Winnipeg-based Buhler Industries Inc. is distancing itself from its Russian owners after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, even as a Manitoba MP argues the farm equipment company’s board members should face some of the same sanctions Canada has already imposed on other Russians as punishment for the attack.
Buhler is 96.7 per cent owned by Rostselmash, a major maker of agricultural equipment that is based in Rostov-on-Don in Russia, near the country’s border with Ukraine. The remaining Buhler shares are owned by investors and employees.
One of Buhler’s directors is Konstantin Babkin, a businessman and a founder of the Action Party, a Russian political party.
James Bezan, a Conservative MP who represents the Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman riding in Manitoba, said on Friday that Mr. Babkin is well known for publicly supporting Russian President Vladmir Putin. Mr. Bezan added that he is also concerned about three other Russians serving on Buhler’s seven-person board of directors: chairman Dmitry Udras and directors Yury Ryazanov and Oleg Gorbunov.
Rostselmash and anyone with ties to various Russian companies should not be allowed to benefit from Buhler’s business operations, Mr. Bezan said.
Buhler has not been affected by Canada’s current sanctions, the company’s vice-president of sales and marketing, Adam Reid, said in an e-mail. The economic measures were introduced on Thursday after Russia launched its full-scale invasion.
“Buhler Industries has not exported products to Russia since 2019 and no longer does business in the region. These sanctions will not impact current business strategy,” Mr. Reid wrote on Friday.
In a statement released on Thursday, Buhler condemned the invasion.
“Buhler Industries is not a Russian company. Our values are rooted in North America, where the company has been in operation since 1932,” the statement said. “Buhler Industries operates with autonomy; our staff is Canadian and American, the head office is in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and company direction and decisions are made in Canada.”
Buhler employs about 700 people in Manitoba.
While Ottawa has imposed sanctions on dozens of Russian individuals and entities, Mr. Bezan said, strong measures such as banning travel to Canada and freezing assets must be expanded to punish more people and prevent them from benefiting from Canadian investments.
“They can’t use Canada as a safe haven for the Russian oligarchs. We have to be very principled and tough on our sanctions,” he added.
Buhler’s Manitoba operations include plants in Winnipeg and Morden. Its products include Versatile-brand farm tractors, which compete with brands such as John Deere and Case. The company’s customers are located mostly in Canada, the United States and Australia.
Rostselmash bought an 80-per-cent stake in Buhler in 2007. Two months ago, the Russian multinational acquired more shares from John Buhler, a Manitoba philanthropist who retired as Buhler’s chairman and chief executive officer in 2007.
The company lost about $400,000 in its last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 2021. Its revenue rose 1.5 per cent year-over-year to $253.4-million. In the fiscal year before that, the company reported a $25.8-million loss.
Buhler shares, which are thinly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, closed at $3.01 on Feb. 4.
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