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Metaprint sold to Russian market €30m worth of goods after war started

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Martti Lemendik.
Martti Lemendik. Source: ERR

Martti Lemendik, CEO of Metaprint and majority shareholder of Stark Logistics, told ERR that, since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the company has generated nearly €30 million in sales in Russia.

It has been 1.5 years since the beginning of the war. Contradictory claims have been made in the media: on the one hand, Metaprint has only exported goods to Russia and not imported them, whereas Stark Logistics has only imported goods from Russia. Which direction did these items truly move?

Metaprint's open credit portfolio was nearly ₽1 billion (approximately €10 million) at the outbreak of the war. A suspension of deliveries to contractors would have been immediately followed by a suspension of debt service to contractors. If we had done so, we would have just given such an amount of capital to the Russian economy. Instead, we decided to implement a highly intricate strategy for account management that, despite a decline in deliveries, keeps customers paying us. This strategy brought us to a point where we were able to return two-thirds of the issued credit to Estonia. Clearly, this strategy is becoming unsuitable in the context of current events. In implementing this strategy, we jointly agreed with Stark that all trucks would be returned empty, with no services offered to potential Russian customers. Of course, it was financially costly to bring back empty trucks, but we had no other choice.

How much revenue has Metaprint generated in Russia since the outbreak of the war?

In terms of sales turnover, between February 24 and August 24, 2023, our company has sold €29,817,709 worth of materials on the Russian market.

Does Metaprint have any logistics partners in Russia other than Stark Logistics?

Metaprint has been doing business in Russia since the 1990s, so it is reasonable to assume that there could be dozens of different logistics partners. In terms of shipments from February 24, 2022 onward, as the owner of both companies, I have tried to allocate 100 percent of shipments to my own company. Whether Stark succeeded in making all the shipments, I really can't say as I am not dealing with these issues at operational level.

Which sectors does your St. Petersburg partner Aeroprom operate in, what does it do?

Aeroprom is a Metaprint system company active in the production of aerosol dispensers in the Krasnoe Selo district of St. Petersburg, Russia. More specifically, in assembling them. The necessary input came from other companies. The final product was resold to Metaprint, a commercial entity within the system that held contracts with the end customers.

Are the sheets of unalloyed metals that you have shipped from the factory free from sanctions?

In essence, it is more correct to use the term electrolytically coated tinplate or packaging steel. This group of materials was included in the sanctions package from March 27, 2023 and our last dispatch was on March 23.

Last spring, you told Äripäev that your Russian factory was essentially shut down, with only a few employees remaining to watch over the assets. Is there still production going on there and how many people are employed there?

At the moment, we have about 40 people left to work in Russian structures. This number includes both technical and administrative staff.

What exactly is your role at Stark Logistics? As a shareholder, do you get to decide where shipments are made?

As the largest shareholder and chair of the supervisory board of Stark Logistics, I have taken it upon myself to ensure the company's liquidity, guaranteeing a significant transport portfolio by providing both raw material and finished product transport. Stark Metaprint does not always offer transport contracts, and not in all directions. So the carrier with the best value for money on a particular route wins.

(Äripäev question) If Stark Logistics stops shipments, does this mean that Metaprint will cease all operations in Russia?

We had hoped that we would be able to bring home from Russia a strategically important amount of credits issued if we continued to supply materials until the end of the third quarter of 2023. At the moment, having also been in the Russian headlines and under the authorities' scrutiny, I don't see a chance of winding down in a way that would not entail the authorities repressing Russian factory management.

(Äripäev question) How much have you discussed at Stark Logistics the possibility that Arvo Hallik's relationship with the prime minister could lead to a scandal?

We have vowed to always act honestly. Of course, from our point of view, it was a risk for Arvo (Hallik) to marry a woman capable of assuming the responsibilities of a nation's leader. The likelihood of potential scandals was above average. It is not appropriate to ask me to elaborate on this at this time

(Postimees question) If the decline in production, etc. following the outbreak of the war was also largely due to external factors (sanctions, etc.), what have you done on your own initiative to halt production and business in Russia?

In the first week after the outbreak of war, we completed the construction of a new factory in the Staroe Verevo industrial park, which we own. An asphalted access road, with pavements and street lighting, was left to overgrow. Nearly 800 concrete piles of foundations are protruding from the ground. In addition, all the installed utilities. We terminated all the contracts in an orderly manner and incurred significant losses. We have been waiting for months for the decision of the special committee to approve the sale of land for a factory in Moscow oblast. There has been no positive response, and there probably won't be.

(Eesti Ekspress question) Was Arvo Hallik aware of Stark Logistics' business in Russia?

Arvo Hallik's strategic strengths are in financial accounting and M&A (merger and acquisition) transactions; consequently, his contribution to transport administration is limited. Kristjan Kraag was responsible for meeting this challenge. As owner and board member, he was inevitably informed of the overall metrics.

Stark Logistics, which is owned by the spouse of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Arvo Hallik, handles, among other things, the Russian shipments of AS Metaprint, a business owned by the company's majority shareholder Martti Lemendik, which generated €99.7 million in revenue last year.

Kaja Kallas said on Thursday that she had nothing to hide regarding the activities of her spouse Arvo Hallik and his business partner in Russia, of which she learned about on Monday.

Urmas Reinsalu, the chair of Isamaa, said Metaprint supplied Russia with raw materials that were used to produce goods under EU sanctions.

"There has been talking of closing an operation in Russia. However, the turnover of the plant increased in 2022 and reached 1.8 billion rubles," Reinsalu said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

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Editor: Marko Tooming, Kristina Kersa

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