russia. Over 6,000 German
firms are active there, and Germany receives roughly a third of
its oil and gas from Russia.
German industry has been ramping up efforts to dissuade
Chancellor Angela Merkel from imposing tough new economic
sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, warning of lasting damage to
domestic firms and the broader economy if Moscow is hit hard.
Metro is Russia's fourth-biggest retailer behind X5
, Magnit and French chain Auchan, operating 72
cash-and-carry stores which made sales of 183 billion roubles
($5.30 billion) in 2013.
The turmoil in Ukraine forced Metro to postpone a plan for a
stock market floatation of a stake in its Russian business and
has also hit its share price.
($1 = 34.5447 Russian Roubles)
(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi; Writing by Emma Thomasson;
Editing by Pravin Char)