Blog: Katy AskewWill Roshen be on the block now its owner is the Ukrainain president?

Katy Askew | 5 June 2014

Petro Poroshenko's ascent to the presidency of the Ukraine could see the world's 18th largest confectionery company put up for sale as the "candy king" turns his attention to the pressing issues of the day, like sweet-talking Russia.

In the run up to the presidential election, Poroshenko reportedly told German newspaper Bild that he would sell the business to "wipe the slate clean" and "focus on the well being of the nation" were he to win.

The seizure of Roshen's Russian assets during the election campaign would certainly stand as proof that mixing politics and business in a powder keg of political tension might not be a recipe for success.

Last month, the Ukrainian confectioner lost an appeal to overturn the Russian authorities move to freeze Roshen's Russian bank accounts following a trademark spat with part state-owned Russian firm United Confectioners. The total amount seized in cash equals RUB2.8bn (US$80.5m).

While Roshen is yet to confirm whether it will be sold, attention has turned to who could emerge as potential bidders.

Much speculation has focused on whether Mars or Nestle would be interested in strengthening their hand in a region where they are already leading players. Russian reports have also suggested a potential takeover by Orkla - but given the Norwegian firm's strategic evaluation of operations in the region this seems a less-than-likely outcome. Lotte Confectionery has also be touted as a potential suitor. And what of United Confectioners itself? Would the politics of the situation prove a boulder to the firm, which has previously indicated its intention to grow sales outside Russia?

What is clear is that operating in the volatile climate of eastern Europe offers both opportunity and risk to multinational confectionery groups. According to Mintel, a research firm, the market for confectionery in Eastern Europe increased at a compound annual growth rate of 6.2% between 2004 and 2009. But will the growth potential on offer be enough to assuage concerns over current political instability and an uncertain operating environment?

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